Johnnie Still


The man who drinks alone has learnt to sit alone. To sit alone takes a lot from you because you have to feed it your time and yourself. Not many men have learnt that discipline of sitting alone, of sitting still on a straw bed of your thoughts. Most men, they want voices for company, they want to hear their own and of others. But that’s not silence. Silence isn’t the absence of sound, it’s the ignorance of it. Silence is a high stool, one that leaves one leg slightly dangling. It’s saying little, much less than the body of your language because to sit alone is also to speak with your body.  

Nobody made the rules. There are no rules apart from silence. So you place your phone aside, face down if you are easily lured by temptation, and you order your drink. That’s another thing; there is never a need for a long elaborate order. The language of alcohol is short, like the language of love; I love you. I need you. I miss you. I burn for you. Remove that. The language of the man who sits alone indeed has love in it, because it’s a language of someone who has learnt to love his company. So you keep it short, like your utterances of desire. You say, “Beer, cold.” Two words. No room for error. No margin of misinterpretation. No fodder for imagination. Or if you are the kind of guy we think you are you say, Johnny Walker Green, neat. Of course you don’t even need to say a word if it’s your local, where they know your spirit – and the length of your shadow. Those are the best haunts; where you hoist your length up on the stool and suddenly, a drink is sat before you, in the right glass with nary a word. 

You sit there, with a straight back, because to slouch is to disrespect your age – whatever it may be. There might be a TV on, showing football or cricket or an old video of Kenny Latimore and his wide collars. You will look at it, but you will not see it. You sip your drinks in between long stretches of what seems like introspection but which actually is decompression. Your face shows inactivity, because your mind is emptying, your heartbeat is slowing, all the toxicity of the day – the shouty emails from clients with cheesy email signatures, the numbers never added up, the lunch that came late and cold – they all sip from your pores sucked out by this ecosystem of silence. 

You never touch your phone. You never touch your neighbour. You never read a book, not in the bar – unless you are a wine drinker – and you certainly don’t make friends. This is not a networking session, you have enough friends. This is your time. This is your opaque moment between work and home, a small window where you catch your breath for a minute and decant your day. No email can reach you here, no phone call, nothing that urges urgency. Here, everything is still because what has to wait, will wait. 

It’s a skill, this silence. Because most of us want to take an Instagram a picture of their drink to show the world that they have a life. Or they want to chat the barman. Or chat up that leggy babe reading a book while nursing a wine. (Don’t). But that’s not why people sit at the bar alone and if you feel you need to talk to someone then you don’t need to be at the counter. 

You can bite something. You can light a cigarette, if they allow it. But it’s also fine to just sit still and if you are in your bar you will not need to order another drink, if they know you, they will know that you need another. Sometimes the Walking Man also embraces stillness. 

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  1. Notification came in and i was like whoah! how blessed are we, two posts in a week. About time lights went on……..
    ION you’ve stirred a deep longing for my Johnnie, I’m so counting down the hours to enjoy the stillness.

  2. You sit there, with a straight back, because to slouch is to disrespect your age. ….
    Sometimes, most times silence is paramount!

  3. I identify with the silence, the bar experience? Not so much, unless am hunting and not a babe but someone for retribution……. Then silence….

  4. On point…this silence is golden. The body language just keeps people away…even those ones for ”please songa kidogo niongeze kiti hapa” when some skinny fella walks in with a couple of lales …you just need to stare at them blankly and they move out of your universe. The bartender…well…they know your favorite drink, how much you will take, whether you’ll leave it on your tab or pay cash, whether to clean up the ice cube that just accidentally fell on the table or to leave it for you to watch it melt and sip into the crevices of the wooden counter or dry up on the metal one. Golden…Just Golden!!

  5. This sooo me! Yet many don’t understand and try to interrupt thinking am lonely! “Why are you sitting alone, are you OK?”

  6. This explains the days I find myself at the counter with myself, my cold twos infront of me, my mind wandering in the deep.

  7. I was busy with something serious when the notification came. Then i was like. Whoaah.. Biko amepanga kutuua na mbili at a go. I felt blessed. I felt so righteous to be in the presence of something great as having 2new posts in a week. Then i opened and read. And now the silent man in me needs that “mine time.” To love and pamper me. To talk and love me in great immense depth. Biko thank you for being you. We thank God for you

  8. The notification excited me. The content? Not so much. As an ambivert I have the best of both worlds.

    However, well in. Literally.

  9. You know Biko, there are rare instances when there is a woman who loves to drink alone at the bar. However, the social conventions have not be normalised in our society yet. So, we head home in the middle of the day (if married), or any time if single, pour the wine, preferably red, and drink standing up in the kitchen, letting the silence of the house lower the volume of the screams going on in your head.
    But unlike the man who drinks alone, who can be any age, the woman who drinks alone is ‘middle-aged’. I don’t know why I put that in quotes….

