The three of us stood at the very edge of the business complex corridor, cloaked by darkness and suffering the wrath of premium July weather. Josh had both his hands in the pockets he was trying and failing to resist his thin, almost malnourished body from shivering. At six feet and two inches, I stood taller than both Josh and Nick. I leaned on the dusty wall painted in Safaricom colours as I listened to Nick explain why we needed to raise five hundred shillings more, “guys, it’s simple mathematics, why buy the half when we can add just a little bit more and get the mzinga?”
It was almost heartbreaking to look at Nick sometimes. He had always had smooth skin and silky hair that was now starting to slowly part with his scalp. He was smarter than Josh and me, probably even smarter than most people in our small, unremarkable town. Four semesters on the campus had been enough to turn him into a raging alcoholic with heroin addiction. He’d now been reduced to fundraising for cheap liquor and scavenging for odd jobs around town to get some coins to feed his addiction.
“Oya guys, none of you has an extra hoodie or something? I am about to break all my bones because of all this shivering,” Josh lamented as he rubbed his palms together trying to generate any kind of reprieve. None of us had extra clothing so we respectfully ignored him, redirecting our attention back to more serious issues.
I had a thousand shillings in my pocket, but I dared not say a word about it. It had become a trend for me to use my money to buy stuff for my friends with the promise that it would soon be refunded. They had all turned out to be false promises. I clutched my thousand note tighter in my pocket, fearing it might make a sound and announce its existence to my baldly shifty friends.
After long spells of awkward silences and dodged eye contact, it was decided that Josh would foot the extra bill that time, “this money isn’t even mine! I need it by tomorrow afternoon do you understand?” Josh, momentarily forgetting the harsh cold, attempted to issue threats that fell on deaf ears.
Nick’s cousin was graduating, and we’d been invited by him to his after-party which was to be a house party at a location just outside town to get away from prying eyes and eavesdropping ears. As expected of former campus students, there was a lot of debauchery and explicit activity taking place. The house belonged to one of my friend’s parents who lived in Europe. The grass was well manicured, the trees surrounding the compound were green and plush, the house was fancy looking, yet it felt very homely at the same time.
Josh, Josh’s ex, Nick and I were on the third round of taking shots when someone asked if we were interested in having some cocktails that had apparently been made using exotic rums and whiskey. Already tipsy from the shots, the other guys jumped on the offer and said they wouldn’t mind a glass or two. I, on the other hand, was aware that I would react badly to mixing alcohol. It had happened before earlier that year when I overindulged during my birthday. “None for me thanks!”, I firmly said. The other guys mocked and ridiculed me, making a strong case about how it was wrong for me to not join them. Caving in to peer pressure. I agreed to have just one drink.
One turned into two and three turned me into a party animal. I was dancing on tables, jumping on couches and telling strangers my life story. I am told that right before blacking out on the lawn, I had become a nuisance and only wanted the DJ to play rhumba music, citing that only African music should be played at the party. After much embarrassment, my friends carried me to the servants’ quarters where I was laid down on an old brown couch that had cigarette spots everywhere.
I came to the next day at 11 am. It was a Sunday and my head felt like a sack of maize was weighing it down every time I tried to lift it from the couch. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I surveyed the small room which was practically empty except the couch I had spent the night on. The silence was eerily and there was a terrible taste in my mouth. I gathered all the strength I had to lift my hangovered body off the couch, towards the metal door that led to the exit. It was locked.
The only other opening was a small window facing the perimeter wall and I couldn’t see anything from there. I patted my pockets to find my phone and located it in the back pocket. I tried to call Nick, but his phone was off. Josh’s phone rang but he didn’t pick up. All this while I am pushing and pulling the metal door, calling out for anyone to come to help open the door. I thought of trying Josh’s ex who I remembered was also at the party.
She picked up on the second ring and explained that the police had been alerted about illegal drugs at the party and had arrested most people who were there. Herself, Josh and a few others had managed to escape but Nick had been arrested along with his cousins and his campus friends.
“Where did you go? Did they get you too?” She asked with great concern.
I explained that I was still in the servant’s quarters, and no one was in sight. “Oh damn! I think they must have locked up when they were arrested!” We agreed that she’d find wake Josh up and together, they’d find a way to get me out.
It was Monday afternoon when Josh’s cousin was finally released from prison and allowed to go back to his house. The police had refused to give out the keys to the property citing that only the owner was allowed to handle them. They found me hungry and thirsty. Had I been confined in that room for two more hours I’d have lost my mind. Nick stayed behind bars for two weeks because he couldn’t pay bail. When he eventually got out, he never tasted alcohol or drugs again. He spoke passionately about all the precious things that alcohol and drugs had taken from him two months later at Josh’s funeral after he had slipped and fallen down the stairs when drunk.
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