The Wednesday evening of 12th December 2018 finds Alphayo and I relaxed on the first floor of Gloria Jeans Coffees restaurant like royals. He has a jacket that makes him look kingly. I am not the kind of person who fancies jackets but I must admit that the one he is wearing is something. I fail to tell him though that his jacket is nice, purposefully, because I know the moment I give him such a compliment he would start bragging and giggling like a three-year-old girl. Anyway, it’s my birthday and I am getting a treat. The last one of the day. Probably the best one of the day. I am a bit exhausted but I am not the kind of person to say no to nice food simply because of exhaustion. It’s a lovely restaurant Gloria Jeans. It’s those kinds of restaurants where you walk in and you are received with smiles right from the reception all the way to whatever place you decide to sit. It has magnificent leather seats that any mother would wish to have in her sitting room. There are shining glasses around that any lawyer would wish to have in his or her office. And of course, there is a floor that looks ceramic in nature and walls that seem not have ears. So if you ever want to go to a place with someone and discuss other people’s secrets then this is your place. The place is exquisite. It’s full of ambience. The kind of ambience that not many hotels or restaurants offer in this town.
Alphayo seems to know his way around. He has been here a number of times he says. The first floor, where we settled on, is quite empty( at least for the next 40 minutes after which some guy in his twenties shows up with someone who looks like ‘Ze love of His Life’). We find a seat next to a window with a view of the empty street below. It’s a beautiful evening I can tell. From above, I can see a couple holding hands as they walk towards University Way. There are a few cars moving in slow motion in the opposite direction. Some street urchins are also doing the now famous ‘Idibala Challenge’ nearby and they seem to be having the time of their lives that no sensible person should take away from them. It’s a mystery how the ‘Idibala Challenge’ dance craze has taken over Kenya within a very short period of time. The glowing street lights are coming on one by one. I have a thing for bright orange street lights. They give me butterflies in my stomach. So when I see the Orange lights set in I definitely get a thousand butterflies.
Across where we are sitting, there is a VIP lounge with a huge leather seat. Alphayo tells me that it’s the kind that you sit on and all your worries vanish as ecstasy take control of your mind before dominating your whole being. I would have loved to go to the VIP section. Actually, I had the choice on my palms but it has no view with Orange lights so I stay put and enjoy my new-found dalliance with the spot where I am.
A young lady in her twenties approaches us with one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen in the 47 counties. (Of course there is a lady classmate of mine with the most beautiful smile in the seven continents of the world. And she has a neatly curved dimple. God truly worked magic on some people when creating them. I usually joke with her that when she smiles a million butterflies take over my poor stomach). The smiling waitress dutifully gives us the menu while curtsying a little bit. At this point I’m like ‘ damn this customer service is heavenly.’ They treat all their customers like dignitaries.
I scan through the menu and marvel at the effort menu-writers put in coming up with them. I mean some foods have very funny and creative names. People who write menus should be admired for the creative brains they have. You see things like Seville Oranges, Vegetable Soup for starters and Bhuna Ghost. Alphayo tells me to order Arosto Goat because it’s very delicious and that this restaurant offers the best in town. So I go for the Arosto Goat which is I later learn is young goat meat roasted in spice and herbs. I also order for some pilau along. He tells the smiling waitress to bring him just pilau, soup and hot water with lemon immersed in it. I asked him why he has to take a bloody bitter hot lemon water and he talks of some health reform messages that I have since given up on because of my strong appetite and addiction to sweet things.
“You are a year old today. How do you find the New Year and do you have any plans for the new you? ” He asks me while shifting comfortably in his seat.
I find the question kind of deep. So I think for a while before giving him an answer.
” I think it’s a very promising year ahead of me. I love how it has all started and I look forward to me being a better person than I have been in the previous years.” I reply before embarking on telling him why my New Year looks promising and how this has perhaps been the best birthday I will ever have.