  10. You should be writing more on silence Biko. and solitude.
    It is refreshing, reassuring and calming, especially after that
    Mr. Physicality and Habakkuk piece.
    This is one welcome piece. It is like a looong hot bath and a
    glass of sweet red wine after a looong tiring day.

  11. Not many men have learnt that discipline of sitting alone, of sitting still on a straw bed of your thoughts….. If this is the only thing i learn how to do in the next year I will be in a better place (ama namna gani my fellow men?)

  12. There is this small dingy place in town where I do exactly that. I step in, take a seat, and a cold beer lands before me. I never have to ask for a refill, they keep coming till I say I am done.
    I drink alone, sunk in my thoughts, occasionally peeking at my phone. No conversation with anyone, just a casual hey or hi to familiar patrons. The music blaring out of some cranky Chinese made speakers, and eyes staring blankly on the screen. Silence is the ignorance of sound.
    Yeah, I can totally relate.

  13. Advert in writing, I hate commercials but if they come as beautiful as this piece then I am in. Thank you for your work Biko. #johniestill #keepwalking

  14. But how on earth does someone sit there, idly, a sip after the other, no phone no nothing but a dangling mguu? utapasuka kichwa nanii, shake the ass and dance the day off! some more turborg pls!!!

  15. Great writing as usual. Looking forward to the day bikozuku mini series on Netflix will air…you should think about this if not done so…Mafans kibao

  16. Imagine having the most hectic day, then feeling instant dread as you hear your phone buzz… probable an email from the manager asking for an update on a service that you haven’t even managed to start. But lo and behold! It’s an email notification from Bikozulu, on a Thursday!!!

    Biko, I don’t think I can love you any more than I do right now.

  17. I like those still moments. they center you, they are moments to put perspectives into play. In those moments you make decisions you wouldn’t make in the chaos of what your day involves, you analyse and make plans after that; you stay still and everything drops down to nothingness. these moments can only be achieved through practice and willingness, you build a muscle over time.

    Sometimes it’s because of necessity, other times it just becomes your solace place, a place to be, your definition of serenity. You need to be an expert in compartmentalizing your life. Sometimes the Walking Man also embraces stillness.

    I know a glass of John Walker helps.

  18. For some reason, this one made me sad. It’s interesting how you do that with your words, make me feel things and label what I’m feeling. GROWTH.

  19. Was wondering if we had another article on women and marriage today or Biko changed the rules between Tuesday and today..

  20. No comments yet, because it was deep. Short. Retrospect. And who said Biko can’t be a philosopher, a man of few deep words, advising fellow drunkards, on how to be still.

  21. I love my Johnnie Still moments. They don’t involve liquor, an expensive rum, or a cigarette, but they are serene all the same. Sometimes it’s in my very home, at times out in nature, relishing the beauty that usually speeds past when I’m driving. Invasion of it feels like total disrespect and value for the Essence of my relationship with myself. I detest when others blatantly assume I need their noise and banter when I’m perfectly fine with my own.
    My Johnnie Still moments leave me refreshed, renewed, and connected to the me that only I knows….

  22. I am so excited.

    Two articles in one week!!!

    That’s a treat.

    I sit at the bar alone a lot. I can so relate with this piece
    Thanks Biko

  23. Immediately sat up the moment I read this….“You sit there, with a straight back, because to slouch is to disrespect your age – whatever it may be.” And headed for my loner’s drink in the next 30 minutes…God knows I need it.

  24. Yeah. That’s right. You better not. Because the moment you do, am downloading my day’s TWENTY THOUSAND words on you. End silence…

  25. Sounds like what my friend Dun would do every once in a while ; embrace Solitude , brown bottle in hand, and just decant his day . Engineer !

    1. Getting a mention in the presence of the gang must mean something,… Happy are those who have the cojones to create their own company in solitude… make the bottle clear with brown contents though, All hail Johnnie

  26. Hahahahaha, I read my book at the counter. And I drink my wine. And I hate it when someone chats me up… Spot on Chocolate man!

  27. Wow….
    An art I have mastered because some times that’s all you need. SILENCE.

    Away from everything, everyone but just next to your self.

  28. In all my years away from Nairobi, Mojo’s balcony still excites me.

    Your back against the people, music thumping, eyes forecasting staring at nothingness, street below a humdrum of activity.
    Taking it all in without actually giving it a thought.
    The mind on a self fulfilling quest.

    Nursing something cold. Total Bliss.

  29. You capture the essence of Silence with your words. You are an inspiration to me and my fellow writers. I have been reading your column and stories for a while now.Thank you for shining our paths

  30. I have read this piece once again seated at a counter by myself drinking JW shots. Indeed, sometimes the Walking man also embraces stillness!

  31. I just learnt of Biko (I regret not knowing you earlier). The emotions in the read. Believe me,I’m reading all these articles.

  32. I recently gave up drinking, 4 months to be precise. God, I would do anything to have this feeling of sitting at the counter and getting lost in my thoughts again. But that ship has sailed!!