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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cupping Java House Coffee. Enter Woman.

I just love coffee. Plain old fashioned coffee made from ground coffee beans with no milk and a dash of sugar.

One day soon after I started working, I decided to try Java House coffee. A number of friends were full of the coffee on offer there. This was after having to imbibe in weak coffee in campus, made from boiling water passed through a sieve with coffee beans. I will not bore you to death with remarks on the taste here, but I took it for a number of years, and I actually still miss it.

This being a big day for me, I brushed my teeth and rinsed my mouth overly, no need to pass ill judgement on celebrated coffee, whilst you actually had toothpaste in your taste buds. I took a shower, used no shower gel, dried myself and oiled myself with no-perfumed Vaseline and sauntered out of the house without wearing any cologne, feeling light spirited and headed for the Java House on Mama Ngina Street. I used to stay deep inside Ruaraka, and had to walk about two kilometres to Thika Road to catch a mathree to town, so I set-off on my grand mission.

The day had bloomed like a lofty flowery plant from Mount Kenya, petals of hours torn free by the wind to seek cool water and shadow within which they might be forgotten. As I walked along the asphalt track, memories of days gone by shimmered with the slight heat peppered by a cool breeze, blurring details of the long walk and picturesque view of the GSU Headquarters into an impressionistic canvas upon which everything else was distorted when one looked too closely.

The black pieces of garbage disposal bags stuck on growth along the banks of Ruai River, the balustrade of the narrow bridge bound together by bolts and nuts, arrhythmic strands of birds chirping along the way, a few Colobus monkeys jumped from one tree to another, as some tinier genres of monkeys streaked along the GSU headquarters wire fence, dancing rhythmically as they did so. I passed the gate of the mysterious building, rumoured to be an NSIS officers’ mess, but was soon after opened as Hotel La Mada. I could imagine myself drinking weak coffee in campus, as I savoured the taste, eyes closed, just for a few moment of caffeine bliss to sink in, then back to books. The limbo between voluminous Finance books and coffee drinks shifted with the sun, sometimes noticed, sometimes eternal, as the rays pieced through the leaves of the trees outside my room in the hall of residence. The difference was inconsequential.

It was approaching 4 PM, and I got to the highway, had an uneventful ride to the city centre in the boom twaff No. 44 superide mathree and alighted at Tom Mboya street, near the post office. I had the urge to stroll into one of the noisy exhibitions and buy a few pirated movies look at some clothes on offer, but the urge to taste the famed coffee urged me on. I walked to Mama Ngina street, and paused briefly at the entrance to Java House. Will I be thrown out? Is there a dress code? Is it expensive? The thoughts flew through my mind, and I decided to just take the risk and get in, not go home as I had done before when I developed cold feet outside a club, I was too shy to walk in there.

Choosing the coffee was one difficult task once the friendly lady thrust the menu at my chubby scared face. She must have known instantly that it was my first time, and I was lucky that this was a coffee shop, not a pub or a brothel. I told her I wanted plain coffee, and she suggested the house coffee, without milk. “Any accompaniments?” she asked, and I declined, as I wanted to cup this coffee without prejudice and pass judgement fairly. As I waited for the coffee to be brought, I looked around and some people were reading newspapers, some were chatting while some were in serious discussion, probably a business deal and someone was reading a book.

I noticed the woman once my coffee was brought and I looked up to acknowledge the waiter. Buxom. Large eyes. More flesh than she needed. And the sort of smile that derailed conversations, wrecking trains of thought. Starting of on my coffee, I gave her no more thought than she deserved. Her eyes sought my own. Fragments of the road I walked on half an hour ago were coming back, and they had grown sharp. Faces without names. Backs gleaming. Ecstatic grimaces. Dark liquid waiting in my cup. Focus recedes. My mind starts drifting.

Flash and blindness. Evening sets in. Shadows have probably stopped moving outside. Stitching the night closed with the thread of explanation, two silhouettes mapping the path from pillowcase to comforter, the eternity separating me from solace.

Strange girl arises, her face discerning a contentment of sorts, reminds one of a faded moon in the night of memory. I hear the rabbit scream of the cappuccino machine. Cream mist hides the alchemist as I turn over to look at the counter. Probably.

Throat relaxed, smooth Kisii soapstone, a statue leaning on sharp elbows, claws extended. Passionate kisses, sweaty bodies in the dark of the night. Frosted windows and the lights keep flashing, spectrum keeping time with a slowing pulse. Vodka expands upon contact, forming a pool beside the bed. She has no such luck. Leaning over the side, she can see everything. Hair covered in beaded Maasai headdress, dreadlocks emerge from the side like dark twines of wild climbers in Mau forest. Iris the color of old bruises. Reaching down toward herself, a finger breaks the surface. The image ripples, distorts before she has the chance to recognize the face.

"Excuse me."

I looked away from the past to the present, chasing the voice. The woman was standing beside my table, tucking her golden necklace back into her inviting bosom. I look back at my untouched coffee, then back at her. I feel sixteen again. Her smile was hesitant, hopeful.

