Murage is near there in art and life and is figuring out how to master the whole family of creativity. He was born an artist, he taught himself architecture and literature and right now is a comfortable single father. he was born in central Kenya and grew up there where only a few could converse in any other language apart from Kikuyu. to exacerbate, he has primary dyslexia (alien term to most in Kenya) which gave him a devastating language barrier where he was poor in reading and in spelling and gave him nervousness whenever he was to talk in public because only him knew his condition. He has a passion for reading though, this resulting from his introversion. He has read many writers from Homer through Tolstoy to V. S. Naipaul. Reading is a cult to him. For his condition, it took him three months to finish Oliver Twist, and he couldn't skip a day without opening pages. He researched on his problem with reading, spelling and found out it is called dyslexia. It is hereditary and his niece has an acute one. Gidson, having gone only up to high school, taught himself architecture and is a professional practising architectural designer.
He says he is neither religious nor an atheist but a spiritual man who knows the spirit should be left to its own devices.
A DROP TOO MUCH
Not one thing is like this thing. Of all things that men adore to abhor, It is a thing that even in merry-making is assumptive, Yet when everyone acknowledges it's a nuisance and emetic, It loiters and seduces and untold neurons get a blip. It has broken many a family. It has cast Mũrang'a into poverty, In Nyeri, it is a thing chockablock with pervert, It has killed many in the world. And yet since creation, it has remained, And many it has maimed, Yet with all, hic' the strength with men, To its false promises they shout amen. I have yet to understand why, With vanity, we so love to comply. No one can tell when time shall come. And put this alcohol thing to calm.
I want in future to remember what it would be like the week I turn 40. I do not want to request as I do about my 26th birthday with all the events that were but I have scattered recollections of only the regrets: the laughter of girls who no longer like my posts on FB, the smoke of trivial weed but which was like a newly discovered life-and-death, the stupid kids whom we did not know and liked the tipplers because the kids were better than the tipplers in many things, in sense, facts, memory and combination of the inner voice (maybe they too, but may it be forbidden, shall become dysfunctional in future) and then my tears of mourning the waste, the carelessness and the immaturity and gabble and those kids who wished for my token. I gave them the scraps they asked for which included my cheese, whiskey, boots, the bike and a packet of sportsman cigarette and also had asked if I had a girlfriend, a genuine one. I pointed at her; I couldn't gamble on that. They nodded and thus lost my trust; I threw them out. Who were those children for Chris sake? I want to transport with Kwach who has reached fourth floor this year 2019. He tells me from the fifth floor the laws made by the building regulations board demands that there must be an elevator. He said it is for the obvious reason, at that age one starts getting a horror of stairs. When Kwach started reading this story, the story started reading him; he added details in an attempt to make it sound true, to make it a fabled story because he is a pattern-seeking animal. He said the likes of John Henry Bonham, Jimi Hendrix, Truman Capote lived a life like his. But his is far from a madcap one, he is shy. He also fears own vomit a lot. It was something predictive about Kwach's depression when it matured to bipolar. It was his entire fault. He had lost four prime jobs in somewhat less than four years, all for alcohol-related causes. He was two decades in a successive ordination of drunken stupor like there was a coveted gold prize. Three years past he had done a swan dive by establishing a wine and spirit shop whilst he already was fighting a near-fatal dependence on substance. He had a year-old son though what worried him most was the son's mother; she was light years apart with her husband in, leave alone ideologies that Kwach is at loggerheads with everyone, but her uxorial disposition, her methodology, imagination, and propositions too. Oh! The young lady made Kwach's alcoholism find an alibi. When he visited his mother on one festive holiday, she appealed in desperation to her God to stop Kwach from drinking as his dad did; poor old bloke, his death made headlines. His mum, his only god begged him to eat, he was thin. He would make efforts of a few nibbles, and lean back on the chair, close his eyes and give a great breath. He could not stomach food, it always wanted to come out. He had failed as a son, like Phaeton the son of a water nymph, Clymene. He was failing as a husband and to be a father. He was mostly forlorn, irritable, and only alcohol was his anecdote to everything, to stress, even to fear. When tipsy he is a genius but once drunk he is a brute, the greatest nuisance and a cause of serious disquietude to whoever is near. The following day he can’t recall anything, even on being reminded. He suffers from MPD. His wine and spirit shop, everyone knew, was to be guzzled by his hankering. One evening he managed not to drink and while seated in his couch feeling his arms and thighs because they were having slight seizures, his wife asked him what was wrong. He could tell from the corner of his eye that she was looking at him with those beseeching eyes he could not look straight back into. He told her he was dying. She was very bitter and said she would beat his corpse if he died that way. Wretched Kwach could only think, ‘if only you were a listening wife, only if you remembered not to repeat what I reproached you for just the other day I wouldn't be drinking this much, I would drink only a little, while watching Gooners play, and in your company like the good old days.' He told me his wife had metamorphosed from the young girl he met helping her aunt in a clothes shop (Obviously, him too from a boy budding architect) to an ignorant lady whose food burn every day because she is watching a movie. She was loving, innocent, listening (She still is, I know her) girl. Now, this food she prepares after 9 pm because that is when her gossip friend closes the shop. Then the preparation is always haphazard, she would light the stove (They had forfeited the gas cooker) put a pot with water on it and when boiling she would remember there was no flour. She puts off the fire and goes for flour and then comes and boils water again and realises the cooking oar is dirty and considers using it that way. Then the bland result. She would boil water to bathe on the gas cooker when they had it, then let it cool to her desired temperature because it got to that point whilst she was watching GOT. Such wastage of energy and so many other small wastages like a salon he established for her; she refused to open because her friend did not come to keep her company. He closed it. He took her to his wine and spirit shop where she liked to buy a pig in the poke from any vendor who happened. Then when the government said there shall be no more selling during the day, Kwach used to find it open every time until one day he was upcountry the police are the ones who were lucky to find the bar open. She fled. This drove them slowly to wriggling in squalor. He had to close shop and sell the remaining merchandise in hiding and as you already know his drinking habit, and that now is what he resulted to, tant pis. But look, she was just a girl, and he was a drunkard and sots are used to blaming people. Anyway, that was during when one evening he