You curl your wrist and peek at your watch and you know you should probably leave. It’s 2am. Not like you have a curfew or anything. Curfews are for men who carry their women’s purses. You are all male, damn it; you will leave when you are ready to leave. To plagiarize that cool Pilsner ad; A lion goes home when a lion is ready to go home.
But still a little voice whispers in your ear, “do you really want to be ‘all male’ while in the doghouse? You sip your drink and tell the voice to put a sock in it.
At 2am everything seems to drift in a haze of hedonistic mist. It’s like the apocalypse has happened upon humanity and you are the lucky few who this impending final destruction has found in the pub, so you succumb by imbibing. You let it consume you with its imminent obliteration.
You are five on a table. There is also a new girl who wandered to your table; or rather she looks like a girl. Nobody seems to mind her. Or her nest-like hairstyle. She’s one of those girls who lean too close to you, so close you can smell her lunch, and she shouts over the loud thudding music, right into your eardrums; “So what do you do again?” Don’t you just hate it when people ask you that after midnight? What, you want us to discuss careers now? Are there new opportunities we need to discuss at this very hour? If I tell you what I do will you also expect me to ask you what you do? Even if you are a lawyer? Another goddamn lawyer?
Someone with a gaudy polo shirt with collar turned all the way up sends you a double. Or a bottle.
You curl your wrist again; 2.35am. The little voice chirps up again. You are wrecked of course. You’ve had a total of, what eight doubles? Ten? One and half liters of water? Here is what you do; you discreetly settle your bill, tip the nice waiter who always made sure that you didn’t have to ask him to fill the ice-bucket and you catch the eye of one of your boys who knows your ways, and brief eye contact is made and he raises his glass in acknowledgment and off you go – pushing your way through a wall of tutting merrymakers and urgent music and through a dense cloud of perfumes and colognes and testosterone and progesterone, all engaged in a weird game of sexual musical chairs. You push the door to the washroom and proceed to wet the urinal with a stream of what looks like strong-tea and then you make a hole through the wall and you are pressing the alarm of your car. An Irish exit. You are engaging your car into reverse, tipping the chap at the gate (if it’s Explorer Tavern, that chap is a gem because he always gets you parking inside) and him laughing and saying sarcastically, “na leo umetoka mapema boss” and your laughter remains suspended over the smog of pre-dawn cold.
Avoiding alco-blow you navigate the car through back roads and through sleeping estates and barking dogs and past the occasional car driven by chaps who are speeding home because they listened to the little voice in their ears too. Is it me or is there a certain level of unbridled giddiness when you are driving home at this hour, no traffic on the back roads, the street light washing the wet tarmac with a rainbow of colours and you are playing loud music and singing along to “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dog and you could drive to Kitale and back because it’s so beautiful as it can only be before the storm.
Sleepy security chaps, make zombie-like motions and open the couple of security barriers for you. You promptly kill the music three houses from yours. You are entering into enemy territory, so you fly under the radar. You are officially a phantom as you enter this controlled environment. If your gate is like mine, it makes this huge racket when you open it, (why do gates scream so loudly at night and during the day they are silent?) so when you rock up at this time, you climb the curb and park your car outside the compound where you send an sms to you one of your boys: Home.
You will find a reply later saying, “kisses.” Hehe. It’s a private joke. OK let me explain although you might not get it.
So this one time, after a night on the tiles, I sent a message to this pal of mine telling him I had arrived home safely and he wrote back and said, “come on, man, only women tell you when they are home safe. If you don’t get home safe we will know eventually. So that is some gay-shit saying you are home.” We all had a good cackle over that the next day. So nowadays to spite each other, when someone gets home and they send you a message of the same you always reply with, “OK baby,” or “I had such a great time, can’t wait to see you again,” “or I miss you already” or “the table hasn’t been the same since you left” or “Dream of me,” or “You looked great in your red bra” (hehee) or “Call me when your p’s end.” And it’s the funniest shit ever….at least when you are still tipsy.
I knew you wouldn’t get it. Anyhuu….
You walk through the gate, let yourself into the house and suddenly you feel the chill. The house is so damned cold. Hehe. Then there is this thing that happens when you rock up late; this urge to sing grabs you. Does that happen to you?
Sometimes you just want to sing because there is this song in your head and it’s just dying to be sung at 3am. What do you do? Do you want to be the one who denied a good song its freedom? No. So you hum it lightly as you remove your shoes and socks and toss them in the dirty laundry basket, you hum it as you go to the kitchen and open the fridge and poke you nose inside.
Then you do what has to be done; you cross the Rubicon (insert a dramatic soundtrack here) and open the bedroom door. A sharp gust of cold whips your face. It’s like opening a freezer. That song in your head magically vanishes. The air is thick with judgment and anger and bile. You push your way through this heaviness. Of course you can’t dare put on the lights; you are tipsy, not suicidal. Like a blind-man who knows his way around you wander in the darkness. You don’t realize it but when you are high your breathing gets heavier. Hehe. As you are stumbling through this darkness, breathing like a pressed buffalo, you stub your toe against the baby cot, it hurts like hell but you say nothing; there are more painful things in life, as you will learn soon. You find your towel, you hit the shower and later you go to the kitchen to rummage for food.
