I like Tevin because he gives it to me straight (and because he bought me my first beer ever). Raw, blunt as hell, and straight to the point. He’s so edgy; he’s right there on the edge of edginess, and very in-your-face. I have always found that fascinating about him, and wanted to know what could possibly be going on in his half dreadlock-covered head. And voila, it came to me: why not interview him? That was a year ago. I still can’t believe he actually agreed to sit with me for more than two hours to have me find out everything about him. And I was right. He’s one hell of a guy, but you’ve got to know how to handle him. He’s not an easy man to please, like those terrifying people from The Godfather. You don’t want to be in his bad books.
I was a little too excited and a little more nervous. I would have done the interview sooner but I thought an interview on a Friday evening just after exams would be perfect. Then I would get a chance to ask him what his plans for the weekend were. I imagined I would get a very interesting response. See how prepared I was? But the li’le bastard told me he had changed his mind. He didn’t want to see me until three o’clock the next day. The son of a biscuit! Ati he wanted to go drink his brains out. And I was like, dude, you think I’m not dying to do the same thing? Okay, I didn’t tell him that. But I thought it. We agreed to meet at three the next afternoon, when the hangover had gone away.
Two hours later, at Club Ignition in Westie, I sat watching people get their dance on, causing trouble and clearly having a good time. I was bored to tears. I regretted the moment I agreed to go to that hellhole. And like a ghost, Tevin appeared.
“Yaani wewe hutaacha kunifuata fuata?”
But I swear it was a coincidence. I joined his table and after a few shots of Ciroc, everything was beautiful. People were making jokes and I was laughing my lungs out. Tevin and Eric were doing some weird dance, and it was hilarious.
“So you got them moves, huh?”
“The interview has already started?”
“Yeah, why not?”
One O’clock. I call him, you know, just to confirm if the deal is still on. It is. Wonderful.
Three O’clock. He calls. He has been held up by some shughli and so he’ll run a little late. “Jepchu, please give me an hour. I’ll give you a ring when I’m done.”
Five O’clock. “Young lady, where are you?”
“Where else? In my crib.”
“I’m at ADD.”
“Don’t move, I’ll be right there.”
There’s this outside cafeteria between ADD and Hall Six. I have always wanted to sit there and have some coffee while watching anxious students pass by. This seemed like the perfect chance, but the place was closed. Bummer. We end up sitting on the back part of some benches outside because the actual seat was too dirty, and none of us is a tissue kind of guy. I may have convinced him to sit with me but getting him to agree to have our conversation recorded was perhaps the most difficult thing I did that day. I wanted us to have a good, flowing conversation and I was afraid I wouldn’t achieve that if I kept scribbling things in my old notebook. Also, the transcriber in me longed for an audio file. In retrospect, I should have scribbled the crap out of that conversation because we lost the recording soon after. Perhaps why this won’t be my finest masterpiece like I had planned (life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, right?). Or why I can’t remember why he finds the word “Ethiopia” extremely difficult to type.
He asks if it’s alright to have some background music as we have our little chat. Fancy.
In fact, I thought that was a great idea, partly because I would get to listen to his playlist which I suspected was sick. Sadly, we had to use his phone, sorry, iPhone, to record, and my music isn’t quite the generally accepted cool music, so we spoke in silence.
He apologised once more for being late. Life in Nairobi is getting harder by the day and he’s just a lad trying to make it. “Mwanaume ni hustle”. I understand.
“So, Tevin, tell me about La Muchacho.” (Shouldn’t it be El Muchacho?)
La Muchacho Fashion House, Nairobi is one of Kenya’s fastest growing branding and fashion companies that, for the last three years, has striven to distinguish their designs in the fashion market by “creating a combination of cutting-edge sophistication coupled up with a touch of African craftsmanship.” Tevin is one of the company’s founders. He is a stylist and fashion/image consultant or creative advisor, and he models for La Muchacho as well. Does La Muchacho design clothes for men only, you ask? No. Women, La Muchacho has got you, too, covered. Literally.
“What inspires your style?”
“I like to look good because then, I am confident. Also, I like to display uniqueness and originality in my outfits. But these don’t come cheaply, so you might also say I like expensive stuff.”
