The day sucked. You need a drink. You wedge your car between a lustrous BMW 3 series and a priestly Toyota TX with a “Baby on Board” sticker. Inside you climb onto the bar chair and tell the barman you need a double Chivas Regal on ice. While he whips up your drink you scan the menu and go to the whisky section and only then do you you realise that they sell 12-year old Chivas at 600-bob a tot! Shit! What does that alcohol do, forgive you for all your sins?
You don’t want to be that guy who buys a double whisky for 1,200 bob a pop but you already placed your order and you really can’t recall it, can you? Plus two seats away there is a chick with her head bowed to her phone. Rather, you want to believe it’s a chick otherwise the hair looks like a bush attached to a neck. The kind of weaves women wear in this town will give you ulcers, I tell you. The Bush is going through her Instagram.
You don’t want to look cheap by telling the barman, “Boss, please get me something else. Yaani your whisky is 1200 bob a double, what are you guys raising money for here, open heart surgeries?” So you tell yourself that you are only going to have that bloody double and bolt because the bar is stealing in broad daylight, which come to think of it isn’t too broad anymore. Dusk is quickly falling outside. Behind you a small group of friends are pulling chairs. A chubby-cheeked waitress stands at the entrance carrying a menu. There is a glass case at the corner bearing cigars. They look like dynamite.
The music is very low. It’s Sam Smith moaning again. He’s telling someone to leave their lover for him. Can you believe that guy? You want to ask, Why Sam? Why should they leave their lover for you? What are you offering apart from gelled hair and white shoes? Why do you have to go to a studio to moan for someone to leave their lover for you? Why don’t you buy her dinner as everybody does? Why can’t you make some effort, Sam? Do you know what that means? Effort? Get your bloody lover Sam Smith, stop being a whiny voiced crybaby, always leeching on people’s lovers! You are those people who wait for someone to get a lover then you start moaning in studios asking them to be “yours” because you don’t want to get your hands – or white shoes – dirty. Bugger off, Sam.
“Pack up and leave everything/ don’t you see what I can bring..”
Sam sings and you roll your eyes. If Sam continues with that bullshit, you will buy a tot for 1000 bob to make him stop. Sam Smith sounds like those guys who tell a chick at 2pm, Let’s go coast, and the chick says she’s in the office, she needs to plan and pack etc and the guy says, Just leave as you are, I will buy you clothes in Malindi.
Pack up and leave everything….and where the hell is that expensive drink anyway? Oh here it comes. Wait, what the hell??
What is this?
The waiter says It’s your drink. You tell him, Boss, I won’t be able to taste my drink if you put the whole of Alaska in it! How many ice cubes are in here, 200?
You should have known that this is the kind of bar that floods your drink as soon as you heard Sam Smith crying for someone’s lover. You take 199 ice cubes from your glass and drop them in a different glass. The barman looks remorseful. You tell him that next time he should serve the ice cubes on the side so that the client decides if he wants one or 1,000 ice-cubes in them or not.
The Bush hears this conversation and smiles. A smiling bush, how about that. You rattle your one lonely cube inside your glass and take a sip. It burns. You let the taste cling to your tongue for a little longer. You let it permeate your mouth, you feel it run under your tongue and gums and then you let it in and it’s a strong harsh feeling that reminds you that no matter what happens life can’t be that bad, that people might moan for your lover but that first taste of whisky is always what a man needs sometimes.
I don’t advocate for drinking alone. I think people who drink alone are psychopaths in the making. Except chicks. Chicks who drink alone are sexy and confident, even if they bring along a bush with them. I can never drink alone, staring inside your glass, trying to make eye contact with birds in the bar.
