Most girls don’t know the taste of alcohol until they go away to university. Most girls in this scenario are the case study girls of a typical life. You know? Nursery for 3 years [because kindergarten people have wine cellars], Primary school for 8 years [since academy folks’ parents have brandy in a crystal bottle on the desk in their father’s study] and high school [which I have no shade for because I absolutely refuse to utter the words “secondary school”] These girls probably join boarding school for a number of reasons, some never even wanted to go to boarding school, but since the parent is the law, you gots to do what you gots to do.
“I only drink wine,” she texted. “You can call me Rosé [My keyboard has refused to add the tilde on the ‘e’ so let’s make do with old fashioned Rose, shall we?]
When I read Rose’s text, I found her snobby. Why would she just ignore all the other liquor when they did no wrong in the world but exist? What kind of discrimination was that? To say you only want one thing when there are numerous other almost similar things that can serve the same purpose. Unbelievable. See, I’m a whiskey girl. You’ve been asking all year and now you know. So her statement hit home when she said it because I felt personal. Like she had a vendetta against all other people who enjoy something else. [PS. If my dad reads this, I like Fanta Orange]
Rose got her first sip from her mom. And before you judge, the mom did not know that Rose was eyeing her drink that afternoon. “We had this habit of going out every Sunday after church. We would go to the same restaurant around the area we live in. Tulips Restaurant. Quite quaint. It had a very homely feel. The swings were my favorite part. I would wake up in the morning and jump out of bed so excited. My mom always thought I was excited about going to church. Truth is, I couldn’t wait for church to be over, so I could go and play on the swing set all afternoon.”
By the time she was in high school, she started being conscious of her body. Her breasts were growing and she needed bras now. She could no longer jump up and down when excited on Sunday mornings. “I was kinda insecure. And my mom did not talk to me about growing up. She did not explain that things would change and that boys’ eyes would linger on me when I asked them something. I had to figure shit out on my own.”
She recalls her first sip of alcohol. It was on a Sunday. Church was longer than usual and she just wanted to leave. At Tulips, she was seated on one of the swings, not really doing anything, her mind building castles on beaches and in the sky simultaneously when her mom called to her. “Rose!”
“I looked to her and you know this thing that mothers do? Where if they call you and you are not next to them in two shakes of a tail [yes, she said that] then they tear the world down until you get to them? My mom is like that. She is the kind of woman who when she utters the first syllables of your name, you run like you are being chased by wild dogs”
I laugh at that.
The mother called. Rose ran. “I want to use the restroom. Nataka ukae kwa hii meza incase chakula ikuje (sit here and wait for the food)”
“Did you hear me?”
Mother likes eye contact and verbal affirmation. “Yes mom. I heard you”
She started walking towards the bathroom but a few steps in, she turned. “And Rose?”
“Stop daydreaming at least for the five minutes I am away. Drunkards are everywhere here, and most of them have not had any lunch, and you’re a young girl. Be alert Rose. Don’t go searching for fairytales in your head and get lost in there till our food gets stolen.” Then before Rose could respond, the mom was in the bathrooms.
Now, as a creative, I can tell you right now how hard it is to stop yourself from daydreaming because sometimes you don’t even realize you are doing it. It’s like a default setting in our brains. Like telling a tortoise not to go back in its shell. It just cannot be done. And if you have someone who is able to control it… please tell them to contact me. I need to be the first to discover that anomaly.
True to her nature, Rose found herself somewhere, lost in the intricacies that her brain could conjure up. “then this waiter came up to me, with a glass of wine. I knew all the waiters at the restaurant, but his face was unfamiliar. His badge read “TEDDY” and I will never forget it. I will tell my kids this till I am old and have cataracts in my eyes.”
Teddy didn’t know her as well. Didn’t know the powerhouse of Tulips that her mother was. But he said there was an order of a glass of rosé for table 9, and he placed the glass on the table then left.
