He was the one who called. This was odd because I always called. All the time.
“Aaaah…Mzito! Unasemaje leo?” I had to stroke his giant ego. Just a little or he would figure out what I was up to. Then, he paused. A long awkward pause. And I knew it wasn’t out of the question. Bingo!
He then went on and on about how it was harvest season back in shags; how he still hadn’t found a damn penny to pay off watu wa mkono; how the precious beans he’d slaved for wouldn’t amount to a damn thing; and how stressed out and over-scheduled he was. It was one of his many tricks to change the subject and I must have yawned or sighed (I wouldn’t know), because he realized I was starting to lose my patience.
“Leo hatuwezi pewa Keg man,” He said, coldly.
“Unajua bado mi ni student…sahii tunasoma online” He went on to add, like I believed online learning was a thing.
“Ati online?” I scoffed back. “Kusoma online ni kama vaccine ya Corona. Haiexist.”
“Haiya! Hauamini? Nimebakisha unit moja tu nigraduate…”
I almost laughed. I must have heard this one a million times before. Last semester, he had two units left; the other semester, he had one; and the other one? Don’t even ask. He’s been in campus for six years now. He’s almost becoming a landmark. Si ukam apa kwa Solo? Solo mgani? Ule Solo Babu Owino. But hey, I’m not judging, he is a Secretary General or something. Maybe the money is good. I don’t know.
He’d even sent me some Math problems. Applied Statistics. Cat 1. St. Paul’s University. I told him I didn’t give a flying fuck about Measures of Central Tendencies and Measures of Dispersion. I also told him politely that I didn’t care much about Quartiles and Quantiles, or Poisson, Binomial, Bernoulli and Hyper geometric probabilities, or whatever else they did. He hung up.
My phone buzzed an hour later. It was Solo.
“Oya! Uko wapi?”
“Niko tao. Si ukam apa kwa shop ya Pinchez…” I said. Pinchez was short/long for Peter. But he would also pinch/con you out of your money ukikaa vibaya. The name suited him just fine. He was also a short stout gentleman. Like a mini Johnnie Bravo. His shop was on Oginga Odinga Avenue, just opposite the Regional CID Headquarters, and he was supposed to sell the latest in fashion.
Solo showed up an hour later, clasping a heavy black jacket under his armpit and sweating profusely.
“Hii joto ya Nakuru itanimaliza…” He gasped, grabbing a seat just outside the stall. Turns out he’d come all the way from Molo, some 30 kilometers away.
“Kwani Molo mko winter?” I asked with a wicked grin on my face.
“Mafuriko…wacha ivo unajisemesha winter apo…Molo kuna hadi mafuriko.” Silence. I didn’t have a snappy retort for this one because people died from floods. I let it pass.
“Alafu dere ameingilia iyo ya Showground …saa hiyo mi nashangaa kwani tunaenda Afco…?” He went on to add.
He was talking about the new ‘stage’, just next to the Showground. But since nobody complained, he’d kept his cool and alighted with the others. No Matatus were being allowed inside the CBD now. The Governor’s orders.
“We unasema nini? Sisi watu wa Afraha lazima tushukie Bonde sikuizi…” Pinchez said, shaking his head wildly in what I correctly perceived to be lots of pent up frustration. He then mumbled something about being robbed twice in broad daylight. Even the conductor always spoke out before they neared the place. “Chunga mfuko, hatutaki lawama!”
He suddenly lit up. He remembered ‘Mathings’ was here and he couldn’t be sad. I mean, it wouldn’t take much to figure out why Solo’s nickname was ‘Mathings’. The guy had a piece of land behind Mlima Ugali (Yeah such a hill exists). He had a few business interests in town and, of course, he mined potatoes out of Warufaga ta nonsense.
“Kiongosss…si leo useme tupewe kikombe…” Pinchez said. He was stroking an empty 5 litre fresh fri cooking oil Jerri can.
Mathings didn’t waste a second to fork out the money. And neither did I waste any time to cast him an approving nod.
Ten minutes later, a Jerri can half full of booze or half empty (depends how you see it) sat smugly right in front of us.
“Mvinyo ndio hio wenzangu…” Then, as if on cue, noise filtered into the room from the other stalls. A lady with quite a healthy pair of lungs let out a few ululations. Joy. The President had just opened up the borders to the Nairobi Metropolitan.
“Eh…Mzito amefungua economy…” Pinchez said.
“Ata kuna dem amenitext apa…anadai niendee stock,” he added, scrolling through his phone. I looked around. A stiletto heel here. A few pants scattered around there. Even fewer shoes on the floor outside the stall. He was really out of things to sell.
“Na nilikula pesa ya stock…” He gasped.
“Wacha?” Mathings exclaimed, sincerely.
“We huskii nafaa kua navuna maharagwe Molo sahii,” he went on to add. “Niliangukia tender flani Nairobi.” Pause. “Unye akifunga tena…” He cupped one of his fists over his mouth.
“Mi nadai tu nifike Gikomba kabla ichomeke tena,” Pinchez said.
I got to thinking. They both had a huge stake in Nairobi remaining open for business. A rather risky stake but very profitable too. Go to the capital and risk getting sick or stay here and be broke. So go to the capital it is. They are young. Their immune systems must be strong. They’ll probably get away with it. But you couldn’t get away from being broke if you stayed. It’s a no brainer. But you shouldn’t have to choose your money or your life nevertheless.
Mathings started flipping through a copy of Nakuru Idyllic Living Magazine. He suddenly stopped and stared at Golden Life Mall, a sprawling complex on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.
“Naskia hii nayo haina ati sijui ‘To Let’ anga call this no. to book office space…already iko 75% let,”
“Hapo vilabu ni tatu, my friend…” Pinchez said, shifting on his seat uncomfortably. We were all starting to feel good. “Kuna supermarket inakuja hapo…inajiita sijui Carry Front…”
“Carrefour…” I offered helpfully.
“Eeh hiyo…na zote zinatoka Nairobi…walikua wanangoja kufunguliwe tu,”