West Lands. The bedrock of Nairobi’s debauchery. The epicentre of vanity. West Lands pulsates with hedonism. West Lands is inebriated with affluence – real or perceived. But West Lands is home to troubled souls too. Lovelorn souls. Souls caught up between a broken heart and a broken bank account. Desperate souls. Souls shackled in solitude. These souls are mostly male. They smell of Hugo Boss, and a whiff of Heineken.

Much as I work a stone throw away from West Lands, I hardly eat out or party there. I just can’t keep up with the Kardashians. I prefer my quint hangouts on the other side of the city {and it’s definitely not the CBD. Who goes to the CBD nowadays anyway?}. Where you don’t have to shout over the obscene decibels of blaring music. Where the music just pulsates. Or pipes. Or wafts. Or even undulates. Where the pork or chicken is just as excellent as the Merlot or Spanish Cava. Where the bartender knows me, or at least remembers me. I’m a pub guy. And I love the counter. It makes you look cool. Even if it’s the 19th and you’re broke like hell. You just somehow look cool. You seem like you have it together. Even if your life is a maze of confusion like our politics.

Anyway, a friend of mine invited me to dinner about a month and a half ago. She’s the quintessential fun loving Nairobi lady trapped in image issues. So naturally she settled for what she considered to be one of West Lands’ finest. We met at Spring Valley Oven, a minute’s drive from West Gate. They have killer ribs and rums. {Is that alliteration?} I sat across her and listened to her ventilate about her loop sided love life. It both saddened and intrigued me how mystic life can get. It can give you comfort, but deny you the simple joys like staying in love. It’s not like she’s experiencing acrimony or resentment in her relationship. No. It’s just that the spark just isn’t there. It’s achromatic, so to speak. He does everything but show love. He’s just indifferent. He’s picked up golf, and golf has replaced her. But you wouldn’t know if you saw them shop at West Gate, or Two Rivers. They do a pretty good job at putting up appearances. Which is the in-thing in this town. Appearances. Picture perfect appearances.

So seated in the adjacent booth, partitioned from ours by acoustic glass, is this guy in a snow-white shirt. Spotless. Crisp even. He looks like them summer bunnies- rich skin, fleshy face, shiny lips, neat haircut, no beards, no tie, airs, chutzpa, the works… A white iPhone is cradled in his long, thick fingers. Though seated, you can tell he’s a strapping chap. A misty bottle of Heineken sits idly before him. No glass. He takes intermittent sips straight from it. Gently swigs it like a mouth wash before sending it gurgling down his innards. He’s thumbing away on his iPhone. Probably a WhatsApp text to this chic who’s making his life miserable…

Back to our booth.

My friend is now telling me how she used to come here with her guy a while back when they used to eat out and go for rhumba nights at Intercon, where they could literary dance the night away. When their love was young and fine. When it was all steamy and racy. When it was all roses and chocolate. When they promised each other the moon and the stars. When they sang Kenny Rodgers’ You Decorated My Life {A great jam which millennials now squat about}. Then all that came to a screeching halt, and now everything is on a plateau of sorts. The spark gone; her life cold.

Her eyes are beginning to glister. “I think it’s my weight,” she chokes, then quickly looks away. I know I shouldn’t try to offer any solution. {Not that I have one anyway} so I look at the guy. A thin veneer of silence engulfs our booth. I reach for my Merlot. She regains her composure. She picks from where she left.

She does all the talking, I do all the listening.

The guy looks distant. There’s this troubled look in his face. He’s deep in thought.

Lone patrons often times have shit going down in their lives. Mostly a relationship on the rocks, or finances in the pits. Or both. I can relate. I’ve been there.

But our guy was taking a fairly priced beer. Finances were the least of his worries, I thought. Otherwise he could have taken the drink of the watus – Tusker, or Pilsner, or Guinness. Or he could have gone to Ngara and taken Kenya Cane till he pees on himself. Perhaps he could be crunching numbers on a small piece of paper. Mumbling to himself. But he wasn’t. He just sat there texting. I was pretty persuaded it must have been a woman.

So here I was listening to a lady whine about the way her love is headed for the doldrums, and in the next booth, sat a man nursing what appeared to be a festering heartache. A lone. Because men hardly share their pains for fear of coming across as sissies. We bottle it up. We drown it in alcohol, or work, or sports, or whatever floats your boat. And later it explodes in an ugly way. Or kills us slowly. We go to the grave young. But what do ladies do? They whine about it during their noisy chama meetings or bible study sessions. Or cry it out wherever.

I wondered what his woman could have possibly done. Had she turned down his marriage proposal? Or given birth to a Chinese kid? Or eloped with a loud Nigerian man with tons of cash accrued from shady deals? Or she’d just crept from the woods and sued him for child support because he just landed this lucrative job? Or had he found this randy whatsapp text that suggested she had had a romp with Samson of procurement when they went for team building at Enashipai resort the previous weekend? A text that read something like this, “Sue, you screamed like an ambulance, hehe. At least now you know size doesn’t matter, huh?” then followed by a naughty smiley face. And she had responded with a blushing emoji. And another emoji of a knicker and a bra. Si you know that emoji? You must have used it at some point hata wewe, ama? Or did he just come back from work and found the house swept clean and her phone mteja? Or had she threatened to walk out on him if he doesn’t give her a destination wedding with an exotic honeymoon in the Bahamas? I couldn’t place my finger on anything. He just sat there thumbing away. Sometimes looking at the TV mounted overhead that was showing France 24 news.

Usually, how a man chooses to handle his woes is entirely up to him. But the baseline is that we have to put forth a tough exterior. We have to feign machismo. I’m still not sure what I will advise my son – I really hope I get one – to respond to his pain and emotions. Should I tell him to be true to his feelings and cry a river? Because even Jesus cried, no? Or should I tell him that we are pedigrees of this proud, tough and hairy Maragoli lineage where shedding a tear is sacrilegious? But I would be lying because I’ve cried many a times.

Allow me to digress a tad;

There’s this high school buddy of mine – I happen to keep most of my high school friends than any other. Really smart guy. Sabre sharp. And a cool cat too. So there’s this time he went under. Didn’t pick calls, didn’t return calls. Blue ticks on whatsapp. I thought that he’d married, and the missus had kaliad him chapatti. That she’d told him she doesn’t like his friends because they’d lead him to destruction. That we’re all hopeless mangy racoons with neither bearing in life nor family values. That all we care for is sport pesa and second generation liquor. That we are hapless riffraffs. So what did I do? I kept off.
Viola! He resurfaced last week. He dropped a moving comment to one of my posts. I’ll give you an excerpt of the comment verbatim; “at 27, my life is still a bitch. Grappling with a ton of self-imposed responsibilities. Baby mama drama, rent in a house I can barely afford. And shamefully at this age, I have no clue what to do with my life. My career path is foggy. Women don’t excite my loins any more.” I suspected that during the period he’d gone under, he’d been drinking alone a lot. Ruminating over things. Turning stuff over in his head. He’d been a lone patron. I don’t know if he cried. I didn’t ask him.

But my most embarrassing crying was because of girls. Looking back, I feel such a buffoon. I mean, how could I? Why did I? I’ve come to learn that love is nothing but a transient feeling, and this feeling could fade with time and/or one’s moods or circumstances. That time is the master healer of heart ache, however excruciating. I’ve learnt not to exaggerate the beauty and sweetness of love. Nor the sadness of falling out of love.

However, I’m still not sure how I will handle a breakup with a chic I really like. I might not cry. But I might be a lone patron.

Salute to all the lone patrons; it’ll be well.

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