Leila had just closed school. After a few exchange of pleasantries through text she asked when I’d be around so that I could buy her a drink. She said her favourite was Chrome. I wondered. Chrome! Odd name for alcohol. I mean there’s Kenya Cane, Kenya King, Konyagi, Meakins [I can name almost all the brands of cheap liguor-I belong to this class]. Names weren’t yet exhausted to warrant someone naming a vodka Chrome. Like someone woke up one day with a stiff hung over from the other liquors and said, ‘I’m gonna make me a liquor and name it Chrome. I’m gonna make Chrome more than just a browser.’ Five years from now a deep voice will emanate from our speakers….when chrome was just a browser….
My interest was irked. Trouble is I hadn’t enough problems in my Problem Bank to make me visit the liquor store. Every time I felt the urge of communing with eagles I was always repulsed by the Problem Bank customer care. Sweetly she’d say, ‘You have insufficient problems, please find a woman and call back.’ That’s when I realized how it sucked to live without problems. The world would suck even more without problems. There’d be no politics and worst of all journalists would be jobless. Imagine a world like that! A world where people wake up, make love with only their wives, eat, pray and make love again [with their wives only-this is important]. The world would be so freaking boring.
Back to chrome.
So am heading home with my paps. The sound track to our silent conversations has always been Franco’s music. He has an album that he plays every single time I’ve been on that car with him. We drive reveling in our awkward silence. Franco belts his tunes. I used to hate such kind of music. Now I don’t, how else would I survive a six hour journey? We stop at Nakuru. He had some business to attend. He disappears and I spot a huge Chrome advert on a billboard. There was a dude dressed stylishly, with shoes that glowed around the edge of the sole. There were curvy colorful lines imposed on him but not enough to make him indistinguishable. The photo was taken while he was dancing to some hip hop music, I guess, because his hands were in the air and he stood on his toes. Below him was a fancy slogan I forgot to remember. The clear target of this drink was the young broke ass people. Just like me. RRP 180.
‘I’ll buy it one day’ I promised my liver.
We get home in the wee hours, the kind my high school principal used to call satanic hours. That was just one of the few punchlines he managed to pull. One day he claimed our parents were the poorest South of Sahara and north of Limpopo. If weren’t peaceful enough we’d have lynched his car [one of his]. Looking back our parents sure had to be. I mean if you can build a multi-million house immediately after purchasing a Toyota Rav 4, everybody had to be poor surely. I retrieve my bag from the car boot and prance about indulgently. There is something about the village; fresh air, no noise except dogs barking occasionally and cocks crowing-the air is generally serene.
Something about home. No matter how long you’ve been away everything will always seem normal. No matter how changes have taken place it will still be the same place you left a few years or months back. It will still be home.
I should meet Leila, I thought basking on a rock by the stream. I always check on this rock occasionally, but almost always, when I want to clear my mind. The gurgling stream offers the best beats as the birds sing recklessly up the trees. A few texts later we strike a deal. We’d meet the next day, a Sunday. As usual she says she doesn’t have fare. You get a cookie for guessing what I did. Bingo! You got it right.
Is it impatience or is it that girls drag themselves deliberately when they agree to meet you? Or it could be my own problem? She had promised to leave her place at 3.30, add another hour and she’d be there. At four I was there, spruced up. I called. She doesn’t pick. I call again. No answer. An hour later she calls. I rushed out from this dinghy movie place, where retards catch Dj Afro movies. I forced myself in, for time to move. I’d missed Dj Afro anyway, and that was enough an excuse. This is also the place we catch football. Here the roof is dust infested. Woe unto you if a belated Arsenal fan jumps in jubilation, worse still for a replay of goal. It’s not rare to find people celebrating a replay, especially when their team’s behind. I think they should ban replaying from different angles because many people here confuse for another goal.
Leila says she’d be leaving her place in an hour. That’s makes it two. Thinking of two grueling hours in a dinghy place, coupled with sweaty human beings, crammed in one place and the hotness of the place prompts me to ask what’s keeping her that long. I call her back immediately she hangs up. She picks up and barks.
‘I just told you I’ll be there in an hour….is it this money that you are desperate about. I can send them back…’ and she hangs up just like that. Without according me an opportunity of reply. Meager money. I couldn’t count the amount of money Sportpesa and African Spirits Limited have gobbled up-probably a thousand over.
Why would she be irked by a hundred shillings? Why would she even think I would be at a loss with a mere hundred shillings? Just because she wouldn’t be around wouldn’t mean I wouldn’t get where I was to go [apply your poetic knowledge or lack of it]
Just stay wherever you are, do whatever you are doing with whomever you are with, however you lie it. Got nothing to lose. I text her and head to this pub. It doesn’t have a name now but three years ago it use to be called Metro Pub. It’s deserted. I count only two tables, with a huge space between them. Three high stools are around the counter, unoccupied. Kalenjin music pierces the air. I look around and notice a drunk light skinned girl cuddling or seemed an old rugged looking man. I don’t want guess his age, cheap liquor has a way of aging someone embarrassingly. May he’d just cleared his fourth form. The girl rises once the song changes. I didn’t even notice the change, but I know it was Chelele before as it is now. She dances around trying to move her rigid backside to this Chelele song. Well, all Chelele songs are the same. And she has the guts to call herself Binti Osama! How would you allow to be killed by a non-entity? Oh, I guess your dad wasn’t there to protect you, blame it on Obama.
order Chrome. This is where we make acquaintances with Chrome. I hope you aren’t slow like the browser, thinks I.
‘We only have this,’ a motherly waiter says plainly. Trouble with all the pubs around here is there aren’t any beautiful waiters. No even one. And the serve you in those coloured plastic cups. I see a green liquid inside.
‘Aren’t all supposed to be like this?’ I regretted saying this; probably I’d be thought as an amateur drunkard. Knowing I don’t know she’d be at liberty to charge me any amount. And that’s robbery considering the fact that I’ve emerged from Muthurwa’s unnamed pubs on my goddamn feet. Skilled drunkard!
‘Lemon flavoured, ‘ she says, devoid of any emotion. A rock would say the same words without altering anything.
Green, blue, yellow….whatever (Breaking Bad fans). I want to taste Chrome. I grab it and she demands cash. Like I just stumbled into the pub. I reach for my pocket and retrieve a two hundred shilling note. I hand it to her and she hands me a glass. For the first time I see a glass. Maybe first timers are served in glasses, like most homes do to visitors. Those reserved utensils, you know. I pour a little and gulp it down and waited. Nothing happened. I poured some more and gulped. Nothing happened. The music still sucked. The two lovebirds were still miserable. Me too. Leila is distant. Like she’s never existed. May this Chrome is as slow as the one am used to. I pour half the glass and gulped down.
Then, without notice everything turned beautiful. The music became the best sound one could ever hear. The ugly couple looks sexy. The motherly bartender looks sexy too. I want to rise and gyrate whatever I have. That would wait, I think.
Then she calls. Leila calls. I look at the phone and toss it aside. She calls again. Same procedure. She calls once more. Same procedure. She texts. I look at the text.
Doesn’t sound real.
I mean it.
You’d have texted immediately. Not three hours later
Just received the text now
I’ve haven’t seen yours too, will check them tomorrow. Good night.
More and more sorries come in. I’m sorry for her because I wasn’t even reading them. Minutes later, after clearing my drink, I summon a boda boda guy. Ten minutes I’m fumbling with the door lock, it isn’t actually a lock but a nail driven into the edge of the door and curled, just to keep the door in place but not for security.