Even though we trash Facebook, even though we call it the whorehouse of vanity, we refuse to leave it. We stay in there because inherently we are nosy; inherently we want to a part of other people’s lives. We sit in there because we imagine that our pictures – taken from shaky camera phones – will define the food chain in which we belong. That our five albums – and some odd 215 pictures – will make a significant statement about our perky lives. We dig in our oars because all those guys who press our like buttons make us feel better about ourselves. We seek virtual security. We court admiration. We seduce approval. But even more poignantly, we refuse to leave because we are terrified of being alone. We fear to go back to our lackluster lives where nobody knew when we took a road trip, rode a horse, ate sushi in a well-heeled restaurant, got into a relationship, left a relationship, baked a cake, went for a wedding, had a baby, had a birthday party, had a baby at a birthday party… Facebook makes me sick, but I won’t leave it. Facebook is like being in love with the wrong woman; you don’t want to stay but you can’t leave. I’m imprisoned by Facebook. I trawl it once in a while, poking my head around people’s pictures and quite recently meeting these other guys called Biko – scores of other guys called Biko – and asking them to be the bigger men and use different names. They often show me the middle finger. Such gentlemen. Enter stage left; Twitter. There is a silent condescending sense of loftiness with twitter. Twitter is like that mysterious neighbor who doesn’t mix with other people. The one who lives alone and drives a black 350. The one who everybody is convinced is a drug peddler. In twitter talk is cheap. You have 140 characters to say something sensible. Now, that’s pressure. You don’t own a photo album in twitter because twitter doesn’t give a hoot about which club you and your friends roll. In twitter you have followers, even though they can’t fetch your coffee. Twitter has no time to remind everybody else about your birthday because twitter is busy editing your updates. Facebookers must frown at these stiff rules. They must ask themselves, “So where is the fun if I can’t get poked?” Well, the fun is in the words. Witticism lives in twitter. Great witticism. There are folks who always can seem to say the mundane things in the most interesting of ways. True wordsmiths. Men and women with that knack to write pithy and witty interesting sentences. But just like Facebook twitter also harbors the vain, the souls who just have to rub their lives in your faces: Sipping lemonade on my balcony, in my new sundress, a designer gift from @Gishswit. Cc @fridablack @joanfree @hiltonhotel Or, Best surprise birthday party at Ole Sereni, thanks guys! Twitter is the Australia of social media, inhabited by castaways from the UK, which in this case is Facebook. But nothing is ever what it seems in social media. Nothing. Everything is made of clay. Nobody is who they say they are. Hell, even most interesting people on twitter never really sound that way in person. Twitter is the online hijab. For a while I was curious to know who my 1,000th follower would be. Would they be balding prematurely? Would they be an accountant or a poet? Would they have a nice rider on their bio or some cheesy line? Would they be male, female or would they be confused of their sexuality? Would they have a blog and would it be another blog about poetry or a narrative about their failed relationship? When I reached my 900th follower I made a decision to write something about my 1000th follower. I would send them a DM with a pitch. I would ask them if they were interested in meeting up. I would suggest something random on a lose Saturday. We would meet for lunch or better still for drinks. I would then bang 1,500 words about the meeting. It seemed like good fun. I waited. My 1,000th follower turned out to be one @dans_onPoint. I reached out and he said he was game, only problem was he was from coast-o, so that ship couldn’t sail. So I decided to move up – past the dull egg pictured handles – and pick someone based on their bios. So I picked on one @claudeD’souza. His bio read “Remember the guy your mom warned you about? Yup, that’s my twin brother. I’m the normal one. He had 34 followers and follows 55 people. Well, that bio – although not the best I have read so far – got me. A few DMs later we agreed we’d meet on Saturday for drinks, my treat. We meet at the entrance of Tamasha, Hurlinghum, shortly after 