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Monday, January 3, 2011

31

The New Year for me passed very uneventfully. It shuttered noiselessly from 2010 to 2011 with no hint of drama or intrigue. I spent the turn in the way I spent the most joyous moments of the year surrounded by friends whose company I enjoy who walked through the year with me never faltering or faulting.

Earlier in the night I went to the liquor store to stock up. I met this guy maybe in his forties who was wearing shorts and had the key to his no doubt expensive car in his hand. He was looking at the bottles with obvious connoisseurship. His whole manner bespoke that money was no object and that time was a luxury he enjoyed often. I breezed past him and grabbed 2 bottles of vodka so fast it was practically muscle memory. The guy looked at the 1.5 litres of vodka that this kid(in case anyone needs clarification the kid was me) had just bought himself. He cracked a wry smile that seemed to speak memories of a time gone by when he too had no time because life was one big race and he was always in a hurry to get to the next destination. He then told me “happy new year.” That sentence and the manner it was said by the man who said it held so much. Humour and knowledge, experience and wisdom, nostalgia and joy and a genuine wish that I would actually have a happy new year.

This was unlike all other calls that day. Anyone who calls on New Year’s Eve is either desperate to reminisce about shared moments r is looking for a plan. The following is a story of one such couple.

This guy and his chic were hanging out on New Year’s fulfilling the wish of every human being on the planet (at least the girlie ones) which is knowing where their midnight kiss was coming from and knowing for sure it wouldn’t be with some random person whose name would be hard to remember in 2 hours. They went to a bar in Nairobi west and had this amazing roast chicken. There is something godly in knowing an animal was slaughtered for you and then burnt over an open fire. Maybe that’s why we like roast meat so much. But even without all the feelings of godhead that such food inspires it would still have been a splendid meal. The meat was succulent, soft and juicy. Just the right amount of salt, vinegar and seasoning had been added and she was in just the right state of mind to enjoy the food. They say hunger is the best sauce and she was having the kind of pangs that make vegetables appetizing in this state the taste of the chicken in her mouth was as close to heaven as most mortals can dream of reaching.. While they were there who should make an appearance at the bar than the prime minister himself.

He was on one of those “I am an ordinary person” rounds that he has to do now that there was an exposé about how much wealth his family had. And like any ordinary guy(well at least the ordinary guys I hope to know this year) he started buying rounds of drinks for everyone. I have no information that the girl and the guy who I am gonna name now so that I don’t get confused and to avoid further confusion I’ll use their real names(I did ask for permission and I took their silence as assent) so let’s call them Eric and Ruth..

Eric and Ruth left that bar due to the restlessness that so inhabits all of us human beings. Never satisfied with our lot in life and sure that fate, destiny, luck, coincidence or god is giving someone else a better time in a better place. The need to migrate takes us over and Eric called his friend also called Eric. This is not because I ran out of pseudonyms but because they share a name. And sure enough the Eric with no girlfriend tells him that they are at a party which is awesome and kicking and all other platitudes that are heaped on parties. So Eric tells Ruth that they have to leave and go to this party on the other side of Nairobi. Ruth agrees and they get on a Matatu to town.

When they get to town they are assaulted by all the sounds that come out in the New Year, the streets are choked with people, peopled by expectation, expecting all that the promise of something new gives. It’s hard to walk for all the masses of people there and Ruth involuntarily flashbacks to a time like this last year. She was in town and because the people who are working for electric companies also need their fun on New Year’s Eve the electricity disappeared. On a night when everyone is already feeling wild and heady, when safety is a buzzword for just one night in Nairobi and the night air is already infecting everyone with danger and bravery the last thing you need is a blackout. The thing that happens when all the above is mixed with an inky blackness is that…people will have sex on the street and this is what happened. She was an unfortunate ear witness to this and here she was reliving these moments instead of having drinks with the prime minister. They navigate through this maze and get a taxi to the party place.

As the clock strikes twelve they are still in the taxicab. So they shared this moment, this once in a year moment that people infuse with such expectation and symbolism that it can’t help but to disappoint while still groaning like atlas with the weight of the year turning on his shoulder. This moment they shared with each other, relieving all the glories and disappointments of the past year, the ups and downs and arguments that inevitably come with relationships, the sense of history that such moments always give. They shared all of this with each other and the cabdriver (a guy who they weren’t even sure s a we were four fan). The curtain of privacy was not drawn instead a window of awkwardness descended separating them from each other as the clock struck midnight

A few minutes after midnight they got to the party venue. Eric called Eric and they were collected. They walked into the compound where the party was happening and were led to the epicenter of the action.

The epicenter of the epicenter was an old lady, the grandmother of one of Eric’s contemporaries. She was leading the crowd around her in an impassioned prayer in kikuyu to the lord. Thanking him for taking them through one more year. There was a decidedly calm atmosphere, the kind that can only be achieved by having people who had seen at least 30 such events and others who had seen more than 60. Not exactly a wearied countenance at the prospect of another year but none of the surprise that another year had passed characteristic of youth which always resulted in such fervour. Their night’s adventure’s seemed to have screeched if not to a halt at least to a slow crawl so slow it could be likened to the rate of temperature change due to global warming(3 degrees in 100 years, really? Really?)

When people are faced with a change in circumstance, suddenly surrounded by the collective wisdom of the ages, in a state of spiritual stupor, experiencing the New Year in a sober adult way and all the above is mixed with anger at Eric for so obviously misleading them only one thing can happen… they had sex….no of course not they just burst out laughing.