Kwani He Doesn’t Eat?


Of course it’s about the head. It’s the final dedication, the last hurrah. Nobody starts to eat their fish from the head like he was. You save it for last. It’s even in the constitution if you care to research. That should have been a red flag; there just wasn’t enough commitment on his part. We were at Big Fish on Church Road. He was not exactly a small fella so I had recommended the Large Coconut. He asked for chips and I told him to be serious so they brought him ugali which he said was too big. That made him sound precious. And delicate. Ugali shouldn’t intimidate one. You face it with dedication and you claw it and if you can’t finish it, you push it away. But you should NEVER say out loud, and certainly not in its earshot, that it’s too big. That’s giving it power over you. 

Anyway, he started eating his fish from the head. I had never seen anyone start eating their fish from the head before. That’s like starting to shower from your feet. I said nothing. We ate and we talked about many things. He asked if the things I write are true or if I just make them up. He asked about shags and about my mother and we talked about death and then we talked about life, his son. He is three months old. He has six children in total. I remember joking; do they eat in shifts? He said they are in two homes. Four with the ex-wife, two with the current wife. That’s a lot of children. Then the head was gone. Severed clean from the body. His expertise was impressive. He was a clean fish-eater. He picked the bones one by one and he lay them side by side on the saucer like an archeologist. He brought the bones to his mouth and slowly sucked the flesh off bones. He sometimes looked at a clean bone, as if trying to remember where they last met, before putting it away. Like an open heart surgeon he plucked the gills from the head and tossed it whole in his mouth. Then he chewed it thoughtfully. I could see the bone of his jaws move under his thick beard. He moved across the body of Oreochromis Niloticus [Tilapia. I Googled] with grace and culinary music, separating it from its skeleton. His head remained bowed most of the time, as if in communion with the fish. 

When he turned her over, it was a clean turn, without breaking the fish’s backbone. I was amazed. And ashamed. I have been turning fish over for decades, but even I have never achieved that level of precision. That’s tact. Before he embarked on de-fleshing this new side, otherwise commonly known as ‘Side B’, he paused and stared at it for a moment. Taking it all in, keeping it in his memory to remember later after it’s nothing but bone and plate. He talked about his mother as he used his two fingers to peel off the flesh from this new side. His nails were cut short, a man of good grooming. I stared at his plate and found it quite peculiar, seeing a fish without a head. Even though his fish eating skill was clean, his childhood, his family, was chaotic and messy. There was lots of money and that came with lots of violence and mistrust and madness. His mom lost her marbles and she would leave the house naked in the middle of the night. “It was my job to drive around looking for her.” He had told me over the phone when I made contact to inquire about the nature of his story. “As a teenager I would never sleep, afraid my mom would leave the house naked. I have insomnia till today, at 39.”

When he was done, there was nothing on his plate apart from bones arranged on the saucer like crude genocidal weapons laid out as evidence. I was amazed at the skill of dismantling this fish. It was clean and meticulous. I was particularly impressed because he’s Kikuyu. I know. I felt challenged. I felt like he had thrown the gauntlet at my feet. Unable to contain my envy any longer I blurted out, “how did you learn to eat fish like that?” He shrugged and said without clarification, ”I love fish.”

The unspoken rule is to talk after you eat. After we had washed our hands and not asked for toothpicks (bad omen), he sighed and said he wasn’t sure anymore about this story. That it would affect many people in his family. That it would cause trouble. Hurt many people. Open old wounds. Cold feet. I was disappointed of course, but I also understood. It’s tough to tell your story, especially a story touching on many other people. “If my mom read it, it would destroy her.” 

A burdened man with great fish-eating skills. 

So there, no story this week. 

But, on a lighter note, you have to go watch ‘John Wick, the Fourth Chapter’ if you are into such kinds of things like I am. Oh, you have to. It’s still the same story; the High Table. Assassins. Grand architecture. There are fights. And motorbikes. And a horse. Guns. Lots and lots of guns. And knives and swords. Men fall off buildings and block bullets with the sleeves of their bulletproofed suits. John Wick is still John Wick.  He doesn’t sleep. Does not smile. He growls when he talks because he’s a former assassin and he’s damaged. He only wears black suits. Never showers or shaves once but always looks clean and fresh. He has no other feelings other than revenge because his wife already died and some bad maath****s stole his car and shot his puppy dead, a gift from his late wife and it pissed him off and he wants their heads on a platter, that’s just the general premise of the whole bloody franchise. Of course there are rules that govern this chaos in the form of what they call the High Table, a council of death merchants. Wick has a bone to pick with them. But the dialogues are sexy. Lawrence Fisgburn is there growling things like, “Man has to look his best when it’s time to get married or buried.”

And for a movie with so many macho men trying to kill each other, there is no nudity at all. You will not see one boob. Nobody kisses anyone. The men have no urges other than to kill other men. It rains and Wick kills many many many many many men. In the movie theatre, people clapped. And laughed. 

