Ni God Manze

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I wrote a story but the subject requested that it be shared with his lawyer first because the last time I wrote about him and his marriage it created such a shitstorm it ended in court. His lawyer hasn’t gotten back to us. He’s probably not read it. Maybe he has but he’s growing through it with his red pen, underlining sentences with the tip of his tongue sticking from the corner of his mouth. We wait. And we keep hope alive. 

Talking of hope. Eddy bought a car. It’s all he talks about. He lives in it. He cleans it daily. He oils it. He thinks he will never love another like he loves this one. He’d doing everything we did when we bought our first cars. I’m happy for him. It’s a big thing, your first car. My first car was a Toyota E100, 1300 CC, or something like that. 

I was 27. It was a basic car with a basic shape designed by a Japanese fellow called Akihiko Saito with a Ph.D. in Engineering. 

I thought I would never fall in love with another car again. (Exactly what I thought about my first girlfriend, Lisa*. Puh!). It was white and faster than light. I don’t recall if the AC worked or not. I know the brakes did, and that’s all the expectation you had of your car; could you stop when you needed to stop? The back left door had a problem, couldn’t open from the outside. I had to lean all the way, between the front seats, to open it. It felt grown up to do that. It felt grown up to do something I saw my dad do when I was a child; hold the passenger seat as I reversed looking back. I worked in Village Market and I enjoyed the winding drive through Spring Valley, to Westlands Roundabout, and up to Mountain View where I lived in an SQ. I wasn’t married. I had no children who constantly ask, “Can we please order food?” No school fees. No medical cover to think of. I was saving squat. I didn’t ever think I’d be the guy who buys a yoga ball. It was just me and my old Toyota E100 with about 200 million kilometres on it. But what a beauty that carried beauties. There was something about a girl seated in the passenger seat. A breathing girl. In your car. Trusting you to indicate left and take a corner. Jesus. Are you kidding me!? 

Oh, youth is surely wasted on the young. 

So I feel Eddy. And I envy him a bit even though I would not want to go back and do the whole journey again. No, thanks. Once is enough. 

So, as we wait for wakili to mark my homework, can we let Eddy say something about his life post-Nduthis?

Eddy? Say something small. 

(*Lisa was my girlfriend, only she didn’t know.)

***

By Eddy Ashioya 

Don’t get up ladies, but yes, it’s me. Eddy Ashioya, in the flesh. My dreadlocks have gotten longer, my ego rivals a KRA intern’s Excel sheet and I recently got an ear piercing—I look like a bad boy’s bad boy. I’m not the man your mom warned you about, I’m the one she doesn’t even know about. Yes, yes, of course, my mom doesn’t know [about the piercing] [and ego], saa zingine usipotoboa kwa maisha toboa tu masikio. Otherwise? How are you guys? I’d say nimewamiss but ego…

I see the wall unit is still creaking. But I like what you have done with the walls. I think it brings out the character of this house, which, Gen Z would say, “It’s giving.” The vibes are immaculate. When I lived here Biko was rather parsimonious with the curtains budget preferring ati a rather “natural lighting” baloney, but Mungu ni nani?

Speaking of, there are certain milestones you hit on your journey as a man that you know it’s not you, but a little bit of God, hard work, and luck. Milestones that define your transitions from one stage to the next. Especially when you live in this Chicago-style devil’s backyard that is Kanairo, where money is Jesus, when the 8 to 5 gives way to the 5 to 3, Nairobi noir. I remember the first time I moved into my apartment and I wrote about it here and I had these big ass windows, and the first night—okay first two months—I lived in the bedroom because I couldn’t afford curtains and I understood Bazu. I got him. But this is still Kanairo, and I called up Muigai my guy, that Kikuyu uncle whose operations in the city remain unclear; the type that goes by that amorphous tag of ‘broker’. He pointed me to Mecca and I got “original” Turkey curtains pale Dubai Ndogo. Ni God manze.

I have been thinking lately about milestones. How quickly “these days” turn to “those days”? How quickly I moved from matatus to hailing boda bodas daily because a) I have Biblical impatience and b) refer to a). You see when I was in matatus, which was not a long time ago, I only cared about people in cars the way all Nairobians care about people in cars: I ignored them or, if they were especially big cars, congratulated myself for ignoring them.