Like that of a nurse with a patient regaining consciousness.

"I'm sorry, but I'm supposed to be meeting somebody here, somebody I haven't met before. Are you James?"

Seconds fractured and broke apart, the smallest pieces of which I took to consider my response.

Could I be another man? For an hour? For a night?

Possibilities unfurled, paths carved by words and careful sentences.

I could start over here, pick up where another man never had the opportunity to leave off. I could pretend I knew things I had yet to learn. Middle names. Nairobi suburbs and neighbourhoods. Small countryside towns and the ages of siblings. I could pretend I did not know the things I have learned, speaking without fear of seduction or offence, acting a part unrehearsed. Long walks in Uhuru Park. Courtship. Gold and diamonds. Bells. Children.

Peering back into her eyes, I saw a hope independent of my face. The dream of a romantic, seeking the first star, dropping small leaves as she stripped bare a sapling on some dusty countryside path.

No matter how the story might be written, the ending is always the same.

"No," I replied with a wicked thought otherwise. Orgasms and despondency flitted across my vision, translucent spots after glimpsing bright light. "Should he fail to meet your appointment, however, I should be flattered to assume his place.", I added. The light behind her gaze dimmed somewhat, falling with the corners of her mouth.

"That's okay," she murmured. "Thanks." And away she went, returning to the chair from which she had risen.

I stared at the table, gulped the contents of my cup, my coffee cupping mission all but forgotten. The taste of the coffee was just plain, slouched in regret, lost opportunities. “I shall come back another day to cup the Java House Coffee….” I told myself. Occasional glances went unnoticed. Waitresses went about their business, serving coffee, eggs, Mexican beans and more. Gathering my courage in resignation, I asked for my bill, I saw the woman sitting by the window, watching. Waiting. I slipped the waitress a hundred shilling note and left.

This is romance, I thought as I walked out the door, the unwrapped gift of a promise, empty in expectant hands.

An unremarkable lady alone, hoping otherwise. This is the wound that always bleeds, the truth we look away from, stumbling about in the dark room. Why is it we only identify knives by touch?

Suppressing every instinct, I did not turn back.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An encounter with a House of Yahweh adherent

The world has just ended. Or it is just about to.

This is not another of those sour predictions of the world ending that you hear about every now and then. No. This is just a short review of the recent happenings in the Rift Valley. Nakuru to be precise. Why would somebody predict that the world will end on 12 September 2006? That there will be a nuclear war and that is not the end. This is the post

“You need to put this date on your bathroom mirror. You also need to make preparations for the dark days ahead, which will affect every person on earth.... ”

I got to do a bit of an online background check after I read in the paper and in the news that there is a sect, very busy in Njoro, Mauche and Molo areas in Nakuru asking its members to sell their property and prepare for end times.

End times my God.

Members of the sect are right now holed up in some chamber in Njoro, praying away and waiting for the apocalypse to strike. Some have probably shat on their pants; some are grovelling and gnawing in fear, waiting for the final obliteration of our planet. From my frequent online sojourns, the last time this earth was under any sort of obliteration threat was from an asteroid that was 250,000 kilometres away, and that from the same people who downgraded Pluto from planetary status. Never mind.

So why would a sect leader announce that end times are here and throw a region into a panic?

Like Albert Einstein said, science without religion is lame, but religion without science is blind. These religious types just bore me to the core. What would somebody run their mouths on other people’s bizness? So and so is not very nice, watch out. Doing this is wrong in God’s eyes, it is wrong for you to desire what is not yours, oh, please donate and help build God’s ministry we need to grow this church bla bla bra (pun intended).

There was this joke I once read and thought it was a sheer mimicry of religion and a silent neigh in the sunrise of Christianity, but it cracked my sick mind nevertheless. Some kids were apparently asked by their teacher what the stretchiest (is that an English word?) substance in the world was. To her utter amazement, one of the kids raised his hand and answered ‘human skin’. Now, ladies and gentlemen, you are probably as astounded as I am. What? Some of you are probably feeling pain or some sort of itchiness just because some kid said the stretchiest substance on earth is the human skin. “Why?” asked the teacher. “Because I read in the Bible that Jesus tied his ass to a tree and walked five kilometres to Jerusalem.” was the kid's answer. Whew!

Well, I took it that the kid was innocent in a dirty way, but still thought some sick minded guy wrote it just to poke fun at Christiaity. I am a Catholic myself, although I have not seen the inside of a Catholic since my high school chapel in March 1996, before I got suspended for a whole term and chased from the school like I was a rabid rodent. But that is a story for another time. Now, I want to recount one of my religious dig-ins in the past. I didn't understand church very much in my childhood, and I don't really understand it much now, not just church but pretty much religion in general but before anyone start trying to go overboard and blow some crap up around me because their religion said to, let it be known that I probably know two cents more than what anyone knows about religion and history, bows down to or who they are giving ten percent of their earnings to. I was raised Catholic and any time some Bible thumper asks, I say I'm Catholic but, I'm currently in a mild state of confusion when it comes to religion and I presently find myself in between religions, especially with all the negative energy that comes from all of the new churches mushrooming all over Kenya.

