I had a beer with my old man and a few of his drinking buddies last week. I get to the rendezvous after the sun has put on its nightdress and gone to bed and they’re uproarious in excitement when they see me, as if they’ve just seen a lifeboat in a storm. Everyone wants to buy me beer. My old man is already tipsy and he keeps telling everyone, “This is Kariuki, he’s named after my dad. He’s my son.” And my cheeks flash pink like a Japanese Geisha in a tea house. He calls the waitress; a spherical shaped woman with matuta for hair, a round chubby face, clever eyes and a mouth trained to say the right things. “This is Kariuki, he’s my son. He’s thirty years old, what do you think?” Thanks dad for adding me three more years. “He is all grown up,” the waitress says shyly. With his thirst to see me wed I’m astonished he doesn’t ask me to ask her for her hand in marriage, instead he asks if the choma and chips he ordered are ready. “I’ll have Ugali instead of chips.” I interject because I don’t think thirty year old Kariuki would want to eat French fries. I mean, he’s thirty now, all grown up.
We’re seated at the counter, it’s a ringlet made of oak and the pub area is under-lit, giving it a murky, rustic feel. We’re five of us. To the far left is a chap in a designer suit, with big, shining cufflinks that look like they weigh a ton. He looks like the kind of chap who hides his insecurities in sharp attire and honeyed glib. He looks mid to late forties, the age where most men leave their families to go find themselves only to end up finding a young campus girl with a firm, willowy figure. For the sake of this article we’ll call him Cufflink. Beside him is an older man. He has a cravenness to him. Men don’t age that fast unless they have been through a lot of upheavals and you can tell life has hammered him. He looks like an extra in a picture, like a gatecrasher in the wrong party. We’ll call him Cufflink’s wingman. The next guy is in a pinstriped Polo t-shirt and faded Levi’s jeans. I know they are Levi’s jeans because I’ve glanced at his waistline and gotten a glimpse of the logo. He’s a CPA-K, if he was a TV character he would be Ross from the sitcom, Friends. Ross keeps waving his car keys at me. “Kariuki, are you going to drive me home?” Ensconced between him and me is my dad.
“I just ate, so maybe we can share the meat when it arrives?” I announce.It’s something I often say. I’m a poor eater, it lifts the unnecessary pressure from my shoulders.
“That’s okay,” everyone chants. “What will you drink?” Cufflink adds.
“Let him eat first,” my dad interrupts. I have long stopped being excited about free booze like I used to but I think I will have one for the road after I am done eating.
“Who are you guys voting for, are you still voting for Uhuru despite his dismal performance?” I holler against my better judgment. Their eyes fall on me, flaming red and I’m not sure if its fury or the copious amounts of alcohol seated in their bellies.
“What dismal performance?” Cufflink sings.
“I mean, the cost of living is sky high. Basic commodities like unga and tomatoes are neck to neck with the price of a secondhand Vitz and we apparently live in a country with a government?”
“Let me cut you short there, bwana Kariuki.” You know someone is about to shat on you when they say, ‘let me cut you short there’ and go on to add bwana.
“Let me ask you a question, what is the cause of the price of food shooting up?”
“Listen, C A U S E”
“Matithikagiriria aya, ciana cia thiko ici.” Cufflink’s wingman murmurs and Cufflink nods his head in approval.
“Oh cause? That is simple. Bad governance.”
“No, no, no, we’re experiencing a shortage in foodstuff because of drought. Natural causes. Are you going to blame drought on governance, can Uhuru summon rain or bring about a good harvest?”
Ross jumps in, “Demand and supply Kariuki. If the supply of food is low then demand shoots up and prices go up because of scarcity. Do you know the perfection score for Uhuru’s governance?”
“I shake my head rapidly and my ears get hot.”
I wonder what that has to do with anything. I also wonder if he will be sending me a tuition invoice later for the economics class. You just can’t trust a CPA-K who wears Levi’s jeans.
“To answer your question,” I’m speaking directly to Cufflink. “Uhuru can’t summon rain nor bring about a good harvest but he can put measures in place that anticipate the occurrence. Are you going to tell me that if there was drought throughout the year we would all starve to death?”
My dad is mixing a blend of what looks like vodka with lemon, “Listen to my son Kariuki, he’s named after my dad.” He says, his speech slurred.
