Life can get cruel, humorless and brutal, and the men who live it quite often have to pander to these themes with the brutishness that it deserves. Here is how. A month ago this friend of mine who works for an NGO was called to the boss’s office and told he was being temporarily transferred to Busia. Yes, Busia! Hehe. He’s very very bitter. Now I’m sure Busia is a swell place. I’m sure Busia rocks, but I’m not sure Busia is a place you want to go work in, at least if you are the guy in question. My friend’s shags is in Kabete. He grew up in Ngumo. He went to primo here. High school was somewhere in Central province. Uni was along Thika road. He has never been past Kericho. The closest he has come to Kisumu is having a drink with me.
His life has – since childhood- orbited around Nairobi. He suffers from the same affliction that most Americans suffer from; that appalling ignorance that beyond the borders of America is nothing but endless sea and aliens. He too has grown up believing that nothing substantial exists beyond Nairobi. Now he is in Busia of all the godforsaken places, population, what 50,000? Now he has to stop for cows and goats to cross the road. And God keep your soul well should you even dare run over a chicken. Suffice it to say, he is bewildered by his new existence..
Their Busia office is small, he told me. They are seven in number; five Luhyas and a jang and himself – the Fresh Prince from Kabete, Hehehe. The official language in the office is a terrifying blend of Lunje and English, although he says he can never tell the difference. Behind their office, he told me, is a small shamba which he realized the accountant uses to grow pilipili, sukumawiki and peas. “One afternoon she actually nipped out during office hours to go work in the shamba,” he told me. That killed me! Tea is drunk in the office all the time…even at lunch time, he told me (not that that is in itself shocking)
The tea girl/messenger/chapati seller is a woman he has never seen without a leso, he emailed me, a most disturbing choice of office wear. When I suggested that perhaps he should look at the bright side of it, he asked, what could possibly be the bright side of one of the workers wearing a leso to work, I told him that there is always a pearl of Swahili wisdom inscribed at the bottom of the lesos, like “mwanamke sio urembo, ni tabia.” Or something along those lines. I told him to fill his days reading those sayings from her leso, who knows it might be therapeutic for him. It might bring him peace and tranquility.
Now my pal didn’t end up in Busia because he is a sharp pencil who is going to add value to their Busia office. He didn’t get the transfer because Busia office needed him there, or anyone else for that matter. Busia office is fine. No, he is convinced that he was taken to Busia because his boss wanted him out of the way. His boss wanted him out of the way because he was having too many drinks with a certain girl the boss was having too many lunches with. It’s not a love triangle…no, there is no triangle, yet. It’s at the stage where everyone takes their application papers to be reviewed; it’s the stage where small interviews are conducted in bars and coffee houses and in the parking basement.
He noticed a problem when the boss’s attitude towards him started becoming somewhat frosty. The boss, normally an otherwise pleasant chap, stopped cracking jokes the usual jokes with him, stopped stopping by his desk for a tete-a-tete. I remember him asking me what I made of the whole situation and in my naiveté I advised him to dig in his oars because his boss clearly had the cards stacked against him; he’s married, heavily bearded (think Al Shabaab) and worse he’s the kind of guy who first pours a little beer in his glass to clean it. My friend on the other hand is single, is great friends with Gillette and doesn’t clean his glass with his beer. I really thought it was a no brainer. “That girl is yours for the taking chief,” I told him.
And that’s the problem with underestimating your rival; you don’t see him sending the curve ball. And By Josh, we didn’t see this move; with one stroke of the pen and wham! My friend was being shipped to Busia. Now that’s power ladies and gentlemen, that boss is a born guerrilla. And I mean you can’t afford not to be impressed by the sheer genius of this move; send the pesky guy to a village somewhere to grow old and miserable.
The boss is hoping that my pal will either run mad from the lethargy of village life, or impregnate a village girl and get locked down there for life, or worse get gored and maimed by a cow suffering from Foot and Mouth disease. And he gets to seduce the prize back here without any pressure. Brilliance! However, I don’t even know why I’m so surprised because this move has always been employed by the great players of the Bible; like King David who would send you to war to get your heart speared so that he could have your wife. The things men do to win will move you.
His boss is 43yrs old, or thereabout, my pal is 34. But clearly age and experience counts for something here. I bet this boss sleeps using Nicollo Machiavelli’s book – The Art of War- as a pillow. I bet Hitler, Mugabe and Zuma are his idols, hell throw in Onyancha in there as well for good measure. I bet he has a huge aquarium full of piranhas in his house. The bastard’s cunning. I like him!
