With an hour to kill before my meeting with a friend, I walk into The Peach Hotel on Moi Avenue, close to Samba Club, to the sound of laughter and loud banter from the men and women irrigating their throats with tea, others with freshly squeezed fruit juice, others with soda, and others with, well, you catch the drift. It’s almost 7 O’clock in the evening so I know finding a table is going to be a challenge. I go upstairs and the noise there is worse. For a moment, it looks like the men and women of Kericho Tea Farmers Association are holding their AGM here, leaning close to each other, noses touching, and whispering loudly, beating the whole purpose of leaning.
I spot an empty table in the middle of the room so I quickly walk over and make myself comfortable. A waitress, a young dark skinned lady in a yellow T-shirt and black skirt, walks over with a menu in hand. She smiles as she places the menu on the roundtable without a word before taking a step back to allow me a second to decide on what I want to eat. She obviously doesn’t know that Menus are wasted on me. I am not the curious guy who wants to taste the newest addition to the menu. I come in with an already made up mind and this time my mind is set on having black coffee. Without touching the menu, I turn to look at her and she leans over my shoulder to take my order.
“Just coffee?” she asks, surprised like it’s an abomination to order ‘just coffee’ in a restaurant. Like when she eventually retires to her village, a committee will be held and decide to punish her and her generation for serving me just coffee. An elderly woman with one foot in the grave, holding a walking stick in one hand and the judgement of their ancestors in the other, will pronounce the decision. “It’s despicable,” she will start in a trembling voice, “We did not send you to the city to serve people ‘just coffee’ when you could serve them something bigger and better like a hamburger.” Okay, forgive me, hamburger sounds bigger and better, right? Anyway, her punishment would be to clean old people’s ears until the day she (the waitress), dies and passes the baton to her eldest daughter who will pass it on to her own daughter.
“Just coffee,” I say.
“Black or white?”
“Black,” I say before changing my mind to White because why pay for black when the white one goes for the same price?
She serves me a few minutes later and while on my second sip, a shadow looms on my cup so I look up to see this fine lady smiling at me. Dressed in a black mini and a pinkish blouse, the lady, whose skin is lighter than my pocket usually is during the month of January, asks if she could sit with me.
“Sure,” I say.
“But it’s loud in here, God!” she says, pulling a seat.
I stare at her for a second. She looks like she’s in her early or mid-thirties. She has this mature look on her face, you know that look that says she will never call you swee or ask for bundles so she can send you a photo of her belly button? Yes, that look. I do not look away even when she catches me staring at her, I instead smile and mumble, “Yea, it’s loud in here. The Kericho Farmers Association members should take their AGM meeting somewhere else next time.”
“Oh, they are holding their meeting here?” she says, looking at the group of men and women seated on the red couches next to the massive glass window. The men have oversized coats and the ladies are holding notebooks, so I change my mind about telling her that I was joking.
“So they came all the way from Kericho to hold their meeting here?”
“You know how Kalenjins are. They were probably strolling, looking for the perfect venue to hold their meeting when they found themselves in Nairobi.”
I chuckled and sipped some more coffee.
A few minutes later, I watched in silence as she slowly cleared her plate of rice and chicken. The waitress who served me came back to our table and walked away with my bill before I could protest. When she came back, my bill and the lady’s were combined because apparently, we looked like we were on a date. I offered to pay anyway because it’s not like food cost an arm and a leg in that restaurant.
“No,” she said, “It’s not fair to burden you with my bill.”
“I know, but I will pay anyway.”
“Are you sure?”
I pay. We then make small talk which ends with us exchanging our numbers.
Sasa, she called a few days later to ask if we could meet over a cup of coffee and I agreed. After that meeting, she texted me, saying she enjoyed my company and I said I enjoyed hers, too. We met again. Then again. Until it became clear that she was dying to see what I was hiding in my pants. I wasn’t curious about what was in her pants though and I told her as much when she kept flooding my phone with messages. Eventually, I told her I am married.
“What? You are too young to be married.”
“I know. It was a forced marriage.”
“I am kidding, but I am married anyway.”
“Mbanacho, don’t be like that.”
“Things were going on so well between us.”
“I know, which is why I don’t understand why you want to ruin it by forcing a relationship.”
“I. Am. Not. Forcing. Anything.”
“Alright then, so kindly take your foot off that relationship peddle.”
You know, here is the thing. Sex complicates things. You have sex with someone thinking it’s a one-day thingy and the next thing you know they are decorating your bathroom with their bras and thongs or, God forbid, mothers Union. Or for the guy’s case, he is ransacking your phone when you go to the bathroom to see who else has access to your server. Unless I am ready to commit to a certain degree with you, we are not having sex. So I downplayed this lady’s advances for a while when she refused to believe me when I told her that I am married. I ignore her calls, texts and everything else because I am not a fun of waking a sleeping lioness in the name of Mama Natasha.
Then one day, a few weeks later, she sends me a text message saying that her sister had passed on. I thought she was just trying to get my attention but because death is not something you bring to life just to grab someone’s attention, I decided to call her to offer my condolences. She told me she was feeling lost, and lonely and just needed someone to talk to. Could I please go to her place to see her? I knew this was a trap. I told my friends as much but they said, “Baba, go see her bwana. Si she said there are people keeping vigil at her place? Just go and see her.”
You know, you should only listen to your friends when you are yearning to die, but I listened to them anyway and showed up at her place. Luckily, there were lots of people there. Unluckily, most of those people were her relatives and she wasted no time in holding my hand and introducing me to them as her boyfriend.
“Meet my boyfriend,” she would say, and I would shake her brother’s hand firmly like a proper boyfriend should. She introduced me to her brother. Then another brother, both of them staunch men in their 40s. She then introduced me to her aunt, who shook my hand vigorously and made me promise that I will take good care of her niece. She then introduced me to her sister, then to the daughter of her now dead sister, then to her friends, then to her neighbours, and I was cursing and fuming from inside because I couldn’t show my annoyance openly. Later, she said, “Haki, I am sorry for ambushing you like that, but they have always wanted to meet my boyfriend.”
I wanted to say, “I am not your boyfriend,” but decided to lenga. Because that was the last time she was going to set her eyes on me and it was until I thought of writing about that incident and guess who I bumped into in tao? Your guess is as good as mine.