There was this time when I was busy with some farming assignment back home (I come from Molo by the way, so this sect has touched a raw nerve), and was looking for some guy to plough my land. As I waited for this guy and his tractor at the roadside in my one-muddy-run-down-street home town in shaggz, a former classmate from old days walked up to me and we started chatting. He told me he’d been okay and was travelling to Nairobi and was waiting for a lift. He asked me to keep him company near the stage with him as he shone his shoes and I obliged, and we walked to a shoe shiner’s stand and he sat down.

All went quiet and we realised we had interrupted some debate, so I asked these guys what was happening? Apparently some old man (let’s call him S) who repaired padlocks next to the shoe shiner had been taking them on, you guessed right, why the House of Yahweh was the church to be, and all other churches were nought in the name of Yahweh. There is no God, only Yahweh, and his son Jesus Christ! I told them to leave him alone; he’d probably taken some busaa that day on his way to work.

The old man belligerently asked me what church I belonged to, and I said I was a Catholic. One of the guys standing around chuckled, he probably sensed trouble. I asked the old man what church he belonged to. He responded that he was a Christian, which is rather like being asked where you live, and you respond Africa, and you are right here! So I decided to narrow it down. I figured I'd start with the largest branch, so I asked him if he was Catholic or Protestant.

That set off his short fuse right there, and he wiggled in his seat, that old and wiry old man. He scolded me stammeringly for using the label "Protestant" (in his words an unholy phrase uttered by the Pope to demean innocent people) and told me that Catholics worshiped of the Virgin Mary, not Jesus Christ or Yahweh. I tried to keep from smiling as I pointed out the giant crucifixes that adorn virtually every Catholic Church, as well as the image of Jesus Christ that hangs over most alters in said churches. And the references to God in the Bible and scriptures, sermons and other writings of the Catholic Church.

S enlightened me, informing me that they were all part of an elaborate cover up to turn people from the one true faith, and trick them into being thrown into the boiling lake of fire to burn for eternity. How about that? Here I was just trying to defend my church, despite all those child abuse accusations cropping up around the world when it turns out that we apparently have some kind of hellish fetish too. This communal barbeque would be achieved, S claimed, through worship of the false idol, the Virgin Mary.

Upon hearing those words, I felt as though I had been awakened from a sound slumber in the deepest darkness and suddenly thrust wide awake into shining bright light. Yes, I felt tired, annoyed, and I wanted to go back to bed, not even to wait for the ploughing guy and his tractor. I asked S why Jesus Christ would be so pissed off about us being nice to his mother. He muttered something about idolatry, and then went back to bashing Catholics. He explained to me how Catholics had written their own Bible which was based solely on lies. S taught me that the Catholics had used that false power gathered with their unholy Bible to scare people into obedience. Using this power, Catholics had been behind every atrocity and major war for the last thousand years. With a cry of cynic passion, S informed me that the Catholic Church was the sole cause of the Nazi holocaust.

I was a little confused by this statement. I suggested that maybe S was thinking of something else, surely not the Holocaust! S assured me he meant the Holocaust. According to him, the Catholic Church paid Hitler to begin the war, while they (the Catholic Church) secretly seized Jews and killed them. Now the reason I was confused here, is because there appeared to be a few holes in this story. It can be argued that in the past the Catholic Church may have been responsible for some of the anti-Semitism that built up before the 2nd World War, but the actions of Catholics during the war itself seemed to be pretty reasonable. I told S that the Pope in power at the time maintained a stance of neutrality mostly to avoid military retaliation from Italy and Germany. Other high ranking members of the Catholic clergy did openly protest, however. It's also a well known fact that Catholics hid Jews during the holocaust period. Fortunately, S was able to denounce these apparent falsehoods. The Catholic Church got control of every single history book on the face of the planet, and rewrote them all.

At this point my head was starting to hurt (it being filled anew with words of divine truth and all) so I decided to go back to my original question. What religion did he belong to? S once again insisted that he was Christian. I pointed out that there were many different branches: Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Jehovah's Witnesses, to name a few. S interrupted me with a hearty "Those stupid Lutherans". Apparently they worship the Virgin Mary, too. Calming down a little bit, S told me that since I was a Catholic, I was a liar, claiming I was defending the cruellest, most bloodthirsty, most sadistic cult on the face of the planet. I asked him what church he attended then, if he was a Christian. He responded that he was a member of the House of Yahweh sect, and did not attend any church though, they went to a shrine. I asked him where exactly it was; I was from around there and did not know where it was. He said that for now, they worshipped at an open field about five kilometres away, but that was for a short while, they will build a better shrine (he avoided the use of the word Church by the way) for Yahweh.

My friends’ shoes were done and they glittered like the back of a dung-beetle. Seeing no point in pushing further with that elderly lunatic and his sordid religious beliefs, I told him we were enlightened, and took our leave and went forth to spread the word.