I’m broke. Hell, everyone is. The next time I see my barman may be the last. His name is Logos. Kind chap. Not that I can’t afford good beer, no, it’s that they hiked the price in that joint. They won’t see me again in there, needless to say. Which is sad because I was making quite an impression on Logos.
I had promised him a profile interview when his shift loosened on a Friday evening but I was either caught elsewhere too tipsy to keep a straight face. Si you know how Fridays are? And I didn’t have his number yet. Nothing solid could be planned. Logos is a senior there, he talks and wisdom drips from his mouth. So, out of respect for the man I stopped by to apologize, but he wasn’t there. He hasn’t come in yet, I’m told.
I pull myself on the bar stool by the counter and order a drink as I wait. I notice this young-ish guy, probably late twenties. He’s seated two spaces to my left. He’s having White Cap, and he’s staring. Is it just me or are White Cap guys always scanning the room? Njagi ebu tell us, what are you people always looking for? Anyway, I give him a slight nod in that way that says I acknowledge him as another man who, after a day’s work, has swung by the watering hole on a hot afternoon. He nods back. And with that a friendly flag has been planted between us.
The lady who served me, her name is Esther, tells me there’s been a price change, she says it with a smile, then places the new menu in front of me. Of course I’m not happy at her tactic, to tell me this after she’s opened a bottle, but she’s wearing a suit. Meaning she’s not your usual waitress, meaning she’s a step above the ladder in that place, meaning she did something that’s not in her job description, which is to bring me a drink. How could I get mad really? Plus she was wearing a suit, you can’t throw stones at a lady in a suit, it’s the law. I said ni sawa.
But as she walked away I cringed in my seat. White Cap guy chuckled when I looked at him in lamentation. I added up all the money I had in my head to check if I could afford to get the second bottle opened, and still get home. Fortunately I could. I asked for the bill immediately.
Logos comes in a few minutes afterwards, and after we say our hellos I tell him I’m sorry. He says it’s okay, that he understands a journalist’s schedule can be tight. I was very flattered to say the least, as he knows I’m still in school. We discussed logistics for the interview and I took down his number. And a date was set. But after I end it with him I hear White Cap guy asking if I’m really a journalist, that I look a bit young, “even to be in a bar” he said. I hate it when they point it out like that, like my feet are unworthy to join the table.
“More of a writer,” I say. (I avoid the word blogger like the plague)
He goes on to ask some more about my work, and then out of politeness I ask what he does.
“I’m a house manager.”
And that’s how I met Ephantus.
I won’t go into details over how the conversation went after that, partially because I can’t remember. I won’t tell you what I said to him when, he said house manager and I thought it was a fancy name for a house boy, and how he corrected me. Partially because it’s embarrassing. For those who are still struggling with this, a house manager is a butler. Yes, I also didn’t know they have those in Kenya. But I will tell you this. Ephantus has stories in his head, and he wants to tell them. And he wants to tell them himself, as I recently found out, Ephantus can write. And who am I to deny a man a chance? Oh and Ephantus is a lunje, don’t know why that it is important but it is. You’ll see. We have things in common, Ephantus and me, we open doors. Hehe. Please tell me you see that. Please?
He won’t say much for now, my word count is getting fat. But he’ll paint us a picture of what his life is like then he’ll be back next week.
Friends, welcome Ephantus.
As it goes, my father was a watchman. The apple didn’t really fall far but it is a few rungs above the ladder, wouldn’t you say? My name is Ephantus Wasike, and I am a butler. House number 17 of WaterSpring Estate* is where I make hay. I have been there for five years now. I work for a mzungu by the name of Richard, and his predictably slim Kenyan wife Yvonne.
This boma has other workers who work under me, two maids; Pamela, a cheeky girl with short hair who I suspect wants me in her bed, and Eunice who playfully calls me Fanta and whose backside sings whenever she walks, it strikes chords in the hearts of men. It’s Eunice’s bed I want to be in. But she’s a tough one. And then there’s the gardener- Pius- a complete clown and my best friend. He’s a laugh.
So what does a butler do? I am the pivot of this home, the centre piece of organization. If you were to ring the doorbell you must pass through me, if you ring the home number I will pick it up first. If Yvonne needs to go somewhere I drive her, but never Richard. He prefers to drive himself. If Yvonne hasn’t said what meal she would like prepared I make that call. It is here that I take advantage and decide on ugali. If Pamela is slacking on her work I have the power to scold her. But never Eunice, for obvious reasons. If my employers want to start off their dinner with wine I have the keys to the cabinet.
The pay is decent and the hours are good. Most weekends we’re allowed to step out to come back on Sunday evening. The boma is not devoid of drama, and as someone who takes joy in writing I want to document my life in this space. I hope you will have as much fun reading as I will writing.
See you in a week?