Third Wheeling and Winging It

Whoever said that no man is an island was probably a single man who was paid a visit by his friend in a relationship. When you are single and you have friends in relationships, strange things happen in your life; foremost the girlfriends of your friends attempt to hook you up with their friends whom they think are a good match for you. That never works because, first, your friends’ girlfriends don’t know you that well, at least they shouldn’t. Second, the girls they hook you up with mostly think the solar system revolves around their bum when all you want is someone who can make really good pilau. And when I write pilau, I don’t mean rice adulterated with food colour and having unidentified pieces of floating objects on it. A proper serving of pilau must possess the right balance of ingredients and spices –something only a select number of ladies can achieve (God bless your souls).

The second experience you’ll have when you are a single man having friends with girlfriends and wives is that you’ll get dinner invitations; it’s always dinner, not breakfast or lunch. The underlying reason behind these invitations is always sympathy and maximization of resources. And it’s the girlfriend who sympathizes with your single status as if it is a chronic disease that will extend to invitations for meals. You’ll always find mboga za kienyeji inserted somewhere on the menu because they feel you must be eating unhealthy since you don’t have a woman in your life. As if a single meal of managu or mchicha will reverse all the days of having doughnuts and tea for supper.

On the other hand, when the man invites you for supper, it’s because he wants you to vet the culinary skills of his woman. And also because he wants someone from his side to join the meal; this happens when he has bought a full chicken and the girlfriend invites her friend, then he has to invite a friend too to make things square because relationships are all about power games.

Third wheeling is a human experience like hunger that everyone has had at one point in their lives. For single men, this is the bane of our lives. Depending on how long you’ve been single, it actually grows on you like those oversize clothes your parents bought you as a toddler. You make peace with it. You accept that tuktuk has become a popular means of transportation. You are fine with the fact that you inadvertently find yourself third wheeling. The problem comes when you are walking a narrow kerb that can only fit two which leaves you not so many options as regards to your walking position with couple. You can opt to walk in front of the couple, like I do, so you look like the pack leader. Or you can displace either of the partners on the kerb which leaves one of them playing the third wheel until you reach a wider path. Better still, you can walk behind and pretend you don’t know them. This is also a good position for watching the lady sway her ass, if you are like that. This is where I found myself last weekend.

No, not looking at the ass of my boy’s girl, you pervert, I am not like that. Third wheeling. I caught myself in a tuktuk- where you find yourself third wheeling with no real function to play like the front wheel of a tuktuk except steer conversations in the general direction that won’t put your friend in jeopardy.

They were going to Watamu and as a last minute thought, invited me to the party. Because I had pulled two all-nighters in 3 days, I said yes and tagged along. In hindsight though, lack of sleep impairs your judgment than any liquor you’ll ever drink. Despite having eye bags that could easily be confused for love handles, I showered, put on one of the few decent shirts I have and showed up at Watamu. My friend and I were the only people in trousers at the beach hotel. But what we lacked in appropriate dressing and fashion sense we made up for with a party mood, a jovial spirit and a wide smile. Oh I have jumped the gun there, let me take you back a few moments prior.

I didn’t know that we were going to a beach hotel. A high end one for that matter. My friend had informed me that they were going to meet his prospective sister-in-law and the husband. That was all he said, and as the Junior Elder,I gave him a few tips on meeting the husband of your prospective sister-in-law. We alight at Gede and take a tuktuk to the hotel where her sister is. Along the way, we flirt with the idea of passing by a local pub which sells beer and liquor at recommended retail prices to gain a head start so that we drink less (if we have to) at the hotel and subsequently spend less at the hotel where a glass of wine costs as much as starting a chicken business. The ideas is aborted as soon as it is conceived as a result of the visual assault we are subjected to by the missus. The look communicates that we should be on our best behavior, and we oblige. We get to the reception and get seated as we wait for our hosts to show up. While we are still making ourselves, the lady at the reception comes to inform us of their package. Her teeth are pearly white and nicely arranged, and she has sunshine for a smile. But as Bible reminds us, the devil is a liar and it comes with a beautiful smile.

