I stare at the pinot noir glass resting at the glass table in front of me. A liquid that has a colour that beverage amateurs would confuse for blood is gently poured into it. The pouring stops when the glass is half full or half empty for the pessimists.
Wine is not like juice that is served almost to the cliff of a glass. Wine is handled with utmost respect like the way I would handle the lady seated by the bar with divinely sculpted feet, crossed and protruding elegantly from the edges of her cherry red bodycon dress that are only kind enough to run short one or two inches above her knees. That is if I was not here for reasons that call for more than just my resume but my reputation as well. She must be waiting for a date. Yes, I cheat on the staring affair I have with the wine and the wine glass with the sight of her glamour.
She slowly sips from a glass with a slice of lemon sticking by the edge as she scrolls through her phone. A date with a guy in a vintage suit and a pair of Allen Edmonds boots. He also has to be bald with neatly trimmed side bans running through the geography of his bony face to meet at his chin in form of a beard. A better beard than mine of course. But I will not be surprised when I see a fairly aged potbellied man in a safari hat, buggy beach shirt, a pair of shorts and a pair of slippers walking up to her and she almost forgets she’s wearing a short dress when she sees him.
My mind switches back to my table when the waiter who served me with Red Wine says, “Enjoy your wine sir.”
I nearly tell him, “The hell I will.” I merely smile back and say thank you. I hear in their line of work, the best payment before tips and salaries is a smile and expressions of gratitude. So I give him because it’s free.
On my left is the bar that is facing the veranda that opens up to a wonderful sight of the endless ocean water that is swallowed at the throat of the horizon. On my right is the edge of the veranda that due to idleness, I sketch a tactical plan of how I’d jump from a height of about twenty feet in case there is a fire or God forbid, a terrorist attack. Wait, did it just seem like a terrorist attack is worse than a fire? Maybe. Though let that not stop you from being afraid of hell if you really are.
Just before I could start doing an emergency drill on the stated probabilities, my long but not so long awaited guest shows up. It’s a she. That explains why I ordered some wine to keep me in the mood of waiting. If it was a he who’d make me wait, I’d order the best food in the menu not sparing the dessert and pass the bill to him when he shows up.
I stand up to greet her with a hug. The perfect embrace for good old friends who haven’t met for four years since university graduation.
“It’s so nice to see you again Belinda.” I say as we unlock the hug. Back then mjangos called her Besh. I called her Beshty which sounds like Bestie. She was best indeed.
“Wow. How long has it been?” She asks.
“Four years and not counting anymore.” I say and we both laugh. I pull the chair for her. She sits as she says thank you. The smile on her face hasn’t grown any mature as her physic has. I’m sure she’d say the same for my haircut and beard that has never changed since back in the days.
“You’ve really changed you know.” She says. She treats her eyes to my presence that she had missed for light years. Funny how she has quickly reached for the speck in my eye yet there is a lot of digging to be done in hers. I didn’t allow myself to go on a head to head with her concerning the details of the changes we see in one another. The devil is in the details eh? (God knows for how long I’ve always wanted to use that line.) I let her win this one because I want to get her story.
Belinda and I have known each other since our first year in the university. We would have done the same course had it not been for the persistence I have always had for my passion that led me to another course. Though it is through that course that we became acquaintances. Our friendship didn’t gather moss. It actually grew stronger after I chose another career path.
The first few minutes of our sit down is spent catching up with our lives.
“Yaani a year into the world out here and then you go MIA. I almost recorded a statement for a missing person at Interpol.” I say.
She giggles. She still has a cute giggle, never gets old. “Really now?”
“I’m for real.”
The same waiter comes back this time with a notebook and a pen. He says, “Sorry for interrupting. May I take your order please?” He curves a quick smile and that’s when I notice he has a gold tooth. I feel like asking him whether that’s real gold. If so, I would further ask whether he has ever thought he’d be mugged for that tooth. It has to be worth something no.
“Mjango what will you have?” Belinda asks. “I told you it’s on me, so don’t be shy to order the whole menu.” We both laugh but under my breath I say that is not funny. Campus makes people eat a lot. But those days are long gone. Seems the glory still reigns though. The waiter sure is lucky he didn’t laugh to that because maybe he’d finish his shift without that gold tooth.
“Turmeric rice and shepherd’s pie for me.” I say.
“Zafrani Pulao,” she says.
We got back to our chat without realising he was still standing, waiting for his gold tooth knows what. He left eventually, low esteemed, maybe.
“Okay sorry I went off the grid. Things got tough for me and for some reason I disposed me phone and all my social media accounts. There’re some people I had to get rid of from my life if at all I was to get to the level of success I have always dreamed of.” She says and goes silent.
I stop in the middle of sipping my wine and nearly get chocked, “That’s all you have to say? You do realise this not only an old buddy to buddy chat but an interview as well eh?”
Laughs, “Oh you want me to continue?”
“Like yea! And get to the part where you tell people like me why they had to be victims of circumstances. It’s not easy to take in the fact that a good old buddy vanished from the face of the earth and comes back a millionaire.”