God blessed and cursed Rose with an inquisitive mind. She started asking herself why her mother was drinking strawberry quencher juice on that afternoon when she never really did like sugary things. She leaned towards it, “just to smell it. I didn’t have any plans with the glass”. But once you smell a rosé your taste buds start playing malwedhe on you. You get a tingle in your throat and your tongue? Oh, your tongue actively wants it! It calls to it. So she lifted the glass and put obliged her lips.
“I would describe that first taste as…interesting. I mean, it wasn’t sweet, but it was also not disgusting. Immediately it touched my tongue I knew it was alcohol. I don’t know how, but I just knew. THEN I felt an adrenaline rush.”
She had her first angel-devil moment at table 9.
The angel said: Gurrl, you know thas wrong
The devil said: But did you taste it though?
Angel: Uh-Uh listen. That’s yo mama’s. She gon kill youuu
Devil: Pfft! Kill you? Over strawberry juice? Gurl come on
[For some reason, this is how I pictured this conversation and I just went with it]
Eventually, the devil won, because she was young, and she needed to do this so that you could have something interesting to read today. See how the universe works?
She lifted the glass, drained it, then placed the glass on the next table. Gotta get rid of the evidence.
Her mom came back almost immediately and Rose stood up to get back to the swing set, but she was dizzy. Gravity pulled her into the seat.
“Are you sick?” her mom asked.
“No,” she said. /But I want to be/
“Okay. Cos if you are sick then we will go home right now”
She shook her head. Then paused. Should she have shaken her head or nodded? Was the grass always this green? Her fingers tingled. She was smiling. “What are you smiling about?” her mom asked, now watching her closely. “Nothing” /serious face Rose. Serious face!/
Her mom now shook her head. Food came. Some everyday waiter now. Thank heavens! But twenty minutes into their food arriving, a woman started a commotion at the bar.
“Where is he? I have paid him already and he’s gone? Where is he?” she was shouting.
Everyone in the restaurant was asking where who was. Who the fuck was this who? Her husband? Boyfriend? Payer of the bills? But something moved in Rose’s stomach, and she knew, even before the words were uttered. She knew what was happening.
“Where did he go? He said I was his last table then he finishes his shift. And you people have started this paying upfront thing so you tell me. Where is HE!”
The waiters were all there, in their crisp white shirts and tiny bowties. Everyone in the restaurant turned toward the bar. The woman was hysterical. They had stolen from her and she was having none of it. Who did they think they were?
“Mom, nimeshiba” Rose said, unable to finish her food. Confusion was floating in the air. Everyone wanted to know what was going on. Whiffs of the story suggested she had paid someone for a drink who had disappeared with her thousand bob. Rose looked at the booklet on their table, knowing what was inside. “Let’s go,” her mom said, already standing up. “This might get ugly. Twende home tu” They left.
Over the next couple of weeks, they did not go to Tulips. “I felt as if my mom knew what had happened was somehow my fault. Or at least she suspected. But she never said anything. I drank that woman’s rosé. She blamed Teddy for taking her money and not giving back her glass worth, and her change sat on table 9, while the glass that housed her wine was on the table behind me.”
“Do you feel guilty?”
“Never have, don’t think I ever will.”
Then one day, almost 2 months later, her mom comes home, looks her in the face and goes, “I was at Tulips today.” And that was it. No follow up, no nothing. Those 5 words sent a chill down her spine. Her mom wanted her to know that she knew. And that look that she gave her, that look was everything.
[Have an alcoholic experience that you want to share? Send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or a DM on Instagram (@mir_awu). Let’s live a story]
There are worse things than being addicted to alcohol. Things that drain your heart of all feeling that you cannot really believe they are actually happening. Surreal things. Some people break a nail and curse the universe out because… who would cause somebody’s glittery pink nail to just break out of nowhere like that? A fucking psycho, that’s who.
I am writing this at 3:12am. The date according to my laptop is 12th of September. My heart is heavy and my brain fuzzy. I feel everything and nothing at the same time. I am trying to ask the universe “WHY?”
Why do the best and brightest souls have to leave?
Why can’t murderers and child molesters be cleared from this earth instead?
