21 January 2019
I woke up, still slightly high, at my friend’s place where I had spent the night. We had gone to bed late, after a night of wine and smokes, and contemplating the confusion that has marked our post-graduation lives. When my friend woke me up, I am glad she did because I didn’t want to put myself through the awkward moments of being a guest who is up earlier than their host. I asked her for toothpaste.
Shortly after, we began to leave the AirBnB she was renting. She had packed up everything to move to another AirBnB, and was ready to leave. The cab I had ordered on a notoriously unreliable app had not yet arrived, and I was worried that I was delaying her check-out, and she was upset with me. When I checked the app again, I found out that the driver had started the trip without having picked me up first, and was driving in the opposite direction.
The 4.9-star rated driver was soon mteja: he had turned off his phone. I watched as the little car on the map passed our location, and nonchalantly drove off to the other side of Nairobi. I could not cancel the trip because as far as the app was concerned, the trip was in session. My card was being charged for a trip I was not taking.
Because I did not want to upset my friend, I called another cab using another app, and went home. When I arrived, I got a text from another friend whom I was to visit that afternoon, telling me to be at her place in about 45 minutes. My sister was going on a short errand with my brother, and promised to buy me lunch if I went along, so I went on the errand, and returned home at the time I was supposed to be at my friend’s place.
By the time I had showered, changed, and eaten, I was running almost two hours late. I called another cab using the alternative app, because the app I used earlier still had the renegade driver driving around Nairobi on an uncancellable trip. I sent a couple of angry messages to the app’s Twitter account, with screenshots of the map showing the driver moving away, asking them to intervene on my behalf.
I got to my friend’s place, and shared a brunch of mimosas, eggs, bacon, and avocado toast with a couple of other friends. We talked about a Kenyan DJ who transitions out of songs too quickly. That is all I remember of our conversation there. Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” was the only song I recognised from the playlist we were listening to. At some point, I got an email from the questionable ride-hailing app—the driver had ended the trip. I was relieved the charge was only 390 KES, but I was still going to insist on a refund. Once we were done eating, we cleared the table. Some of us left to go to a book club meeting, where we would be discussing Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I had not read the book.
An old friend from college was hosting the book club meeting. She had a lovely spread of samosas and cake and chicken and juices and a mimosa pitcher. Most of the book club members had brought bottles of wine, and soon we had too much of it. The host kept on refilling the mimosa pitcher with random combinations of wine and juice to try and increase the rate at which the wine would be drunk. After a brief introductory round, we talked about the book, and most gave it high ratings. We wondered whether Barack would have been where he is without her. We marvelled at how Michelle’s mother raised her, and we asked ourselves what the cost of success is. We asked what success is in our imposter-syndrome fuelled existences.
Later in the evening, I left with my friend and her partner. Four of us were squished in the back of the car, being dropped at various locations in that part of Nairobi on their way home. I dropped off with someone else because she lived closest to where I needed to go, and it would be cheaper to call a cab from there. At the door to her apartment, she told me we needed to get in quickly because there are often mosquitos that hover between the grille and the actual door, and she did not want them to misread an open door as an invitation.
After slamming the door quickly behind us, I called a cab home. I said hi to her sister who was my classmate in high school, who emerged from her bedroom shortly after we got in. The three of us briefly talked about hair and the ethics of carrying food home from someone else’s place after a gathering. The cab driver arrived, and turned out to be particularly chatty. His radio was tuned to a Christian station.
When I got home, I peed out mimosas that did little to get me drunk, smoked, and went to bed after turning on Daniel Caesar’s album, Freudian, to keep me company as I fell asleep.
Michelle K. Angwenyi