Alex The Gas Man 2


He was selling gas from Dagoretti Corner. She lived along Riverside Drive. I don’t know how it happened but they met when he delivered gas to her apartment. Don’t know the details; maybe he pressed the doorbell and she opened the door to find a tall fellow with long alarms almost reaching the gas cylinder at his feet. They’d been on the phone constantly for directions. This was before people dropped PIN locations. Maybe he was a bit breathless. Maybe he was cool as an ice cube. What we know for sure is that he filled the doorway, for he is a hulky man. 

“Oh my goodness, I think I know you!” He said. 

“You do?” 

He did. She was the sister of a former friend who had died by suicide way back in 1990. 

“You are Mary, right?”

“Maria.” She said. 

“Yes, Maria! Your brother and I were friends.” He said as he carried the gas cylinder into the kitchen. There was a green apple trembling on a chopping board on the counter. They talked about that for a bit – her brother, not the damn apple. We can see him leaning on the kitchen counter, his wide back blocking a lot of light, making conversation because he is a chatty fellow, and her standing barefoot by the kitchen doorway, trying not to tell him that she was in the middle of some important work thing; she worked for Mumias Sugar at the time. 

They soon started dating and eventually got married. Of course, her side of the family was sceptical of his intentions; a man from Dagoretti who sells gas landed a corporate girl from Riverside Drive. Come on. He didn’t care, though. She had a daughter called Wendy. She eventually quit her job and he convinced her to bring that brain into the gas business. That went swimmingly well. They then opened a restaurant. That went swimmingly well too. 

His wife then landed a cushy international job that meant she had to operate from Morocco. He sold the gas business and gave her part of the money from the sale of the gas company. “Use it to pay for Wendy’s school fees.” He told her. Wendy was her daughter who was joining Michigan State University at that time. Off they left for Morocco. He was officially an expat husband. Her career nosed up and she started moving to different stations around the world; Togo, London, Ghana, and Switzerland. He moved when she moved. 

The thrust of our conversation at that time was around this whole idea of being the “stay-at-home” husband of a highflier. Moving when your wife moves and being with a wife who is the breadwinner. He said, “Look, the decisions I have made in my life have always been between me and my wife. Not me, my wife, and the guys at the bar.” He was not obsessed with what anybody thought of him, whether he was ‘henpecked’ or ‘kept’. He didn’t care. He didn’t subscribe to the idea of men chest thumping in bars like gorillas then later they go home like mice. “My wife is at the core of my friendships but I also have my friends,” he had said, “my philosophy on friendship is to be with people who understand you, not people who want you to be something they think you should be.”

He was 47 years old, they had tried having a baby unsuccessfully. His wife had suggested that he get a girl pregnant. “You have raised my child, now it’s my turn to raise your child,” she had told him, “so bring me a baby and I will raise them.” He is Luhya, he should have jumped at that proposition but he didn’t and perhaps his ancestors rolled in the grave with horror, perhaps they didn’t. Instead, they got surrogacy. Unfortunately, the baby, Alexandra, named after his mother, died a few days after our conversation. His mother, at that time, was ailing. I recall his mother calling him during the interview. “I keep my mother’s ATM card,” he told me. He was dabbling in some businesses, real estate, a bit of hospitality, you know the hustle of the city. 

He had on an expensive watch and an extravagant suit that I thought had too much textile on it for his extra size, perhaps. The type of suit you saw on black American televangelists. He was confident to the point of cocky, and outspoken and unapologetic. Assured. And he professed lots of love and commitment towards Maria, his wife. It was hard to place him as a lover or a fighter. And why can’t someone be both, you wonder. 

