No, no, no, no,” I replied emphatically, almost instantly when my dad asked whether I drink. I added, “Me, drink? Never. That thing tastes like feet (incriminating myself in the process)” I turned my back on the deities of inebriation. I bet they chocked on their frothing beers when I played defence. Such a wuss, can’t even take responsibility. Anyway another round for an apprentice gone, his loss. They must’ve said stroking their silver beards – they had to have beards, I don’t know why, it’s the only way that seemed apt. When you say ‘I drink’ it seems so habitual. I had drank before, twice, in the frivolous novelty of emancipation from home and the ordinances therein. I was not ready to claim it. There was no respite on my dad’s face. He could see through my shit, beneath my pathetic attempts to save my skin he knew it. I had not only drank but lied too, but that’s something you think about later. He didn’t sneer at me, no harsh words. All he gave me were caveats and soon after I was out on my way back to school.
I could picture my old man’s forehead creasing from his eyes peering gingerly at the photo on his phone. Like most people of his ilk (over 50 year olds) I could see his face so up close to the phone, font sizes maximized, because that’s just how old-ish people roll. Why read miniature letters when you could have a literal greater experience? Skepticism oozing from his eyes; it couldn’t be. My son? It was true, everything he was seeing. His knees may be in the gutter but his eyes were as good as new, it was me. I was vaping. Smoke streaming from my mouth into the stuffy air like a colonial train choking on diesel. In the background, a ferocious den of subtle darkness heaving in debauchery. If he looked at the picture more meticulously he could hear the music.
You know how social media is – sneaky; it gleans data and suggests other profiles of people you might be acquainted with, together with a sneak peak of their picture. And that photo stood out (of me smoking), it was gaudy. It demanded to be noticed, you couldn’t miss it if you closed your eyes. An uncle had found his way to Instagram; a turf patronized by younger bloods. By folk who couldn’t eat without taking a picture of their meals for the ‘gram’. By damsels whose heinies had to be noticed. By influencers at the crux of fashion trends.
He’s the coolest uncle I have. Not that he wears skinny jeans and uses words like ‘buda’ in his everyday language. Not that he drives a Subaru and catcalls buxom birds along the street. Not that he has a YouTube channel where he vlogs on the happenings of his day. Not that he has a fluffy dog that’s allergic to glutten (not cool). He is not stuffy. He is somewhat a maverick. Easy going and not impulsive on decisions, and that’s about it. Instagram is where the line is drawn, it was supposed to be an unfamiliar terrain for him to tread, what was he even looking for? Yet he was there. Truly, the aforementioned beer deities had a hard time letting my infraction go. They were on to me and I had it coming.
I got an inkling that he had seen the photo when he surprisingly called me one afternoon as I was taking my lunch. Unless you’re a food delivery guy or food itself, no one randomly calls you in the afternoon. There had to be some reason as to why he was calling. After a series of writhing small talk about the weather, studies, life in general and whatnot he went for the neck of the elephant in the room.
“Do you drink, do you smoke?” He blurted.
Not only had the deities of inebriation resurfaced again. They brought a friend with them; the gods of smoke. This was my chance to make amends. There was a palpable moment, I went mum. Didn’t utter a word. My mind flashed for escapes in vain. I was cornered.
“Hello, are you there?” he went.
“Ye-yes i-I am,” I replied feigning poor network on my end in desperation.
“Do you drink? Do you smoke?” he asked again. This time making sure to enunciate the letters more clearly if at all I had developed an instant hearing disorder.
“No, no, no, I don’t drink or smoke,” I retorted in a tirade of negatives.
I could hear Them go; What a sissy. Again, for the second time he has declined to acknowledge us. Most smokers are deep and better thinkers, the gods of smoke calmed them down; Guys what’s the fuss all about. Relax he’s just a kid. Petrified of the repercussion. He’ll come around, give him some time and stop being all petty about it, wussies.
“I saw a picture on your Instagram. You were smoking and I could tell you had been drinking too,” he said. I went numb. This was it. My deceit had stretched to its limit. I had had a good run and this was my rubicon. There was no way out but to admit. And I did, in the loudest way possible, in silence.
“Look, I know nothing about smoking. I’d advise you to halt it. It’s fine if you drink. But I’d advise you to stop. If you have to then do it subtly. That’s what I do. For what it’s worth that’s all I had to say. Do you have lunch? Okay, have a good day.”
In an unfortunate/fortunate twist of fate he alluded to my drinking to the wrong person (probably his wife) and word was out. The streets were hot. I was making headlines. I was fodder for stories that would end with a dramatic middle aged woman smacking her palms in disbelief. Everyone in the family was cognizant. And you know how deep water runs in the intricacies of a traditional family setting; anyone could be family, even the lazy dog would be told if it cared to listen. The story went round, it got more risqué every time it was told to another person. Everyone artistically adding their own twist to the story. Others adding a woman to the mix, classic – what’s good a story without a woman? A handful claiming ‘he had it in him, I saw it’. The older folk probably equating the price of booze to bags of cement. Some precisely pegging it on one reason – Nairobi. Aggravation was rife. Grapevine had it that I was grappling with alcoholism, hell, I was the archetypal good boy gone bad. They all had their presumptions, I was standing trial as an absentee defendant before a jury that had a preconceived verdict.
Nobody ever brought it up, not once. I was serving sentence in their minds. In hindsight, the picture was a stupid thing. I have since pulled it down, my definition of cool was skewed. What did I actually intend to achieve, I don’t know all I know is that it was pathetic. I cringe each time I think of it. It is like wearing an ill-fitting cloth to an event and later going ‘what was I even thinking’ when the pictures come out. Or sending a stupid text to an ex and clarity hitting you later. Facebook and twitter should definitely add more features, that way we might be able to keep uncles and aunties there, the un-cool ones (I hope you whispered). And no, I’m not an alcoholic, never was.