She starts with the full-board package and mentions some others in between which we don’t pay attention to because all we are interested in is the cheapest offer we can get. Normally, I would get flattered when someone starts with the high end packages but I’ve since grown wiser and accepting of the fact that I don’t have as much money as I would want to. When she finally gets to it, the price is almost the amount I pay for rent! I do a quick mental arithmetic of how much my kidney would go for in the organ black market because there is no way I’m paying my rent for hospitality of a couple of hours. In midmonth. Because I have the some money in my M-Pesa, I tell myself  “kama mbaya,mbaya!” I say that 10 more times but it does not do enough convincing for me to squander whatever fortunes I have left until end month. Fortunately, my internal pep talk is interrupted by our hosts arriving at the reception.

To my surprise, my friend is already acquainted with them. So much for total disclosure to the wingman. Kumbe the guy had gone for an introduction and didn’t care to tell me about it when inviting me which means I am the only needing introductions. Also, this means I move from being a third wheel to being a fifth wheel, which is awkward but not as much it sounds.

They offer to pay for our expenses which chivalry and good in-lawness dictates that we should haggle and fight a little over it but we don’t. Common sense prevails over chivalry any day. They have well- established careers and have good paying jobs so screw impressing the prospective sister-in-law and the husband. They pay and we proceed to the buffet lunch.

The fact that I can’t properly hold my fork because of a deformed pinky finger doesn’t quite bother me because our package has unlimited drinks on it until 5pm. I hurry over lunch and leave the couples to their stories as I head to the pool bar. You would expect to find the likes of Jameson, Glenfiddich, Ciroc when you pay your rent at a hotel but no, what they have is Safari Gin, Safari Rum, Safari Vodka, Safari Whiskey…Safari Rally. Safari everything. I have drank or heard of Safari brand of poisons. Again, I tell myself “kama mbaya,mbaya!” which is my rallying call for stupid decisions and instruct the bar tender to hit me up. He makes a cocktail out of the gin and hands it over. It doesn’t taste as bad as I thought it would. It does taste good. Maybe that’s because I have been on a drinking drought since tribute at the pond, so it is the dry spell effect. Maybe it’s the residual sleep. Or the cocktail is just good.

I drown the first one quickly and order the second and third in quick succession. Now, with my throat sufficiently lubricated I head back to the table. Alcohol is the grease that lubricates the moving parts of many a conversation. We talk at length as the cocktails keep on coming. The couples also join in and soon everyone gets comfortable with everyone. Which is good, right? Not really. When I get comfortable, I get comfortable in a similar manner I do when in my house. When I get comfortable, I wear the same short for days. I swear and forget euphemisms when I’m comfortable. I am dominate conversations when I am comfortable. I forget that I’m fifth wheeling when I’m comfortable. I am charming and charismatic when I’m comfortable.

No, that is a lie. That’s when I’m tipsy. Or at am least I think I am when I have not spent my afternoon drinking water. “What’s the point of being in a beach hotel if you don’t drink on the beach,” I ask. I am not really sure if it’s my charm, the alcohol or because it’s sensible, but everyone agrees with me and we move to the beach. By now I have cocktails made from all the distillates from the Safari brand coursing through my veins. And when you have impurities coursing through your veins, your judgment is inevitably impaired. What sounds to you like a whisper might be a shout. Or you screaming in a corner coiled in the fetal position.

When you drink cocktails, you can’t regulate your intake because you don’t how much of the hard stuff you are partaking. Cocktails are deceptive, like corsets and fake hips. Ndivyo sivyo. Cocktails make you forget that you are on wingman duty and that you shouldn’t get comfortable. It makes you forget that you when your prospective in-laws offer you a drink, you shouldn’t accept because cocktail is alcoholic na pombe sio supu.

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