This was 2017, I recall that we met before I was due to pick up Tamms from school and I was late. Tamms was 8 years old, in class three. Yikes. Everything changes and remains the same as well. I have run into him twice since. The first time was in a mall, I don’t remember which one, he was propelling along his great height with impressive velocity. The second time I was driving down Red Hill road, past those artesian sellers in Gigiri who sell to mzungus. He was outside a four-by-four vehicle as they loaded it. I did something I’m not proud of; stuck my head out of my window and shouted, “The gas man!” He first had that look of, who the fr*k is tha- then he recognised me and waved with his big long arms. It felt like he had uprooted a tree and was waving at me with it.

The story of Alex The Gas Man is HERE, in case you missed it some seven years ago. 


We met at Coffee Connect along Riverside Drive, where it all began. Beautiful Saturday morning, the type that you know you will remember because of the shape of the light and how light you felt in your heart. The place was full. It throbbed with caffeine. The smell of pastries seduces everyone, even those who pretend to work hard on saving the world from their laptops. He was waiting in the corner with his stetson hat seated on the chair next to him as if it paid tax. 

“You look like money,” I said as I sat down. He did look like money. He still fancied an ostentatious watch. His hair was rich and dark and in waves. Something about the skin of people who are doing well; there is a nice healthy sheen to it. And then there was how he sat back, his posture, his thereness. Assured. He had on these very expensive-looking suede loafers. 

I nodded at his hat and ordered a mocha. 

He’s 55 years old now. 

When I ask him how it feels to be 55 he tells me a story. “The other weekend I’m from the bar with my friends. The Alcoblow guys stop me at that roundabout, the one over there,” he points in the direction where there is no roundabout. “I looked at the policeman and told him,’ I’m not drunk, I haven’t drunk in 24 years, which is probably how old you are. However, I’m happy to blow on your gadget. He looked at me and said, ‘unakaa kama mtu amekomaa, enda.’ That’s what being 55 feels like. Not only do you feel rooted in yourself, in the things that you believe in, but other people also see it in you. They recognise it.”

He’s still married to Maria. They have since settled in Kenya permanently, so no more globe-hopping. 

“Have the views you held on masculinity seven years ago changed?”

“How can they change? Some things will change but certain fundamentals will never change. It’s who I am at the core. You know the problem of most men in this town? Most of us lack self-confidence, something killed our self-confidence. You see that guy over there?” We both look at a Korean-looking fellow squinting at his phone. “That guy doesn’t care about you and me. People don’t spend so much of their time thinking about you. Nobody cares what you do, or who you do it with. We give people too much credit.” he sips his tea which has a thin layer of cream floating on it. “You know, I sit with a bunch of friends at the Under The Radar bar, a small group of men, we pretend we have made it. But there is always that vibe that that man is a kept man.”

“That man being you.”

“Yes. It’s there. But define what being a kept man is because last time I checked, what I have done, what I have, as Alex, can only be judged by the person I am with. We like putting down the next person so that we look good. They don’t understand that the world is so big that it can allow everybody to shine. My wife is doing her thing, I am doing mine. She still earns her money. And what people never ask is, what does a man do with money?”

“Yes, what does a man do with money?”

“He takes care of his family, he invests. If he belongs to the Kikuyu persuasion he makes more money and more and more. If he belongs to the Luo persuasion, he makes money buys a Mercedes, and lives large. If he is a Luhya like me, he eats well.” He laughs. 

“Money is as good as it’s used. The money I have is enough, I don’t need my wife’s money.”

“Do you know that expression, he who pays the piper calls the tune?” I said. 

“Yeah, I’m familiar with it.”

“In marriage, does the one who earns more dictate more? How does money change the dynamics of a marriage when your wife is earning much more than you are? And if she does, how does this man maintain a balance in that marriage?”

“Who made Kenneth Matiba?” He asks. 

I don’t know who the hell made Kenneth Matiba. Maybe Kenneth Matiba made Kenneth Matiba? 

