“HII ILIKUJA NA EMIRATES”
He said that as he showed off what I thought was a very average-looking suit paired with more than average socks sheathing smaller than average feet slipped into very average shoes.
There was nothing about the guy that arrested my attention, until he said that and proceeded to laugh really loudly. And the guys he was with, they both looked at him like he was the Kanye of Dumu Zas-type suits. I couldn’t tell whether they were genuinely amazed, or whether they were faking it.
I don’t think they’d have allowed him to know they were faking it even if they were. He was courting them. He was the storyteller, the guy probably paying the bill, the guy who made the decision to have them all sit at Java Kimathi Street waiting out the traffic.
He kept smoothing his tie: purple, paisley, paired with a lilac shirt. No COTU-order purple here (thanks Atwoli for ruining such a beautiful colour for me). It was like a nervous tick: smooth tie, jiggle wrist, expose big gold(en) watch.
He carried himself like a man accustomed to attention. He relished the audience of the two men he was with. Like the girl at the bar who’s seated alone but knows she has more company than any of the others who came in with their Blessors because all Blessors’ eyes are on her.
The guy was confident. Loud, boisterous, with a Luo accent I find terribly endearing. He kept smiling at me. I kept wondering why he looked so familiar. He looked like a politician. Not the Grade A-invited-to-TV-to-entertain-us kind. More like the guys who always managed to fit into the shot so they’ll be seen behind the real newsmakers.
I decided that if he wasn’t a politician, he was a dealmaker. You know those guys who are always hanging around parliament, brokering some biashara or other? You’ve seen them at Laico, Serena, The Stanley or Sagret. You’ll never really know what they do, and they only introduce themselves as “businessmen,” which I find dodgy as hell.
He orders three dawas. Three sips in, he and one of the other guys are complaining that it’s too bitter. Seems only the third guy has taken it before. They’re choking and coughing and laughing and I can’t help smiling. It reminds me of one time I was having breakfast with a couple of people and this one chick orders an espresso, only, she’d never had it before and we all watched as she struggled with it bravely.
I’m enjoying my dawa – though it was a bit bitter that day, Java – and chomping on my chicken salad. The only reason I’m in town at 7.30pm on a weekday is because I’m waiting for my boss. I’m supposed to accompany him to an interview across the street. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. And I’m sitting there alone, trying to reach one Williams Magunga to order a book because I left the house without my current read (We need new names, Noviolet Bulawayo – try it) and I feel lost without it. But I’m also thinking about my ride with a guy who I can swear is the coolest Uber driver in this town. Michael. He’s young, has this “I’m not really interested in you” face, and he’s playing an Elle Varner mix. And I instantly want us to be friends. May I ride in your cab again soon Michael, we can be friends!
Anyway, I’m on option B: clearing emails while I pass time. That, and doing the mostest to eavesdrop on the conversation that’s taking place at the next table, without looking like I care.
Mr. Emirates is talking about some bigwig who’s being fixed by being accused of fraud. He swears the accused is innocent. Common’s Testify is playing to his story in my head. I’m curious. I want to reach out, smile and ask him to give me the full story, because then I’d have some really meaty stuff for this blog, but I don’t. It’s more fun trying to piece it together anyway.
Smooths tie, jiggles wrist, exposes gaudy gold(en) watch.
Then he starts talking about a lady who has “acquired some airs” since she got a government promotion. His boy is lamenting about how he’s been trying to holla at her for some biashara but she doesn’t pick his calls any more, doesn’t text back, is giving him the cold shoulder.
Mr. Emirates laughs and tells him to be easy: she’ll come back to him once she gets used to the new perks she’s enjoying. She just needs time. And he shouldn’t be mad because everyone needs someone inside the judicial system.
I look up. He smiles, pays his bill, apologises for being loud, says he hopes he didn’t disrupt my quiet time, and leaves.
And just like that; I know that I’m going to be an eavesdropper for life.