Sitting on the highway to hell, Mombasa Rd traffic, I understood how easily one could go from an ambitious young man to a kaput fugitive. Mombasa Rd traffic does that to you. The sun is getting off on its own heat, the traffic police let all other matatus pass, and then when it’s your turn, they say “Simama!” and by the time they let you pass, we have sworn in a new president and his deputy has started campaigning. But it’s the hawkers who make traffic worth it. If you ever wonder what the bottom rung of capitalism’s ladder looks like, it’s you contemplating buying tropikos, chocolate na njugu karanga—all for less than a day’s wages. But have no fear, this is one of the greatest roads in Kenya if you don’t live in Kenya. You can feel the streets sweat, strain, and bulge like choking hot veins. The city grows up, pulling down the sky, so that if you reach out, you may just touch the clouds. The Chinese are still scrambling to fit the whole of Nairobi in Kilimani, having already turned Mombasa Rd into a Brazilian-style favelas project, where the steel and concrete are elbowing away the former governments’ quarters.

I have always maintained that we don’t need more cars on the road. Traffic in this city is limp, an erectile dysfunction of ambition. And Kenyans drive like driving schools are a suggestion, unencumbered by traffic laws, training, or insurance giving new meaning to the term “my way or the highway.” The only laws on the road are the ones you make up in your mind because if Inspector Kip catches you, all you have to say is the magic word, “Niko na 50. Kip change.” That’s the middle-class modus operandi. You know them when you see them. They want stuff. Their spouses want more stuff. And their kids? They feel entitled to more stuff. Their aunts and cousins demand stuff. That’s why they honk in traffic, that’s why they break the rules, that’s why they are a law unto themselves. Because the stuff you want, the stuff you own, owns you.

And one of the quickest and read-made status symbols is a car. A Kenyan will buy a new car and tell you, “Ni kujaribu tu.” Faux humility, understatement, and self-deprecation are the hand-me-down Kenyan vices. A car says something about you—perhaps more about you than anything else you own. It’s an allegory of who you are and where you want to go. Literally and metaphorically. In Africa, a young man with a high-end Mercedes is probably a forex trader the son of a Minister, or both. In Dubai, a young man with a Mercedes is a taxi driver—whose father used to be a Minister back in the day. 

A car says nothing good about a man except that he is a man. It’s a deep emotional bond between man and machine. My dad owned a Datsun pickup, KAX which he negotiated corners in Naivasha like how I negotiate for invoices, which is to say with reckless abandon or none at all. It was a white car, with only two front seats. He’d put blankets in the back where we would sit. At the back, there was only one window, at the door, so small and high I could see a Kikuyu landlord wiping tears of satisfaction from his face. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy for my father—and Kikuyu landlords. It was a practical car where he could live (leave?) his footloose dreams shuttling between Nyahururu, Nairobi, and Kakamega. He loved that car. I hated it.

I imagined that when I would eventually ditch the boda boda because Bien in his wisdom said “Usipandishe mrembo boda boda, hiyo ndiyo siku ya mwisho utamuona!” I would be different. I used the same logic the government uses in its hiring committees: English is a measure of intelligence, so cars are a marker of success. I already practised my Rolodex of road rage insults. In my mind, I imagine I look more like Lewis Hamilton on Thika Superhighway but the truth is far closer to Alphonse Makacha Dot Makokha.

I imagine too that I would be one of those polished guys. You know the ones. The ones with avuncular charm. They don’t use their car for flirting or for genital advertisement. But then neither are they obvious, monotonous, and vanilla. And I wouldn’t be so self-involved to put a bumper sticker saying, “Princess on board.” Or “the car in front is always a Toyota” because I wouldn’t be driving a Toyota.

You know what else I wouldn’t drive? An electric car, to the ire of climate change fascists and western environmentalists and the brown-nosing “We are here to save the world” altruists who’d rather see families piled high on bicycles. Climate change campaigners, like Subaru boys before them, I imagine, are the vegans of the automotive industry. Don’t look this up but did you know they feed you a vegan diet in Russian gulags? And they drive you there in a blue 2005 Subaru. Can cheat can die.

Me I knew what car turns me on. And I made sure anyone with an ear could hear. So, I went out and got one. And boy, is it sexy. It has a fat ass, an apt metaphor. I wanted to name her Gloria so that when someone calls me, I’d pick up, half asleep, and say, “No, I’m on morning glory.” Maybe I’ll name her Prudence. Sounds kienyeji but when was the last time you heard of a Prudence in jail? Exactly. Besides, don’t let the name hoodwink you, there is nothing prudish about them.

Me, I can’t wait to use phrases like, “kuna parking?” I have thought about it too, and there are places I am not going, sorry, driving to. There are places that are OK and there are ones that definitely aren’t OK and no one but me can tell the difference. South B? Yes. Banana? Yes, but only during the day. Thika Rd? Mmmhh maybe up to Muthaiga. Wangige? Ati wa-what? My only character flaw now is that I still own an Android phone. Still, I am very proud of myself. So proud I could take myself for dinner but I don’t like men that way.

