I would very much like to lie and put the blame on the fact that being a small artist in Nairobi is so damn difficult. It would be easy to mourn and mourn about how, as a creative, figuring out how to monetize those efforts takes a lot of creativity. But that would be a lie. The truth is, I am just a typical Nairobian who cannot act his wage, and after December was done with me, I did not even have the money to check whether I had money. If some mkora was to mug me in town right now, he would only be practicing.
The only thing that gives me hope is the fact that I am not alone. I take solace in knowing that, just like me, a lot of changes are going to be made in a number of bachelor households for the next few months. Guys are broke. And when I say broke I do not mean it in the way a friend of mine means when her account balance drops below KES. 20, 000, or how another jamaa I know means it when he complains about how his washing lady will have to come once a week instead of twice. Uh-uh. I mean broke in the sense that money and I are entangled in this abusive long distance relationship; that on those rare occasions when I decide to treat myself to three meals a day, then the last one would have to be plain salted chips, because your pantry is full of leftover spices but no food. It is during these hectic times when you are too poor to be happy, as the universe would have it, that I meet new people in town.
We are in town, standing next to International House with Jaber, waiting for one of those guys who say ‘give me two minutes, I will be there’ when what they really mean to say is ‘give me two hours I am on my way.’ Enyewe as a rule we should never lend money to friends, it is extremely dangerous, it damages their sense of time. And there is nothing as bad as standing in front of International House when you are cleaned out, because it is like hustlers do not walk in those sides of town. Right across there is Teriyakki Japan with their open kitchen that makes the street air delicious, but for their prices. On this street, it is like everyone else is doing so well, walking around in suits and looking busy, as if they cannot feel the weight of January; and you wonder who taught them how to adult.
While standing there, some chick crossed the road to our side and as soon as she saw us, her face lit up. She started walking towards us, smiling the kind of smile you smile when you spot someone you know but haven’t talked to in a long time. I started to smile back, you know, because I thought maybe she was just a sufferer like me, who is glad to spot someone she shares a struggle with. I mean, when you are in deep shit, there is nothing that would give you greater joy than knowing that you are in deep shit alone, donge?
As she got closer, she opened her arms as if to welcome a hug, and I also started opening my own to this comrade of mine, only for her to shout, “Ooooooh! Look at you!” as she proceeded to hug Jaber, leaving me to fake a yawn and pretend that I was only stretching from all the weariness of destitution.
“Heeey. It has been a long time,” Jaber said to her and they did that thing that girls do when they act like they are happy to see each other, and yet they cannot even give each other proper hugs, so they only touch each other’s cheeks and say ‘mwaaah’. What is that thing called anyway? That greeting? It is neither a hug nor a kiss. It is something in between, something lukewarm.
When the little ceremony was over she turned to me, extended her hand and said hello.
I said, “Hello,” as I received her hand and added, “Magunga Williams,” and at that moment I wished I had introduced myself with any of my four other names because the moment I did, she said, “Aaaaah! Yeessss! Magunga. I knew it!”
I kept silent. I never really know what to do when people do that, when people I do not know get excited when they meet me. To be honest, we bloggers are just posers. We come to our blogs and write about ourselves, our routines, because (psssh) our lives are so damn interesting. We fill your head with half truths and exaggerated stories about ourselves in order to make you think that we are the shit, when in sooth, most of us are just full of shit.
So this is what I usually do, I keep silent. I do not talk much when I meet people from the internet for the first time. I am scared I may say something that would change their already glorious opinion of me. And that is exactly what I did in this instant. That is why she asked, “Eish you are so quiet. Kumbe bloggers are dull like this in person?” or something like that. Jaber laughed. I didn’t. Then on seeing that I had not reacted, she did that thing people do when they are not sure if they have offended you; she laughed at her own joke and said, “I’m just kidding.”
I wish I could spare her the agony of wondering whether or not I had taken offence. I simply did not have the energy. Of course I can take a joke. I mean, I’m not mercurial. My skin is not as thick as a layer of Vaseline. And quite frankly, she was right. We bloggers are not that interesting in person. We are just kawaida, like the next guy. The only problem is that I was tired and my head was spinning from questions about what happened to my last paycheck and this chap who we were supposed to meet was still asking for two more minutes after kitu thirty minutes.
Jaber’s friend, if you are reading this now, please forgive me for being dull at you. You must have walked away wondering what kind of a snob I am, and I would like to apologize. Broke and tired people make for bad company.
It is January. And very soon, it will be February 14th. This is one of the longest periods of a bachelor’s life. Days drag on and on. We start looking for alternative ways to make money. Doing odd jobs because there are too many days at the end of the money. Wallets are as dry as baobab trees in Mwingi. It is even worse for the likes of us who know as much about football as Jon Snow knows about anything – we cannot even place a bet.
Perhaps the only option left is to play the Lotto.
I mean consider this: there is a this lady who works in a chemist. Her name is Mirriam. Mirriam with two ‘r’s. This past Saturday, Mirriam, who lives in Dandora, was coming back from ocha where she had gone to attend a funeral when she received a call from the Lotto guys, saying that she had won KES. 100, 000. In fact, she was still crying, probably asking God why she had to start 2016 on such a terrible low, when Jane from Lotto called to give her the news.
Mirriam had spent all of her salary to buy Lotto tickets. The Chemist she works in pays her 9, 000 bob. She used that money, all of it, to buy 450 tickets and in return she won almost ten times the value. I do not know what was going through her mind when she took that gamble. I do not know what she was thinking when she took her kabambe phone, went to Lipa Na M-PESA option from the MPESA menu and sent all of her salary to PayBill Business Number 777000, with account number SHINDA.
She called life’s bluff and went all in, and she got lucky. Just like Cleophas Were – a crippled electronics repairman in Siaya won a jackpot of KES. 3.2 million from this same Lotto.
Yaani people are out there winning millions, yet here I am, wading through my middle class woes with nothing but empty pockets and a heart full of hope. I want to try this Lotto thing. In fact, I already tried this Lotto thing. Of course I did not send my entire salary to it. I only sent whatever was left of it (50 bob) and crossed my fingers, shut my eyes and for the first time in a long time, sent a request to the grandfather above asking Him in the words of His only son that ‘If you see it fit, Father, please take this cup of suffering called January from me. But above all, let your will be done.’
It is a little past midnight as I write this. I have to sleep because tomorrow I have a few deliveries to make. Our kiosk is off to a good start, even though I cannot help but wonder where these people who are ordering books worth KES. 5,000 in January come from. I am not complaining, make no mistakes. I am only wondering whether their parents will be accepting application forms for adoption anytime soon.
Lakini with these yawning pockets, I take heart from one of the cheesiest movies ever created; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where Sonny says, “Everything will be alright in the end. So if it’s not all right, it’s not yet the end.”
This can’t be the end.