Last Saturday night I was seated in a booth at Diani’s famed Shakattack nightclub. In the same booth slept Susan Wong because it must be so draining and exhausting to take and post pictures on Instagram. She lay curled there like a Chinese baby, wasting her wonderful grey dress in deep sleep. Next to her was a fashionista, Kendi Joy, not a strand of blonde natural hair out of place, seemingly fearful to stand and dance lest, God forbid, an offensive bead of perspiration should appear on her brow and ruin her bohemian ensemble. Then there was Anyiko Owoko bedecked in what seemed like maroon leather pants, legs as long as the road to Damascus. The deejay, her homie, a charismatic chap called Deejay Ken Mafioso, kept sending her shoutouts over songs: Anyiko this; Anyiko that; Anyiko in the house; Shout out to Anyiko from Nairooooobiiiiii. Eish, it felt like we had crashed her ruracio.
Seated right opposite me was Anthony Irari from Ghafla. When we were introducing ourselves the previous day he said, “I’m Anthony Irari from Ghafla.co.ke”just in case we confuse it with Ghafla.org. Or Ghafla.net. The thing with being in the same space with someone from Ghafla is that you can’t let loose. I wasn’t about to start dancing with him seated there looking for a story. At some point he asked me if he could buy me a drink and I said, “No thanks, maybe water?” I suspect he was trying to get me drunk so that I could dance with that hooker in a white dress then boom, a saucy header the next day. So I sat still and regarded him like you would an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
Next to Irari was our host Richard Kimenyi from Hillpark Hotel Tiwi beach; uber hotelier with over four decades experience, now retired, lover of food and drinks (and buyer of them too hehe), a most fun and engaging man with delicate tastes. He had constantly threatened to show us a “cool move” before we arrived at the club and when he finally did it was, disappointingly, the “moon walk.” [Pause] To one of Davido’s songs. [Long Pause]. When he did that moonwalk the word “discotheque” suddenly made a lot of sense. We were in a discotheque, something Nairobi lacks because a good number of Nairobians know more about how to drink than to dance.
Talking of dancing. Shakattack was full of white people. And when you sit in a club at 1am, sipping your bourbon, and watching white people dance, you question so much about life. Your life. You question everything actually. You sit and ask yourself; Who am I? Why am I here? Could I have been elsewhere tonight with less jumping going on? Is what I’m drinking what I ordered? Is that white guy convulsing and does he have a good medical cover? Does Resolution Health cover injuries caused on the dance floor as a result of being kneed in the groin by a “dancing” white guy? Is this space hazardous? How can a race be completely and utterly out of rhythm with a beat, any beat, and how can we, as Africans help? When you watch white people dance like I did in that club, it dawned on me with such blinding clarity why it’s called having “two left feet.”
Of course there is always that one white person with a black person trapped inside them; the one who dances like us and has mad moves. OK, not ati mad in comparison to our moves, but like amongst that un-rhythmic human sea of white thrashing, they stand out as actually respecting the alignment of the beats. Like this white girl I saw in a hippy skirt and Jesus sandals, her blonde hair tied at the back with a pale blue hairband. Oh she could move. I named her Olga in my head. She had that one style, like most of us really, but when she moved to that style it was fire.
Olga had friends who, naturally, were all out of sync on the dance floor; kicking and smashing and thrashing and fisting and jabbing and writhing. But not Olga. Olga swayed and thrust her hips, surfing effortlessly in this turbulent sea of white hysteria. I wanted to find out how Olga was socialised. Did she have black friends while growing up? Did she watch Good Times as a child? Did she sometimes talk to the black person in her? And feed her.
While Olga moved the earth, Wong slept.
Anyway, there was a moral to this story…yeah, my point is that when you watch white people dance, it makes you think about things in your life. For instance, Kimenyi had shown me a picture of his home on his phone; this cozy, leafy place with trees and shit and I wanted to ask him if he bought it cash or on mortgage or if he built it but it would have felt like too much. Then it made me think of those bank executives who used to call us for loans.
“Hi, I’m James something something, from Exe Bank.” (Not Exe the unga, but like the letter ‘X”)
“Yes, James, what’s up?”
“I was wondering if you have a minute to chat.”
“Actually you are in luck James I have one and a half minutes.”
“Haha. Thank you, Mr Jackson.”
“Call me Biko.”
“OK thank you Mr Biko,”
“No, just Biko.”
“OK, Biko. I wanted to introduce this exciting product that we have at the bank -”
“How exciting is this product on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“Uhm,…I don’t know, a 8?”
“Are you sure?”
“Because you said you don’t know.”
[Chuckles] “I know. It’s a 8.”
