September 23, 2018
Jay and S walked me to the stage at Valley Arcade after we spent the night, again unexpectedly, at S’s place. What should have been a short afternoon visit turned into a sleepover. The bus was mostly empty, so I found a window seat, put my earphones in, and stared wistfully out of the window like the angsty YA protagonist I am. The bus filled up slowly as we stopped at the bus stages along the way to the Central Business District. It was a Sunday, so there weren’t many people waiting.
When we got to the roundabout at Silver Springs, the bus began to groan like it had a bad tummy, and the driver had to pull over to go check it out. Commotion ensued. Some people stood up to ask the conductor for their change. A man standing in the aisle next to me told me to mind my phone and close my window, which was visibly, firmly shut. This is an age-old phone-snatching trick. I looked him in the eye and put my phone on my lap and my backpack on top of it. Not today, bitch. All the money I didn’t have was in there. The thief moved on. I waited for him to get off the bus before I did. When I stepped off, a small crowd of passengers were looking off in one direction. The thief had run off with someone’s phone. Ah, nairobbery. If it’s not me, it’s you. Another bus arrived shortly, and we all got on it.
I got off the bus at GPO and took the short walk to CJ’s on Koinange Street. The streets were fairly empty and the air was that much less smoggy than during the weekdays. The sun was shining gently through the delightfully patchy sky. Nairobi on Sundays is kind of cute if you squint. CJ’s is a fairly new restaurant, barely a year old, but it was packed with families and hetero couples brunching. It is an extremely Instagrammable restaurant, done up very tastefully in delicious shades of deep green and emerald contrasted with cream and white. They didn’t skimp on their interior decorator. I can’t say the same for too many of Nairobi’s eateries.
There are two things I can enjoy when my depressive episodes come around: spending money I don’t have and eating. I did both. A lovely waitress showed me to a single table, and promptly brought me the drink and food menus, two large, glossy booklets with a catalogue-y feel. The last time I’d been there I had eaten spaghetti arabiatta. The portions were alright but I didn’t really feel the meal, so I decided to try something new. I settled on the Thai salad and a mint lemonade. The menu said it had noodles and cashews in it and I was very keen to see what that would look and taste like. After about 15 minutes, the waitress brought my drink, an assortment of vinaigrettes, two buns and butter, and the biggest goddamn salad I had ever seen.
The salad was perfect. The crunchiness of the cashews and lettuce? The sweetness of the fresh carrots and purple cabbage? The savouriness of the noodles and chicken strips? Miss salad SNAPPED! I ate and ate and ate for almost 10 minutes nonstop and barely made a dent in it. It was like the salad kept multiplying, like that one story of Abunwasi and his sufuria that “gave birth.” I was getting full and I couldn’t even see the bottom of the bowl. I kept at it, no longer paying attention to how much time passed. It was like I was on an episode of Man v. Food. I crunched. I munched. I slurped up those noodles. I opened the top button of my pants. I willed my stomach to defy physics. But I was full. The salad won.
I had the waitress pack up what was left as I polished off my amazing juice. I felt refreshed, energized even. I could feel the endorphins dancing in my serotonin-deficient brain. I called Mike to find out where they were as I waited for the bill.
“I’m at the museum looking at art with Jonathan. You should come!” he said. I told them to give me 20 minutes. The waitress came with the bill just as I hung up. I decided to pay by card instead of m-pesa so that I could have money to withdraw for my bus fare to the museum and home afterwards. I left the waitress a small tip. That was 1500 shillings well spent.
I walked across town from the empty streets of the CBD to the Sunday bustle of Khoja. The city switches up as you move away from the stuffy corporate atmosphere of the CBD to the lively chaos of downtown. It was charming. Or maybe I was just buzzed from eating good food. I passed by one of the numerous jewelry stalls on the way to the stage and bought myself a pair of really interesting brass earrings—long, u-shaped wire loops with a hoop at the outward-facing end. I boarded a matatu going to Westlands and told the conductor to drop me off at Museum Hill.
I made the short walk up the hill to the entrance of the museum, a black gate flanked by two large, mosaicked, columns. I called Mike to tell them I’d arrived and they told me to go wait for them in the garden. I made my way there and got comfortable on a bench as I waited. A grey cat was playing in the flowerbed in front of me and I had to resist going over to rub its belly.
Mike arrived with Jonathan and we greeted each other. Mike complimented my earrings and I complimented their romper, an exquisite floral print that I’d never seen them in before. As I moved over for them on the bench, I asked if they were hungry and pulled out the leftovers of The Salad from my bag, and a slice of carrot cake and pilau someone had given me the day before. Mike pulled out a wine bottle filled with water and some foldable cutlery, and we had ourselves a little picnic. I was surprised I was still able to eat.
Two hours later, the sun was setting and all the food was gone. It was time to go home. We walked to town down along University Way, talking about a British author I enjoyed reading but whose personality I found annoying, and how colonial the TV show The Norfolk was. I put on my most affected British accent. Think Claire Foy in The Crown. It made the walk to town seem a lot shorter than it was. Mike and Jonathan walked me to my stage at Odeon, said their goodbyes, and left. I got on the bus, put my earphones in and listened to Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer” as I contemplated the Nairobi night.