Today is turning out to be a crappy Thursday evening, the sun is blazing, the dust thick. Stepping out of the coffee shop with my lemon ginger mix, I can feel the flu upgrade to level six.
Then I see his bald head.
Even with his head turned back to me and the additional combed out goatee, I’m certain it’s him. He must have lost a ton of weight. I approach and tap his shoulder, startled he almost gives me a blow to the stomach.
“Manu?” barely recognizing me.
“Pete my guy!” a sneeze comes out in my excitement.
Once upon a time, this guy was a perfect wingman, I was a late bloomer with the ladies, given I came from a small village called Kesses in the Rift Valley. He helped me ask my first girlfriend out. Ten years later, we’re conflicted on whether to hug or handshake.
I go for the hug. Pete still has a lost expression on his face.
“Is it me ama that bald head has made you shrink…?” I ask
He laughs at that and eases up a little.
““It’s the goatee…and you, my guy! are huge!”
“Blame it on the coastarian wife, she can cook up a djinn storm.”
His smile fades.
“Wasn’t I supposed to be the best man, I never even got an invite.”
“Peeeeete baaaana! you can’t still be holding grudges, I almost didn’t show up myself, her parents had an Islam man lined up…they ghosted us for one year and only came round when we got twins.”
His face conjures interesting emotions.
“Married?” I ask, he shakes his head.
“You are not missing much…I’m meeting some of the old boys later, you can come...?”
He declines, “Nope, I have a date ….”. We exchange phone numbers and plan to catch up soon over a single malt whisky.
My lemon-ginger mix has since gotten cold. I sit in my car and watch Pete cover his bald head with the blue hoodie he’s wearing, he later gets into a matatu across the street. Law student, top of his class, had a law firm registered as the rest of us tarmacked looking for jobs. What happened? I power the engine of my ka-suzuki and disappear into the sunset.
Later, Pete has cleaned up real good, the hoodie is gone, in its place an ironed shirt and straight trousers belted up. Jess opens the door and rolls her eyes at the roses and him.
“Let’s go to that place you like and talk…”
“… can I come in then?”
“You lost that privilege Pete…”
“Jess, I’m clean now, I swear…”
“This is your third relapse, the clinic won’t give you medication anymore you on your own….” Jess goes back in, Pete turns the door knob, it’s locked. It then opens and Jess hands over Pete’s violin case.
She attempts to lock the door, Pete puts his foot in between moves closer, she moves back, her eyes cold. They eye-ball each other. She slams the door, Pete stands there for a long time before leaving. Pete feels for the smallest of packages in his pocket, the last rehab said he should get a goldfish not a girlfriend.
The wife is forcing me to buy a house out of town, away from my bar. Of course she knows. My demons are tormenting me as I walk fast down a deserted alley headed to the bar, I can sense someone following me. I start to walk-run. I’m carrying my nyatiti since tonight we get to play. I regret not driving, this exercise in the dark is going to cost me.
In no time, the assailant closes the gap and accosts me, my face is on the ground.
“You can have the wallet. I have some cash on Mpesa as well…” I say in surrender.
“And how about you leave my wife…”
“Belinda? She said she’s single when we went to Dubai…
He pauses as if he had an epiphany, his grip loosens. I shake him off and make a run for it. Later, outside Makuti I text Belinda – cancel our weekend plans and break it off.
Makuti the bar is an outdoorsy affair, some rhumba jams in the background. Located in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi’s Karen area. It’s one of the few things I’ve not messed up.
The three musketeers sit with their instruments all tuned up. I hug my nyatiti still frazzled from the ordeal which I don’t dare mention since my married friends think I live on the straight and narrow, David has a saxophone and Gavo the only vocalist and songwriter has an Orutu, a hand-me-down from his great grandfather who was a little known musician somewhere in the shores of Lake Victoria.
We all played in a classical band in college and won a couple of awards making us the most sought after clique; three villagers and one nairobian. Pete was the nairobian who played the violin.
I’m still on lemon – ginger as the rest of the boys enjoy the mixologist’s cocktails.
“I saw Pete today; Davi you must remember him…” I ask.
“…off course, he crossed me when he broke guy-code and starting dating my ex.”
“…he would be this bar’s co-owner; it was originally his idea when we used to run that Friday campus gig…” I say.
We go into a trance remembering the good old campus days. A female waiter in suit and bowtie clears their table. “We better get on stage it’s about time…” I say.