Sugarcane, Cane Vendor

Dipsticking Valentines.

…Re-live this day with me…
I believe I am one of the best critics of valentines to this point. I am not writing to repeat what has repeatedly been said over valentines. I am here to expose myself. Again. As fate would have it, I set myself up for a date unknowingly. On 2ndof this month, I was chatting with a friend of mine online, and we have never sat down for a legitimate basis. Just the usual catch up talk three or fewer times a year when you happen to meet at home over the holidays. I figured I needed to see her. Here is the point of the conversation at some point.
“So when are you free? For a chat and tea?”
“From Fridays am usually free until Monday morning.”
“Okay. Kesho is on short notice; we can plan Sunday next weekend?” “Been postponing swimming since Friday coz of flights.”
“Swimming?”
“But we can do Sunday if it’s okay with you.”
“Yeah, it’s okay.”
“Sawa sawa.”
This was on Tuesday 2ndFebruary. I only realized that the said Sunday was Valentines on Thursday 11thas we were leaving Zonk’s office late in the evening. I hated everything to do with the monkey see monkey do culture that is Valentines day. 
D-Day.
I woke up at 7.29 am, of course, I threw the alarm away after the ring at 4.30. Circadian clock sorcery right there. Again, I was tired from yesterday’s swim. I surpassed my fitness rating. I prefer the first mass to the second one. Guess what time the first mass starts? 7.30 am!!! I did not even struggle. I woke up, reached out for my water bottle as usual, and took a large swig out if it. I had a paper to hand in by 9 am for an online course I am undertaking. I needed to wake up early, work on that paper, study and then prepare for service and then I would come back to wash my uniform. By the time, I was done with the paper it was ten minutes to 9 am. I started working like a mad man. I had the best plans for today regarding my dressing. Or so I thought. I refilled the steam iron’s reservoir. I opened my suitcase and started removing one shirt after another and trying them. I already had a trouser in mind. Shoes were unpolished. 
About that suitcase. Sometimes last year…July – August there, I was to attend this short security course in South Africa. Yes, I am still doing security stuff. But, on a “boss level,”he. Somehow, that trip backfired. I have never had the heart to unpack that suitcase because the hopeful and ambitious calf had hopes that this trip was still going to happen. So days turned into weeks & to months, cancelled tickets and reservationswere cancelled, and here we are. I have not been home for a while, and I did not have anything decent to wear and look the part. Again, considering the weight I have lost. I needed to have a fitting shirt or else… That is how I tried three shirts, and all were not fitting. A fourth one was better than all the others. (Nkt! Kumbeata! there has been a new tube of toothpaste in this suitcase and the way I have hated my salt water brushes these past few mornings?) By the time I was getting to start the ironing, I had 5 minutes. At this point, I was already considering changing churches. St Peter’s Clavers, eerrr, Holy Family Basilica… I had several options, but they all involved matatus, so I eliminated that thought. I had just done one side of the shirt, and I thought to myself, “Who am I kidding? I cannot make it.” So, I did what we used to call IA in the military. Immediate Action. Plan B. The whole dress code changed to my now very common “Straight Outta Nairobi” T-shirt. (This tee and the other one “Made in Kenya” were for that botched S.A trip. – I had to scream to the world out there that I was from Kenya!) Brown khaki pants and a pair of faded loafers I should have dyed to another colour ages ago. At this point, I had convinced myself that I would do the ironing without rush, after church and proceed to my date looking like a real gentleman.
I took a quick shower, salt brush tena! Hit me after it hit my tongue that I had spotted a tube of toothpaste somewhere. & I rushed outside without breakfast. I walked at the fastest pace I could and got to the church right before the mass started. But I did not get a seat, and I had to sit on the floor. (Sort of, looks like stadium benches and the seats allow enough space for people to squeeze and sit on the steps. They are very comfortable by the way) The first mass had extended into the second one’s slot since it was a special Sunday. First Sunday of Lent and for our particular church, they were redoing the “Day of the Sick” celebrated on Thursday, and thus anointing of the sick this Sunday. Mass ended well, and I couldn’t wait to get home.
