I squint at my wristwatch trying to read the time in the dimly lit joint. 10:23pm. I glance at my buddy sitting across the table and point at my wrist. He nods, takes a long swig at the beer mug, puts it back on the table, and stands up gathering his jacket.
He and I have had this ritual for a while now. Whenever he visits Nairobi, we activate The holy trinity. An all-night bender that begins with Brew Bistro before 7pm, when there is still sitting space available, then move to The Alchemist and finally end up at Mercury Lounge. Having imbibed three pitchers of their craft beer, Kifabock, we make our way to the second stop.
The grungy look and outdoorsy feel of The Alchemist has a way of freeing even the most uptight reveler. Tonight it’s not any different. The DJ is playing EDM and the crowd is absolutely wild. You can feel pulsating energy all the way to Sarit. We make our way to a bar counter closer to the dance floor and place our order. When the waiter places the sweaty bottles of cold beer before us, we grab them, swing on the bar stools in an effort to have a vantage view of the entire establishment.
Being the first Friday of the month, the area is packed to the brim. Mostly young patrons from all socioeconomic enclaves. From fellas in ritzy jackets and elaborate hairstyles to ladies in magnificent dresses that end just above the knees.
“…I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night…”
Soonest the hit song by The Black Eyed Peas hits the airwaves my pal and I dash to the dance floor. Now Wahome is the dancing expert. He can fluidly switch from break-dancing to Rhumba without going out of sync with the music. Usually, I just try to copy what he is doing without overstretching my back muscles. A tough endeavor.
Tonight he unleashes some moves I haven’t seen before. I diligently ape what he does, adding some swagger to cover my inexperience. From afar you would think we are professional dancers. In no time the crowd forms a small circle, urging us to keep going.
We tour the world through music. Dancing to every genre played. Encouraging the spectators to join us. One after the other they move into the circle brandishing their dancing skills with everyone else following through.
Through it all, a trio of caucasian ladies keeps revolving around us. We end up sandwiched between them. They subtly ward off any other females who tried to get closer. Wahome and I have been caught up in the middle of multiple catfights characterized by smashed glasses, splashed drinks, expletives, and hair-pulling by ladies we had just met, therefore, we play it cool and dance with our newfound friends.
As the night progresses, the music transforms into a magical symphony and the distance between bodies gets shorter. Toes touching. My hands around her waist. Hers interlocked at the back of my neck. She tilts her head to the side. Her shoulder-length, lush brown hair rolls into her face. Instinctively, I reach out with my index finger and gently push her hair back over the ears. She reveals a bewitching smile. She is actually pretty.
Transfixed by her deep brown eyes. We slow down. Interlocked in an eternal embrace, swinging from side to side completely out of phase with the music.
“What’s your name?”
“Meesh…Did I pronounce it correctly?”
Seeing how pointless it would be trying to correct her above the blaring speakers, I nod.
“Do you live around here?”
“No, I’m visiting a friend. “ She points at her compatriot in a grey hoodie.
I quickly pull away. Take two steps back, bend my knees with feet apart, arms to the side and get down. I had been practicing the Gwara Gwara dance move for a week so when a familiar tune plays I couldn’t resist it. I execute it perfectly going down, super low and up in circular motion with my hands freestyling. Every time I went down Hillary would go wild cheering me on.
Why does she go wild almost possessed-like whenever I go down?
When the song is over, I stand up. Hillary comes flying into my arms. Hugging tight. All inhibitions dropped.
Kwani hasn’t she seen someone pull this dance before?
One of the girls is perched on Wahome’s arm. The other one moves closer, hugs Hillary from behind.
“C’mon Hil tell him!” She blurts out.
“Tell me what?” I ask.
They give each other knowing looks while I stand there confused. Maybe it’s the booze doing tricks on me.
After debating with her friend for a moment, Hillary turns to me.
“Listen Meesh..Uhm..I am totally into you.”
“Okay,” I respond.
“ I know you might think I am drunk but I am actually sober.” She attempts to stand on one foot.
“I have never felt this way before. You could be my soulmate and I don’t want to lose this chance…” She continues.
I stand rooted to the spot with a knowing grin on my face. Meanwhile, my mind drifts away.
I have heard this speech way too many times. Ask any male Nairobian who appears to have his life figured out. All he has to do is go to any social event where alcohol is served in copious amounts, sit back, smile, and engage any lass in a conversation. Moreso if he is the kind who speaks less, listens more. I guarantee you before the night ends he will have at least two chiles eager to accompany him home and one who wants a serious relationship.
“We have been friends for years and I have never seen her this crazy about a guy. She is in love with you dude!” Interjects the friend.
They spend the next couple of minutes trying to convince me how she and I are meant for each other.
“How about we meet tomorrow for lunch?” I pose.
“Too bad my flight leaves this morning. Ohh my God! Why did I have to meet you on my last night?”
“We can meet when you come back to Nairobi!”
“I don’t know when I will be coming back! I just know I have to see you again…When will you be coming to New York?”
“Late next year I think…” I had never been to New York before so I just pick a random date.
“Great! Call me when you do. I work at a museum downtown Manhattan. Promise me you will?”
She asks for my phone. I hand it over. She quickly types on Instagram app search window, scrolls through profiles until she finds hers.
I slid the phone back into my pocket and bid her farewell.
Just as I turn to leave, she stands on her toes and cups my face. Our lips lock sending sparks down my spine. She takes charge. Kissing gently. Passionate yet not hurried. For a moment we get lost into each other. Unfiltered expression of feelings yet to be revealed. What if indeed she is my soulmate?
Following a terrible betrayal I was subjected to months earlier I deliberately avoided any union that elicited feelings beyond the physical. I would immediately drop anyone who uttered those three little words. Yet here I was reminded that behind the walls I had erected to protect myself from feeling was a young boy who craved to love and be loved back. To completely open up to another soul. Bare my most vulnerable parts for whoever could see through my bad boy facade that had now become a part of me.
After extended seconds of bliss, I pull away. Drag Wahome from the hands of his date also who is also completely enthralled by him. We jump into a cab and head straight home.
I wake up at 10 am on Saturday morning with a splitting headache. Hangover. I take two glasses of warm water to hydrate. I walk back to my bedroom only to trip over some clothes on the floor. Upon regaining balance, I pick up the dirty clothes littered all over the floor and carry them to the laundry area. Just before I throw them into the washer, I remember to check all pockets for valuables as last night’s events replay in my head. I check all the pockets in the last pant in my hands, retrieving some loose change and receipts. That’s when I see it.
The pants in my hands were the same ones I wore last night and they were ripped right in the middle. From the zipper all the way to the back. As a quasi-naturalist a.k.a commando gang. Everything becomes clearer. The reason Hillary was going crazy as I danced Gwara Gwara especially when I went down was because my balls were exposed, swinging wild and free to the beats like a Newton’s Cradle.
Could it be she fell in love with my African balls? Do they have a hypnotizing effect? Or maybe I come from a lineage of African charmers and this is how my ancestors drove their brides crazy. Well, there is only one way to find out!
Written by Mark Maish