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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