told her he was dying. Then his seizures got to delirium tremors. She moved in a frenzy then ran to the shop and brought him a drink. She found him on the floor in convulsion and she helped him swallow his thing. She was innocent and concerned. And even in the pale vegetable state he was, she still trawled through his WhatsApp. She couldn't let him get screwed. He finished the stock and started to depend on his wife's hairdressing exploits. He would get so worried in the evening to a point of going to his local and sit waiting to see who would buy anything before he got to convulsion. He had severe fevers and sweats till his beddings got soaked, and he went for a week without sleep. Heart palpitations, he had optical hallucinations of his son crawling around and his wife seated watching a movie while they were not even near the house. The hallucinations would not scare him they only disturbed and he would like in exorcism move the clothes on the couch to destroy the illusion of them making the shape of a person seated. Sometimes he would do it without moving his eyes from the screen. Then it would be his son making his usual trifling grimaces and sounds while in bed. He would exorcise that also by briefly going out then back and it worked. He continued in the house alone, nowhere to go and nothing to do but words on a calendar on the wall kept occupying his brain ‘Battha Medical package provides comprehensive …' so he also resulted in watching a series of movies and pray that the kilowatts may stagnate. There is nothing worse than clinging to nothing. Better have a pen and wait for ink than have no pen at all. His wife went upcountry to look after his mother who was not feeling well, and to at least have some solace in her mother-in-law's inhabitance. She called to wake him up every morning at 6 and remind him he should go looking for a job ‘like other men' not knowing he would not pass an interview; he had a puffed-up face especially the tawny cheeks and had a lesion that spoke of his jaunts. His eyes were shot red and with pulsing veins and staring. He had lost a tooth while she was away after skating backwards in the bathroom now full of fungus which she fastidiously used to scour. He even had sold things. They had only left him with the mattress, a duvet, clothing, and curtains to hide him and also left the kitchen business, which was of no profit because it had no stock. The computer had survived also, waiting for a job. Because of poor diet, hypoglycaemia and stress, he feared going to bed. He would kick violently in the air or hit the wall. He threw jabs and one had got the wall real good and the wall tore his skin exposing the carpals. One night he ran up to the door and when he found it closed, he screamed. The following day he could tell all that to details, you would have thought he was playing hoax. He woke and sat in a Sukhasana pose like he was fond of and pondered on where to begin. He was so dirty and everything was so - wash his shoes? How long would that take? The bathroom floor and walls needed scrubbing, all of that? Wipe the main floor? It was too wide now that there was an absence of furnishing. He needed his wife back, let her come and start asking for her sofa and other questions, no problem let her come and attack. But this would be a pet peeve to her. The lace curtains suspended from strings, the door one and even the walls had it, would get pulled down and thrown on top of the duvet, on top of his clothes which were having patches of dark marks with mildew. Shoes and socks would be thrown out lest there be a rat inside choked by the pungent smell. Dhobi would start and Kwach would take a stroll looking for Mrevi and would come to a house which had gone through a purge of woes. He cried a little, how dreadful it was to think of her presence and then there was nobody. He cried quietly, not shrieking or gracelessly. He cried at nobody, into a void and fought but pleased no one. He cursed tears and sat there dallying like a dirtbag and resolved to face it like a man because she would not come back to that shit hole. His neighbour outside was wringing her floor mat after mopping her floor and she asked, "Is it you Kate who drinks Keg? This area smells of urine of Keg, it must be somebody." And Kate agreed it must be someone. Kwach knew he should never piss that place again. He thanked gods that she thought it was Keg and not chan'gaa that was. Kate said that she never partakes such things. Keg? It is far better if they knew the culprit! Kate shouted, "Watu wa maziwa mikono juu" (those who like milk I want to see your hands up) Kwach stayed a little before moving out. He rested flat on the mattress, his head in his two palms and looked through an opening in the ceiling caused by rainwater, and further up at the corrugated iron sheets that were the roof. There was a hole that let the sunray shine through. He could not figure out the colour of the light; white? Light blue? And it made a nice shape of a star and it excelled in magnificence. He gazed at it and then he questioned his sanity. Do normal people do this? He wished he had learnt tapestry or how to join beads into a necklace or sewing even if it were the braids and weaves. He admired the strength in the state of mind of the stay-home women. They listen to radio Maisha or Ghetto radio or Kwangwaru all day, how! He strictly listened to X-Fm, but it had recently got closed, he liked playing Tetris battle 2P on Facebook when he had a modem but even if he had another the game got shut down, the helluva world this is. He looked at the calendar on the wall that belonged to an insurance company for an umpteenth time. He read ‘Battha Medical package provides comprehensive inpatient and out…' over and over. He recites the thing every day every time, and it tormented him. While in the kitchen he heard the words ring in his head repetitively. When they did not appear in his mind, he had nothing there and so there was a ring-like tiiiiii and diiiiii that slowly transformed to a continuous sound that seemed to rhyme with the sound of ‘Battha Medical package provides…' In the toilet, he would go ‘Battha Medical package provides comprehen…' and then stop and curse. In bed, the same and he blamed it for his insomnia because it produced a psychedelic effect. While alone, seated on a bench somewhere outside a shop, ‘Battha Medical package provides…' While at it, his friend Kĩnoti Mrevi knocked like a messiah. Kĩnoti dared to suggest that Kwach should bask the mattress in the sun, it smelt of urine. Sure he had peed it, but if you knew Kĩnoti's bed? Where he spent the night with his wife and kid? He says it's the kid, so let me spare you the sordid details. It must be Kĩnoti had money that is only when he would be that audacious and so Kwach immediately knew where to begin; follow him. He took him to his place of desire, they went past a speakeasy which they knew did not have what they wanted and entered a hole in the wall that sharply smelt of faecal because the main drinks were chan'gaa, nguzo and buzaa (dirty ales distilled from sorghum or anything cereal) and keg. And the smell came from the mouths of the revellers themselves. Most of them had nothing on their tables but were drunk, they had been, since the previous day and they slept there. Useless vagabonds. Some were women but you never could have pointed out the difference, in fact not even by their chests. One was crying at a corner and her same old age mate was sitting a yard away slouching down and struggling to drop a long thick spit without a result. A youth man was quarrelling with her woman friend who was not convincible because the drink had gotten the better of her. A niece was nursingly holding a glass of ale to her uncle who was concealing iv tubing