When the bill came in written Kshs. 15,756 I was traumatically shocked. I feared getting a heart attack and falling into internal bleeding. The irresponsible ladies who had eaten most of the food insisted, “Malala, lipa twende.” [Malala (not his real name) please pay up]. The bill felt stuck in between my fingers. I didn’t even raise my head to face the 3 senoritas on the table and the impatient waiter who had refused to give me time. All eyes were on me; I could feel it. I wanted to die immediately and never wished anyone to remember me for failing to pay a bill.
Then, there was that devilish silence. The ladies looked at each other. They felt ashamed for being in the same table with a proud criminal, one who they had initially played and joked with while munching sweet delicacies.
Noticing that they were beginning to worry more, I faked a smile and told the waiter to bring the PDQ machine. I flashed a green ATM card and placed it on the table. I am sure no one noticed that the name on the card was different from mine. And being a green card meant Platinum which equaled to more cash withdraws and transactions, a reserve for the sophisticated rich, as the millennials prefer. The sharp eagle eyes of the ladies settled on the card and estimated its cost…am sure they fell for a few millions. What they didn’t know is that, I had picked the card a few months ago at Kilimani, near Yaya Centre. I only carried it to shock my enemies and instill confidence on my admirers.
When the waiter came back, I requested for Orange juice to help “push” the food. She therefore had to wait for us to finish drinking the juice before expecting us to clear the bill. I informed my hearers that I always accompanied my food with various juicy drinks. I also ordered for fresh Mango juice for my 3 visitors. With a sharp mind, I had calculated that with the juice in, I had a few minutes to plan an exit strategy. I had to find a way out of the hotel and also disappear from town for a couple of weeks to allow everyone enough time to “forget” me.
If I failed to disappear, I knew for sure that I was going to eat beans in prison. Gone were the days when one was forced to peel potatoes or wash utensils for failing to pay up. The harsh economic times had forced hoteliers to instill discipline in rogue and tricky customers. If they didn’t break your legs, they would send you to prison.
All these problems were as a result of my huge appetite for richness. One motivational speaker had insisted to me in a 2 hour YouTube Video that one had to fake it, till he/she makes it. I agreed. The mentality that tricked me to upgrade my status because of a university degree was one of the most stupid things I had ever done in my life. Otherwise, I should have been brushing shoes in streets, cooking chapatis or selling Mitumba clothes from Gikomba Market; businesses I had thought of but refused to venture into because I was afraid of “what people would say!”
All these thoughts flashed through my mind. I was getting more confused.
I was totally annoyed by the careless way the ladies ordered for food. They had mentioned things like “Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa“. One shouted, ” nipee hii [give me this one] Grilled Spice-Rubbed Beef Tenderloin Filets with Chimichurri…. I am sure what attracted them is the chicken and the meat in those complex names. Nkt, liars are many.
We had met at the entrance of Sarova Stanley hotel and immediately, they recognized me. Simply because I was a student leader at Moi University and had shown all indications that I was going to be rich. When they asked me what I was doing in town in an immaculate black suit, I was quick to mention that I had come for a meeting with my German partner at the hotel and that he had sent a text to postpone the meeting till 5pm, that evening.
Had they known that I was walking from office to office begging for any job, they wouldn’t have engaged me any further. That morning, I had insisted on borrowing my friend’s suit and pair of shoes which I brushed to death. No one would have dared to think that I was a poor spirited ex-university maniac who was now borrowing clothes left, right and center. The only thing that I legitimately wore as mine that morning was my 1-year-old underwear which had a huge hole on the lower side.
I had gone further to declare that I was chasing the remaining funds, 20,000, for a project I had started in Mukuru Kwa Njenga hence the purpose of my meeting. The German was my link to other donors.
Cynthia asked, “why did they give you just 20,000?”
I shrugged my shoulders and responded; 20, 000 USD.
They looked at each other. Their smiles brightened.
The three ladies also told me that they were working as sales representatives for one of the food joints in town. Their work was to distribute placards and fliers to passersby. I showed all the sympathy on my face and declared that no comrade was supposed to go through such difficult times. However, I inquired the name of their company because I was going to look for that job just after leaving them. Truth be told, I had no money and I lived with an uncle at Don Holm and seemingly his wife was getting tired of my presence. I badly needed another place to move to or else I would find myself on the streets. I was constantly hungry and depressed.
The frustration of seeing my college mates succeed “leaving me behind” had weighed heavily on me. I was constantly questioning myself on why I hadn’t chosen a different degree course. I even wondered why university counsels allowed village boys to undertake courses like Political Science when for almost 30 years only 2 persuants of the course from the faculty had managed to come to the limelight. My MP never showed any signs of dying soon and if he died, his son would automatically inherit the position. It is with the dynasties.
When I failed to get answers to these questions, I left all the WhatsApp groups that brought me closer to comrades. I even changed my Facebook name to Educated Chokoraa. As long as I could, I was going to avoid anyone who knew me.
Meeting these 3 ladies was a bad coincidence but, I was not going to show them how much the world had wounded me.