“His wife! Edith. She was one who was plugged into the Kenyattas, not Kenneth but somehow he went on to be this big honcho. Kibaki and Lucy. Lucy was an aristocrat, not Kibaki. And if you go down the whole chain, there are a whole number of people who benefit from their wife’s strength. A case in point is this Supreme Court judge in America. I forget the name. The one who died or the husband died, I’m not sure which one. He said that he was also a lawyer, but the wife’s path was going quicker than his, and he dropped out of practice to raise their child and allowed the wife to shine. The wife attributed all her success to her husband, not the Supreme Court. It’s how you perceive success.”

That doesn’t exactly answer my question but it’s a gorgeous day, besides, he was still talking. “Very few people understand this, but my wife has always held high-profile jobs. Who do you think wipes her tears when she has lost her job? When she has stopped working in those jobs? Who wipes her tears? Who gives her the mental capacity to go and be the best she can be in whatever else she does?”

“You?” I said meekly, looking around. 

“Because you need a solid homefront. You need an environment where you can thrive if you have a high-stress job. I mean, I do things and she does things. She’s a global citizen, when she is about to have a high-powered sensitive meeting, who do you think shares thoughts with her the previous night in bed, strengthens her resolve, her position?”


“I’m not in corporate and I’m the best person to offer views because I’m on the outside looking in, I’m…do you want something?”

“Yeah, a pen.” A waiter brings one over. “Do you need a paper?”

“No, I will use a napkin,” I told her. I love the idea of writing notes on a serviette during a meeting. Nobody cares too much when you write on a piece of paper, but start writing something on a serviette and suddenly people’s concentration is broken. I saw Don Draper do it once, in the opening series of Mad Men. 

“What I’m saying, especially to those who say I’m a kept man,” he proceeds, “is that my wife is one of the top authorities in HR in this country. If I was too much of a bum, wouldn’t she have picked it out by this time? She is paid good money by global organisations to headhunt, do you think she’d fail to headhunt for herself? Like really?”

I know this might read like this issue was a bee in his bonnet and that he was barking at me, to the contrary, he wasn’t. And it isn’t. He was simply saying, come on, screw anyone who thinks I’m a kept man, they don’t use the soap in my bathroom. 

“How’s your daughter Wendy?”

“Until recently she was a vice president at Goldman Sachs. She’s doing very well for herself, a direct influence of her mother, a success story. The mother mentored her. I witnessed it. She is moving from Texas to New York and last week we were on the phone, she was seeking my opinion on the move. I wonder how many people can have that conversation with their children. I’m this guy from Khwisero, born in Woodley advising a girl in Texas about moving to New York and she listens. I must have something.”

“You do,” I tell him, “have you had a child since we last met?”


“Not very Luhya of you, won’t you say?”

He laughs as we both turn to look at a cluster of young and hip Gen Z girls in all-mom jeans and navels, walking into the cafe in an amoebic fashion. 

“How do you feel knowing that perhaps the chance to have a child from your loins has lapsed?”

“Look,” he rearranges his two phones on the table, “I don’t feel any way about it. Maybe what I know now, if I knew it then, during adventures as a youth, I’d probably have gotten children and not have been so afraid of going forward with children because, in Luhya, they say a child grows whether you are there or not. But I didn’t have children. I tried with my wife many times and it didn’t happen, we lost her. And that’s not the only child we lost. So you get to a point where you ask yourself; is this a thing that you are going to obsess about, make everything you do about a baby? There are many people who need love, I can give them love. People say, but what about your name, the continuity of your lineage? You don’t want to leave your blood behind? Well, I didn’t get the chance. I tried but didn’t get a chance. Am I going to force things? It’s like trying to wedge a square peg in a round hole. I’ve got grandchildren by extension. I’ve got Wendy, who’s a lovely child. By the way, apparently, out of everybody, and I’m being frightfully honest, out of everybody, I know cousins, uncles, nephews, aunties, nieces, everybody related to me by blood, not my brothers nor my cousins, none ever says, ‘Alex here is some little money, get yourself a cup of coffee with your friends at UTR.’ Not one person. But Wendy, who is not my “blood”, He scratches quotation marks in the air, “is the only one who ever does that. So?” 