7p.m. From his picture and from his voice, I expected to meet a restless chap wearing purple shoes. He’s around 5’9’’. He’s clean shaven. He’s light complexioned (he’s half Goan, half Kikuyu). He has a well pruned moustache. He wears stylish stripped blue shirt and jeans. He sports a fashionable stubble, the one movie stars sport to late night shows to promote their movies. A small black bag is slung across his back. He’s 24yrs old and he’s just from auditioning for the movie, Shuga. He wasn’t picked. But this doesn’t seem to perturb him; at 24 you will miss a lot of things and wing quite a few. “You don’t look like your writing.” He tells me as we shake hands. “If it’s any consolation, you don’t look like your tweets either,” I tell him. “How do I sound?” he asks. “Short.” We laugh. EABL is re-launching Richot as a five-year matured brandy, or something. I have an invite. As I sign on the guest book at the entrance a PR person asks who he is. “My intern,” I say, to which Claude chuckles. We sit to the left of this large stage in the backyard. There are fires lit to keep the patrons warm. Smoke follows us. I order a whiskey, on the rocks. Always on the rocks. He orders a Guinness; he doesn’t mix it with coke as I see most people do. “We came here to drink, no?” he says with a wry smile as an explanation. He works in Karen, as an online content manager at a video game programming company. He is a graduate of Strathmore, Business IT. He lives in Langata, the “bachelor land” as he calls it. He grew up in Nakuru, Mombasa and Kitale before moving to Nairobi at 11yrs. He refers himself as “a simple country boy from Nakuru,” but he says this with his tongue in cheek, as if he is daring me to believe him. I almost do. We toast to a great evening. He says he doesn’t know what I will write about him because his life is pretty “normal”, which exactly what most people say before you interview them. An unnecessary universal disclaimer. Atemi – in a black dress – takes to the well designed, and smartly lit, stage. Her voice is like falling feather. From my seat – some 12 meters away – I see a tattoo on the inside of her right leg – just above her ankle – and I wonder what it is. Does anybody know what that tattoo is? At some point, a chick from a PR firm (the guys who put the EABL shindig together) comes over to our table. She is someone I know. She asks us to move to the VIP tent, across the yard; a fancy cordoned off area with swanky white sofas. Claude reaches for our drinks but I hold him back. We will sit here, I tell her. He looks a bit disappointed. “Did you watch the movie Titanic?” I ask him, “Where was the most fun; under the deck with the manual laborers or up in the ballroom with the stiff tuxedo-clad crowd?” “Under the deck,” he says. “Precisely, VIP areas are overrated, avoid them if you can. They are full of stiffies. Plus, they expose you…you attract unnecessary attention when you sit in a VIP area, attention you don’t need.” The PR chick looks slightly bemused, but says OK and walks away. Claude stares at her ass. “Seriously, she has to come back. She just has to come back,” he mumbles. At that point, I make a decision that I like him. Claude broke up with his girlfriend of 4yrs in March. He’s, “painfully single” as he puts it. They broke up because some cat with more money came around, and inevitably, she turned around. “Gold digger, eh?” I say to which he quickly and firmly contests, “No, she isn’t. She is a good person. It’s just that I stopped doing things I used to do, I stopped smsing her as often, stopped calling her…It was my fault she left really.” I admired that, him coming to her defense when I called her a gold-digger. It’s called honor, but even more importantly it’s called respect. You will learn stuff from a 24yr old. We talk about general stuff. Although he is 24yrs he talks maturely for his age. He drinks with restraint. He’s calm. He is calmer than most 30yr olds I know. But he worries me the way he wears his emotions on his sleeve, his need to find love. I can smell it off him. I can tell he is a romantic and that he looks like life through this rosy tint. He will get hurt, this kid, I tell myself. He will get hurt if he doesn’t keep his emotions under his hat. When I ask him where he will be in 5yrs and he says, “Deep in diapers and nappy rash.” Not many 24yr olds are thinking about babies at that age. What is your greatest fear, I ask him. “Losing my father before he sees what I’ve made of my life,” comes the reply. Those words – like a plume of smoke – hang in the air between us for a while and I remember debating whether I should pursue it further but I decide against it. Sometimes the most important things are not expounded on. At some point in the evening, he will ask to see pictures of my little girl; I will show him from my phone. He will say she is cute and I will nod like a moron, like all moron fathers and say, yes, she is thanks. When Atemi signs off, and there is clapping all around. Claude then says something interesting, he says, “Her voice has an ass.” I swear that’s what he says, and I laugh hard at that imagery. Brilliant sound bite! The MC for the night, Angela Angwenyi, weaves through tables, mic in hand, waxing lyric, working up the crowd, giving out free bottles of Richot. She heads for our table, I hold my breath. Nothing like avoiding the VIP to avoid attention and having the mic brought to your face. She stops at our table and asks me whether I’m single, I tell her I’m not, but my friend here is very single. She thrusts the mic in his face and asks him a few questions about the most embarrassing moment of his life. This earns him a 750ml bottle of Richot. At 10:00p.m I’m already tipsy, but he isn’t. In fact at 10:00p.m I’m the 24yr old and he is the one over 30yrs. He hasn’t lost his composure. He hasn’t said or done anything that would give away his age. Even though we have 750ml and two 250ml complementary bottles of Richot before us, he hasn’t bothered to switch from his Guinness. He is not excitable by booze. He doesn’t drink to get drunk. The PR girl comes back to our table and, instinctively, he sits up! She is from Seychelles, I tell Claude, and he says something about his grandfather coming from Seychelles (“I swear I felt the islands move,” he later told me) they run with it. Claude gets into his element, he chats her up. She is gracious and charming and he is taken. He offers her a drink but she can’t drink because she is working. They match wits, she wins some, he wins some. She giggles a few
times. He giggles a few times. She wanders away. “How do you think I’m doing?” he asks rhetorically with a crooked smile, and I say, “Look her in the eye more,” (What can I say, I’m great this useless advice when I’m drinking) Kidum comes up on stage. He has added weight. His Bodaboda band is missing one chick, Brenda, I believe was her name. I liked her. Kidum, even with the bad press and his bloated ego, is still a force. This time round, he doesn’t sit on the drums like he normally does; he steps to the mic and sings. And Kidum sings from somewhere deep, somewhere where love was once born. He sings with his eyes closed and when he opens them, we close ours. And even though he dances like Moto Moto, the hippo in Madagascar 2, you find yourself forgiving him. Mapenzi ya fujo haifai…dum tum… At 10:45p.m, I tell Claude I have to call home to say I will be late. He smirks, like he wants to say something smart. So I tell him what I tell people like him. “This call will last for 45secs, it will answer the questions, who, where, what, when, and I will spend less than a shilling on it. That’s the price you pay for a peace of mind. One day you will thank me for this advice,” He laughs. At 24yrs you see the invincibility in a man, but how can you not when he has more options? How can you not when he has this largely blank page to fill? Whereas most 24yr old would seem to be living for the moment, Claude’s looks like he’s in the queue for something. Like he’s waiting. He looks like he is preserving himself. He seems too proper, too secure, and I’m not sure that fits in the overall 24yr old jig saw puzzle. How do you see this piece reading like? I asked him at some point and he shrugged, not the shrug of “I don’t know” but more like, “I don’t really care much,” which in essence says that what I think of him will not change what he thinks of himself. Did I like him? Yes, I did. I mean it’s not every day I meet someone who tells me Atemi’s voice “has an ass.” That quote shored the evening. At some point, we will climb off our stools and nip in and out of Sailors across the street with the Seychellois, who recently told me, “Claude is such a great guy; I can’t believe you could be friends with someone with a heart.” I took that as a compliment. At some point, I drop him off in town, we say our thank you’s before he crosses the street and gets swallowed into the drunken night of Nairobi. Half hour later he smses to say he is safe in “bachelor land.” Claude, the guy who saw the ass in Atemi’s voice. Atta boy.