Hmmm, it’s been a while. So, what’s happened? My country is up for a presidential re-election. DJ Mo almost broke the internet after revealing that he had subjected his wife to 5 tests before deciding to marry her. Lewis Hamilton won the Singapore Grand Prix after we, his ride or die fans, prayed and performed voodoo rituals involving the liver of a virgin goat (don’t ask). My cat figured out a way to open cabinet doors. Life is bustling. Oh, and I forgot one more thing. I got an amazing job this August. I’m nowhere near wealthy so anyone altruistic enough to sponsor my Subway fetish for the foreseeable future, send me an email. I’m not even joking about that.
Anyway, with a new beloved job comes great excitement. With great excitement comes an insatiable need to share. Really, it’s true. Why do you think Insta is so popular? It’s so that Wanjiku could show off her brand-new watch and Odhis can post about his new business premises.
I’ve had loads of excitement over the years that I just had to share. There was the time a street urchin threatened to smear me with his shit over Sh20. There was the time I was almost run over by a bodaboda. There was a time a pickpocket was almost lynched in a bus I was commuting in. There was the time I danced with then Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. There was the time I…
Oh, you want me to elaborate about when I danced with Unye? Ok. I was in high school. He had been invited to commission our dining hall. I was in the drama club and our non-award winning dance was part of the entertainment. Way before the climax, our lead singers walked up to the dais and gathered all the VIPs so we could dance with them. Unye happily joined us and shook what Mama Ngina gave him with as much grace as a… as a… I can’t even come up with a metaphor. I held his ring finger for a moment. And for a second I understood what it was like to touch somebody famous. Something special. Momentous. Anecdotal. I’ve shared it a lot since high school. Sadly, the photos were taken by school mates I no longer talk with so I don’t have any pictures.
See what I mean by sharing? I had to share the wonderful news about my new job with anyone who was willing to listen. I wasn’t even caring how much my audience didn’t care. I couldn’t care less about how much they couldn’t care less. Those flying fucks they couldn’t give, I made them land and roost. They had to pay attention. I am finally on a path that will help me become Kenya’s next Jeremy Clarkson and you think that’ll fly by? Nuh-uh. This you’ll acknowledge if I have to provide you with the airtime.
One friend, in particular, was unnerved by how vehement I was in seeking recognition for my resilience. As such she decided to invite me to lunch at her place. Let’s call her Wa Ng’ania. She would kill me if I ever revealed any information about her.
Wa Ng’ania lives in Uthiru. The exact place is called Ndwaru. A block of orange flats smack on the main road. If you get to a ridge of bumps and see ILRI you’ll need to back up.
She is beautiful. With skin that looks like a chocolate mixed with butter. She has a shorn head, with miniature tufts growing out and dyed the colour of brushed copper. She is breath-takingly beautiful. Fun. Easy to talk with. But she is also a terrible cook.
Wa Ng’ania doesn’t make bad food. She makes unimaginative food. Before I set off for her place, I decided to make sure to fill up. I had two cartons of yogurt and some cake. But this was a bad idea in hindsight. I was extremely thirsty by the time I was arriving. After the usual hugging, I handed over a bottle of soda that I had carried as the broke generous guest I was.
“Na lazima nirudishe hiyo chupa,” I told her as she went to put the soda in the fridge. She only stared at me then went into the kitchen. I sat by myself in the living room, staring at the Joseph Prince preachings ongoing on her TV. I fiddled my thumbs wondering what to do. Wa Ng’ania left me to entertain myself with the pale cream walls and her black seats. No errant magazine or newspaper in sight. I studied the couch. Velour. Must be a bitch to wash. Eventually, she came back from the kitchen. A waft of pilau masala following her.
We chatted. I explained to her about my new job. How exciting it was. How fantastic it was. How I was desperate to fill my quotas. How I wish I knew a shortcut to immediate induction. I spoke until I ran out of spit. I then asked her for water and she gestured at the fridge with her chin. I didn’t know if we were those friends who could rummage through each other’s cupboards but I went to the fridge. I then asked her where glasses were. She took out her phone and mumbled. “Kitchen.”
She waved me off with her hand.
“You’ll see them.”
I went in and took a glass on the dish rack beside the sink. It still smelt faintly of axion scouring powder. I rinsed it again and went back to the fridge. I drunk the chilled water fearing for the freezing of my brain. Considering how nonchalant she was, I didn’t want to bother her with asking for some room temperature water. Or any that could be swallowed really. I held onto the glass hoping that the warmth from my hands would make the water thaw a bit.
We caught on some more. She told me about her job, her boyfriend, I interjected and told her about my cat. Conversation flowed freely sporadically interrupted by my moving the water from hand to hand. Eventually, the food was ready. She brought it already served on the plates. Then she went back for another trip where she brought some kachumbari. I stared at the steaming mound of pilau on my plate. It was just an assembly of brown rice. There was even no reassuring sheen of cooking oil. We said Grace and dug in. Well, Wa Ng’ania dug in. I struggled with my glass of water, eventually putting it on the floor.
The dry pilau was as unpleasant as I had imagined it would be. Dry, overspiced with nary a piece of meat. Only rubbery remnants that harkened to a slab of meat finely minced and thoroughly boiled. I decided to add some kachumbari to the dry pilau. It looked like more onion than tomato but I wasn’t about to complain. I poured it generously over my rice. Wa Ng’ania shot me a look then warned me.
“It has a lot of pepper.”
I smiled condescendingly, “Pepper doesn’t bother me.”
She shook her head and added a demure amount of kachumbari. With my now juicy rice, I dove in with the gusto of a pig. Chilli really doesn’t bother me. I order my kitfoo extra hot. I add chilli sauce, black pepper and cayenne pepper to my fries. I eat chillies for fun. But Wa Ng’ania had added something else. I still don’t know what it was. I have listened to burn victims say that the smoke was the issue. You don’t feel the fire. It’s the inability to breathe and see that terrifies you so. I went through nothing like that.
The heat started out mildly. Teasing me. Then it became that delightful hot sensation. But seconds after, it no longer wasn’t. After that, I was in anguish. I dropped the plate of food and started coughing. I called and cursed all the gods. The ones of my ancestors, and the God of my descendants. I cursed Wa Ng’ania who was a rolling heap on the floor laughing her head off. My eyes were watering. My nostrils were on fire. My mouth was in pain. Like I had just been sucker punched with a scalded skillet. And that was only my head. What would it do to my innards? I cried as I struggled to feel for my water. The glass thankfully didn’t topple over when my hand caught up to it. I gulped it down feeling the instant relief as the water dribbled all over my chest.
Wa Ng’ania had abandoned her heartless cackling and gone to find me some milk. As my vision cleared a bit, I saw her holding out a mug with milk. I downed it too and became catatonic. Afraid to move should the killer chilli get increased movement. We sat in silence. Well, as silent as it could be with a TV blathering on in the background and an overgrown girl child wheezing like a giant balloon leaking air through a pinhole. I contemplated the meaning of my existence. I wondered what could have happened to me had I been killed by the demon chilli. But most frighteningly, I wondered what that chilli would do to me when it was time to come out. I’ve never eaten at Wa Ng’ania’s since.