Up from the wall stares the Weeping Child, that famous painting by Giovanni Bragolin. You look at it and wonder if Sam Smith’s sadness is the same as the Weeping Child’s. Does not having this guy’s lover break his heart? Someone is saying something, it’s the Bush. “I’m sorry, what?” you smile at her. She has an interesting face; a wide mouth with lips that look like over ripe fruit, when she smiles a deep crevice cracks on each side of her nose and they run like fault lines until they disintegrate at the corner of her lips. She has overdone eyebrows. Her eyes are like brown bean bags, soft and willing to yield. She has a cluster of pimples at the crown of her cheeks which sort of scatter away from each other when she smiles. Her skin is divine, a rich mix of browns and ebony, and a sharp stream of overhead light spills on her making her look like she is standing under a hologram. She’s handsome.
“I was wondering if I could reserve those two chairs if you aren’t expecting anyone?” She says.
She’s also polite. You tell her she can have the chairs. You wonder if she wants one for her Bush as well.
“What do you think of Sam Smith?” You ask so suddenly it takes both of you by surprise.
“Uhhmm….” she drags that ‘uhm’. ”I….think….he is a great?”
Then she goes back to her Instagram. She ignores you. The barman who has been hovering around asks if you need a refill, and you shake your head – not at 1,200 bob, you don’t. The Script is now playing, that champion song. But you know how when there is a song playing in your head and no matter what other song you hear you just hear the song in your head? In this case it’s Sam Smith begging for someone’s lover.
One of the guys in the group behind asks the barman where the washroom is and he points at a corridor using this long spoon he was using to stir some cocktail. It’s gotten dark outside. The music is louder. You drain your glass and the bar man catches your eye and comes over with a big smile.
“So you think that him inciting someone’s lover to leave them is a good thing?” You ask the Bush Baby.
The lady is startled. She looks behind her and asks, “I’m sorry, was that for me?”
“Yes, that was yours.”
“Oh.” Then she breathes deeply and asks confused, “I’m sorry, what?”
“Sam Smith, him going into the studio to beg this person to leave his lover? Is this something you endorse? Does that make him great in your books?”
She looks at you like you are mad then she sort of laughs, this laughter that bursts in her belly before it reaches her voice.
“Are you serious now?” She’s looking at your keenly.
“Yeah, I mean, come on….”
“It’s a song…a song!”
“No, those Brits just don’t sing songs. They mean it. He really wants that guy’s lover and I think it’s wrong on many levels.”
She sort of looks at you then looks at a spot near your glass and then looks up at you again, makes a sound of resignation then she sips her drink thoughtfully. An uncomfortable air hangs between you two, this thick strange air that speaks more than she has.
“What do you do for a living?” She asks.
You can’t say your write, because she will ask what you write about then when you say you write poetry she will grunt and feel relieved as if poets are mad. OK, poets are indeed mad, but only poets can call other poets mad, not some bird with a bush on her head. There are rules to calling people mad just like there are rules to calling people fat. So you say the first thing that comes to your mind. You say you work for Airtel.
“Oh really?” now she is excited and you are thinking, shit, maybe I should have said Google. “What department are you in?”
“IT.” You say without thinking because some really strange people have been known to work in IT, and maybe she will excuse you and your strange Sam Smith conversation.
“Do you know, Amani?”
“Amani? Second name?”
Just before you can answer, a celebrity walks in. Not a real celebrity but a Kenyan celebrity. He last sang this song that was a hit way back in 2009. He must be in his mid thirties now but you can’t tell by how he has sagged his jeans, showing his white underwear. They are loud. (The group, not the underwear). In their midst is a skinny light girl with a tattoo of a butterfly on her arm. A waiter sits before them a silver bucket full of beers and a bottle of wine. At the corner of the bar a deejay is setting up and tinkering with his system.
“So what big thing are you guys doing for Airtel?”
“We are giving away a car a day for the next 50 days.”
“No shit, excuse my French.”
“ Oui. We call it Smartika na 5X Bonus promotion, you will see the banners in a few days.”
“Not the smartest of names, is it, ati Smartika?”
“Haha. You are a hateful woman.”
“So what does someone have to do to win these cars?”
“Tell stories. Long winded stories.”
Like this one. Like the one Sam Smith might tell someone’s lover.