I had always wanted to chew miraa, from the time I was like 2 years old. Or maybe 12. I don’t know. But I did. But because me I have always been a focused human being, I said I will wait until I finish my Form 4 exams, come back to Nairobi, and then begin my watch.
The people who would be vevekaing looked really cool. There was always a group of cool boys and girls who would sit on a block somewhere outside one of their ‘crew members’ house, chewing miraa, drinking bitter Arabica coffee and/ or sprite, sometimes coke, eating njugus, smoking weed, listening to reggae and telling lies. And I longed to tell lies like that. That crowd was the most happening crowd for me. I longed to one day grow up, just to go and sit with them. The guys would be wearing army jackets and pipe jeans. The girls too, with colorful braids, and safari boots.
Until I sat with them one night. It was the end of the next year I was in Form 4, because before then, there was never an opportune time to start sinning like this. We still lived in Eastleigh then. The stars had aligned. The folks would be out in ushago. The older siblings would be out at the rave, or hangie, I would be out of the house with express permission that night. It was like ‘One Night Only’ performance. Only one ever presented itself. And besides, people always ‘Shikishad’ as they waited for the 12:00am, waiting to shout ‘Happy New Year.’
There are only two guys who chew miraa as an Olympic sport in our area. Some guys who own a gym one street from ours. And the gym was an extension of their house. Duran and Mikey are their names. Those are my mentors in this field. They always start the first and finish the last.
So, that night 31st, the crowd starts like 40 or so from about 6. When it’s gets to around 8 the older peeps who had cash would leave for tao. Apparently, that was the norm. Shikisha one-two-one two mtaani, alafu mnaingia kutesa mjini.
So that night, I am waiting to shout ‘Happy New Year’ the loudest. There’s like 7 older guys now, and 4 younger boys like me who are not even allowed to mention the word ‘Tao.’ I am ok, though. Coz in my head, this is the last time I am going to not be in town to scream happy new year, and I am being initiated as a Meru Elder by extension via Miraa.
So, when I am sure it is safe, it tell Duran, ‘Duran, si unifundishe kula miraa.’
He looks at me in shock. He says, ‘Ati nini. Miraa si chakula ya wakidi. Unasikia. Siku ile nitawahi shika mmjoja wenyu akivuta bangi, ama sigara, ama ukichonga, mtanitambua, sawa.
He stands up and he looks much bigger now. “Mumesikia?’
We say yes, faster faster. He calms down, gives everyone of use a bottle of sprite. He says, ‘Skizeni hapa. Happy New Year ikifika mpige nduru alafu mkimbie home mkalale. Sawa?’
We say ‘sawa.’
One guy leaves, 2 guys say they will go to First Street to bring fresh supply, and two guys say they will dash to Jino Moja for coffee. We remain Duran and Mikey, and four of us boys.
Mikey is stone faced, eyes red, na analamba Kuber. He says the time is 10:00pm and we should sit still a bit longer, it will be midnight in no time. But by now we are all so sleepy, next year is so far away, and the reason I am here was initially for miraa. Like usingizi pia ilikuwa inataka kufunga mwaka na sisi. We kaza, and kaza and kaza and kaza, but one by one, we are dozing off. And we are clearly freezing.
Duran says, ‘Go inside the house. When it’s a few minutes to midnight, we will come out.’ We remove our shoes at the door, and go into the house. The house has reggae posters; Bob, Peter Tosh, Culture etc. It’s quite warm, so we feel better. Duran and Mikey are seating outside, telling stories and laughing ile ya mwadhara. And then veve and then sip and then story and then laugh. The world is a cycle, anyway. Hii ni combination ya nduku, veve, kahawa, sprite, kuber, na reggae. What a gwan, man? Alafu substance zikaanza kufanya kazi kwa mwili.
So we sit down and start dozing. Everyone blacks out. I am the last, of course, and kazain like a problem. Everyone is out. It’s like the World Cup snoring cchampionships is going on live. I am slowly going but I am trying to stay awake. Every two minutes I am asking, ‘Happy New Year Imefika?’ Every time they say bado.
Last time I check my watch, it’s 11:17. One of the guys feels sorry for me and says, ‘Lala tu. I will wake you guys up before in good time. I close my eyes like this, the guys start short movements.
GUY ONE: Oyaaaaa….. amkeni jamaa.
We wake up chap chap. In fact I wake up shouting, Happy New Ye…
GUY ONE: Amkeni muoge!
ME: Ai… Ati tuoge?
I look at my watch. It’s 11:25pm. Everyone is waking up as well. But me I am like, ‘Ala. Nini inaendelea hapa?’
Kidogo kidogo, Duran shouts from the kitchen, ‘Chai Imeiva!’
AI! Bado natafuta bearing 1 – 2 – 1 – 2. Kumbe veve sasa imetake over.
The guy in the kitchen comes with hot tea, na mkate imepakwa blueband and places it on the table. Amevaa apron. ‘Kunyweni chai msichelewe shule!’
So we are staring with our mouths open.
The boy next to me kwanza akakulwa ngoto chap chap. ‘Mbona haujamaliza homework yako?’
Akasema shule zimefungwa. Akaongezwa ingine akiulizwa, wewe ndio ulifunga?’
Man, kidogo, the guy who made us tea, the owner of the house, ashatoka bafu na amebebana na nguo na beseni akafungua mlango akaziweka hapo nje. Anataka kufua sasa.
Akaingia kwa bedroom. Akatoa mattress. Sisi hapo tunakunywa chai tukilia juu tunaenda shule.
And then it strikes midnight. Guys outside are shouting loudest. The guy fuaing comes and says, imagine watoto wa jirani sijui wanapiga kelele kwa nini. I tell them it is happy new year.
They start laughing. Duran says. ‘Ati happy New Year? Happy New Year aje na ata last year bado haijaisha.’
Mikey: Haya, kunyweni chai haraka, nataka muende shule, msome, mrudi saa ya lunch. Sawa?
We are confused. Chai ni moto, we are scared. Then he goes into the bedroom, he comes back holding money.
Mikey: Shikeni kila mtu 50 bob, ya break. Na mtu asiwanyanganye. If anyone bullies you, you tell me. If anyone looks at you badly, you tell me, if anyone says anything to you, you tell me. Ok?
We see a good break. We start leaving. We go for our shoes, man, Duran amezichangamkia ziko kwa maji, anaziosha. What is this? We cant believe it.
Me: Siwezi enda home mguu tupu.
Duran: Home? Si hapa ni home?
Me: (Quick thinking.) I meant, shule.
Duran: Oya brathe, ebu letea hawa watoi njumu za chuo hapo.
Mikey brings oversize shoes, slippers hazifanani etc.
Me: Hizi viatu si zangu, na hazifani.
Mikey: Si ni wewe ulipoteza moja shule? Mathe alisema itabidi umejipanga bro.
I am so mad right now. I just take them coz I want to go home. Siamini ni veve imenitesa hivi.
Next day, the guys are just there like nothing happened.
Duran: Ulopa, ni kama ulisahau njumu zako kwetu. By the way, ulinionea slipper za green zina shimo hivi?
I never spoke to them again. Also, I ditched that veve pursuit completely.