Somehow, they had believed that I was moneyed. So, when they requested me to buy them tea at Sarova which was right there, I wasn’t able to refuse. Ego will kill men someday. I figured out that the little loan of Ksh. 1,400 (I had already spent Kshs. 70 on fare) I had secured from Tala was enough to buy just tea. And nothing else! I could sacrifice this once and never forget in my whole life how I carelessly lost precious money to strangers.
In the hotel, we took the corner seats. The waiter came immediately. I was the first to speak, oozing confidence.
Me: Hi, how are you?
Waiter: I am fine. Thank you. ?????? [I liked her dazzling smiles]
What can I get you?
Me: We are not really hungry. Just serve us tea.
Waiter: That’s alright. I will be with you in a minute ?.
I had planned to quickly ask for tea in order to bar anyone from asking for food or any other thing.
The waiter hadn’t gone far when Cynthia called out to her. She said that she just wanted to have something little to bite. She asked for the menu.
The other two ladies, Janey and Peshly were influenced. They also started peeping inquisitively into the menu and soon, they were giving orders to the waiter. Wa wa wa waaaa…. I had never felt uncomfortable in my life. I was boiling out of anxiety. I almost jogged out of the restaurant. I wanted to beg them to stop yet, I couldn’t!
After carefully choosing all the expensive food, they started imploring me to have something to eat. I tried to refuse with the excuse that I had eaten a few minutes ago, but they couldn’t hear of it. Then I decided that if I was going to die for not paying any bill, it should as well be that I ate. I ordered for Mbuzi choma well done, brown ugali and Kachumbari.
I licked my plate dry. I didn’t even spare the bone marrow.
Remember I had ordered for juice to buy me some time to plan my escape….
When I noticed that the level of the juice was also getting low, I excused myself to go to the washroom. I left the ATM card on the table to assure them that I was coming back. I walked away slowly turning occasionally to look back at the ladies. When I was sure that they wouldn’t see me, I started looking for an exit. I knew that I couldn’t use the normal exit door because already our waiter had spotted me and when our eyes accidentally met, she read my mind. She fixed her eyes on me. By the way her huge white innocent eyes looked at me, I could tell that she doubted every inch of me. I didn’t care!
I decided to take the stairs to the left side of the room. On top, I noticed that I could only go to the washrooms and to the kitchen. I chose the kitchen. The chefs and cleaners didn’t notice me at first and then, as if all attention had been called, almost everyone became aware of me. They weren’t happy. It is Dennis-Sous Chef (I read his badge) who asked me what I was doing in the kitchen. I hesitated. When I spoke, I apologized and said that I was looking for Charles (I made the name up).
The security guards were called immediately and it was discovered that I was just a customer wanting to cheat the system.
That’s when they took me back to my seat and asked me to pay urgently and leave.
I had been escorted to my seat by two heavily built men and my guests were momentarily surprised. They didn’t know what was going on. I hadn’t found a way of escaping. I had actually made matters worse.
It is because of that pressure that my buttocks let loose a horrible rumble-grumble fart that spread faster than I wished, annoying those who were closer. I saw the ladies frown. It was obvious that I was the culprit because of the way I was fidgeting on the seat. By then, heavy waters were rolling down my forehead and wetting the collar of my white shirt. I was also shaking a little. My thoughts were in shambles. I was not thinking straight but even then, I couldn’t fail to note that the song that was playing in the background was a classic, “Dunia Haina Huruma- Bahati Bukuku”.
The security guys finally asked us to humbly follow them to the “inner room”. They were professional enough to know that we had no money to pay. This had been fully registered in their minds after the ladies started abusing me for inviting them for lunch when I clearly knew that I had no money. They were unable to be consoled. They began shouting at me. That’s when more security men joined and hastened us away.
When asked, I said that I would only pay for my bill.
I don’t know why everyone expected me to be the one paying the bill. Either way, I should have kept quiet…it is out of frustration that Janey’s hand approached my face in high speed. The hand must have met my nose first. The slap got me completely unaware such that I had to move back two steps to regain my balance. The security men in the room laughed.
One of them, seemingly in a higher rank, looked at me straight and said, “gentleman, if you don’t pay this bill, we will call the police and be sure, they won’t take 5 minutes to be here. We don’t want any trouble for you. You have 10 minutes!”
I dug into my pocket and fished out a thousand note, a two hundred note, a one hundred note and 2 coins of 30 shillings. I told them to check the balance from the bill against what I had eaten. Just me! Calculations were made and it was discovered that I still had about two thousand shillings to pay. My next huddle was to look for the remainder.
I didn’t think that Cynthia could dare ask me, “Na sisi?” [what about us?] when she had relatives and friends in the free world.
After a few tears, the ladies came to their senses and picked up their phones. They went to work immediately. I heard words like, “Honey, babe, sweetie…” “Aki babe you can’t imagine what just happened…”
It is Peshly who received Kshs. 20,000 cash in her Mpesa. She announced that it was from Jonte who the rest must have known. I wondered about the kind of magic she had used and why this Jonte had such a huge amount of money to dish out. I wished to be connected with him. But, I certainly knew that she was going to pay back heavily. I didn’t have what was needed to appease the likes of Jonte.
The ladies paid their share of the bill and left without any sympathy for me. I was left to face the angry security men.
I am sure you don’t want to know what happened next.