“Do you still want to?”
“You said you “wanted to introduce me to this exciting product,” do you still want to or you changed your mind?”
“I still want to…”
“Oh great then, knock my hat off”
“So anyway, we have a loan facility…”
“I already have a loan.”
“Oh, with us?”
“Have you not checked to find out?”
“Yeah…yeah…I think -”
“How much loan did I take?”
“I…I don’t have those figures from the top of my….”
“I don’t have a loan James.”
[Long pause] “Oh…”
“Oh,” uncomfortable laughter. “So do you have a loan with us ooor… I’m confused.”
“I don’t know, do I?”
Then I sit there and listen to him control his breathing.
“Listen, James, do you have another exciting product?”
“What product are you looking for?”
“Something that is a 9.4 instead of an 8 because on a scale of excitement, 8 is really low for me, it now takes a lot to excite me since I stopped doing drugs…”
“Oh. Uhm, thanks for your time Mr Biko, have a wonderful -”
“Don’t go James…I was only…”
“I really have to go, have a wonderful afternoo…”
“James? Don’t go…”
“James, damn it!”
“James, are you there?”
When I think of these callers, I picture some graduate from UoN, fresh from throwing stones at our cars, a wide-eyed boy stunned by the harsh reality of life, eking a living trying to get someone to take an unsecured loan and meeting jerkasses like myself on the phone who have time to waste.
Then the interest rates capping happened and they no longer call. And I miss them. I wonder what calls they make now, or if they were moved to different departments, or to new jobs that don’t involve calling people, or if they got babies or just one baby and life is taking off in whatever direction it may be taking off. I picture them coming into the job market and they are stunned at how cold it is, how you start with so little, do so much and you feel the worthless weight of your degree in your back pocket whenever you get a regret. You marvel at how the dreams you had for the job market now look so utopian with your 15,000-a month intern stipend. (Yes, you thought you were too important to be an intern. Well here you are.) You can hardly support yourself. You thought you’d drive your first car at 26 and buy your first house at 30, but now you are here at the bank, calling the likes of “Mr Jackson” and his drug problems. You are in the trenches where you are doing your time. Making your bones. You have to claw your way out of this hole because that’s what we have been put down here in this corporate hole to do; to claw yourself out, to be competitive, imaginative and resilient, and triumph. Then maybe you can buy a house, because isn’t that what everybody measures to know how well they are doing?
Talking of guys who buy homes. I went to see this guy’s newborn baby at Greenpark Estate, Superior Homes. Wait. That sentence sounds odd, ati I went to “see” this guy’s baby. That insinuates that I went to see if indeed the baby was his, or if there is a resemblance, or I went to see the baby over a little problem I had. Like going to see your uncle. Anyway, I think guys who live in Greenpark imagine that they live abroad, with their driveways and people standing in their green gardens with hosepipes watering their greens in their shorts while their kids linger on the streets with their bikes and skateboards and shit. This guy is one of those Greenpark people.
Because his baby was asleep, he took me to his backyard that had a swing (for him, I suspect, not the baby) and he told me that he liked the place because it was away from the hustle of the city, making the city sound like it had a constant loud noise and a smog of pollution that is unfit.
The Help brought me a juice. He said “you should get a house here.”
“I like the hustle of Nairobi.” I said, to mean I couldn’t afford it. Yet. I like how people with money casually tell you stuff because they are so removed from it: Hey, why don’t you just get a Range Rover instead? Or, “You should take your kid to Braeburn, great foundation.
“Why do you like the city? It’s soo hectic.”
“It keeps me hungry.”
He laughed. “I can hook you up with the management, they’ll give you a good deal.”
“I know kina Angelica and the deal. I wrote about it on my blog last year,” I said, “Si the Buy Over Long Term deal where you fix the price and pay over a number of years before you are handed the big nice silver key upon full payment?”
“You wrote about it?”
“I did. On my blog, last year”
“You still write your blog?”
The baby started crying (not because I still write my blog) and he ran inside, leaving me staring at his green lawn and a sprinkler that wasn’t on. I sipped my juice and marveled at how life happens; some people get babies at 22, others get babies at 50. Some get houses at 31, others buy houses at 45. Some people break their voice at 12, others never quite break their voices. Some people never even grow pubic hair. Or beards. (Like Magunga). Some sleep in clubs, others won’t dance. Some people die too young, others live too long. Some marry in gardens, while others divorce. Some turn gay, others don’t accept their sexuality. Others will never know how to raise a girl, while others don’t want to ever have kids. Yet some never really have to worry about making money because dad’s made bundle of it ages ago, yet, some never even met their dads.
But that’s life, isn’t it?