And when people ask me, “Ash! You bought a car? How much?” I will look down, assume the professional pause of any Nairobian, look away in guilt, embarrassment, or faux humility, and say, “Ni God manze.”

But I know you still want to know what brand it is, what make, what year. I can’t tell you much, but I can tell you this, if Yoda had a car, it would be this. And on the highway, Prudence eats the tarmac like a cardinal sipping espresso: quickly, neatly, and without ostentatious displays of pleasure—its ass shimmering in the sadistic Nairobi sun. This is why Dedan Kimathi was shot in the ass. This is freedom.

“But Ash! What car is it?”

I’ll tell you this: where I come from, the elders, after irrigating their throats with a good round of busaa will tell you: “The wife can be from the village, but the car must be German.” 

***

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74 Comments
  1. Congratulations on your milestone Ash!
    Now upgrade to an iphone so that you can stunt on us properly!
    I know you kept looking at the parking lot the first night to make sure no one stole your German whip! sema ukweli.

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  2. The wife can be from the village but the car must be German, pole bas Eddy! You can walk on us, no drive on us. We have parking btw.

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  3. “The wife can be from the village but the car must be German,” pole bas Eddy! You can walk on us, no drive on us. We have parking btw.

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  4. German machine it is..enjoy your ride.Am a Toyota fanatic, driving an electric 2024 version here down under, Ni God manze.

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  5. Si we are sorry, but most importantly proud of you.
    Congratulations on your German machine.
    And yes,ni God manze. He has been holding space for us,all. Literally.

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  6. The elders, after irrigating their throats with a good round of busaa will tell you: “The wife can be from the village, but the car must be German.”

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  7. Congratulations Ash……you are on the way to making it…..now just something you need to do now that you have a masin, get yourself a flashdisk with good old Rhumba music. I swear driving home via the A104 slaps differently with Rhumba music blaring from the car stereo. Oh and dont drive alone!!

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  8. I imagine I look more like Lewis Hamilton on Thika Superhighway but the truth is far closer to Alphonse Makacha Dot Makokha.

    This had my ribs cracking…
    Congratulations Eddy, tuko nyuma tunafwata

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  9. I smiled all through while reading this. ‘There are places that are OK and there are ones that definitely aren’t OK and no one but me can tell the difference. South B? Yes. Banana? Yes, but only during the day. Thika Rd? Mmmhh maybe up to Muthaiga. Wangige? Ati wa-what?’ This part cracked me up a good one lmao. My guess? It’s a VW either Gold GTI or TSI:) Congratulations Ash!

  10. I smiled all through while reading this. ‘There are places that are OK and there are ones that definitely aren’t OK and no one but me can tell the difference. South B? Yes. Banana? Yes, but only during the day. Thika Rd? Mmmhh maybe up to Muthaiga. Wangige? Ati wa-what?’ This part cracked me up a good one lmao. My guess? It’s a VW either Golf GTI or TSI:) Congratulations Ash!

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  11. I imagine I look more like Lewis Hamilton on Thika Superhighway but the truth is far closer to Alphonse Makacha Dot Makokha.
    Very interesting read.

  12. Banana town was busy minding the business of 106, but who is Eddy… ! True fact, only drive during daylight, take my word and take it to the bank…

  13. Wow…I must say Eddy has really matured in his writing. kept me glued to the screen till the very end. An welcome to the German machine owners club Eddy!!

  14. So proud I could take myself for dinner but I don’t like men that way

    Aki I had stopped commenting herein out of that same kapride but today Ash you have me gaffawing I am looking for Tony Moch… tucheke kiasi.

    Enjoy your German Machine you young one you.

  15. ni God manze…
    boy on beamer…or are you audiing us? but umemention Benz, rait???
    congrats man. ndo milestones haswa

  16. The wife can be from the village, but the car must be German
    Now this is a good statement, welcome back Eddy

  17. Aging like fine wine Eddie….so much growth from last you visited us….sijui niseme umenona lakini
    Beautiful read

  18. saw Ni God Manze and I knew it was Eddy

    It just had to be Chinedu.

    congratulations son of Kach!

    It must be a BMW. Utabeba nayo Baba (yourself) Mama na Watoto.

  19. congratulations Eddy, you have really come of age. I recently had a chance to look at Saturday nation for the first time in many years and saw you took over Biko’s man talk. I know its a VW GTI.

  20. Wow!

    The instant I saw, “Ni God Manze.” , I knew Eddy wasn’t too far.

    I am super proud of you Eddy!

    We await the lawyer story. He’d better release it soon.

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  21. This one has cracked me up a good one! The memories of how I felt when I first bought a car came rushing in droves. The experience is invaluable and timeless. Revel in it while it lasts Eddy! And may the Lord keep shining his Grace on you always!