I am at Peterson's (gwa bita) throwing jug- worth and mug-worth of Senator left, right and centre. This is Kiambu and before me, in various stages of inebriation, are its jobless youth, lowlifes, petty thieves; the dregs not only of a social system that does not brook penury but also an economic construct that allows for only two things: having and not having.
Njoro, my cousin on my mother's side, is re-introducing me to this space. He runs me through the basic rules, once again, as I throw scar-faced Muriuki a 1 litre jug. The rules: stay calm; pay cash; and do not buy too much too quick. These rules are premised on certain facts: if you look fidgety, you are either new here or carrying large amounts of money. If you buy too much too quick, it means that you have a large amount to blow. The guys you buy the drinks will be the ones that will relieve you of your change, eventually. And, finally, pay cash because a bill in these kind of places is just a piece of paper with numbers on it; it has no correlation with your consumption.
But I cannot be bothered about rules. Me I am always saying, any young bachelor in this country who has some kind of hustle going on needs to redistribute their income. If the big fish will not share, if they insist on running a capitalistic economy and refuse to put in place safety nets for the disadvantaged majorities such as a better access to income generating activities, health, education and alcohol, then someone else has to do it. Someone like me...so, “Wakonyo, wape kitu!” If you want to inflate my bill, go ahead, how much can I possibly spend in a place where you can get totally wasted on 100 Kshs? Wee, kuzoo, pewa Napshizzle! I am only here for a week or two; these dudes haven't seen me in a dog's year, how will they know Potash lives?
The zero inches TV is on and a grainy John Dematthew VCD is playing. “I love this song!” I yell throwing my hands up like a Nairobi girl to the first riff of Linking Park's Numb. I wave my hands this and that way and hum incoherently. Of course I have never heard this song, but it is one of those John Dematthew 'Kikuyu Power' chants and I am seeking credibility. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Kikuyuland, and having been away for quite a bit, I need to prove that I haven't lost it. Especially seeing that, in the height of stupidity, I am wearing an orange shirt.
Scarface Muriuki's phone rings. It is one of those fancy phones that only a guy like Muriuki can answer in a bar like this. A bar where they will stab you for your last twenty bob. He has a text message. He reads it. He whispers, something, to the guy next to him and I see the other guy's face crinkle in a half-smile-half-scowl. Furtive glances are exchanged. Nodding heads and drinks being pushed away, thoughtfully. The room slowly begins to empty.
“Yo, P, take me I buy a joint.”
“But we got drinks cousin, niaje, niaje...?
“Okay, dude, I will see you later then, baadayes....”
I follow him outside wondering what happened to our drinker's creed that to leave an unfinished drink is like chewing on a goat's bone and throwing it away without breaking it; taboo.
“Tomorrow, cousin, it is going down.” he mutters and I am not even sure he is talking to me.
“Kesho, aje, aje...?” My cousin doesn't respond. Outside the bar, we squint our eyes in pain as we transition from the dark and smoky den into the sun-splashed afternoon. No more words are exchanged and we end up walking our separate ways. I walk into a 'proper' bar, with beer in bottles, across the street and my cousin heads off to God-knows-where.
At the 'proper' bar, I find a clump of uncles, cousins and kinsfolk of various removes, join them and swallow several litres of beer. At 2.00 am, Monday morning we stagger home.
I get out of bed at 10.00 am. Today, I will go into the city and meet up, or at least try to, a couple of writing projects contacts, I decide.
I choose to skip a shower and jump into the clothes I wore on Sunday. At the matatu stop, things are others....
...Mungiki has taken over!