After a long day trying to make it in this city, this is the place where you and I sorely want to be

Nairobi City

An aerial view of Nairobi City.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Imagine this: it is a regular workday but it’s not Friday, so it’s any day from Monday to Thursday, pick your favourite.

You are at your workstation winding up your day – you had one of those unusual days where everyone you engaged with was smiling too hard and laughing too easily, where everyone said nice things to one another and whistled while they worked.

You were an email away from breaking into the choreographed dance of a theatre musical; something that Sauti Sol would share on their TikTok.

Time check: 4 pm. It’s too early to go home, you want to kill a few hours on your own before you walk through your front door. Like me, you likely have people at home waiting on you: two needy toddlers and a lover who talks much more than you do. This is the day he’s in his sweatpants working from home; he’ll be craving adult conversation. With you.

The older toddler is always asking for things. “Why is there no internet? When are we going to Mombasa? Do you have to shout? Who made these bad beans? When is Aunty coming back?”

The little one is something else. Soon as you walk through the door, he’ll whimper and whine that you carry him on your hip, him and that thumb that never leaves his mouth. He’s sucked the poor thing to its bare phalanges. You will carry him while you fetch a glass of water from the dispenser. While you sit at the dining table for a bowl of fruit. While you take a wee.

You run the shower and he’s still sitting on your hip, hopeful that you’ll jump in together. You tell him, “I need to shower, baba” and he’ll wait by the shut door, curled up on the floor like an obedient house pet. After a while, he’ll accept that he’s being too dramatic and suspend his neediness until he sees you.

You are alone ... until you hear your lover open the bedroom door and hear his footsteps getting louder as he walks towards the shower. To you. Christ. He’ll start talking and he won’t stop until you fall asleep. He’ll say things like, “Did you know that ostriches are the only birds that have bladders?”

Not ready for home

So no, you are not ready to go back home yet.

You don’t want to go to a coffee house because there’s a frenzy about its middle-class milieu that wears you out. You don’t want to go to a bar either because, after the excess of the festive season, you’re off the booze for a month or more.

You don’t want to go to church or the gym because you’re not seeking redemption from any of your past sins. Something about going for a walk feels too out of your comfort zone. 

Here’s where you want to go: you want to be alone but not lonely, you want atmosphere, and homeliness, you want to be welcomed and energised by people whose faces you’re already familiar with, people who acknowledge you with merely a curt nod.

You want a place where you can put your feet up on a footstool. Then set your phone aside to read something of substance from a book or the newspaper, not watch Sauti Sol gyrating on TikTok.

Because it’s 4 pm, you want a snack. Nothing too heavy, nothing too fancy: a generous mug of milk tea with a slice of toasted brown bread is all you want. Perhaps some mangoes. Even better if it’s brought to you without your asking. Brought by a friendly face, a face that says, “No one here will bother you with useless ostrich trivia.”

That’s what you want. That’s what I want.

I can’t believe it has taken me weeks to realise that the place I’m describing is a clubhouse. Worse, it has taken me this long into my adulthood to discover that I need to be a member of a club. 

When I think of a clubhouse, I think of wrinkly men who smell scotch, cigars and old money. Men with rings on their pinkie fingers and made-to-measure wool suits. Men who understand which occasions need a double-breasted suit.

I picture them sitting on those brown wingback chairs handcrafted from pure leather. These men speak little but communicate volumes. Servicemen run their tabs and Captain’s orders. A lifetime membership costs about as much as a Mazda Demio.

The club I’m thinking of has this exclusivity but none of the snobbishness. It’s tasteful without being too posh, and modest but not uninspiring. It has texture but isn’t rough around the edges. Its members are regular folk like you and me trying to make it in this town. Do you know of a place like this?

@_craftit, [email protected]