I have been out and about, trying to do what they call domestic tourism. As a man of modest means, my needs are pretty simple: A mild drink in a green bottle, best served chilled, and music in the distance.
I was in the Mount Kenya area trying to understand the region’s recent electoral revolt. At night time, we were drawn to Nanyuki’s Moran Lounge and Grill, a handsome establishment with high roofs and oscillating neon lights.
The walls were adorned with large screens that beamed videos of the music playing in the air.
But more enticing action was on the dancefloor, where pairs of youths groped and gasped in staggering swings, the only buffer between us and them being a small that held our drinks. Once, twice, one lad nearly crushed on us.
On the third attempt, they floored our table. The drink in a green bottle coursed down the table and washed my jeans and shoes
I summoned the manager and pointed to the mess. I didn’t sign up to have my clothes laundered using alcohol, I shouted in his ear, over the ear-shattering music. He motioned to the offending lad and relayed my demand.
I wanted my drink replaced. The lad nodded his acquiescence, then stretched a hand in truce. I shook his hand. It was slightly calloused, but not strong.
The drink arrived. The matter had ended too smoothly. I summoned waiter Zach. Since I wouldn’t want to be accused of extorting a drink from some hapless youth, I would offer him a drink in return.
The lad returned. The glazed look in his eyes lifted somewhat. He had a lucid revelation: if I want to offer him a drink, why not just settle the bill for the drink he purchased for me?
I shook my head. His drink was a surcharge for misconduct; my drink for him was a gesture of goodwill. Their meanings were different.
Offering pseudo-philosophy on the Equator, at midnight, in a backdrop of blasting music is not easy. But this was a teachable moment. The lad needed to know he was responsible for his own misconduct. He’d pay for my drink. As a matter of fact, I told Zach, my offer was withdrawn. I would offer him nothing.
The lad sent an emissary over, his sibling, I suspected, due to their uncanny resemblance— just like fish—you couldn’t tell them apart.
The brother asked why I wanted his brother to pay for my drink. I waved him away. He wasn’t party to the dispute.
Meanwhile, I wasn’t going to repeat myself. I noticed bouncer Charlie had been deployed to our corner, to monitor the situation.
The music went on, as did the staggering trot from the dancing brothers and their partners. Once more, one pair teetered to our table, nearly crushing the contested drink.
I moved to another part of the establishment. It was 1am, and more revellers were streaming in, noses freshly powdered.
On the raised stage, I saw the deejay with the eponymous name, Tha Dak Child, evoking Camara Laye’s seminal novel, The Dark Child.
Zach returned and narrated the latest from the warfront: the feuding brothers declared they wouldn’t pay for the drink. And if Zach persisted, they would beat him up. Zach flashed a wan smile: His singular fear, he said, was having a short in his accounts.
That won’t happen, of course, I assured him. We had bickered about Sh300 for more than an hour. I picked the tab and left, mulling about the price of peace—and the mystique of the Mount: always full of surprises. And what you see isn’t what you get.