So right outside Loita House, you run into this fellow wearing red shoes. An old acquaintance. PR guy. After niceties he says, “What are you doing Friday late afternoon?” You are loose – it’s December and you have closed shop. He says, “Come over, I have a small gathering over at mine, drinks and nyama.” Friday he WhatsApps the coordinates of his house in Nairobi West and you swing by, a bottle of Chivas in hand. 18-yrs. Wholesale price. You know a guy. The party is in his backyard , on a small patch of grass that we like to call a lawn. Poking meat from the spit at the corner of the walled perimeter is a thick-necked guy wearing an apron written “I’m not short. I’m concentrated awesome.” He’s short. From behind a thin curtain of smoke he raises his pitch-fork at you in salutation. You raise your bottle back.
The host sits you on this touristy canvas chair, like the ones you sit on for sundowners in the bush, amongst a circle of guys already sharing from a small forest of spirits and beers. They are seven guys and three chicks. You sit between a guy who smells of old coriander and a chick with short natural hair that is still wet. Maybe she swam to the party. She has a lovely tattoo on the brittle bone of her ankle. Someone hands you a glass. You pour yourself a finger.
Red Shoes introduces you, then introduces the rest. You don’t catch one name; Felixes collide with Anthonys, Doreens marinate with Patricks, Pauls stick at the bottom of Joans like eggs on a cheap frying pan . There are nods and karibus and polite smiles and the wag in the group, a guy with what looks like an Apple watch says, “Ahh, kwani nobody is coming with chicks to this party?” And one of the chicks, one who has about 17.3 hectares of legs rushing up to unite with her hips says in that scratchy voice that tells of years of debauchery, “Kwani we are men?” A ripple of chuckles from the men. One girl looks genuinely hurt. The wag – obviously a smart man – slowly steps away from that landmine by going to check on the “concentrated awesomeness” roasting meat across.
You drink. Meat is later passed around on a silver tray. The sun crawls overhead and some of you move to avoid it. The crowd is mature. Three more people join in, two chicks and one guy who has a hat you want to steal. The conversation is grown up. Nobody twerks. Or throws up.
As you well know, in any group there are always the loud ones who talk over everyone else because they are the know-it-alls. You will never glean much from those ones, they make for great background noise. The guys to watch, the ones who leave with the girl, are the ones who hardly say much. They have sharp one-liners; and because they are sharp, they don’t need to prove it. You pick him immediately from the group. He isn’t wearing an Apple watch, that is the funny guy, life of the party. This guy is seated across you in black t-shirt and blue Levi’s canvas shoes.
The discussion is about- of all things – deja vu and what causes dreams. This is because someone had said that when people grow older they dream less at night and this guy in black starts talking about rapid eye movement and sijui long-term memory and something like semantic memories and he says that we dream mostly of what we fear the most, not what we want the most. (He studied Anthropology but works in a bank).
It made me recall this strange dream that I had late 2014. In the dream, I’m standing on the patio of a wooden cabin (as if there are concrete cabins), the evening light is falling and I’m wearing an oversized white linen shirt, one sleeve folded to the elbow, and before me is a sliver of ocean. It’s a lone cabin thrust at the very end of a lagoon, surrounded by palm trees and all these birds with slender colourful feet. Around hangs the dank smell of half burnt firewood mixed with that sweet smell from the earth. The crickets are just getting up. The ocean moans beyond.
I’m barefooted and in shorts. Behind me the house is getting darker and secretive. Now sitting on the patio is a girl. There is always a girl in these dreams. She’s wearing this long flowy dress like a dira but with a long slit. She has on a white vest. Her face isn’t very clear in the dream because her head is lowered as she tries to pry open a tin with one of those stainless steel can openers. In the dying light I can only see half of her thigh where the slit falls open; she has a mark on it, a scar or birthmark or something, I can’t tell. Maybe it’s a shadow. I tell her “Look up.” I keep telling her that, “look up,” but she doesn’t. She says, “When I’m done opening this jam.” “Look up!” “When I’m done opening this jam.” The funny thing is I can always walk to her and look at her face, but because dreams are stupid, I’m unable to move. So I keep asking, “look up” and she keeps saying, “when I’m done opening this jam.” She never looks up.