She clears her throat and caresses her hair for a second. She has an afro kinky hairstyle. The colour of her lipstick matches her purple skater dress. She has a stylish necklace with a pendant with some inscriptions. I realise in advance that I will strain to read the inscriptions so I ignore it. It won’t be worth the trouble when being accused of staring at her cleavage. I had a tactical plan for the occurrence of other calamities but not that which involves cleavages.
“Well, you didn’t have to announce to the whole bar and restaurant that nowadays I dine with the lions,” she says.
“Oh yes,” taking another sip, “Top of the food chain.”
By now I’m thinking that the food should be here already. The big story is about to begin. I imagine how the shepherd’s pie would go well with the part she started earning a million bucks or two in two weeks at only 24 years of age. Then I’d fly back to Nairobi from Moi International Airport saying that I now know how a million every week tastes like.
“When you get tired of being in your tattered situation that is when you start to think of ways to come out of it. It is a natural human reaction to seek for solutions whenever faced with a problem. I was tired of being dependent on people especially my brother and my parents. ” She says while positioning herself to sit upright.
She continues, “And I am actually glad we met because it’s about time I told my story to the world, young people and aspiring entrepreneurs in Kenya. I have been hearing about how phenomenon your blog has become. It might just be the right avenue for this.”
I nod but having suppressed an imploding tantrum of pride and excitement.
She called me after she heard from her best friend, Sly; still from university that we met coincidentally in Nyali 48 hours ago. I asked Sly whether she had ever heard from Belinda ever since and she was like, “That millionaire and I talk like every week.” “Which millionaire?” Asking that made Sly look at me like I had just said cows could fly. “Okay, while she was away, she was busy building her empire.” The first thing that came to mind was whether she had become a drug lord or something. Like Teresa in the Queen of the South. “Tell her I’m dying to meet her and in fact, interview her.” I said.
Sitting right before the new queen in the millionaires club was a sure sign that Sly was actually not as sly as her name suggests. She can be depended on.
“I think you’re one person who can draw lines to the beginning of my story well. Remember we used to share business ideas? We tried almost every opportunity that came our way just to be dependent on ourselves for daily needs as comrades. Remember the pressure we had as the first year was ending? We were determined to move from the hostel to rental houses. We were motivated that we’d pay our own rent,” she says.
“Jeez! I remember that. We settled for academic writing and it was not pretty.” I say.
Chuckling, “Yes. God knows how we hustled. And I think you had your blog as part of your hustle right?”
“Oh yes I did.”
“Who said hustling doesn’t pay off, we moved to our own rentals right?”
I say while laughing, “I don’t know why but I’m starting to feel like had we kept the same team spirit even after campus, we’d both be millionaires right now. I’m just saying.”
Shaking her head and giggling, “You are still the same old silly boy. It’s not as if you earn peanuts yourself Mjango. I see you on the screens for all the right reasons.”
Raising my glass, “And I will only drink to that.” As we laugh, the aroma of shepherd’s pie enslaves my attention.
“Sorry I took long. Your orders were quite special.” The waiter says as he places the steamy dishes before us.
“No you’re just in time,” I say as I tuck my napkin. Belinda orders a glass of the same wine I was having. She tells me that she doesn’t take booze. Only wine. I tell her that is called class. And as if I know anything about class, she tells me she once bought wine from an auction in Paris for an equivalent of Ksh. 1.6 million. She further says she now knows what the older the wine the better the quality means.
“So a millionaire, in two years. Tell me about that.” I ask and fork some pieces of the shepherd’s pie in readiness.
“I didn’t rise so much in the ranks in Network Marketing because of the balance between studies of course. Yes I graduated with a first class in IT but I was not ready to be employed. It doesn’t mean nobody wanted to employ me. I got several job invites but took the best paying. I had to but I quit about six months later definitely after I had saved. I used that cash to proceed further with network marketing. It went well until when I felt ready to start by own IT firm and shipping business. It was tough in the first seven months. I made a series of losses with even my own employers stealing from me. I took a break for three months in Malaysia because I had started having a bitter heart and we know that is not good for business. At some point I just thought I should go back to being employed. I had already developed a phobia for pressure.”
“Does that mean your health deteriorated?”
“Yes. I had high blood pressure. So in Malaysia I gained my health back and God never being a let-down, led me to cross paths with some of Asia’s greatest business men and women. But mostly women.”
“You just had to emphasise that I see.”
Chuckles, “Come on, we are taking over the world.”
This is where I roll my eyes.
She came back to Kenya with a new and open mind-set. She started over again with a quarter of the capital she had started off with initially. And this time, the universe paved way for her dream and ambition. A year and a half into it, her IT firm is ranked top in Eastern Africa. The shipping part is gaining momentum.
“It sure is gaining momentum already if you can buy a bottle of wine with the same amount a good piece of land costs in my hometown in Western.” I say as I crane the last piece of shepherd’s pie to my mouth.
“One last question. Will you get married? It’s an open ended question. Not a trap.”
Laughing, “You journalists are all the same. I won’t answer that. It’s still too early to tell. Let me build my empire first. But I’d want to have a son someday.”
I lean my back on the chair as a wipe my mouth. I spot the lady with the elegant feet quickly walking out. She looks pissed off. Now who dares to spoil such a beautiful soul’s day? I bet she feels bad because she wore that dress for nothing. She also wasted an hour waxing her legs, for what? Nothing. Oh well.


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