Outside, a guy in a new shiny Audi Q7 is taking ten years to reverse park. A real theatre of absurdity. I wince as I watch him go forward and backward, forward and backward, trying to pass the car through the eye of a needle. A girl sits on the passenger. I can bet it’s the girl’s car. You can always tell who is driving their girl’s car. As they walk up the staircase she turns to look at the car as if to say, “We give him a pass, he does other things better than reverse park.”

I ask him if he remembers how he stopped drinking. “The story of my sobriety is tied to the story of my mother’s death,” he said. “My three brothers and I were upmarket drunks.” I chuckle at that. Upmarket drunks. I will use it one day. I will tell someone, “You are nothing more than a lowly upmarket drunk with great shirt buttons.”

“Yes. We were serious drunks,” he says, “we would walk in bars and everybody would know us and cheer us. We held court, guys would gather around us listening to our stories. We were the guys, the life of the party. Just drinking expensive things, blowing it. I think we were rebelling against something in our childhood, our father, perhaps. A lot of guys in my generation lived their lives in their fathers’ eyes and when the fathers transition, there comes a void that’s hard to fill because their fathers were too strong. You see it in these dynasty fights, it’s just fatherhood issues, nothing more. Us, we drank and we had false bravado to make ourselves feel better. Then my dad died and suddenly the last man standing, the man who always took care of business was not there. Suddenly my mother was exposed and one of us needed to stay sober and help her, so I stepped into that role. My dad died in 1999, I stopped drinking in 2000.”

He stopped cold turkey, he said. Just served off drinking and smoking. No rehab, no false starts, no relapses. He woke up one day and said, screw this, I’m cleaning up. “I have great resolve.”

I wasn’t very satisfied with the other question I had asked him about money and power in the home and while he was telling me about his heydays in the trenches, drinking, and thumping their chests, I was thinking of how I was going to rephrase it so that it doesn’t come across like I was banging on an old drum. 

“How do you make your wife, who is earning more than you, respect you?”

“You don’t make a woman respect, you earn a woman’s respect,” he said and it felt like a bullet going through a watermelon. Or a ripe pawpaw. “It’s very different by just doing the right thing and the right thing is how you perceive yourself as a man, how you define yourself as a man. And you know what defines your manhood? It’s how you are socialised in your childhood, mostly by the men around you. If you see men coming home roaring drunk or battering women, that’s what will inform your idea of manhood; aggression and suppression.”

“What kind of a man was your dad?”

“People outside our home knew a different man, a charmer, a man of the people. He always wore great-smelling cologne, sharp as a razor. I got my sharpness from him. In the home we knew a different man, he was very harsh. He created a respectable distance between himself and us. But he always led from the front. When I went to Khwisero and saw where he came from, this was ten years after independence and he built himself up, gave us a home in Woodley, private schools, the best he could. He died at Kenyatta Hospital, ward eight or nine. Everybody thought he would be the kind of guy who would be at Nairobi Hospital. He had only 10,000 at the Commercial Bank of Africa. But he never showed us he was broke, we didn’t know. He covered his weaknesses. My dad was a real guy, proud. In Luhya, we say ‘Isunga’, you carry yourself with pride even if you don’t have. When you get home you say, give me water to drink and you sleep because you didn’t come with food. That’s who I am. That’s what I took from him.”

He lives a good life, I gathered. Lives out in the leafier part of the city. It’s just him and the wife. He is proud that he built his wife a home in those leafier suburbs, and put her name on the gate in French. “Because that’s what real men do, they build their wives a house.” It was a gift to her, for being a great wife and partner. When his mother died he sat on one side of her hospital bed holding her hand and Maria on the other holding the other hand. He also comes with flaws. “I might not be as supportive as a husband at times. Maybe I see things from a selfish perspective.” He admits not to be too engaged with his in-laws. He is cautious in investment, with a very low-risk appetite. He tends to keep people at arm’s length because he protects himself. 

