A hotel is supposed to be a place to eat when you got no nerves for cooking. A place you pop in when hunger is bashing you right from the backdoor. Somewhere you can grab something quick on your way to the workstation. Some nice place you can hang out and eat your favorite. A place you have a spot you can call yours, your own favorite spot. Well, that has not changed.
It is a place you don’t find paraffin added to your mandazi or burger because, seriously, you can control your testosterone at this age. I highly doubt a high school chap can have a favorite hotel or joint. At that age they are highly ripe on testosterone, they deserve that paraffin to slow the pace at which hard-ons influence their decisions.
When you got a favorite joint, you know the waiters. The barman, if it is a bar. You know the tall man with a mean smile at the door (of course he smiles at you) because you tip him often as you need favors from him here and there. There is this one waitress you are accustomed to. The one who knows your usual. She understands your stomach’s life. When you show up, she leaves everything and comes over to take your order. She does not, even for one day, think to herself that she can serve you the usual without asking, as you might need something different on a different day- which is the best thing. No one in that hotel knows how your life is moving on like she does. Only she asks how you are doing. She is always interested to know that you actually, doing okay. She’s the hottest. That is why you prefer her serving you.
Why she prefers you? It is because, one, you have money. Two, you are handsome so she kinda likes you, and three, she knows you and your wife aren’t doing well at home, you might break up and who will be there to fill in the slot? Her! Of course she would like someone to emancipate her from this slavery of the uniform, to get her from the same aroma of food that is now turning acrid. When you get used to something, however flagrant it is, soon it starts smelling, sounding or even looking normal, and later on, it disguises.
She wants someone to hold her arm, look into her eyes, deeply, and then tell her, “woman, I think you need to break loose from these chains, travel the world, see the newer things out there and a house by the beach.” Yeah, she hell needs that. A man to show her that there is another world beyond those walls she’s used to. Every time she is alone, she obsesses with that man. Her thoughts enjoy having him around her head. When she goes to bed, she holds her pillow tight, curls around it and starts thinking loudly and vigorously about him. Only these thoughts can guarantee her the soundest sleep.
You are that man. You that she likes serving back at the hotel. You that she struggles to hook up with a decent spot. You that she spends sleepless nights thinking of.
She always wants to ask for your number so that she can call you later on but then she never asks. At times she feels lonely when you leave after you’re through with your meal. The tips you give her help, but not as much as if you were hers. Her hero! Her man!
There are these times she can wash three dishes for two hours because you are the only thing in her mind. Her life is in a state of confusion. Tatters. And there are these times she gets confused when she comes to take your order. You can spot that in her eyes- having dated and married, a woman maybe you thought could be the world to you but now isn’t, you probably know the game. You can spot something in her eyes. At times you want to grab her arm, and gently ask her to sit with you. Her presence decorates your life with peace. The kind of peace you never find in your home. But the ring on your finger, that ring, annihilates everything. If given a chance, you would take her. At around 40 you are still young, you know. Someone who needs to explore the depths of this world. Something that your wife thinks she’s too old for. And you hate that. She just sits there like an old goose, tired of laying eggs. A goose that feels it deserves to rest now that it has seen the better part of its precious life wane. A rest, a drink, and sex. Boring sex. Her glitter is gone, her prowess in bed dead. She just lies there, waiting for you to romp and ejaculate. Turns to the other side and snores like a pig to the break of dawn. She’s taking the youth in you, forcing you to age, and you know that, that is criminal. That you probably deserve better.
Many times you have tried to talk to her about it because you really respect the marriage and the vows you took during your wedding. No ample words to protect that marriage are making any impact. Words are falling on dead ears. Ass! You can feel being drawn to this hotel. The visits have now increased. In a day, you pop in twice or thrice.
Amina, the waitress, is beginning to notice the increased visits and the despondency on your face. Wrinkles growing over your face fast. A thing that makes her worried, at the same time, happy because her dreams are showing signs of maturation. You wanna run into her arms, she is caring, loving, young, pretty and adorable you know. The only person in the whole world who is now concerned with your well-being. Around her, you find solace, and peace of mind. You wanna stay there. Right beside her.
Both of you are being haunted by the same devil. Only that he is playing with your hearts, giving you the choice of chance. That you wait, everything will happen in its own time. You trust him. That bitch! Sometimes you curse. So you hope that you can communicate each other’s feelings non-verbally. “No, he will notice. No, she will notice.” That is the devil wielding his games on both of you.
