I had a front seat to the most remarkably beautiful, yet dramatic and toxic relationships of all time. Greg and Angie started dating in campus, 8 years ago while both were pursuing journalism degrees. We met through mutual friends when someone close to them referred my liquor shop to them. Once a university comrade myself, I had dropped out in my third year to focus on business after I failed one too many units. My parents never objected to me dropping out because they knew that I struggled with academics. In business, however, I flew while the rest were learning to walk. I had realized the value of building strong networks and offering great customer care, so I always went out of my way to know new people and establish working relationships.
One of the agreements I made with my parents was that they would buy me a motorbike to deliver drinks to my customers. It would be a loan so every month I paid back a certain amount to my parents.
Greg and Angie were spoiled rich kids who paid extra and tipped generously. They only bought the most expensive bottles and in a short time became the cornerstone of my business. Our friendship escalated quickly when they started asking me to run personal errands for them and deliver other things besides the drinks I sold. They’d pay me ridiculous money to bring them takeout, weed and shopping for the house. It was inevitable then, that we’d become friends even when I employed a rider and stayed at the shop.
I received the invitation to their ruracio on a Saturday evening via email. I called Greg immediately to congratulate him. He was happy and elated about finally starting the journey towards marriage. On the invitation, it was indicated in bold that the dress code was to be strictly African print, boring, dull colours were unacceptable. This was also written in bold.
After making a few calls I was referred to a tailor in town who came highly recommended. His name was Elijah and he was also a pastor. A dark man with shiny oily skin, surprisingly white teeth and bloodshot eyes which were telling of some kind of eye affliction or allergy. He spoke like most pastors, in a hoarse and unnecessarily firm voice.
“I was referred to you by a friend, you made her an outfit for her birthday…”
“Oh, I remember! Welcome young man!” the tailor rudely interrupted, clearly focusing on the business I was offering and paying zero attention to what I had to say.
“What would you like? Do you have a design in mind?” He asked while carefully running his sausage fingers through the material I had brought.
I showed him a picture of a celebrity I had downloaded from the internet. I insisted that the design should be simple and subtle such that I could wear the outfit on other occasions.
“Trust me, young man!” Elijah said, as he finally lifted his head to face me. “I will make something good; you will come back for my services!”, he added as he walked back to his workstation.
Like most Kenyans, I don’t trust tailors because they lie, swindle and then lie again.
“Are you sure itakua ready by Sato?” I questioned for the fourth time before I left. In what felt like a fifteen-minute testimony about how he was a man of God and incapable of making false promises, I paid in full and chose to believe him. As a seasoned businessman, I knew the value of trusting someone to deliver even if your gut was screaming otherwise because people have a tendency to surprise you when you least expect it.
My business had branched out into carpet cleaning and party planning. I had become a master of all trades and life was good. I got home that evening and called Greg to check up on him and ask if he needed any help with planning.
“Bro, the guys are asking for muratina to pre-game before the function starts. You got leads!” Greg asked, full of expectation.
Muratina is a traditional Kikuyu brew that has started becoming popular. I wasn’t sure how to get it but I knew who to ask. As always, Greg sent three times the amount I needed, and the next week flew by so fast with me trying to get the brew.
I ended up picking my outfit on the eve of the ruracio. I exchanged brief pleasantries with the impatient tailor because I had been caught in traffic and arrived an hour later than we’d agreed.
“This is not how we do business; I have places to be young man! You should have planned early to avoid traffic!” The visibly irate Elijah didn’t have too many kind words to share that day. I wisely ignored him.
I quickly assessed the outfit to check if the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed. I was quite impressed with the finishing and expressed my satisfaction and appreciation for a job well done.
“Kuna material imebaki fundi?” I wasn’t sure if there was any left, but I felt like I had to ask.
“Do you have a wife or girlfriend”
“Why do you ask?”
“The material that remained is too small to make anything for, it can however fit a scarf or a headwrap!” Elijah impatiently explained.
I didn’t want to argue over a small piece of material so I just paid him and left.
Everyone was colourful and dashing at the event. Attendees had outdone themselves with bold designs and the most bright patterns. People had really gone the extra mile and it showed.
Greg and Angie were happy and so cheerful and we were all very happy for them. Greg however looked a little hangovered and there had been rumours that they’d fought just a few hours before the event had started. This was typical of them. Nothing to write home about.
It was time for the preacher to feed the flock and he took the stage, which was basically a couple of wood pallets heavily decorated with flowers, fancy cutlery and more flowers. The preacher was a friend of the family, a sharply dressed bearded man who made funny self-deprecating jokes. Before delivering his sermon, he asked to introduce some of the other men and women of God that he worked with. It was the third introduction that left my jaw on the floor and confused like a deer caught in headlights. It was the tailor, and he was in a shirt made from the same material as mine! He’d stolen my material and made a shirt with it!
Being a non-confrontation person, I didn’t cause a scene but I made sure that he saw me. I wanted him to know that I knew what he’d done and that his forty days were up! Our eyes met during lunch. I could see the shock in his eyes, he must have seen the disappointment in mine before he left immediately after lunch. He made a lame excuse about how he had pending business, but I knew he sped off because he’d been exposed as a tailor thief!
“Bro, that muratina was fire! I will definitely need some more next weekend!” Greg said later in the evening as the colourful event was coming to an end and the guests were getting ready to leave. “Who would have thought bro,” he continued, “ that Angie and I would’ve made it this far!”
The answer was no one. We thought they would have broken up long ago. It had come as a surprise to us all!
Greg pulled out his phone and started scrolling through some of the pictures he had taken for the day. “Ebu go back to the previous picture…” I said, pointing at his phone.
“The pastor? What about him?” Greg hadn’t seen it yet but a few seconds later he was on his feet, bent forward in laughter after I told him the story of the tailor thief.
“Babe!” Greg called out to Angie who was all over the place saying goodbye to the guests. “Your guy here got swindled by a freaking tailor! Look at them! Matching shirts like a bunch of choir members! Look!”
Angie was handed the phone and picked up where Greg had left, continuing with the unnecessary abuse and mockery.
“Guys, what is so funny? Instead of consoling me, you guys are laughing that the tailor stole my material bana! I am going to leave now! Bye! Congratulations you two!” I tried to make light of the moment but their jokes were starting to get to me.
“Yo bro!! We might need your choir services during the wedding! Bye Kayamba!”
From that day I became “Kayamba” (derived from the famous choir Kayamba Africa). Years passed and they never let go of that story. Damn you, Elijah!
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Short Story: My Crazy Neighbours