Sugarcane Vendor at Work
I had this idea of eating like four hot mandazis and the three slices of bread that I had left over from yesterday. Hot Mandazi has a way of inflating your stomach and getting you to survive until the next substantial meal. Just after the first corner towards home, a sugarcane vendor appeared. Delete Mandazi, insert, Sugarcane! One section was enough for my walk home. By the way, while in the church at some point, I decided I would not be dressing up for that date after all. I would go as I was. It was some few minutes past midday already. I always feel like I waste clothes if worn in the afternoon – white shirts especially. However, in this scenario, I did not deserve to change my dress at all if I felt comfy the way I was, considering church was more sensitive I would be okay. I needed a shave. By the time I got to the barbershop, the cane was done. I beckoned the standby barber. My Congolese barber who has been shaving me since I moved into this estate somehow went MIA on this Kinyozi. The other barber who I used to pass or ignore while I hogged Wi-Fi from Matatus soliciting passengers as I wait for my “Choice Barber” has been shaving me for the past few weeks. He always did it in a way to show ‘I am now the king.’ Today he totally ignored me even after calling him twice. Maybe they thought I was there to wipe my mouth & cheeks of traces of my sugarcane indulgence. I think I have officially dumped Sweet Sixteen until Shabaan is back, and if he moved to another barbershop, I am following him there. That is how I ended up there in the first place. So after a few minutes, I walked out. 
Take away Sugarcane
I got home and tried to study, but I found myself catching up with discussions that I had missed since yesterday from a particular group on Twitter. I studied for a while, listened to T.D Jakes and then realized I have not called my friend to confirm our date. Apparently, she was waiting for that call and confirmed our plans were still on. We agreed to meet around half past two onwards. I did not have anything to do concerning preparations. I washed my shoe, though. The pair was not clean enough. I do not even know how the time flew I even forgot to cut my nails. I decided to carry the clipper; I would do it later. It was hot outside! I paid for my black tee choice.
The Commute
Unity Primary School’s Gate
I got into the mat and settled into a window seat. The sunny side at this point of the journey. The mat was yet to get to capacity, so I started working on my nails. Carefully cutting away and throwing the pieces outside. The aisle seat was still unoccupied, and the guys across were looking at me like I was a psycho. Judgement is what their faces represented. I did not think much about it. They were both cheek full of Muguka and had this big bag of nuts in between one of the fellow’s legs. You should have seen how weird it looked when the other one reached for the friends crotch at random intervals to refill his mouth. By the time we got to Unity Primary School, I was done with cutting the nails, and I started filing them. The Unity Primary school new paint Scheme is awesome by the way. The filing didn’t take a lot of time.
My tools…
At the next stage, a lady walked in. She was around 22 years of age. A light complexion, good looking, had blue skinny jeans with flats. She had rolled the jeans the right way. (Having a sister in the fashion industry teaches me many things…) She had short hair. Well maintained. I say well kept because my afro skipped its weekend wash & it was all unkempt after yesterday’s swim – Chlorine is an enemy. Again, on two occasions we have discussed the lesser financial responsibility associated with short haired ladies – with the boys. She looked somehow tense, on two occasions she looked at her cleavage. But I think that was resultant of the automatic reaction that would be triggered by the video on the screen. It was one nasty Jamaican song. At this point, I was watching her from the corner of my eyes. But I had taken one serious look at her immediately she sat down, and I had committed that face to memory. I was busy on my phone uploading the Unity Primary School Gate picture on Twitter. The Matatu had Wi-Fi onboard. Now that was one phone. After successfully sending the tweet, I switched off the Wi-Fi and put it in my left pocket. I reached out under my right thigh and unleashed my second phone. That is my safety spot when I am reading in a matatu, in case a distracting thing happens outside. Under that thigh, was also a DVD case and an External Hard disk and my bunch of keys.