with his jacket hoodie and was shaking in a way he could not hold a cigarette. A guy who owned both a car and a huge potbelly was at a dark corner hoodwinking a teenage girl who had strayed from her abusive family. A woman who was the only one taking proper beer was smoking a proper cigarette at her own zone. Another was in slow motion in speech asking for something to eat and Pauline at the counter, a huge woman made more ferocious in appearance by a hugely prognathous chin and deep voice kept shouting, "ũyũ ti mũkawa umia itina nja ngui ĩno" in English it is euphemistic (This is not a hotel, move your ass out you dog!) She was arms akimbo, shifting from one foot in clogs to the other, frowning and casting a gimlet eye; anyone could vamoose. Here there was always one or two prostrate on the floor, either limply drunk or beaten by Pauline, especially Jonty who was perpetually on the floor. There was also a kind of striptease who was dancing to Nigerian Starboy's Soco to amuse herself flapping her bodice and exposing a brown stained pantie. It is a place that a man had died and other five and a woman had gone blind the previous year after taking an illicit brew and suffered from an accumulation of formic acid and in the hullabaloo, misattributes and the shop owner’s conspiracy, a fifth columnist got lynched. And it was back to business as usual. He asked Kĩnoti Mrevi to buy him something to munch first, not something heavy because it would make it hard for him to get blotto, but something just to oil his oesophagus and prevent his stomach lining from being torn. He walked him out with pride telling him, "I always tell you to never allow yourself to get hungry while I am here, be telling me what you want" he always said so when he knew his friend had nothing and he mostly paused till he was asked. He never had much himself and when he was penniless, he would quit alcohol and pretend to enjoy staying at home with his son then borrows some money from his wife and say, "let me see whether Kwach has finished the job, we need to get paid" putting his faux leather jacket on his T-shirt with a Tuborg brand on the chest then a PVC cap and asking the kid what he wanted from the shop. "Bano" the boy said asking for marbles, he knew his dad's limit. And even with that when he got back, he would tell him he found his friend sick and took him to the hospital with the money his mum gave him. His friend Kwach would certainly be in comportment tantamount to sickness and unable to move his limbs. He bought Kwach a half of bread to take with a boiled egg split to accommodate pieces of tomato and pepper. He said he could not stand the smell in the bar so they should take home what they needed. But it was because Pauline didn't like his pretended attitude of being a cool-minded guy and her eye could tell she was waiting for him to try greeting her so she could start on him. And loudly. Also, it could have been because he was alone at home and Kwach did not know what had transpired but nodded as though the issue was one he had given much thought and said, "women are like that" with a concerned sigh, more because he had found someone they could relate. Then suddenly he remembered his uncle Mato, a guy only half a decade older than him. They used to school together but was his uncle nonetheless and his frenemy. He had struck gold from unknown quarters in Nairobi and had given a surprise visit to shagz (the village). Mato did not like his parents’ rondavels and so was staying with Kwach's mother. He is a guy so predictable to Kwach but not to anyone else. Kwach could smell his schemes from far, especially when Mato is gay, he is very nice. His gayness is always triggered by some prospects of gaining whether materially or emotionally. He would buy a girl something, not to please the girl but to have it reciprocated. Kwach's wife was upcountry staying with his mother. Now what? In the mucky room that was Kĩnoti's they opened the bottle and ecstasy emptied Kwach's perturbation. The room had a gourd on the wall hanging on a leather braided girdle baked with soot and dust, with Rastafarian colours. On the wall, there was also a thick paper cut into the shape of Africa mass land and drawn a lion on it like those smiley lions that Nairobi governor Sonko had made for us. There was a huge pot on the floor with a radio speaker unit in its mouth. There was a curtain hiding the bed but could not silence the smell. The curtain had a laced edge that went zig-zag and looked like the Nairobi mayor's chain. At a dark corner, there sat a grandpa's clock, or was it? This place looked like a ghetto version of a Hogwarts something. The couch Kwach sat in had a missing part of the bench and torn upholsters that were pink with flowers of red and yellow when they were new, now they were a universal colour chart. The remaining bench Kwach sat on had a homemade Spiderman with a timber leg and a sisal fibre one. It had one eye that looked at him the other at Kĩnoti, quite Spiderman's frolics. There was also a lorry half full of sand, it had deposited some on the upholstery and the bench and the stove and inside a mug with water. Kwach thought of Kĩnoti's mistress out there; what did she like, the filthy room? She had never been here; she knows Kĩnoti out there and he is the bad boy who is the best in playing pool game and darts and did Accounting in College. I remember in darts he used to look at the board and say, "I am from Mũrang'a" then pause between adjustment aims and say, "I ask one, she comes with her friend." Then beam and say, "Without panties." jerking his head towards me, bent with a cynical smile. Throw the dart straight into the eye and ask me, "Do I call them for a press conference." I would plausibly agree because he looked like it. Girls of demi-monde get attracted to bad boys, outlaw conformers; wrong reputation. Kwach for most of his life has been vexed of himself being steep, having no obstructive ability to depravities. It is quizzical how gullible he is. He could not tell why the types with nomenclatures like ‘Kaa sober squad' (stay sober squad) ‘Wale wa' (those of) ‘Corridor team' ‘Watu wa Marie' especially this last one, (People who belong to Marie's pub) - the cadre, the ilk he is propitious to - are always the woebegone ones. They are apprehensive when they first meet him then, later on, they feel home and dry to even casually invite him to their dark klutzy dwellings. He still carried his status in his mind, but it dwelt in his wobbling knees, he had nothing, an addict and these are the hounds he related with, they liked him. They could tell even before he spoke that he once was someone. Then, Voila! "He is one of us." They could not wish him to be back on firm ground; they needed a companion in this sin drenched world. Kwach made it home anyhow. His friend Carlo called him to her house. She had a 750ml bottle full of hard something, just his material. When she called, he was lying on his mattress, wondering where he would get supper. She had a screen which took Ozil and Abemeyang at true scale. She had white rice too, chicken curry, drum sticks and some greens, hot sauce and the drink, and the accoutrement of being with her for the evening; the only things that a man needs. She also had a brand new Peugeot GT, and he needed to add nothing else. From the fridge he went for tonic water and a tot of gin; he had to be suave. She served the food and again he had to be unadventurous and go with her pace which he found tantalising and sometimes forgot and voraciously took a spoonful of each ingredient and filled his mouth and worked on it like the waifs and strays, stopping mid-way to attend to her, ‘Is everything all right?' They started on the drink and he was in no hurry here also so as not to invite a