We spoke for over two hours, a meandering conversation or many things. He then stood up, led his wide back through the tables, past the cool kids with their matt lipsticks, past the reverse-park poster child, past coffees losing their heat and knees under tables, and a smiling manager. The Gas Man was then out of the building.


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  1. I don’t know what to make of the man. Almost half his life he’s done it for his wife. The globe hopping, the “get another girl pregnant” part, the house, the presence, hell he even brought gas to her door. Haha. You don’t require much grip to know that the side with more money will always drop the weighing scale.
    I would like to know what’s he’s done for hi’self.

    1. Perhaps he’s a yogi. And as you know Yoga teaches people to discover their gift then spend the rest of the lives giving it away!

  2. Until when you mentioned that Tamms was in class three in 2017, I hadn’t yet figured just how fast time flies. I remember that story. It’s been 13 years here..

    Cliff The Tall! Men we “lost”.

  3. I Read this as a woman. A well paid one. A hard read. A lot of Low blows and subltle condescending views towards Gas man’s marriage arrangement. It Almost felt like your views and thoughts were inspired by Andrew kibe and sons. Or is it the Amerix foundation of high value men?

  4. “You don’t make a woman respect, you earn a woman’s respect,” So true. How a man carries themselves in every circumstance is important. Thank Biko.

  5. Of course I remember this story. It’s been 7 years already? Sheshh.

    Some gems of wisdom from the gas man.

    I think that traditional gender roles are evolving, and men are increasingly taking on roles previously associated with women, such as stay-at-home parenthood. Financial dependence no longer automatically defines masculinity.
    I believe that In a healthy, equitable relationship, respect should not be earned based on financial contributions. Both partners deserve respect regardless of their individual income levels.

  6. I so love this story. Only if there were many other men like him! His reasoning is so redeemed and free.

    This statement:
    Because you need a solid homefront. You need an environment where you can thrive if you have a high-stress job. I mean, I do things and she does things. She’s a global citizen, when she is about to have a high-powered sensitive meeting, who do you think shares thoughts with her the previous night in bed, strengthens her resolve, her position?

  7. My take home from this story is “Nobody cares what you do, or who you do it with. We give people too much credit.”. I should make it a point of reciting this every morning like the loyalty pledge. I have this almost crippling fear and I hate it so much. I also can’t seem to let it go. It’s so annoying

    Also, thank you for clarifying Chocolate Man. I was already folding my imaginary sleeves , ready to throw imaginary punches because “Kwa nini huyu jamaa anakaa ni kama anasomea Biko wetu?”

  8. Very captivating and lots to learn. I hope the men who read this story today will seek to find themselves.
    It is very true, you earn a woman’s respect!! It has always been true for me.

    1. I am a constant work in progress. A lot of fumbling. The most important lesson I learned is not to chase shinny objects, rather to focus on practical probabilities and not endless possibilities

  9. Our guy wasn’t prepared for the question about money and power in the home…he even got confused and gave props to his daughter for sending cash…Anyway, we celebrate him.

  10. Alex is quite a cool guy. I meet him once when he was travelling to Ivory Coast. I told him that my sister weaves door mats as a side hustle. He went ahead and promoted her. Such a gentleman. Here is to more years to your life man!!

  11. i was going through the comments from the 1st time this story was told.. i am sure some of the toxic men there are SUPER annoyed that Alex is still happily married and thriving and doing great.
    You can never go wrong with following your heart, your gut and silencing the pseudo marriage counsellors.

  12. I have a question, does Mr. Biko ever read the comments? If he does I hope he answers this for me, how can I get a copy of your autographed book?
    Kindly treat this with urgency. I’d like to gift a very special lady on her birthday.

