Celebrating East African Writing!
The two men downed their beers in silence. They sat on a veranda in a ‘Bar and Restaurant’ across the road from the Ambassador Hotel where they had been required to pay for their drinks before being served.
The place was frequented by older denizens of the city and the DJ played a mix of 80s pop music, Lingala and Mugithi songs, quite a few couples were inadvertently entertaining the men as they danced to the music.
“Uko sawa?” The heavyset guy asked his companion.
The other man smiled and gave him a thumbs up.
“I think I need something stronger” he replied over the din.
The big guy waved over a waitress and motioned towards the other man as he spoke.
“Richot ile ndogo” He said and slapped a thousand bob note onto the table.
“How many times have you done this?”
“ Mara mob, Kama six hivi” Fat guy said, he reached into his trouser pocket, pulled out a grimy looking handkerchief and mopped off his sweaty face.
“Six! ai bwana, siyou said 10 last week.” Skinny Guy said grinning.
The big guy wagged his finger in his friend’s face in mock anger and they both burst out laughing.
When the waitress returned with their 250 ml bottle of spirits and the change on a tray, the men were singing along to a Franco song that was playing, the heavyset man wiggling his belly in tune to the beat, only an experienced observer would have noticed the slight tremor in the skinny guy’s hands as he poured himself a large shot of undiluted whiskey and gulped it down. As he reached again for the bottle , his friend stopped him, screwed up the bottle and put it in his jacket pocket.
“You have to be just a bit buzzed man, otherwise…” He made a swishy motion with his hand. “Things might happen.”
Skinny Guy and Fat Dude had met in Buru Buru police cells almost two years ago, Skinny Guy had been arrested leaving a night club at 3 am by the cops who had found a joint in his pocket, while Fat Dude had declined to state his reason for being in the police cells, explaining it away with an airy
“You, know how these people are.” Moving his right hand in a circular motion towards his head indicating crazy.
They had grown up in the same neighborhood in Maringo, even attended the same primary school but had never been more than friendly acquaintances until the day they’d met in the cells. Fat Dude had schemed a way for himself and Skinny Guy to be let go without charges and they had since become good friends.
Skinny Guy walked out out the bar and breathed in the Nairobi air. He was pleasantly buzzed, he drew his jacket against his body and waited for his friend to bring his car around. He chuckled as it came into view as he realized that the number plate had now changed from a KBL to a KBE.
How did you do that?” he asked his friend.
“Change the number plate.”
“Black tape.” He explained grinning.
“How do you choose them?” Skinny guy asked, trying not to look too nervous.
They were cruising along Tom Mboya street, Nairobi was in no hurry to wind down this Friday night there were still people jostling each other on the pavements while random hawkers were packing up their wares for the day.
“ You have to pick a ka small one,” His friend demonstrated by holding his hands apart. “ Like you!” he grinned. “Less trouble that way.”
Skinny guy smiled a tight smile and zipped up his leather jacket.
They drove to K street, Skinny guy acting nonchalant, ogling the women in the tightest shortest clothes he had ever seen, Fat dude was silent apparently scanning the women for his pick.
“The cops don’t care man, I’ve done it in Mombasa, Kisumu even Nyeri, someone might make a fuss for a few days and then….” He shrugged.
He parked near a pavement under a failing streetlight, they both watched silently as two women detached themselves from a wall and sauntered over to the car.
Skinny guy is retching into the toilet at a River Road ‘Bed and Breakfast’. His vomit is tinged with the bitterness of the spirits he’s drunk, each time he thinks he’s done the heaving starts again; he thinks to himself that he’d rather spend the night – the rest of his days, in here, in this motel bathroom with it’s chipped linoleum and lingering moldy smell than face what’s waiting for him outside.
He rests his back against the cold marble wall and tries to catch his breath, he’s breathing too fast. His shirt has a spattering of puke on it. His heart is pounding so hard he can hear it in his ears BOOM , BOOM.
BOOM the flimsy bathroom door crashes open, Fat Guy is standing in the doorway. Behind him he can see the torso of the woman they’d picked up, her head lolling at the edge of the bed, her tongue – grotesquely pink against her chocolate complexion – is protruding out of her mouth. Her lifeless eyes seem to be looking directly at him. He feels that familiar clenching in his stomach again and as he turns to spew into the toilet again he hears his friend – Fat Guy exclaiming “Seven, it’s seven now!”
Christine Yienya © 2014