puke. But he started reacting to her soporific story on how her new pet the Peugeot rides well on the new Southern bypass; penniless drunks like him would have wanted to hear about how at a certain occasion one was spoilt for choice on what he wanted to eat and how the ladies liked him which could be true because he was funny and oblivious of his pettiness and did not care how foolish he appeared trying to speak in tongue. As Carlo knew, she wrapped some drumsticks for him. He would be hungry and so much wished for her benevolence. But trust him, he could sell the drumsticks or exchange for a can of ale. And he couldn't leave the remaining drink; it would do to show his buddies that some people would say "You know this dude? Was my deskie in college" whatever happened later they don't ask; ‘Just open the thing ninja' magic thing to his common company. They rode from Karen where she had rented to Dagoretti where he stayed, all the way talking about the malls: the secret beauty ‘Galleria', the imperial that ‘The Hub' is, the upcoming obsolete ‘Waterfront', meeting places like ‘The Junction'. It was interesting, though, because he is an architectural designer. At their gate, he said cheers and whispered quoting Goethe, "Architecture is frozen music." He got into his room feeling nice and the icing on the cake, he decided to take a shower; it's been a while. He felt the tap but had even forgotten that the caretaker lets the water flow only early in the morning, it's been quite a while for sure, he did not even remember such things. He sat down without worries; he was full, had spent the evening with a beautiful classy lass, here was the drink and an Architectural Digest. Bingo! Life was good. Then the surprises of them all, miracles like misfortunes don't come in a piecemeal, Carlo called again in excitement to inform him of an opening if he was interested. There were HobbitLab Architects where her cousin was working and they needed someone like him. HobbitLab is a firm where everybody drives and clad well not his rugs. To cut the madness short and talk with sobriety, he was to report to their new offices on James Gichuru road the following day. Carlo finished by telling him to go fetch a smart suit from her place and she MPESAd (mobile money transfer) him the bus fare. Architects don't wear ties, Kwach was to pause the rule. That morning and like the Kikuyu say, ‘God coming in person, not sending someone' Carlo handed him the GT keys. Along Ngong road he drove windows down, nodding to the classical music, feeling like to light a fug but his fresh breath was an additional advantage so he threw it back into his pocket. He intercepted a Jaguar at Lenana and the owner threw some unorthodox words towards him. He also did not have any of his fingers amputated; he used the tallest. At ‘The Junction' there was no traffic and so his transition to the steep King'ara road was in a way that Vin Diesel could not have held a candle to. Now into the ever trustful James Gichuru road and he wished HobbitLab was far ahead at Muthangari police station, those guys apprehend him even when he had not gotten rowdy, just tipsy. It could have felt good to bully them with rally howling. Here he was in HobbitLab's intimidating reception. No matter how much he assumed some demeanour, he still had that awkward uneasy, guilty look and could attitudinise nothing for confidence effect. There was an aura of odoriferous flowers in the space. Behind the reception was a 72 inches TV screen and at a corner on his right was a functioning fountain down a stack stone feature wall. Guys were checking in, so freely and casually wearing that it made him embarrassed of his glad rugs. There was also a butch woman in a grey Italian suit who entered, she noticed him but not any near acknowledging it and she went in the office shouting orders and lastly said, "Mr Buick and the client will be here in five minutes" Kwach wondered whether that guy with a car model name was the boss. He was and in those five minutes in and area with the client and in tow was the most beautiful lady in the solar system. Mr Buick said to the Maa beauty behind the reception desk' "Christine, this is Mr Sunil, the developer of The Blue Towers" they greeted and the bosses got lost in the hubbub of whatever was going on behind the walls. Blue Towers? It had a phallus Architecture. Was designed by HobbitLab? The twinkle in the solar system made a beeline towards him. "Are you Kwach?" she asked, and for a moment he could not remember his name, could have confused it with his purpose. "I am Carlo's cousin my name is Julia. Come. " He followed then bumped to a stop behind her as she exchanged a quick gossip with the Maa girl with some giggles, two extremely beautiful ladies and happy and expensively clad and with an unexplainable air and to imagine they should be his workmates, it dumbfounded him. Form plus aura equals function and lifestyle. They zipped into the offices and fortunately for him, they were cubicles, not open for everyone to talk to him. She said, "I saw you drove the new GT. How do you guys know each other?" He did not see that one coming, and she came to his rescue with a "Never mind." He could only get amused. They entered the HR office. She introduced him to Mrs King'ori the butch lady and Julia left him to get oriented. Three months under probation with a salary of Ksh 85,000 the job had to be his. He signed some papers with such enthusiasm and a self-promise to work expeditiously that he could tell it was now possible to stop alcohol. They took a sortie into the cubicles. He started wetting his palms such that when Monica, the lady who served them beverages asked him what he would take he rubbed them first then said tea. "Black? Green?" He said green. Tea leaves are green. "Sugar?" He declined at first but when a lady nearby shifted her face from the screen to scrutinise his, holding her shin in her left hand, elbow on the table, wanting to know whether he was from Afghanistan, he stuttered "one spoon, please. Eeh milk separately." All the ladies laughed. One stood and said, "C'mon Monica let me show you." She went and as one other asked him some silly questions she came with a cup of cappuccino and placed it into his butterfingers. "I am Faith, accountant," she said. "That crazy one is Koi an Interior designer, Joyce there silly one also a designer. They should move to the studio." She stretched her hand to him. "Any time Kwach and welcome to the job." Phew! He walked out in gawkiness. They took him to his station. The guys in the studio were not sure what to do with him and no one offered him anything. In a minute they were back to their discussion like it was business as usual. You could have thought they are not professionals in their T-shirts and jeans and canvas shoes and one with dishevelled locks like those of Lidudumalingani, another clean-cut at the lower back of his head and a flower pattern drawn above both ears until you saw what they did with CAD. Do you know how to use 3Ds Max? No. Autodesk Revit? Yes. ArchiCAD? A little. Photoshop? A little. Good. They saw his cappuccino and remembered they too needed it and immediately called Monica who was already at the door getting each a cup and a toast. Monica complained of the previous day's cups on the tables, some half full and toasts half bitten and said that if one does not need something he should say, and that some people don't know that money had been spent on the products and also it is quite a task to clean up. "No one is someone's maid here, do you hear Andrew?" "Yes Monica, and please bring me a glass of water. I need to take Eno. Last night I ate meat without knowing, those ready-made sustenances from Carrefour." Andrew said walking with a 1980s frayed vellum blueprint in