  13. The confidence for this guy is on another level.

    Biko there’s that crossroads guy. Waiting for part 2. Did he ever confess?

  14. life is about a person,not a community.Alex choose to spend it as he saw fit.He has had a good life.He choose not to seek validation from his peers but from his own self.Peers are to distract you and leave you when you run dry.

    He is frank,he proposed a question ,how is it that blood relatives like siblings or cousins rarely help one with money but a distant person does so ?

  15. I grew up craving my sibling’s love , respect and admiration .Well,that sibling once asked me,” what were you thinking?” I had a minor injury due to carelessness. Well,siblings and other relatives are overrated .However, children are good but they should not be one’s God or idol.

    I believe being comfortable in oneself and not seeking validation and respect from peers is a true form of freedom.

  16. one of my favourite stories,glad to have had a follow up,life throws an equal measure of challenge to everyone, glad they are managing theirs.

  17. Life is not only about siring children.Dozen of couples have broken up yet they have children,but for Alex and his wife they have lost many unborn babies but inspite of it ,they are still together .

    The greatest gift one can have is a rock to cry on ,during the good and bad.

    Do you,seek not validation from peers,but be honest with yourself.

  18. this man inspired me way back when you published his story. it gave me confidence at the time coz I had to make some very serious decisions which I don’t regret making. thanks for the follow up. I wish him well. we all need to understand that people really don’t give a fuck and live our lives. it’s been 18years reading you biko and am grateful to you for a big a part of me has been sharpened by your pen. God bless you and your family.

  19. Thanks for a follow up to the original story. It’s stayed in my mind over the years and this man (and his wife’s) wisdom has challenged me time and time again. I hope more Kenyan men are inspired by his character and are able to build partnerships with their women.

  20. Well, Alex wife genuinely cared about him.However, how did she cope with the loss of the unborn baby and the miscarriages?

    However, your wife is your family ,the friends at the bar or salon might not even care about you and your well being.

    1. I don’t think so.I believe he loves solitude,he is quit frank,in that he barely allows the opinion of his bar friends and peers to validate his marriage or his life .

      I believe that his life is imperfect,but he is realistic.

    2. Not really,he has a wife,his defined friendships.I believe he Is a reseved person.

      He is a practical person,a lover at heart and a man who believes in romance.

  21. Why do I find the Gas man too defensive? Aggressive even. This interview felt like walking on eggshells and yet I wasn’t even there. I think he needs another interview in 10 years when he’ll be sired a child nje. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow

    1. I believe that their was something that was lacking in the article,i believe he was being defensive.

      I am sure that he might have a child on the side,whom the wife barely knows,or he might consider siring outside,however I genuinely believe that he cares for his wife.

      1. A man can’t stand by a wife who’s struggling to conceive or carry a baby? There was that story of a guy who had an issue with his sperm, the lady chose to stay and adopt. Maybe the gas man looks at life the same way

  22. if we are all being honest. most of us (men) are judgemental pricks. Biko asked the same twice. As long as he doesn’t care what the hell we think then he is good.

  23. Defining age:
    Not only do you feel rooted in yourself, in the things that you believe in, but other people also see it in you. They recognise it.”

  24. You should create an app where we can download articles to read later offline or just a way to download articles to read maybe in a matatu or something

  25. Men define manhood by what they earn or do for a living. This man just is a man who knows who he is, and what he has to offer. This explains why when men loose the money, they loose their voice and sense of worth. Take away the money or job and men have nothing. Time to build up character.

  26. You had me at “”…The Alcoblow guys stop me at that roundabout, the one over there,” he points in the direction where there is no roundabout. “”

  27. Your writing have a unique kind of humor that always cheer me up no matter what I’m going through.

  28. Where did the pple who commented on part 1 go? Or they stopped commenting. The likes were hitting 200 plus. I enjoyed the way they irked Gas Man who kept on yapping. Nice read Jakindu