I have lost a friend. And ours was not those publicized kinds of friendships that send kisses on WhatsApp statuses. We did not tag each other on Instagram. Heck the only publicity we had on social media was sending birthday wishes on Facebook. A “Happy birthday Jean” once every 365 days and we were done. I want to say it one last time.
Ours was the kind of friendship that supported each other. She was among the people who would hype me up so much on Thursdays that I felt I could pen galaxies of words from my heart. She was beautiful, and just talking about her in the past tense is breaking my heart.
It was cancer that got her. She survived throat cancer about one and a half hears back and we were all so happy for her. She had fought. She had struggled and kicked the growing tumor to the curb. Her clothes hang loose, but she was alive, and that mattered. A lot. Jean was fine. We, were fine [because we realize our friends’ turmoil as our own and her being okay meant that we, too, could] Then on September 9th, at around 11:00am, I was added to the group. These days Whatsapp has a feature that lets admins describe the purpose of group, and the days of “Huku ni wapi” (where is this) texts are soon gone. This description quickly explained that she had stage 2 breast cancer and I thought to myself “Aah, Jean is strong. She has survived this before. She can do it again” a mental note was quickly made to call her during the weekend. I wish I called when I got home that evening.
I wish Jean had just broken a nail. I wish I texted her just to ask about her nails, and then maybe we could have drifted the conversation to ask how she was and she could have told me, in the subtle way only she could. She could have said, “I’m taking it one day at a time. God is gracious and kind”. She always said something like that.
Me: I don’t even know if this AA thing is going to pick up.
Her: God knows
Me: I’m so tired Jean. Honestly, I’m not sure I can make a post tomorrow
Her: God has given you a gift. Use it. Bless us with it
She loved Him. This supernatural all-knowing being. And ill confess, when I saw the message on the group of my former classmates dubbed “Euginia’s support group”, I questioned Him. I asked why her? Cliché, I know. But I found myself with all these questions that I needed answered and there was nobody to help me with them, so I turned to blaming the big guy [who remains quiet as well]
That message came eerily at exactly 1:00am. My grandfather’s message came at 9:37pm. Both broke my heart. Both were dear friends of mine. One taken too soon, the other taken before I was ready to accept it.
[AA continues next week]
Michael says he is happy. I asked the question about twelve times, and each time he answered he swore he is. He carries a smile that lights the room. A smile that forces you to smile back. He radiates sunshine that you might actually believe his words. Now, I am aware of how cynical I sound. Trust me. It’s just that the more he swore to me that he is “actually happy”, the more my skepticism grew.
He first texted to ask if I was sure I wanted a story about a happy person “like I said in the blog”. He said he was happy. Naturally, I asked how he knew he was.
“Because I’m living the good life,” he said.
I was immediately intrigued.
“But first things first,” he texted right after. “We will not discuss my life in campus.”
I read that message about 4 times before texting him back, “Why not?”
“Campus was just rough for me. And I know people don’t have it easy out here, and I should be grateful for it, for all I went through, but I just want it behind me. So you have to agree to it.” I sent a thumbs up emoji.
“Tell me about this good life. What makes your situation now better from whatever happened in university?” I ask because I’m thinking to myself how this happy drunks thing is a bad idea. I wanted to get Michael out of the way so we could get back to our sunken place of misery and broken hearts laced with liquor.
“well, I have a nice place. In Utawala. It’s a one bedroom but it works. Lakini I’m moving out soon.”
[Okay. This was totally a bad idea. There is no story here] “What do you do?”
“I am in the corporate world” he says. It is important to say that I will completely understand if you too think you need to stop reading this non-existent story and go do something more important…like watch The Secret Life of Pets 2 [at least I did]. But if you could have a little patience with Michael, he is about to have a breakthrough that you will appreciate.
“I am single” he texts again, seeing that I had ignored the first text. “Can’t deal with commitment issues again.”
“Okay,” I look for something else to watch. Probably continue from where I left Dear White People?