It is the only hotel you’ve known to feel comfortable in this town. The only place you get food that your belly enjoys. The only joint you can recommend a friend to. You cross five streets, and ten other restaurants, and many joints, just to this particular one. If you get there and Amina is off for the day, then your day is ruined. Seeing her means everything. It buys you a happy day at work.
Every new day is a day to get farther and farther from your wife. Another day that your marriages edges to a cliff. Things get nastier. The house becomes silent. You show up to only sleep. So that she doesn’t think you have someone you go and bang. You wake up, have some coffee, don your sharp suit and leave for work. Only you knows what happens during the day.
The only thing you can do is watch your wife age herself, kill her once luminous candle to death. No amount of talking can help the marriage regain its flow. She is like a coagulant residue on the bottom of a glass that has refused to come out no matter how many times you wash it. Even if you use different types of detergents. Your only son, now 14, is far off in a boarding school. He doesn’t know what is going on back home. The last time you went to visit him at Maseno, he realized that you were different. A bit happier and didn’t talk much about his mom. You suspected he was thinking what you already know. A man will adjust to what is coming. It is the nature of things in a world where every dog has its day to bark, and a day to slump over a mat and sleep.
There is this small hotel in Karatina. Rinet Hotel. With a capacity of around 12 tables. It is one of the places I first knew when I landed in Karatina some few years ago and for three years now, I have been taking most of my meals there when I’m in town and hungry.
In this place, it is not the waitresses- there aren’t any- that keep me hooked. It is the food. The hotel usually experiences a customer boom because of its quality food and affordability. I don’t like people knowing me, not in joints because when you get used to each other, they forget that you are their customer. They forget their onus. At times they forget that you deserve quality service. Heard of familiarity breeds contempt? I’m simply aware of that.
I have seen these waiters for those years. Until I think I see them too much that I feel disguised at their sight. I know each of them, by his physiology. Not names. The cooks, the cashiers, new cashier every day, just the same waiters doing turns. The cashier is always the boss of the day. His work is to collect cash, look at receipts, give change and ensure no coin is missing at the end of the day. I know the kind of shoe each wears, the kind of hairstyle they wear, the way and day they shave their beards, and the number of clothes they wear to work in a week.
At times I look at their fingernails, just to know if I have to be worried about the hygiene of the food before me. I know how their lips look like when they are angry, hungry or lazy. I know the color of their eyes, those who smoke, those who booze, the ones with families and the singletons, the Casanovas and the faithful husbands, the innocent and the cock suckers, all by just their physiology- candid observations.
Some of these waiters regard themselves highly while others look ‘mathogothanio’. I don’t know what that is. Just carefree. Those who hang keys from their trousers and those who look like they live under their momma’s digs. I love their food. I take all my friends there. Though it is no longer there. It closed. Now I have to find another joint to take my evening tea from. Find another favorite spot, another waiter or waitress and another menu that can settle in my stomach without ruckus.
One day you’ll show up only to find the hotel closed. It is a thing you’ll never believe. Amina is gone. Everything you loved is now a lonely building with a signage- sorry, we are permanently closed.
The only place you used to buy hope is now dead. The only person who used to give you a candle of happiness is now gone. If only you had asked her phone number so that you can know where she crashes. If only you had not listened to that devil telling you she’ll notice. All these would not have happened.
A dull, shitty day. You go hitting every wall you can find to dispose that rage inside you. Where did she go? Where is she? You keep asking yourself. “Aminaaaaaaaa! Aminaaaaaaaa! Where are you Aminaaaa?” You shout across the streets only to be greeted back by echoes from empty alleys. The few people in the streets that evening think you are another madman that makes the streets insecure. They all walk away, not concerned by your little situation. In this world, only your mother cares. The rest come will only show up at your burial.
Finally you realize that you need to go home. Back to your wife. A wife with an old soul. She is the only one who is truly yours. She’s been waiting, she’s been there and shall be there for you. You married her and only death will steal her from your life. It is a time for you to work on your marriage, even if it is going to a psychologist. After all she is only 38 to be that old, ugly soul she is.
When she (the hotel) closed, Amina’s chapter got closed.
‘So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty.’ Someone said that. ***
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