A girl from USIU shows up at our office to interview me. She’s a brown, fragile-looking girl with a thin smile and laughter that can’t fit in her fist. Joy Ruguru. She’s wearing these round-toed flat shoes and somewhat rose-tinted spectacles. She says she’s a big fan. She says “thank you for meeting me,” again. And again. She’s fidgety, perched on the edge of her seat ready to bolt at the first sound of a banging door. She never puts her purse down, cuddles it in her lap like an ill pet. She does Business IT in uni but that’s not her passion. She wants to write. Out comes two phones, the first one is a white IPhone 6, where she has structured a bunch of intimidating questions that she plans to pelt me with. (I’m shaking in my socks). She’s at that lovely stage where they write questions down the previous night and studiously mull over them and internalise them. It’s charming how she looks at her questions almost in awe. The other phone looks like something that fell off Pluto.
She’s nervous as hell.
So I do what you would do; I start joshing. She bursts into pockets of brittle laughter so sharp they can crack a wine glass. Fred walks into the office carrying a donut. Fred hardly ever eats. He’s as waif as a rail. So him carrying food is a sight to behold. I suspect he will eat that donut the whole day and then not eat anything again until the next day at dinnertime. I introduce them: “This is Joy and she is here to interview me.” I think Fred is envious, even though he’s the one holding a donut.
I want his donut. I duck to the next room and fetch myself one from one of Fred’s girls – Charlene – who is trying to lose weight but then some secret admirer sent her a boxful of Mr. Donuts. (And you say Nairobi men are not romantic?) I take a bite and offer one to my nervous interviewer in her snub-nosed shoes. She takes a modest bite because a lady doesn’t open her mouth too wide and politely hands it back. I take another bite and offer her back. She takes another small bite and we sit there chewing and saying how awesome that donut is. Traditionally this is called breaking bread but today it’s called breaking ice.
I crack some silly jokes. I have many silly jokes when you catch me on a good day. And she has. She giggles heartlessly. Nervousness slips down to her round-toed shoes. (OK, fine, I like her shoes) She says she can’t have more donut but whenever a chick says she can’t have more of something sweet like a cake or a muffin she probably means she wants more but she shouldn’t have more because it’s not good for her waistline. So I tell her, “Come, don’t spoil this special moment, finish that off” and she offers a resigned look and takes the remaining donut. See? She wanted more.
She sets up her voice recorder on her IPhone and looks at her questions and sighs and says how nervous she has been whole day and how she feels relaxed now. (Donuts are good for nerves). I want to tell her not to write that winning BAKE was a ‘dream come true,” like they reported in the newspaper but I figured saying that would make her nervous and we don’t want that after sharing a donut. She looks down at her questions and with a held breath she asks, “ Did you see yourself getting here with the blog when you started?”
And that’s a decent opening question. Even for someone with snub-nosed shoes.
Six years ago when we (yes, si we are a family now?) started this blog, Thika Road wasn’t even a highway. Fashion blogging wasn’t a thing yet. Selfies were unheard of. Yoga hadn’t moved to Kileleshwa. Sauti Sol hadn’t started removing their shirts. In fact, Nerea hadn’t even gotten a boyfriend yet, let alone getting pregnant. Folk ate carbohydrates. Instagram was an infant. Vanity was only evolving. Fast. Here, we called this blog High School because we were young and impressionable. We met here every Monday. And we were unhinged. We laughed (still do) and sometimes we got sombre. We didn’t really know what we wanted from each other, but it felt good to meet here on Mondays and have a tickle and a giggle. And nobody gave two shits on who commented first.
We had guys like Kibidubidu whose comments you had to read with a dictionary. Kina Kimutai in his kitenge. Then we blossomed. We graduated from High School and came here and even more people came on board. Interesting folk for the most part. And when we gave Jadudi a hand we knew that this shit here isn’t for just laughs, that we would step up to the plate when we wanted to. We had become a family; diverse, opinionated, respectful and still fun. Even the names became louder – kina Peter Wesh. Some with three names: Caroline Achieng Otieno. Kina Cliff the Tall, who I’m sure isn’t even thaaat tall. Kina Anitah and Mwaura Mswati, an admirer of King Mswati, I suppose. There were also a bunch of commenters who hide behind monikers. And then the thousands of ghost readers who came in quietly, read and went back to their spreadsheets and day hustle. Online phantoms. We became lovers of the word. We became men and women of letters.
So did I know I would get here? No. Not in my wildest dreams. Because all I wanted to do was write.
You might already have known that we took the Best Creative Writing Blog again this year, fourth year running. (Someone please light a “fatakra”. Haha.) And that we also took home the Best Kenyan Blog 2016, second year running. That the good Lord of Abraham keeps standing over us. And that you guys keep supporting me. And voting. And being good sports here.
What’s going to happen is that I will go to a bar and someone is going to buy me a bottle of whisky as a congratulatory token. And I will drink it. But of course we all know you made this happen, so I will drink to each of your good health until either I keel over into my fish fingers or someone holds me by the elbow and whispers in my ear, “Chocolate Man, I think maybe you should go home.” Then I will sober up, because you don’t want a man whispering anything chocolate-y in your ear.
I’m trying to say thank you, Le gang. I appreciate it.
Some readers are always asking me why I never comment on comments. I think it would be crazy to comment on every comment, no? Think about it.
But today I will. I will respond to every comment. Ask me a question, any one question, and I will respond. Because we are celebrating. And because here we beat stories, yeah?
Peter Wesh, you wanna go first?
No, Cliff The Tall. Tell us, just how tall are you that you have to call yourself Cliff the Tall?