Does your microwave make as much noise as mine does? It makes warming food at 3am such a big deal, and then if you step away briefly because you back into the living room to zap through some channels you hear a very loud bell-like sound: “tiiiing!” at the he end of the timer and that shit is so loud at 3am it could get you evicted!
Ten minutes later you (very) slowly slip under the covers careful not to wake up anyone, which is pointless because you women will have heard us coming three houses away. Women will master the sound of your engine but will not detect a mechanical problem with their own car engine by the odd sound it’s making. There is a time my car was down and insurance gave me this courtesy car, a Probox (I have never felt like such an kuyo from Kinangop) and the next day the Missus said, “you didn’t come with your car, did you?” Baffling.
But you can always tell if she’s awake by listening to her breathing. She lies there like a predator, trying not to move a muscle, listening to you breathe like a buffalo. You can feel how recoiled she is without even touching her. If her breathing is even, she is as alert as an owl but if it’s erratic and deep-ish she is asleep. Then the most baffling thing is always the casual question she asks in the morning, “so what time did you come home jana?” and if you are like me, you are always knocking off an hour from the actual TA and then you are asked, “Oh, hmmm….I could have sworn it was 1am.”
The next morning you will wake up with a start. Your head will feel like someone pinned it to the pillow. You will realize immediately that something is very off; the house is too quiet. There isn’t the familiar sound of loud TV playing cartoons. There is nobody screaming, “I don’t want bread!” and a toddler crying or breaking something or someone saying loudly, “Stop climbing the table, you kids will drive me mad!” and hearing the toddler falling followed by cries all over the house.
You hear nothing.
It’s deathly quiet.
The only sound is the soft eerie humming of the water dispenser or the fridge. It’s almost like The Second Coming happened while you were asleep. You struggle out of bed and stagger to the sitting room; nobody. The TV is off. The kitchen is spotless. The bathroom is still wet. The balcony is bare. There is evidence that the former inhabitants left in a big hurry. You go to the window and look out; her car is gone. You stagger to her wardrobe to see if her clothes are still there. Hehe.
You open drawers frantically, looking for Panadols. Nothing. Next stop, the fridge. If she has timed it right, there will be nothing in the fridge to eat except eggs and minji and potatoes and peas….Kikuyu food generally and that has never cured a hangie. And you can’t venture outside because the sun will scald your hangover. So you beat two eggs into a pulp and fry them, then you carry your plate to the living room and struggle with the eggs as you watch African Startups. You don’t want to accept that you are kinda miserable because you feel the silence and solitude is closing in on you. You fall asleep on the seat, the plate of unfinished eggs balancing on your chest, one hand sprawled on the carpet. When you come to, Richard Quest is screaming something about a gadget that travelers should buy. You kill the TV.
Of course you can’t call her. That would mean she won. She will know you are miserable and alone and so hungry that you might jump off the balcony. So you nap again and wake up. You try reading but you are so hungry you can’t deal. The little voice comes to your ear and taunts, “So, Mr. I’m-all-Male, Mr. Pilsner-Lion, how is it looking now?”
You want your mommy.
At 5pm they aren’t back. 6:30-pm nothing. 7:12pm you give up and call. A sweet little girl picks up and says, “We are driving,” and you ask, “to where, Busia Border?” Hehe. “We are at Total.” So you tell the little girl, “Could you please buy me panadols, darling?” She says she doesn’t have money and you tell her mom has money and you hear her out of ear shot asking her mom, “Do you have money to buy papa panadols?” and you hear her mommy saying, “nope!” and you chuckle painfully and the little girl comes on and says, “mommy doesn’t have money” and you say, “she does, darling” and she hangs up.
A few minutes shy of 8pm they all troop in and the kids, squealing and screaming run to you with hugs on the sofa where you lie half-dead and they hug you and you know that really pisses her off because they are not supposed to have missed you. A small win for you. The panadols are placed on the coffee table like a bomb. And you aren’t sure if it it’s a booby trap. You stare at them suspiciously for a while, expecting them to self-destruct as soon as you touch them. You try to make conversation, “Thanks for the dawa, I almost died here today.” Crickets. You might as well be speaking to a toaster. It will be cold for a while. It’s winter in these tropics. You hang on tight and you start thinking of ways to make up. Which means you will be super nice. And funny. But mostly you will spend.
To all the women who have experienced their men coming home very late. It’s never something we plan. We actually feel bad about it. In fact, the days you don’t plan to overdo it is the day you end up overdoing it. I swear it’s the work of the devil. And time is a witch. After midnight we don’t know what happens, time literally falls off into space; you look at your watch it’s 11.14pm, you look again and it’s 12:54am, you look again and it’s 2:01am, you blink, look again and you know you are screwed. Sometimes you are already so late you sit there and think, OK, it’s already 1am, I have crossed the cold-treatment threshold anyway, it doesn’t matter if I go now or I go in the next hour I’m still scheduled for hanging. Then there is always someone saying, “boss, just have the last one, next time we will hang out again like this could be months, so come on, one last one… on me. Come on, don’t let me beg, I haven’t worn the right shirt for it.” Mostly this is the guy whose wife travelled. Hehe.
And if you are a teetotaler, you are missing out on one beautiful phenomenon; you will die not knowing how loud a microwave is at 3am. And that’s a crying shame.
Ps: Here is where I should add that drinking and driving will sure kill you.