The meat and ugali get on the table and the waitress puts it on my side. I flay a piece of meat from a bone. It’s tender and bursting with flavor.
“The bad thing with youth of nowadays they don’t listen.” Cufflink murmurs.
“Matithikagiriria, nima.” Cufflink’s wingman compliments his sentence. Such a cute couple.
“Listen bwana Kariuki. You have to look at history eh, drought did not start today. Ask your dad over there, in 1984 we had another drought called, ng’aragu ya mianga.” His mouth curls into a sneer, a sneer that says, ‘You weren’t even born then so sit.’
“If there was another drought in 1984 don’t you think we’re a bit paralyzed, we keep repeating the same mistakes instead of learning from them?”
“Bwana Kariuki, the bad thing with youth of today is that you don’t listen. You want to talk over grown-ups, (I thought I was thirty and all grown-up, huh) you think you know everything but you know nothing. You have to go back and look at history so that you can be in a position to speak about the present.”
“Uhuru has a 98% perfection score Kariuki, 98%. Do you know the formulae eh, I went to school a long time ago so the formulae might have changed. What CPA are you?”
Ross looks at me disappointed as if I just said I like my Pizza with bean stew. For a moment he looks sober, probably wondering how there can be people in this country walking around with a CPA two and having the confidence to say it in public.
“That is a little bit low,”he says with his kindest voice“but you have a degree eh?”
“Did you do finance?”
“I did a unit in finance, yes.”
He goes into gibberish about how he arrived at the perfection score and Cufflink jumps in again.
“Your generation is damaged goods,” he says, unabashed. “Can you tell me any of your friends that are married?” He doesn’t let me answer. “There are none.” He says with his eyes smiling. “Your generation can’t even keep a job. You get a job today, work for three months and they let you go because you can’t perform. Women your age can’t even cook ugali and those are the people you’re expected to marry. You go to uptown restaurants and have expensive bottles of alcohol then go back to your parents’ houses. Is that anyway to live?”
My jaw falls, not because I’m on the cross dying for all millennial sins but in wonder of how ridiculously wrong he is with his premises. A lot of millennials are not getting fired, they’re leaving their jobs. They are not after grandiosity they are after fulfillment and they get to these jobs and discover that there’s very little to them. They’re colorless places. Gossipy villages that have plateaued. As we chastise millennials we also need to rethink jobs. Most jobs are operating in 2017 with a 1984 mentality. And come on, women are much more than cooking ugali. You want someone you can exchange ideas with, a sidekick, a partner. Someone who is your equal if not better, not a maid. I breathe out a sigh and my lips part.
“And who would you say is to blame for all the damage?”
Cufflink tsks, removes his left hand from his pocket and starts going through his points with his right hand, starting from his small finger. “Your background. Boys your age are driving around, bragging with daddy’s car instead of working for their own. They want to get out of campus and immediately be like me and they don’t want to understand that I have worked and hustled for years to get where I am. Second, your teachers, a lot of them are not qualified. You’re ending up in learning institutions that don’t offer you a lot of value. Third, this thing you call social media, it’s forcing you to live a life that you don’t have. Ten years from now you might wake up and realize that you would have been better off building something than pretending you had it.
In his clangor, Ross swaggers and knocks an empty glass on the table that my dad stops before it falls to the floor. I have eaten about three quarters of the meat and drank a half bottle of beer and my dad has gotten restless, he wants to leave and I’m smack in the middle of negotiating world peace for millennials. “I will be outside.” He gets up a bit sobered up and walks towards the exit.
“What do you suppose is the salvation for us then?”
“You have to toe the line and accept that you have gone wrong somewhere.”
My dad comes back impatient, “Let’s go.”
There are still pieces of meat on my tray as I leave. “Drive me home Kariuki.” Ross says while waving his keys on my face. “You said we’d eat the meat together.” Cufflink’s wingman barks angrily while I get up. “Now that is waste, a finance person would know better. You are not finance,” he says. “You are not finance.” And I can hear him chanting—you are not finance—even after I am three blocks away from the establishment.
If there is an accountant in the house, please tell us how Ross arrived at the 98% perfection score. It’s been haunting me all week.
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I like to think of myself as a reader who writes, a Pan-African who thinks with the tips of his fingers, but when I’m not molesting the keyboard I’m usually destroying yogurt (not Frusion) or staring into the vastness of space.