You gotta watch it on the big screen, not on your big screen iTV, which is great but this is a bereaved and harangued John Wick on a horse we are talking about, come on. And if you go, don’t take someone who talks during a movie like a couple who sat behind me in the theatre at Sarit. The chick wouldn’t shut up. As John Wick tried to fight for his life and honour, she was talking about flower pots and something about a reel and about someone called Janey. I was catching snippets of this conversation during intermittent periods when nobody was shooting or running or falling down a staircase. She was one of those people who imagine they are whispering when the whole world can hear what they’re saying. She obviously wasn’t into John Wick. Probably hated the very idea of his machismo. She probably thought it was a silly flick about men killing other men without themselves dying. She thought, ‘arrgh, kwani this Wick fellow, how is he able to block a bullet with his sleeves?’ She was out of it. Yeah, don’t go with someone who will want to rationalise John Wick’s anger. Who will ask, ‘kwani he doesn’t eat?”


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  1. Wow! Biko, let’s give you your flowers! You have told us there is no story using two stories.

    I also concur. Most people eat the head of the fish last.

  2. I was damn eager for the story but I have to settle with the fish eating skill and make a date with movie theatre for Chapter 4, john wick.

  3. For some reason while in high school, we endured the early morning cold baths by beginning with the feet. Then work your way up.

    Somehow it worked. Or it was an illusion or a coping mechanism.

  4. We read next week. I hope the Fish man gets a way of letting out though. It must be tough, holding in all that.

  5. Aaaaah, it started so well….
    Stuff happens. It’s nice you are sensitive. If someone has second thoughts about a story they are about to give, you show no annoyance. I have not seen it in your tone or sensed it in your demeanour. But hey, I also start eating the fish from the head, only if I have to though, but I discard most of it so I can concentrate on the easier to eat part. As you can imagine, I am woeful at it. In fact, I was banned from ever touching the head of a fish. My crime? Allegedly because I don’t do justice to it; that I waste it!

  6. The imagery is so surreal. Seems like the story would be very emotional it’s good he protected his family. And Biko I agree John Wick should be watched in silence not with statements like “kwani hawakulani”

  7. I hope and pray that one day Mr. Clean Fish Eater will call you back and pour his heart out to you Biko, and you will feed us with the ups and downs of his life. His childhood trauma will hug and console ours, and perhaps he will sleep better that day and a few more because I imagine pouring out to you as therapy of some sort. I really want to read his story, but before them, I will continue imagining it and all those involved. Hugs.

  8. The idea of fish and chips should be banned, like we should hold a demonstration to such kind of shenanigan. Fish should be devoured with ugali, like how will you coil and thump up pieces of potatoes-do people really think. We should talk to RIggy G to sermon the inspector of food and beverages..

    am so livid but let me read the rest

  9. Hehe. that’s why I keep coming back over and over.
    it’s not about the stories it’s about how you say them.
    Today i just had fish…. (spiritually though). Then off to the movies I went and I yelled to a lady “crazy , please go out “( be a gentleman Eric, vumilia tu
    Biko you take us places just that today was a short trip

  10. Dad used Start a story and at some point he would abruptly either click nod(no) or say anyway..he would then leave that story there and we all knew there was no pushing it. Hugs to the fish eating okuyu

  11. Makes me sad that Lance Reddick just died recently. John Wick chapters can never be the same without that man. RIP.

  12. It’s Lent, I’m a staunch – ish Catholic. I am about to dedicate the last two weeks to fast and pray that Kikuyu-Man-With-Out-Of-This-World-Tilapia-Eating-Skills will be touched by the spirit, and look for Biko and say “Ay. Chocolate Man, I want to share this story. And teach you how to eat fish like me”

    This sounds like it would’ve been such a great story. Moving? Probably. One of those that leave your head reeling from a myriad of emotions? Absolutely. And of course Biko would’ve done it justice.

    Anyways, way to recover and tell us about John Wick. He should pay you because I couldn’t care about movies but just because of this post, I’m currently looking for a plus one to go watch it.

  13. As always Biko your writing is incredible story telling impeccable now why could I picture and imagine the fish bones when he was done eating?!

  14. I think the Fishman told you the story, it must have been too bad, sad, tragic. So you decided no to publish it. Kwe kende. we fight another Tuesday.

  15. First of all,i love John Wick,watched all of them and will watch the fourth one.I always get engrossed and would be irritated if someone started yapping!
    I understand,i think its good that he cares about his family’s well being. So its cool.

  16. my highlight for the week. this mail say in my inbox since Tuesday and reading it o na friday morning, did my soul justice.

  17. Dude…
    Then you just slide in John Wick chapter 4
    Did you even enjoy the screening with a noisemaker at the background?
    Movies are meant to be enjoyed like how that man enjoyed his fish.
    Why come to the cinema to talk? it is an eyes only event.