Madaraka day in church

Mike, that calm guy I told you guys about in men in church, here, called me at 6.58 A.M, on Madaraka day. My phone shivered under my pillow. {Like most of you, I have this pesky habit of going to bed with my phone. I’ll stop next year hehe.} I picked it on the third ring, my voice grungy from sleep. He had plans.

Side note: Mike is a deacon in my church. And, he’s everything a deacon should be; calm, wise, honest, generous and stuff. Actually, for the sake of ‘protocol’, let’s just refer to him as deacon Mike, shall we? The lad deserves it. Who knows, he might be my best man if I’m lucky enough to meet a marriageable girl in this vain city that reeks of debauchery and opportunism and pretence.

Anyway, Mike tells me that there’s this men mbuzi thingamajig going down in church.  It has been dog years, or so I feel, since I last set foot in church – something I’m not particularly proud of, but I think I’m in this zone where I’m tryna touch  base with self, questioning many things. And at times I feel like I’m losing touch with religion. I’m in a spiritual limbo, if you may.

The invitation is of course tempting, but I’m supposed to meet Biko, Jackson Biko later in the day. But he hasn’t confirmed the time yet. I’ll have to say this first; to me,  Biko is the high priest, no, the pope of creative non-fiction writing in East Africa, and the land yonder. A genre most of us are merely groping in the dark with. He’s is a man I hold in reverence; deep respect and immense admiration. He has a sharp mind, and a beautiful heart, and a ghastly beard with strands of grey. He has this cheeky smile and a contagious laughter. The forehead he keeps talking about is all hype.  Don’t believe it.  It’s not anywhere as big as he wants y’all to believe. And because he’s so tall, he has this funny gait. He saunters, like a giraffe.  We short people stride. We stride or prance. Our COG is just so on point.

So I’m meant to have this meeting with Biko which we have been postponing to ages now.  When he’s available, I’m busy, when I’m available he’s busy. A circus of sorts, like our politics.  That’s the nature of this freaking town. Everyone is always busy {or appears to be}. Always in a rush. Even siblings go for months without meeting. All sucked up in the rut.  A crazy rut.  Some meet in shugs for Christmas or funerals.

So I call him {Biko} at 8.13 am. He doesn’t pick up. My “vipi boss, what time kesho?’’ sms the previous evening had gone unanswered. Biko is a man who believes silence is golden – which is. But at times he overstretches it a tad. God of Abraham is seeing you, baba. {He likes using that word, ‘baba’, when he’s happy. When he’s not, he uses words like shit. Like there’s this time I inadvertently delayed with some work he’d given me because of a miscalculation. I received a tongue lashing. He hit the roof; “you have to take this shit seriously, man.” When Biko gets really mad, he doesn’t raise his voice much, or unleash a stream of profanities. Rather, his speech becomes clipped; his words pointed. That evening my tongue stuck to my pallet. When the pope clumps down on you, you’re better off quiet. Silence is golden, remember?  I only managed to mumble faint ‘no’ to a question I can’t remember.

So when chocolate man didn’t return my call after an hour – which is unusual, I asked myself; “what would Jesus do in the face of such adversity?”

“He would strap on his sandals, jump on a donkey and go to his father’s house,” a very wise voice in my head whispered.

I worked my breakfast of fried eggs and brown bread, strapped on my sandals, jumped into this old donkey, no, matatu and went to my father’s house.

I pranced into the church compound at about half to noon.  Hands in pocket, top buttons of my favourite blue shirt undone, feeling really cool. {I had jogged 10 km the previous day – so my system was oozing endorphins, and serotonin, and dopamine. And so I had smiled and winked at my image in the mirror before leaving the house.}

There was music blaring from the speakers chained on the ceiling inside the church. Gospel dancehall, and a little bit of gospel rock.  So that sticky issue of setting a carnivore party mood in a church set up was already taken care of. Headache gone. Outside the church, a dozen guys were already up  and about. Tinkering with the barbecue grill, arranging plastic chairs, setting paper cups and drinks in place.  And drinks here doesn’t mean Malbec or Jack Daniels or Jamisone. I’m talking about 1.5 litre bottles of soda. Lots of them.

Guys are in high spirits. The mood is festive. Careful jokes {it’s church}. Easy pearls of raucous laughter. Men like their meat!