So I tell him about how my friends did a small surprise celebration for Faith Wangari (with whom I share a birthday) and I. I tell him about how amidst the rigours of the celebrations gallons of water was poured on us just like is done in typical campus birthday celebrations. Then a cake afterwards at around one in the morning with a card bearing moving messages from a majority of my classmates.
I continue as he listens in awe at how amazing my friends are. He tells me how lucky I am to have them. After a few minutes wait, our foods arrive. I fell in love with the Arosto from the moment I saw it neatly served in that white plate. For a moment I felt like just staring at it for the whole night without touching or eating it because that would mean I would never see it again. Just when I thought that was the best moment of my life, the greatest moment came when I tasted it. It’s the best sensation one could ever have in this world. I remember my cousin who got married two months ago telling me that kissing his bride at the altar was the best sensation ever in the world. I felt like calling him to ask whether his taste buds had ever interacted with Arosto from Gloria Jeans restaurant. It’s a divine feeling beyond comprehension. It’s heavenly.
We eat in silence for a while then talk stories of literally everything. From philosophy to USA politics. We talk about how President Trump wakes up and fires his staff and laugh at how he declared his former Secretary of State to be “Dumb as a rock and lazy as hell”. We talk about Plato and Socrates. Then restaurants and foods and jobs and family. We talk about everything. And by the time we are done talking, our plates are empty and clean. My meal cost a whopping eight dollars which Alphayo paid with his credit card. But it was worth every bit of it. If one could look up to such birthday treats every year then he’d probably hit 150 years and above.
Because it’s been a long day for me, I have to get back to school and try getting some sleep. So we walk across the empty lit streets to our various bus stages. The moon shines so brightly and I see some red lights in the sky which I read somewhere to mean that the dragons are soon coming. It’s cold but not too cold. Once Alphayo has taken a bus to his destination, I wander the streets a little longer while reminiscing about how far a journey it has been to my 20s. I think about how not so long I ago, I thought that primary school was the best place to be and how I was convinced that high school life would never end because of the writhing hardships that came with it. I think about the failed friendships, failed relationships and my beautiful days as a kid. They are things that I could only one day tell in a whole blog of theirs on a different day when I’m settled in my favourite couch back at home.
The thought of having my whole 20s ahead is me is exciting but equally scary. I have heard stories you know. Stories of how dudes get unequivocally broke. Stories of how an investment banker who is stable in life may come out of nowhere and snatch your girlfriend away from you leaving you wishing him the vilest death ever. Such stories make guys in their 20s wonder whether God stopped routing for hopeless and helpless people in the face of ‘the giants of life’. I mean God routed for David against Goliath. Why not do the same for a broke campus boy against a sponsor who may be a governor or an investment banker?
A friend of mine who is 22 once told me about how an engineer who was his employer took away his girlfriend then fired him. I wanted to laugh but it would inhuman to rejoice at the woes of a fellow man. He told me of how dramatic it all got when he was leaving. He was escorted outside the workplace with blue-uniformed KK Security men and he kept shouting that he has a friend who is a lawyer and that he would slap the company with lawsuits. He kept shouting “You will hear from my lawyer very soon”. When he told me that the lawyer friend he was referring to was me, I couldn’t help but burst into hysterical laughter. I was only a second-year law student for Christ sake.
This is an example of the kind of doom that guys in their 20s face. It’s like the universe conspires to put you down each time you try to rise. And at such times you just feel like tearing those motivational pages of Pepe Minambo’s books or Dr. Philip Kinoti’s weekly columns and using then to wrap omena because you’ve tried all those success tips and failed. It may not all be doom though. There are also stories of excitement such as those of good friendships that I greatly look forward to. There are also few stories of success that may inspire someone to positively look forward to his 20s.
My mind reverts back to reality as I reach the school gate. I had wandered so far away mentally that I hardly noticed time move. It’s 11.30 pm. Later that night as I went to bed, I made a short prayer thanking God for making me a year older. I also thanked him for the beautiful day I just had and for the friends who made it possible.
PS: I want to thank all who wished me a happy birthday, gave me presents, organized a celebration for me and sent me words of encouragement. Thank you so much and be blessed.