hand to the scanner. "I told you," Monica said. "Why don't you let me bring you greens from Kawangware?" Monica was pointing him with her index finger, accusingly and proprietorially. "There is terere, kanyũria, mũhika, kahũrũra, mabakĩ and hatha from lĩmuru. (amaranthus, Cucumis, black nightshade, pumpkin leaves, Urtica massaica) "I can also bring you a rabbit or pork from Uthĩrũ and it is only 50 bob? You use no fat, just place it on a pan and eat it" Monica was a resourceful woman and herbs from prohibited hawkers with sharp eyes for the city council askalis and grains from Nyamakĩma were what she knew. Were it not for the modern-day oils in gallons of 20 litres that are normally spread outside the shop to melt yet they are oils and fat products that are scooped with a big spoon and weighed to grams, they lived healthier on tapioca, arrow roots, yams and sweet potatoes of the 80s not like the middle class who earn forty to a hundred and own a fridge equipped with a half-empty can of an energy drink, spoilt onions, last weeks boiled beans that he couldn't finish because he has a laptop with the latest movies and cans of beer and slept on the couch because he has a car which meant convenience. Gym and jogging can wait. The freezer has red meat which though it’s a week-long it stays like it is new and it is not because of the freezer but sodium benzoate. Quasi modern tech guys. An offender gulped his previous day's cappuccino immediately, and another said he had a stomach upset and he needed Eno as well. You may have rumoured that they fear Monica but no, it was guilt and recognition of the impairment of consumerism. He waited for the IT guy. The designers did not talk to him for a long time, but he liked their carefree attitude and intelligence. They were talking about Picasso, whether he is supposed to get lionised that copiously. After an hour of facts finding and YouTube documentaries that to him were alien, Pablo Picasso, they agreed he was lesser of Georges Braque. YouTube said of how he treated his wife like an odalisque and made paintings of her in the positions she let him the night he spent with her. He neglected her and had mistresses in her view. They, the mistresses too were treated as commodities and Picasso was Mephistophelean on them too and gave them babies he did not care for. His surviving progenies are callous of him. They also talked of the hype being associated with Superhighways and disconnected them with modern. Addis, Alexandria, and even Pretoria had better roads and were there before this millennium. They talked about Afro-feminism vis-à-vis Chimamanda. About atheism. About Syria's political settlement, which is not likely, and other things like: their country has got a name that is not a description like Englishland or a direction like South Africa. It is unique like Colombia, a name that has got no meaning. It does not have a language name like Germany or Italy it is itself. In between, there were the annoying calls from project managers and clients. You heard, "Agh! This is that parsimonious woman of Muthaiga villa," then a compatriot, "tell her you are working for the magnanimous client of Zanzibar hotel" the other, "I know it is the QS who has failed her; make an intentional mistake and send her the Blue Towers BQ. Man, the comparison." That would be his life now and it was thrilling. The IT guy came. It was a surprise because IT guys take weeks to arrive. The supermen who only take your keyboard and spend half the time on SportPesa and Dr King'ori Live and have the mettle of requesting for your attention on those. Then they leave your machine calculating percentages and with a warning that you should wait for it to finish. They then ask whether you make tea in the office, they are always hungry and carry with them a pancake or a kdf and a yellow translucent plastic hipflask with coloured water inside. It guys also enjoy taking motorbikes from stage to stage because clients also are spivvy people and they imagine the guy is always located somewhere where there is a motorbike doing nothing else but to wait for his call while an emergency occurs: PowerPoint is not working. The IT guys and their purported magic fingers! Kwach doesn't like them and if HobbitLAB knew, he never checks them, he googles for solutions, which is why he liked Monica at first encounter. During lunch, he sat next to Julia. She too was an architect and also a director and it demoralised him; he fears over ambitious ladies. But it relaxed him when she invited him to see around the compound. A manicured lawn, a koi pond, a pool table, a servant quarter where HR preferred to live, a hot shower if you jogged to the office in the morning and which was a thing they encouraged. He agreed to be jogging with her every morning since she lived at Santack Estate, which was near Dagoretti Corner and jogged leaving her car at home. In the afternoon, the Boss gathered everyone to the boardroom. It was his welcome meeting, and they threw confetti and they gave him a bag with his welcome present. He traced the bag, and it had things and one was a bottle, something he would dearly need he guessed. Julia hugged him and said they would ride together up to Santack gate as he took back the car to her cousin. They would visit Carlo together on the weekend and he swore to spurge that weekend, kwani? (So what!) He parked at Santack estate, the Sauti sol song, ‘Bwana ni mwokozi wangu…ananipenda leo kuliko jana' (The lord is my saviour… he loves me more today than yesterday) was humming and when he was about to kiss her goodnight, he woke with a start. He had a bottle in his hand and was lying in a pool of running water. Last evening, he had forgotten to close the tap and his bathing vessel blocked the floor trap after it got full. He had gotten home from his schadenfreude friend Kĩnoti Mrevi with a half-full bottle of bitter illicit liquor. He had wanted to fill it with water from the bathroom. There was no new job, no Julia, Carlo is his Landlord's daughter, an 18-year-old debutante and with his rent arrears, that he could have designs on her was suicidal. She drives a Peugeot, and she has never seen him, and Kwach doesn't know how to drive even. He woke with paroxysms because of hunger and thirst; the last thing he had eaten was half of bread with a boiled egg and pepper the previous morning. There were no drum sticks, he had not a penny and to aggravate, the bathroom water had mixed with his fake brandy, gin, vodka, you couldn't tell what it was, and it is banned. He quaffed the contents without hesitating. His empty stomach groaned, Welcome to reality dude. **** He got a job about four kilometres away but could not make it. First was because he had no money and second because of his condition. He had gotten to a state where without alcohol he was not stable and even crossing the road was knotty because he couldn't find his bearing when in withdrawal symptoms and when drunk he slept. His mother was sick in a way that when he went to see her in hospital, his brain reeled. Spontaneously it was women's day the critical night. Now he had a situation and an impossible atmosphere, the worst ever in his life. A situation which since childhood had plagued him so much and wished it would never happen when he was alive. His perception of life changed and his state of mind that followed was eerily volatile. Oh! The lesson about the succinctness of life. He shall miss that one regal and devoted woman, his only God, she left something in his measures that shall last forever; she had an ethos that he warmly approved and to sum it all she wrapped his life with a love which she renewed in candour. They buried his only God; they had a ceremony at her local church where they repeatedly preached against things he could