“Yeah. So these days I just go out and come back to the crib with random girls”
I glance at my phone and a grin escapes me. Finally, right? Something I can work with. “Tell me about them.”
“What? These days”
[Breathe, girl. Just breathe]
“No, silly,” I feign non-annoyance. [Is there a word for not being annoyed? Or pretending not to be anyway? Like that emoji that slaps its face?] “The girls. Tell me about them. Describe them to me”
I will give you a few.
She was the first. Kinda boring. She was quiet the whole time. Talked when spoken to. Never asked questions. Never provided information. Sometimes, he would poke her just to watch her turn, “to ensure she was alive, you know?” he says. I don’t.
Preferred to be called Meg [Reminds me of Family Guy]
Meg is a frequent partaker of the good life that Michael has to offer. she is always a phone call away. There has not been a time, to date, that he has dialed and she said no. “Probably because whenever she asks for money I always send her.” “Do you like her company the best” I ask. “No. I prefer Diana. Meg is just there for a good time. The kind of girl that you will always call if you want someone to drink with and fuck later.”
He does not know where she lives. “She probably just crashes with any guy she gets her hands on until he gets tired of her. Maybe that’s why she’s always available when I call.” Or maybe she just genuinely likes him for who he is, but who’s to say it but her?
Gene (That’s what he called her) was toxic. She carried a pair of scissors in her handbag and came to his place unannounced, the pair in her hand. She always gave threats /If I find another girl with you I will cut you and her both/ You are mine. Only mine/
She would call at 3:28am and say she was expecting to hear a girl’s voice so she could raise hell.
One time, he found a hammer in her handbag.
Michael starts by giving me the negatives to Diana. She is too short. She bites her nails when she is nervous. One of her brothers is in prison. He says she is not the girl he would typically go for. Why? Well, first of all she works as a house help [or house manager]. He will not allow himself to “stoop that low”. There are standards to be observed by people of his calibre. “She doesn’t even drink imagine. What will i do with a girl who does not like to have a good time?” he says.
But she also happens to be smart, and funny, and “kinda pretty”. He likes that she can make him laugh. No girl has been able to do that to date. That her dreams go above Everest and keep climbing. “She has this thing about her that’s just captivating. The kind of girl you know will ride and die for you”
“You like her? Of all the girls you have mentioned” I ask.
“haha, “Like” is a strong word” he lies. “I would say I enjoy her company. She’s a kind of subtle fun that has you craving her after a few days. But like her? Hell no. Didn’t you hear me say she is a mboch? I can never go to my friends and introduce a mboch as my girl!”
“Oh, so you’ve thought about it”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe in a fleeting second, it may have crossed my mind very briefly. She’s an amazing girl. But she is the kind to date. I am the kind to have girls around for a brief period and dispose of them like that [insert Gamora snapping her fingers].
The other girls’ names are Nancy, Aisha, Christine (Tina), Wambo, Jackie with an ‘ie’, and Carol, because what list of girls is complete without a Caro? They all drink the alcohol he buys them.
There is no measure of happiness. No scale that can accurately tell us whether Michael’s smile remains behind closed doors. It would be easier, right? Because then we would be able to gauge how happiness affects a man. We would know whether being happy and saying you are hold any difference. All we have is belief, which I am a strong advocate for. So I chose to believe him. I did not question when he danced around the idea of being content. Neither did I ask why he spoke with such fondness of Diana and not of the other girls, but still chose to not follow his heart. I asked nothing, because he said he is happy, and I chose to believe him.
But I have suspicions, because my mind tends to look at a situation twenty-two times. I suspect he was hurt in campus. Something worse than getting cheated on. I suspect he was a lover. That his heart was filled with sunshine and his lenses were yellow. Whatever happened that he cannot talk about, changed him. Made the yellow orange or green. Altered something that shone in him, so that his heart forgot the intensity with which it shone, but still struggles to find it. I suspect a light still illuminates, but it is a little different. A little darker. By the time I was turning this story in my head for the twenty second time, I concluded Michael is as happy as he can be. As he hopes to be.