I pick a paper cup and serve myself fanta passion. Jamo, a short stocky guy with a sagging potbelly {his words} is at his element. He’s taken the chevon and marinated it in a solution of spices; rosemary, cloves garlic and a little salt.  Then sprinkled some oil and fresh theme leaves. Sliced it neatly like bread as he turns it over the moderate heat.  He keeps adjusting the grill.  You should see him squinting in the sun, his eyes narrowed into slits. He’s rocking this fancy purple singlet and a Ben Hogan hat.  He’s in baggy shorts and black loafers. Really cool loafers; I want to steal them.

I’m handed a piece of his fine work, and I’m instantly persuaded that the wise voice that whispered to me was indeed Jesus’. I realise just how much Jesus’ loves me and that he only wants the fine things for me.  I think these are the plans God talks about somewhere in the scriptures.  Is it Jeremiah? It must be. Anyway, let me hear an Amen!

I try to make myself useful– because I didn’t participate in buying anything and because I’m very well behaved and cultured, I didn’t remember to carry a drink here.  Mike tells me it’s a treat from the pastor and a few other guys. Doesn’t mention names. So I offer to help put another fire up. I eventually own that department, the fire department. I hustle for fire wood. It’s like we’re camping. I’m loving it! Soon fire is crackling and I’m smelling of smoke. I don’t give a shit.

Someone is doing his magic frying the meat into tantalizing golden brown thingies. Another one is on standby with Uhunye’s 90 bob unga from Mexico, awaiting his turn to spin ugali. The banter is picking up, some guys are playing street soccer a few metres away {I would later join them}, shouting, laughing, arguing about a score. You realise there’s still a boy in every man. Do we ever grow up?

Pastor drives in.  {He’s this slow speaking cool guy with crisp English. Hosts a TV show in one of the major TV stations}.  He’s clad in this snow white tee and black khaki pants and sandals.  He’s carrying a fancy grey water bottle. The kind you see chics with in the gym. Chics in tight things chasing after the elusive flat tummy. I don’t think he walked to a store and thought, “man, I need a fancy water bottle to be carrying everywhere. Like the one I saw that chic in the gym with.” I think his wife bought it for him.  And on that day she came running as he was reversing and said, “babe, here, keep hydrated. I like your skin rich.”

So guys are seated in pairs or small groups of three. There’s no agenda. We’re just discussing politics and football and money. No one is discussing women. Sad. Then this chic in a red skirt shows up and she sticks out like a sore thumb. I can’t tell if she’s a girlfriend or wife to any of the guys there.  But I feel somewhat embarrassed. Gentlemen, if we’ve decided it’s a boy thing, please, as a rule of thumb, don’t ask  her to come where the guys are. Even if she’s bringing your wallet. Meet  her at the gate. Unless you hang around ladies during their noisy chama meetings.

As we wind down the first round our nyamchom and ugali, and guys are now belching loudly and washing it down with soda, someone calls out my name, “Luvinzu!” and as I turn to respond,  another guy cuts in, “so this is Luvinzu! Jeez! Do you write articles?”

I regard him unimpressionably, like he’s an IED or something. I don’t want to readily admit that I’m the one, because I’m not sure of what might come next. Perhaps he can bellow, “what sort of a Christian are you?  You write bullocks then come to church. You write about asses and spew cuss words. You’re such an embarrassment to your clan and our church. We don’t need people like you in the kingdom.  Our girls are not safe in this church with people like you looming about…” and then I could shrink in my chair and squeeze my buttocks and bare the shame of being such an outlier in my clan and the church, and I could be excommunicated with immediate effect from the church because I’m such an embarrassment to the kingdom.

But he says, “you write funny stuff, man {roll eyes}, I love your work. I’ve always wanted to meet you.


“No, I’m serious. I’ve always been asking around who this guy is.  You always make me laugh.”

Then he turns to the guys seated around him and shouts, “this guy described his neighbourhood here so hilariously I almost died. {Roll eyes to the back of the head}I know right now he’s just taking mental notes, then he’ll spin a hell of a story about this shindig.”  He goes on a tangent about the articles he reads here.

At this point I feel utterly embarrassed. Embarrassed because I felt like it was an exaggeration, and because I have failed the test of consistency. I’ve sucked at that.

I won’t float excuses or flaunt promises here, but to my ardent readers like this guy, I’ll say this; I’ll take this shit seriously.



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