not comprehend. He did not know why they emphasised it so much because nobody likes those things, even the ecclesiastics who are wont to achieve them; for example inferiority to the schemes of Eros, incest and things that topple the likes of Kwach like alcohol. Not even a guy outside who was eating all the time and asking for more, would want them, he neither liked to be dirty though he sure had a stench. So they were addressing Kwach; he was to blame. When a friend who had attended got home, she called and suggested he start a program on stopping alcohol. His hands were shaking when he held a cup or a spoon she said. She said she was disappointed. Another long-time friend called later that week, and she also used the same expression and he could not help acknowledging that the term ‘disappointment' is a quick last subject applied to the species that had/has failed. The sharp cool boy that was you, what has he morphed into? She told him to see her. He told her he was incontrovertibly not going back to the city. Introverts especially melancholic ones like him blame other people a lot or maybe his meticulousness is to blame or his astuteness if he would be allowed to blow his trumpet and if that, then he should also be allowed not to explain because mostly he claims things and paradoxes that require very unusual evidence. He went to pick his things from the city; he was done. To his chagrin, they could fit in a bag after ten years in the city. Everything else had gone with the landlord, Shylock, and others. His wife also gave him a surprise. She prepared herself and gathered up the kid and they left. And he did not feel bereft; he couldn't anymore. It would take time but eventually she would fade out of his dreams. Alcohol is for the dying and he was one. He could not sleep in that house alone. He went to his friends and fortunately that night they were not cooking using animal fat. They also had some alcohol. They sat and got so touched by Kwach's predicament; he had been someone who helped them when they had no means. They revered him and held him to a level that in their standard was to be talked about. Now he was the one who was asking for help from them. At night they received a call instructing them on their duty at their new site the following day and in their drunkenness, they sang that ‘Nairobi is the place to be, upcountry is the burial place'. He wondered aloud whether he would die because upcountry is where he was headed to and his wife had left him. His friends were apologetic anyway. After his forty winks in the bus on his way home he woke and for a minute he could not tell where he was. He thought it was his hearse. He settled down in his room at his mother's home upcountry. He called the sweetheart of his youth; she said she had been waiting for that call for so long. They talked a lot, and she defined for him the term ‘paranoia'. She was so concerned and she wanted him to visit them and stay for a while. She was the fifth person to want a serious talk with him within a week. Then incidentally that week his long-time friend posted something on FB, a meme that depicted a man lying in a hospital bed and being forced by his family to sign below something written ‘I shall never drink alcohol again' and his friend had commented saying that he could see the last nail being hammered into the coffin cover. Worry overwhelmed him. This young uncle of Kwach, Mato also had his own opinion. They sat in their mother's lounge for that ad hoc meeting that happens after burial, at least to have a concerted conversation. They were waiting for their other older uncles. They were Kwach, his two cousins, Maggie and Joan en plein beaute. Kwach particularly like Joan a lot. She is a good lady and much respected. Long easily manageable hair sometimes done in fluffy kinky Mambo curls and still looks great. A smile to boot, big bold eyes. A doting girl since her childhood. A child with such precociousness that she frowned on mischief and mistrust. She was a girl of the church, she still is. Then she was with her friend whom Kwach in his poor memory of names could not remember her's but he eyed from canthus and knew could never reach to talk to her informally, she looked good. Still, there was that countenance of the funeral so his mind should have been termed atrocious. In their presence, this Mato had the impertinence to say that Kwach had troubled his mother. "You are also an atheist and you do not like girls alone" he said. And there was that guarded hostility in Mato's squinted eyes. Kwach was taken aback and discombobulated. For how long shall he be a misjoinder of parties? Anger and outrage should have welled within him for such a crass assumption, just trust his EQ. But no matter how you glower at him he is known in that he never acquiesce to decisiveness that lacks imagination. But fundamentally Mato added to his things to ponder, better he knew that much. Why? He could for always maintain his autonomy. Mato is that boy who goes kicking the can down the road. A guy of a life that has a dearth of reliability; he identifies nothing with suspicion, not the future, not the rivers, not a personal place to live or even care about the coming short rains or that there is a shortage of maize in Kenya. He would only love it if you wanted to take him to coast for whatever your reason. Then what a recalcitrant fellow he is, something he won't abnegate, you cannot tell what weakness he tries to hide there. He exercises it at the slightest opportunity, especially to authority. He sometimes even seeks for it when his admirers are around. He is a knowledgeable fellow that's why. In politics, football, only quantum mechanics beat him. His lingo is well-honed and unfortunately in stealing other people's thunder and in ad hominem fallacies also he is refined and he sometimes used Kwach's dyslexic condition as the butt for his jokes when they were young. For example there was a time when they were young he told his pals to ask Kwach what the question tag for "He is drunk" was and Kwach said the answer was "Is he?" because he thought like his uncle was wont to he was then talking about one of his pals and he knew it was not proper to accuse someone wrongly of being something not in favour of the popular public opinion. But like Turner, it is true Kwach trained by ear and could not sight-read. Ike Turner I hear would learn the pieces by listening to a version on record at home and pretend to be reading the music during rehearsals. Kwach is no different, and it has given him the edge over the less observant; he has never been learnt fully. Despite a strong desire for intimacy, Mato is a compensatory narcissist. Mato is sincere in his bigotry. He hated a certain woman because she had a bulbous nose. He had snide remarks for the underprivileged and the physically challenged and the less educated and women and he calls children rats. But he is oleaginous to girls and other people who admire him and are on his side, and he is quite a thing in it and gives him a personal character force because, you know, the human's street epistemology is universally unproductive. Kwach's mother trusted his acumen. He damn caused his mum's death now? He opted to be invisible, to escape from the guilt, to repudiate what now he associated with normal people. He was a persona non grata in their reckoning. He chose everything afresh: family, friends, clothing, music…. He also had his private bureaucracy and also wanted to be a solo tribe because Kikuyu that year betrayed him big time in the elections. He no longer trusts popular public opinion because everybody laughs when negative sarcasm is applied. He was overwrought by life upcountry and it worried him a lot of dying, the air, the sounds, it was all inauspicious and unmistakable