So later, after a few whiskies, I pull Dream Guy at the party away from the crowd and we go in the kitchen and we lean on the counter where – as we cling onto our drinks – I tell him about the dream like he’s some sort of a sage who can break it down. But I figured it would be nice to hear his opinion given as he still remembers Rapid Eye Movement from high school biology and he’s obviously much smarter than I am.
-Do you own a wooden cabin? He asks after listening to my dream.
-Of course. Two of them. In Malindi and Watamu.
-No! Come on. According to your theory out there this means that I either fear cabins or I fear girls with scars on their legs.
-Or you fear jam.
-Unless it is Mombasa Road traffic jam.
-You eat jam?
-Hmm. Maybe you letting the lady struggle to open the can of jam is symbolic.
-Well, in my defence I didn’t exactly “let her”, when I walked out onto the patio she was already struggling to open the can.
-Did you offer to help?
-Are you sure it was jam?
-She said it was jam. She said “when I’m done opening this jam” over and over.
-But you didn’t check to see if it was actually jam?
-Oh, I’m sorry. If I knew you would be interrogating me about this I would have confirmed. Maybe taken a picture of it as evidence.
He laughs, sips his drink and looks out the door contemplatively. The fridge hums. Laughter from outside blows inside. I’m thinking, this Anthropology chap knows shit about dreams or jam, this has been a waste of time.
-Does it matter if it was jam or marmalade or a can of pineapples?
-I’m just thinking aloud. Where is that ice?
He opens the freezer and pokes his nose inside. No ice. He pours water into his drink which is colourless, so could be vodka.
-I don’t know what it means. He finally says with a shrug.
-I had hopes in you. I sigh defeatedly.
-You raised my hopes, man. Made me believe that you would decode this shit. You are like the rest of them; you come with promises and you never come through. You are like the rest of them.
He looks at me and laughs.
-The rest of them?
You are probably thinking, This guy is making this up. Two grown people can’t have this inane a conversation, he’s having us on. He’s going to plug something, maybe a loan from a bank or some fertilizers or something. Well, you are wrong. This dream has stayed with me for a while. If I wanted to plug anything it would have been about this health thing that is the Weetabix Fitbit Challenge which I think is just great because who isn’t trying to live a healthier life? Quickly, if this might pique your interest; they are handing 24 high-end fitbit watches to 24 winners who have to compete with each other to lose the most calories. All you have to do is send a picture of you holding a Weetabix box to 0700424600/ 0700424600 and tell the good guys at Weetabix why you want to be fit in 2016. You might just get the Fitbit (which you will keep), and kick some lazy asses in this challenge. That’s it. Just a picture.
Talking of health. Last year on a dare I did that 10-day Jane Mukami Detox program. Living on vegetable juice and salad. For 10 days. By day 6 I was ready to eat someone. Like I’m riding in an elevator and with me is this big-boned girl with juicy arms and I’m staring at her arms like a creep, really looking at her arms like you would a steak because my whole body was screaming for meat! Meat! Meat! I never bit anyone but I completed the 10-day challenge and although I felt energised and wrung out and lost some bit of weight, I said never again. It’s never that serious. Then I ran into Jane at the iHub and I told her the program was shit and gruesome and I asked her if she could design something else, something less suicidal for chaps like me. And she did. So I’m embarking on a 15-day modified detox where you have smoothies for breakfast and dinner but you eat lunch. The juices are delivered to you fresh daily for something like Sh 1,500 per day.
Still on the new year things, I want to sleep in a tent in the middle of nowhere. Like a place without network, in some thicket or long napier grass or yellow-backed acacia, whatever, as long as I feel the wild slipping into the tent. Just for 24-hours. Russell Simmons says it’s about staying still. And you can’t stay still when some motorist refuses to let you join in or forces his way in. You can’t sit still when your phone is ringing and the whatsapp is pinging with messages and someone in Kamiti Prison is sending you messages saying, “ Pliz Tuma Hio Pesa Kwa Hii nama, ni Yangu Mpya. Ile Ingine ime block…” I don’t know what stillness is. Wouldn’t know if it sucked my marrow. So I will go find it, in a bush, in a tent, before a campfire and an open sky, and with the sounds of the night. Then I want to jump off a plane; skydive because I know I will shitbricks. When I’m done with all these I will find the lady with the scar on her thigh and I will ask her if she opened the jam.
Happy New Year, by the way.