I am currently reading “Earning My Wings” by Janine Spendlove. I continued reading the novel. The music was not too loud, so I did not need to use my earphones as earplugs today. The screen in between the seats in front was very distracting because that made the lady look in that direction. She also had the tendency to look outside, and I was the barrier to her view. It got awkward to some point, and I was sure she was looking at me at some point. By this time, she had already told her date that she was in a matatu in traffic. The conductor was already working. Normally, I usually check out the note my neighbour is holding. It acts as a potential “Icebreaker”. In the case where lady one has 50/- shillings, and I have 100/- I would give her the hundred and ask her to give me the 50/- after the conductor had passed I would thank them for paying the fare for me. If they were having a good day and they responded in kind, that would start a conversation. At first arguing about them not paying. At one time, we conspired with a total stranger and argued against the conductor that we were told the fare was 50/- and not 70/- She gave me the 50/- she had, and I gave her my 100/- for her to pay because the conductor would have refused to give me change. It worked. We were on the second last row and had all the time to plan this. We are friends to this day. Today, the lady had 200/-, and I had 100/- the conductor pointed at her, and that meant I should give her the 100/- after which he proceeded to give each of us our change. This felt okay for a start.
“Hi, you look distracted, are you okay?”
“Niko poa…”
“Okay, ama ni tension ya date?” *giggling awkwardly* “Ata mimi niko nayo usijali.”
“Nani amekwambia naenda date?”
“Unakaa tu kwenda date. Kujishuku mingi, kuzubaa ovyo, kuadjust adjust top…”
“Hizo zote uliona saa ngapi?” “una wazimu wewe”
“Hapa tu, saa hii tu! I am seated right next to you, what do you expect?” So plans zako za leo?”
“Siwezi kwambia, ata sikujui”
“Okay. Nitajijazia ni date unaenda.”
“Hizo ni nini kwa tee shirt?”
So I looked down and noticed some nail cuttings I had missed while I was cleaning out my nail work earlier. I struggled to pick them. They were small, and I had cut my nails short. So there was no grip, and it took me time long enough for her to smile. I could tell she was laughing at me inside. After I was done, I reached for my bunch of keys and showed her the nail cutter.
“See? Didn’t have time to cut my nails in the house, so I had to do it in the matatu.”
“Is that right?”
“Apana, but I still had to do it some way so nikaona hapa ndio afadhali bora nazitupa nje, hizo zilipita.”
“But sio poa.”
“Same way madame hujipaka make up kwa mat… Both of us are grooming but at different levels ama?”
“If you say so…”
“Again, kucha ni eco-friendly kiasi yake so even if I throw them outside, haina issue. Ziko na issue zikiwa hapa kwa nguo.” *Pointing to my stomach*
“Sawa basi.”
My Current Read.
I realized that this was not the kind of person to try converse with under the circumstances, so I decided to let it go. She was, or I was distracted. I wanted to bring up the awkward ‘Do you know your nails continued growing after you die’ story but realized this was not the audience for such insanity. I swapped phones again for a moment and then got back to my novel. I was wondering why she kept following my right arm and only realized later that she was trying to read what was printed on my armband. At some point when she was not looking, I rotated the band so that the flag side would face her and I helped her out of her misery. We got to town without any further discussion. Didn’t even wish her a lovely afternoon. 
I had not narrowed down the location for my date yet. But I had several ideas. I also did not have money for the date yet. I decided to do a survey lap. I hated Valentines and knew that the city would be full of couples today. I needed to get a peaceful location. The good thing is that it was almost 4 pm. After alighting at Ronald Ngala, I walked along Tom Mboya Street towards Archives. My idea was to do an external survey of Café Deli on Nkrumah Avenue it is my No 1 restaurant in the City. At the Crossing at The Ambassadeur Hotel, I saw the lady in the matatu walking along Moi Avenue towards the direction I was walking. Apparently, she was also headed to Café Deli. I am sure she spotted me because she reduced her pace. At that moment, I eliminated Café Deli Nkrumah Avenue as an option. I reduced my pace and walked along the KenCom building until she was safely inside. I then turned and walked away along Aga Khan Walk towards City Hall way. I love restaurants with balconies a lot. Because of various reasons. I had to settle for Kenyatta Avenue.
Funding My Date.