that some people looked at him with a sibylline eye predicting the eminent woes to fell him. At night he heard the sounds; they were not stray cats to him but real human babies crying. He clung. A bush baby jumped on the corrugated iron sheet roof and crept up like a man. He listened to the footsteps and avoided breathing until tears came out and as if it had sensed him it jumped down puh! and then there was silence. He swore it was a man. The crickets outside this time had a pattern, not the staccato they were used to. He tried to fix that by closing one ear with his palm then releasing but the pattern remained. The dog's wail was unusual in this period of his mum's death. They came running up to the door and mysteriously went away and he heard them in the neighbour's compound. He thought they were witches. He thought he heard someone shush them and he wondered who it was. When he was all ears wanting to hear some more and decipher where the voices were coming from, an avocado dropped from the tree and fell on the iron roof with a thud. His heart stopped. The following fitful night the same happened. There was an addition, there was a patterned knock on the rear wall like with a knobkerrie or a stone. There was no wind and thus it must have been a ghost. He skipped breathing and could not find sleep. Then the chicken in their coop had a frightful cry and then one remained crying in its proximity to death. The following day he found two dead chickens in their house, one with a decapitated head. Another night he dreamt that someone had told him to call his sister to see their mother in the living room. They found her there positioned in her usual pose, smiling at them then she disappeared. They sucked another chicken its blood. Someone told him it was a mongoose. An avocado fell followed by two Metuya fruits on their neighbour's roof. They scared him. The dogs howled like wolves; cats cried like babies in anguish. His clairaudience also captured voices of people outside talking in deep inaudible voices. Especially a night that the rain fell so heavily and he heard two groups of two men each in a tête-à-tête but in an inaudible grooowwwlgroooolllrrrr. He could not tell what they were discussing, but he knew it was a bad plan. There was a heavy torrent of rainfall outside with a peal of thunder which sounded like some phantoms breaking the heavy hardwood door using a huge stone after having a tête-à-tête on how to go about it. A ghostly night, credence to Kwach's death, he thought. He remembered how he enjoyed jogging through Ngong forest from Lenana High school to Saigon village in the night and quavered. He had that weird thing; jogging at night in the forest and could not gather the concept that that was a passion he shared with no one and would be found unconventional and perhaps satanic by the bigots that the religious regulars of Africa are. It went to further fun when it rained. Parting pools of clean stagnant water under those old Croton megalocarpus trees yet you are in the City made him forget things that one is not able to fully explore. His wife had one day warned that the forest guards shall clobber him. He said they did not roam at night and the only fearful things in that thick forest were the baboons with their sharp fangs. Then he fantasised jogging, and the forest was full of creatures shrieking like seagulls which also gave an impression of flying reptiles of the Jurassic period. Ornithocheirus existed 110 million years ago yet it made his hair stand on end now. Kwach jogged through the forest because there were no people there. He did this whenever he survived withdrawal symptoms and felt like to detox. He liked the sweat; he gave himself extreme marks, and he made them like a ritual. He felt healthy whenever he completed a 4km to and 4km from Ndũnyũ market through Saigon village. He for years has wanted to quit habits and whenever he has a chance to recuperate, he does so with gusto; eat greens, a lot of fruits, whole grains, bath daily, read Edger Alan Poe's poems, jog and do yoga. And it had been so for more than half a decade. This happened every time he had no money but enough food, paid rent and his wife came home with a nice movie series like Banshee or Shameless. When money came by it spoilt the routine and he drank and only pensively thought of Ngong forest. His passion in jogging, and being irreligious, made him think he had discovered his ritual, a way to communicate with nature, like a cult he was creating because of the risk involved and the resulting sensation, something profound which was so stimulating to him. He ran not to keep fit but to feel the erotic composition. He was lean and his body needed more meat but he ran like he was training for Boston marathon. He said that jogging in Ngong forest around seven in the evening had a feeling better than sex, and he meant it. When back at around nine, ten he wanted to find people closing shop, perhaps take a stop at his favourite, a cybercafé that had a guy who asked the same question every day, "You jog? I wish I was able because you see, my tummy is getting to a pot belly." But now he felt an all-consuming fear and dreamt a lot in that fear. He also feared that he shall never jog again; he was dying. To extricate that fear in his current state, free from intoxication he used the TV morning exercises shows which were so boring. They bore to a point of making him cry. He likes crying. At the village only providence got him going, no one ever saw him sit down and savour something huge and sweet, but what he took was substantial at any rate and helped this way; they liked fried food, and he had no money and so he boiled his. They bought many processed commodities from the supermarket and he could only meet the expense of wild greens like ming'ei, terere (amaranthus), kahurura (Cucumis), managu (black nightshade), mabaki (pumpkin leaves), thabai (Urtica massaica) and local bananas and avocados. His mum had left maize, beans, potatoes all prime for harvesting and when he thought about it he got into fear again and now genuinely cried. Could she have done it for him? He took maize to a miller, added finger millet and sorghum and went back with whole-grain brown flour for ugali, nobody liked it and it was all left to his disposal. Then he tilled the farm and planted again, enough, keep your Jazzercise to yourself. Second, he could not afford alcohol and his boon company who could have bought him intoxication was not there. Third, he kept the state of his mind back to the norm when they took him back his son. He could stop smoking everything now because he couldn't do that in his presence. He also was a jovial boy. One day he found him with his friends at the road and told him, "you left the door open son and I found a stray cat eating your food" his son asked, "Did it leave some for me?" "Yes" and the boy ran to finish the rest. Kwach had quit bhang years back, the day they smoked a joint with a cousin and in his stoned state, he had requested a lurid offbeat fantasy that exposed his most hidden skin. In primary school, there was someone he used to give small gifts, who wrote nice English compositions and was also a beautiful person. In high school, he wrote something to a friend; it was a response in which he had misconstrued the original post out of excitement and thought things were not a secret anymore. He had tempted his friend on reading his mawkishness, to sip a cold soda. Kwach had suppressed his stroppy feelings since then. He couldn’t tell why he had all of a sudden thought of etymologising himself. His cousin's disbelief and repulsion thereupon embarrassed him. Without ever being worthy or moralistic he had to bindingly tend to a gentlemanly hushed but tough and malicious "Say it!" and he