“How does it feel to be thirty?”
The older the Berry…? If you have watched The Men’s Club, then are you familiar with the phrase. That’s not the point anyway.
I’m in a Nganya somewhere along Ngong Road as I write this. Nganya, for my people in Diaspora, is a bus. Not any ordinary bus. A bus with a screen or screens fitted for passenger entertainment. They mostly play AfroBeats. This very one is playing Emiliana which has diverted my attention from Biko’s Zulu’s book, Drunk. I’m dancing from within. The girl standing next to the conductor is moving her head as well. Our eyes meet. We smile. That’s one way of communicating comradeship between girls. There’s something about these Nigerian tunes that make your body move involuntary. I have not heard a single song from Naija that makes you want to yawn or sleep. Tell me one. They are full of adrenaline these ones. Another way of identifying Nganyas, they are mostly painted red and have stickers of 2 Pac or Rihanna or Wahu all over. You find them outside Development House along Moi Avenue and they en route to Ngong or Rongai. The rest are matatus. The drivers are exceptional men. There are great gentleman in this world; those who pull a woman’s chair, walk on the car side of the street, help her carry her coat or purse. And then, there are these Nganya drivers. Ah! I am sure God be looking down and wearing a smile as he utters, “That’s my son.” Trust me you will never be late for work or home. They are masters in maneuvering traffic and they don’t stop unnecessarily off the road. See, if like me you’re the kind always rushing against time, you’d rather be hanging your arms in a Nganya other than be seated in a matatu. You’d rather be propelled back and forth, even sideways sideways every two minutes than spend hours on the road.
Here, I am seated next to this huge man in blue jeans and a black t-shirt with an afro like that of Perrin from the Wheel of Time. They look alike. Only that this one is darker and more chunky. I have stashed my book in my bag after Chapter Five where Larry talks about his brother’s cheap liquor in a camaraderie mug. It reminds me I need to change my cup. The lady behind me has requested me to open my window. I’m the submissive type. Suddenly, I’m struggling to breathe because the wind is gusting angrily through the opening like it had been suppressed and now it has found exit. I can’t tolerate it. So I close it. She’s mad but I couldn’t be bothered. Despite her grumbling below her mouth, there’s no way I’m subjecting my senses to the grating wind. Not even if it feels like we’re in an oven. If it’s my window that will save our veins, let’s all bake, merrily.
Anyway, this story is not about Nganyas and windows. It’s about my Thirty Cents. I just turned thirty. It’s boring and too conventional up here. Folks on this floor are quiet and reserved. They don’t chew gum. They don’t post on social media unless they are influencers or politicians. They don’t go to nightclubs. And if they do, they don’t grace the dance floor. They are thirty. There are protocols here. Even though somewhere in their old souls, they are dying to break their backs and knees. I know this because I have seen the way they dance subconsciously in their seats. I understand them better now. The problem is in their bones and muscles. Let me own it and say our bones. Look at me, I am still nursing my birthday night-out hangover. My thighs hurt, my heels hurt, my body feels foreign. I have been grumpy and exhausted. I have been following Idah Alisha on Instagram. She also turned thirty same week as me. My jaw drops like, “Damn girl! From where is all that gas coming from? Because I wonna be you right now.” The folks I have met on third floor would rather go to restaurants on Sunday afternoons after church. Or after shopping. They are too busy with themselves. This is not what I subscribed for. The second floor is full of adrenaline. The kind of energy found in Nigerian Pop. I like it there.
My birthday has always been a big deal. Last year, I had just started a new job. I told myself I had a year to get my shit together. You know, when you are in your twenties, thirty sounds like the deadline. Like you gotta have your life figured out before you get there. A year felt like enough time to collect all my ducks and place them in a perfect row. Oh! No! Someone take this back to the shitty hole it came from and allow me to take another shot at thirty. I didn’t aim right the first time. All my thirty years have been full of me starting stuff but not completing it. Like this story for example, I had so much to say about my birthday night-out. How it started and how it ended with our rider thrashing us, myself and Katerina, in a pothole flooded with rain water. Should I tell you why we needed a rider in the first place…?Ha! Story for another day. Remind me. But I can tell you I woke up to some tantalizing breakfast the next day that she made. Same Katerina who made me eat Oysters in Diani when we went for Fai’s birthday. She makes tasty eggs. I have since forgiven her for that bad oyster experience she subjected me to. Also, about how Binaj disappeared on us. This one is a character. We were worried sick, roaming the entire 1824 looking for her. Haha! I’m lying, we didn’t look for her. We knew she would come back anyway. Or how Shaviva missed my night because she needed mangoes from her shagz much more that weekend. But mimi, I drunk-called her all through the night to make sure she felt the weight of what she was missing. There’s so much to tell but my brain right now is as stagnant as my career. I will leave it at that. Incomplete.
Also, you might want to note, if you’re here feeling meh, because I wasted your precious time with this senseless story, I am not even sorry. Because that’s exactly how it feels to be thirty.
Till next week coms’