The financial commitment of meet ups is among my worst fears. In that list, we also have embarrassing moments, bad choices et al.  Transport to the venue being among the obvious of responsibilities. Especially now that I am in some financial hell of my making. Considering I made this appointment on 2nd of the month and it was now 14th, I should have made arrangements to sort this out early enough. Miracles just happen & things just tend to sort themselves out. Somewhere within the course of last week, someone needed some Softwares which had since ceased production. The person in question was not tech savvy enough to know that he could access the Softwares online from the likes of Pirate Bay. Maybe he knew but could not download them for himself. So here; I was with the prospect of making money. He had told me we meet on Saturday but I could not. I was not in a position to access the CBD yesterday, and since he was desperate enough, he asked me to pass by his shop in town, deliver the package and then he would pay me. I was counting on that money. I do not even know what would have happened if it did not show up. But I made it to his office just when my date was asking if I am already in town, and she was ten minutes away. I confirmed and told her to call me once she was in town. My hands were already sweating. Something told me this guy would pay me, and so I was not worried, but something did not just feel right. The biggest fear I have with dates is that the lady might order something outside my financial league. The location does not matter much lately, forget the drama those many dates ago… After installation was done, he paid me, and we were both happy.  The ten minutes were not ten. She arrived either way. At some point, Young called me to mock me for being fidgety about this day.
Of Sundae, Milk Shakes and Iced Coffees
Something about Café Deli makes it home for me. This time, it was a bit different because I was in a new environment. I have never been to the one on Kenyatta Avenue. I love their Oil on Canvas Paintings at this particular branch. Then there is something about their Barista that distracted me. Actually, with Baristas, it is always about seeing them work that makes me enjoy being at some of these coffee shops that have a clear view of what the barista is doing at the espresso machine, the shakes and all the other things under their wing.
The date was remarkable. I was uncomfortable initially because I was worried that the exit plan for this particular delicatessen was not in line with my expectations, but I calmed down eventually. We took some time ordering. There is always that tension that comes with ordering at a new restaurant. That is why I take time before ordering something I am not used to. I liked that the valentine fever was not around at this particular moment, and everything was easy. We discussed career mostly, art, watched people and books. The initial plan of the meeting was to share books. I had several books that I was to share. I did not know her reading tastes, so I picked random categories and loaded them onto my phone, with time I would know. The interesting bit about this is the mode of transfer that I had in mind was not the one she had in mind. I am still on Bluetooth technology, and people moved to external storage for phones a long time ago. The simpleton in me was wondering if she knew what she was talking about when she asked me if my phone could read her flash disk – you know in that madharau way you can think of the ineptitude of someone. The last time I used Bluetooth technology to transfer books we spent like ten minutes to share just five books. So she asked for my phone.
“Wacha tuone kama itawork…”
An OTG Flash Drive
File Transfer
I watched her actions intently as she did her thing. To which I agreed I was the most outmoded fellow ever. It was actually a shame. I remember seeing that happen in a clip online sometimes last year, but I never actually thought I would use it at some point, or it was just around me. The flash worked, and it transferred over 50 E-books and seven audio books in less than 5 minutes. I have not been as mind blown in the recent past, as I was at that moment inside Cafe Deli. We discussed a few of the books and got back to her industry, which was manufacturing. There is something amazing about ladies in engineering explaining and telling their stories. Describing their work, the attention to detail. I did not want this to end because I did not know the next time I would be sitting with her again. Some of these meetups also end up being inspiring. Like this one. She had her future figured out. Taking multiple courses and having charted her way career wise & taking note of the challenges and fighting them as boldly as it needed. It keeps one on toes and reminds them that people out there are also working hard to achieve purposes that seem as difficult to achieve as our own. We got to a point of discussing the best locations for a Masters in Science (Did I say it right? MSc ama ni MS?) in her field which is not available locally at the moment. It then occurred to me I am not the only one who gets ignored by people you would expect to be your automatic mentors. Life’s lessons. I should not assume, or expect too much from people or something related.

 

After we were done, I walked her to the bus stop. It was almost 8 pm and I still had other things to do in town before going home. As it turned out, going out on a date on 14th February is not so bad after all. Maybe the assumption by those around you that you are a couple would be the only situation creating awkwardness for you. But I enjoyed the day. & to Young, I am safe, I still have enough money to pay for my electricity bill, reload basic supplies and a few other things. My afternoon was excellent. Hope you all enjoyed your Valentines or Marriage Day. It is a day like any other as it turned out. The only thing society inflates its essence is the fact that many wait to prove the legitimacy of their relationships on this day, by the ‘presence’ of their “partners”. But who am I to discuss Valentines. 
The Oil on Canvas work at Café Deli Kenyatta Avenue is on fleek!!!
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