had to do it with some show of principle and say that he had similar tastes to his cousin’s and blamed bhang on the situation he found himself striving to extricate from. Rejection. The damage was already done and his sexual inclination embedded in his cousin’s recall. He couldn’t and won’t ever be forgiven by his straight cousin. In resignation and also knowing his inborn aberration he told him, “You will never understand” As if he was not replete with his now perfect BMI, they called him to a new job, a new firm being put together by a former employee of ‘BAZ Architects' and he had gained virtually all the BAZ Architects clients, in a new office, in a new mall; Jazz Mall second floor. They were five of them: the Kamba senior architect (one of the best young architects in Kenya; he had won several competitions while with BAZ Architects and many more awards since his salad years as an undergraduate) his two juniors: Kwach and a Kalenjin guy, a Luhya QS and a Luo civil engineer. An intercommunal thing. It was crazy and this time it was not a dream because he recorded the call and he called the following day to confirm his appointment. On a Monday he sat in the swivel chair again, he had missed it. There was a copious job to be done because they were to continue with what the senior architect was working on with BAZ Architects. Their director had taken most of the client's from there and established his own office. They had promised him jobs and whilst he was up to the task because he in effect wanted to start on his own that same year; they were also steadfast. Within a week he felt like they had been in Jazz Mall for a decade. Kwach had an obsession with Malls. Jazz mall is somehow misplaced and people shy away from such a setting and so refuse to occupy it and thus it is a perfect place for someone who likes solitude and fewer shuffles and less prattle like of CBD and Westland. Most architects like it when they hide and it is all the more enjoyable to him. You will find them in gated communities or the forests of Karen, never on Moi or Luthuli Avenue, if worse perhaps Westlands. 'Scenic Architects' are an exception, they are at Kipande road near Globe round-about and ‘Abhta Architects' are another, at Gikomba. You do not lack eccentrics. They were in Jazz Mall, not architecturally any near his taste, but the columns were friendly to his ground-floor phobia. The notion of several floors above him and the frivolity of our structural engineers give him a mutant judgment. On Friday their director, a guy who caresses his bottle like it was a calypso dancer, invited them on fifth floor Club Stings for ‘Office warming.' Kwach uttered profanities on the drink, he was ready to defer all his pleasure in his life until he attained his own rented house. Right now he had to stand the animal fat and skirmishes over whom is to perform cooking with his two bachelor friends in their cubicle. But he had never tasted Johnnie Walker Green Label before and he could not kick against the goad. He had not tasted anything unadulterated for a decade. He said cheers without a tincture of guilt. One night wouldn't pull through to take him back into the drain. After all, they were with the boss. They had merry, they toasted, they told bad jokes like when the Kalenjin asked him what tribe he was from and he said Kikuyu, he asked, "Why are you guys thieves" and in the laughter, he said, "Is Samoei Ruto a Kikuyu?" Haaaahahah…. they agreed everybody steals at one time and their boss pointed out that he stole clients. Their boss gave them two thousand shillings each, and he went home head over heels in jauntiness. The drift of things, regarding opportunities, good health, luck and dreams in comparison, were fraudulent. This was not the niche he had gotten used to; there was an invisible line he had intersected. Misfortune seemed more the conventional fate than having a new job and now getting handed some money without a course. Up till now, there was a lack of the outcome of a life wasted in hedonism. Kwach had a feeling that he was supposed to be begging, dirty, with an unhinged brain, perhaps at a loony bin. Grief, sadness and stress too have got an addiction, they lacked in him and he felt the ambiguity in the program because history was failing to shape him. There was an alteration of the procedure and he could not come to an understanding about his role in his life. The alteration was in his inference because rather than see his sovereignty away from fear and from the state of cringing every time a bold step forward was needed, he saw a split in what he expected and rightfully deserved as a result of self-damaged spirit, aspect and reputation. The following day was a Saturday and since his bachelor friends were the least exciting and had incongruous interests, he could not have made the mood right in any other way than to go for a drink. Ksh. 300 was enough to send them home singing of their wealth and of flocks of sheep they owned. He spent the rest of the day in the hole in the wall, the nook, away from them, telling his remarkable stories to the ever keen audience, his fellow disciples of bootlegged methanol. He is pleasurable and quite off his introversion when tipsy and without stress. Problem is, like old days, he forgot to eat. The following day he could not lift his head. His friend brought him a Panadol, and it revivified him. He thought of going upcountry but first; he had to kutoa lock (additional dose of alcohol to offset a hangover). A drop became two and preoccupied him the whole day. After too much of drops he went home at twilight asking, "did I not say I shall never be back to Nairobi?" stagger a little, stop and take a step back with his head further back then heave it forward. He had a wobbly vision of the road, he dilated his eyes and looked at the people in their evening endeavour following their noses to get liberated of their stimuli to mutura (roasted viscera stuffed with the meat mostly from the knacker's yard) samosas with meat from the knacker's yard also, roast maize, boiled eggs, fried chicken legs with their tarots others buying omena (silver cyprinid), beans, githeri mũrũgarũgio (maize and legumes boiled together), sukuma (collard greens), to take home to prepare supper. Girls regarded him with disdain, women with pity, kids with comedy, boys mocked him and high fived. Men called his bluff to dare give them his hand to greet them. He looked at them like he was holding an SOS placard. After a weekend drinking spree, on Monday he totally could not get out of bed. He awoke in the afternoon and found twelve messages of missed calls from the office. He called back and his boss' wife was indignant; he was the one who had the key to the office. They were trying to get his location when his phone went off, battery low. He went to the nook; he could only be normal again if he drank a little. He drank all the money he had. He got into another nonstop rapid eye movement. The following day he was hammered, it was even worse than the previous day because of hunger, even breathing was punctuated with inflamed woe. And then he had not even a penny for, leave alone bus fare to go to work, but Panadol. They came for the key and did not discuss him apart from saying they had already informed the police because he was new and they did not know his intention. They do not call bosses' wives ‘spooks' for nothing. He has had this moment before, in one of his many premonitory dreams and he had seen how dicey the whole business could end up and so he was not fretted. He doesn't mourn anymore. He only did a dirge on the death of an affirmatively waged dream. A gentleman never steps into the same river twice because he is not the same man and it is never the same river. He did the opposite, same him.