Before my uncle settled down in the village, he lived like a hobo. He loved the road, and found its freedom seductive, like a dimpled glass.He cursed like a black movie screen icon-all the while hopping from one pub to another.
When I came of age, he had just reached that age when women buy aging creams to slow aging, and men buy fast cars for the same reason. Those days, he swaggered around with the front buttons of his silk shirt open, to cool the high octane testosterone fire raging in his chest
One odd Saturday, he woke me up roughly and tasked me to polish his new Renault 4- then fondly known as Renault Roho.Its inside smelt like asphalt, desire, and dreams. It was wildly popular then since it was the first car to come with a humongous derriere- like a slay queen. Slay queens later copied it- fashion is cyclical.
With a scratching melody coming from the radio and our hair flirting with the wind, we hit the road. On the way, we gave a lift to an old couple headed to church. They commended us on how swanky the car looked- with leather seats and AM radio.My uncle then beamed with pride like a goat fed on those leaves called ‘mukenia’ which made them smile.Then chimed:’
‘Gaka kanyuaga ime ta ngiria.'(The one imbibes fuel sparingly like cricket does on dew.)When the old couple reached their destination, the old lady alighted half-heartedly.
“Where are we going?” I asked uncle.” I dunno.”He grunted inaudibly back, his head lost in the funky Steele Beauttah song playing on the radio. He sang along loudly, like he owned the universe.At Maragwa, we bought those long green and yellow “miraru’ bananas- which my uncle called pistols.Watching too many black movies had influenced his choice of words.
Later, We then ended up getting lost- but in the right direction- since we ended up in the parking of a pub called Kahiriga.Nice cosy joint that’s not on any map. But most nice places arent anyway.Kahiriga is still there, struggling to get customers, like an ageing tart.
I was still wet behind the ears so uncle ordered Coke for me as he and his friends took hard stuff.A stocky lass called Mwihaki inserted a coin into the jukebox, which burst to life with Kamaru songs.She had this well-formed calves from climbing many a Murang’a hill. But when her hips swayed, wallets swayed too, emptying everything into hers.I wont go into the other emptying of proteins that would take place later, in the neighbouring Wanjerere Bar and Lodging.
As we were about to leave,a drunk was peeing on the tyres of our car.He had this roughly hewn face- which looked like a road map to every seedy chang’aa joint in the hood.A face that betrayed how life had wronged him.
“Shadao! If you continue peeing on the tyres of that my new car, I will cut your wee thing off!”My uncle slurred, pointing a thick brutal finger at the sod.
“Then you will need a very big knife for that.” The drunk boasted back.I am not an expert at human anatomy, but going by his frame,he could make those Mwea donkeys envious.
“You nincoompop!” My uncle cursed him back. Apart from Dr.Gikonyo Kiano,he was the most educated man in the district, and his English was impeccable.Still is. Leaning on the car’s bonnet,uncle lit a Nyota cigarette,stuck out his chest out and like a ghetto king from a blaxploitation movie and yelled at me:
“Nigga,git me ma pistol from the fuckin’ boot. Fast!”I went to the car boot and found those long bananas we had bought at Maragwa.
“Master,the yellow ones or the green ones?”I asked, feebly.
“Yellow one, idiot! The greens ones are for damn cows.”
The drunks gush reduced to a trickle, then a drip drop. Then he melted into the night like a cowardly evil spirit chased out by some potent juju.In a journey, the lessons come from the journey, not the destination.