My pal is not taking being outfoxed very well. I thought he would get over it, but I guess watching cows and goats graze from your office window is gravely traumatizing. He called me on Saturday. He’s nostalgic, he misses Nai, he calls to find out if Nairobi has moved an inch towards Nakuru. After every three seconds in our conversation he keeps asking, “So what’s happening back there, what’s new?” Nothing is new damn it.
“So what does a programs co-coordinator do on a loose Sato in Busia, watch a bullfight perhaps?” I mocked him.
He sighed heavily. “I could go to some bar across the street and drink in some seedy bar and listen to them trash Mudavadi, but I did that last weekend and it wasn’t all that.”
“So where are you now?”
“In my hotel room, watching TV with mchele mchele.” He said glumly.
“You are on which floor?”
“Third floor. Why?”
“Don’t try and jump, you will only break your ribs, at worst your ego. You need to go beyond eight floors and above to kill yourself.”
Tired chuckle from his end.
“Hey, why don’t you drive to Kisumu, it’s only, what, 90kms away?” I sparked trying to save his life.
“Boss, I know nobody in Kisumu.”
“Well, I do. I could give you some phone numbers of a few boys and girls you can call; they are good company- if you are buying at least.”
He laughs. “Achieng and Anyango, eh?”
“Nah. I will be coming Nai next weekend.”
“How’z Mukami anyway?” I ask. Mukami is the chick who got his ass exiled to Busia.
“She is fine.”
“You still think it’s still a two-horse race?” I ask.
“It was never a two-horse race, the other one was an ass all this time.”
Hahaha. Do you feel the bitterness in this guy’s talk, or it’s just me gang?
He continued after I had stopped coughing in the phone. “But seriously, I dunno man; she says she likes me a lot and all. I dunno. I don’t think it will go anywhere. What do you think?”[By the way, that’s male code for “I like that girl and I still think it can go somewhere.” ]
“Well I think your boss is a genius, that’s what I think.” I say.
“He’s an @#$hole.”
“He won. Come on admit it, you would have done the same thing. Hell, if I was him I would have sent you further, like to Mbita or Rusinga Island.”
“Hahaha, where is Mbita by the way?”
“Mbita is Otieno Kajwang’s hood. From Kisumu you jump into those mats where people sit facing each other to a place called Luanda Ko’Otieno where you jump into a boat full of jabbering women, a boat that you will often share with a goat or chicken or a sewing machine. In Mbita your best bet of entertainment is watching fishermen haggle with big bummed women at the beach. So be grateful you are in Busia.”
“Haha, yes, remind me to send my boss a “Thank you” note.”
“But seriously, you could fly down every second weekend, but proximity is key and this lizard has the edge now because he is with her not in the same town but in the same damned building, the damage he can do while you watching pilipili grow in that garden behind your office is massive. But even if he stands no chance with her, there are a whole bunch of sharks out here who are constantly sending their resume. Take my advice, look for a nice Luhya woman there and live your life, back here we shall do or best to remember you as a fun, respectful, God fearing young man, albeit who tried washing his hands in the same bowl as his boss.”
We laugh, but it’s a hollow laughter from his end, I realize that I’m taking the joke too far. Thing with us men is that we never want to show vulnerability before other men, we want to thump our chests and exhibit bravado. And we should. So my pal was just keeping a brave face. He is to be in Busia for a year then he head back. That’s more than enough time his boss needs to sink his ship even if he sucks so much at dates that all he does is sing her hymns.
The conversation drifted to something interesting. I jokingly mentioned that I have interesting minds in my blog, guys who can give his situation a better perspective than I was. Hell, even go further and suggest how he can still keep Mukami interested all the way from Busia. We can still change things around, we can show this boss who’s the boss, I said unconvincingly. He was skeptical. He thought that was desperate, something he’s not, but I convinced him that it would be interesting to know what people thought of it. Besides he didn’t have much option as it were.
“Hang on,” I said, “Does your boss read this blog?”
“My boss can’t read!”
“Hahaha, nice one. What about Mukami?”
“She doesn’t read your blog, that much I can bet.” He stressed.
“Tell her I’m hurt.”
“But what if someone from my workplace reads this blog and puts one and one together?” he asked.
“So what? I mean what’s the worst he can do, deploy you to Turkana next?”
“Okay then, but don’t use my name. Or where I work, or what I do.”
Fine, I said. We hung up and he went back to his mchele TV.
Gentlemen, is this guy’s goose cooked or he can still pull a caper?