We both force a little laugh. I realise how cliché that statement is, so I move on swiftly. “Where do you buy your shoes?"
He was well dressed that day, like any other day, but it was his shoes that stood out. A pair of brown Oxford boots.
“I wouldn’t say that there is a specific place where I get my shoes. I buy a good shoe when I see one, wherever that is, but mostly in Gikosh.”
His phone rings. It’s his sister.
“Sista, uko wapi? …YMCA? Sawa… simama tu hapo… siko mbali… I’m coming to pick you… haya… sawa.”
He excuses himself and a few minutes later, comes back with his pretty little sister with glasses, Charlotte. They fought all the way to the bench where my tail bone was already killing me, and I instantly sensed a special bond. She wore blue jeans with a blue denim shirt and black boots. Maybe this fashion thingy is genetic. Tevin looks at his sister’s playlist. “This fucking idiot only has gospel music on her phone.”
Aww. He must be one of the best brothers in the history of brothers.
“You two must be pretty close.”
“Yes. This little lady is very special to me and I love her so much”. We’ve been through a lot of stuff together. A lot of family stuff.”
“Do you want to talk about that?”
“Then maybe you could tell me about your hair. Why the dreadlocks?”
“I decided on this look partly because I was going through a rough patch at that point of my life and I needed a change, and partly because I fancy the Rastaman lifestyle. Also, I feel awkwardly exposed without a good head of hair.”
“It is obvious that you like music. But what kind of music?”
“I like music? No, I love music. All kinds of music. But reggae and Kenyan songs top my list.”
“Comedy. If I’m going to watch a two-hour movie I wanna be crackin’ my ribs for two fuckin’ hours. ”
We then talked extensively about Deadpool and how Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell might just be the two funniest white men alive.
“Is there a girl in class that you like?”
“C’mon Tev, it’s just me. You know you can tell me.”
“I’m telling you.”
“Do you have a girlfriend anywhere else in the world, then?”
“Why is that? You are a handsome man, I dare even say quite a catch.”
Charlotte looks at me badly. Hm, she’s pretty even with this suspicious and warning stare. I pretend to admire a bird that is flying by just to avoid eye contact with her. Meanwhile, I wonder what Tev’s response is going to be.
It was shocking. “If I am to be in a relationship, then I need to be head over heels in love. I haven’t found a girl that I am madly in love with, at least not one that is as crazy about me as I am about her. I mean, I tried once a while back but she didn’t feel the same way. So, that’s that.”
For a second, I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t seen that coming. I didn’t know that the tough and badass Tevin could also be so sensitive. I had expected something along the lines of “That’s not my shit” or “Nah, I don’t give a bloody fuck about such things”, or “money over rachos”. (Rachos are chicks, by the way, according to Tev and Friends Dictionary. I kept telling him that it sounded gross, like a derivative of the word “ratchet”, which implies that all girls are shameless whores. He assured me that it isn’t). But he was not even finished, “For me, the bottom line is love. No love, no relationship.”
“Is there a girl in class, then, that you admire? Maybe look up to?”
“Yeah, sure. June Syowia.”
But of course. The chick is killing it. Running her own company at (24?), travelling around the world, being in the list of the Top 40 Women under 40. Damn. She really is quite something.
Yes! The formidable Es. Her philosophies, her work ethic, her charisma. Her powerful feministic streak and passion for Africa. Remember ThEsther? That Es.
I resist the urge to smile and dance a little. I’m going to do that later when nobody is watching.
“Thank you, Tevin.”
A Demore calls. Tevin apologises and we keep talking. He calls again. He is ignored again.
Most of the students of the University of Nairobi that I have met are not satisfied with the quality of scholarship and life in general at the school. Tevin is no exception. The endless strikes, the rude and lazy chaps at Education Building, the grumpy dean of students in Mahatma Gandhi Wing and the almost non-existent student opportunities suck. If Tevin were to go back five years, there’s no chance in hell he would choose to study Economics and Statistics at “The UoN”. Maybe KU. At least they have KUTV and Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Centre. Heck, he’d even try getting into Hollywood. Thankfully, there is a ridiculously high population at UoN, ergo, a good chance to make friends. Eric is one such friend.
“Did you and Eric know each other before campus, or did you meet here?”
“Actually we met back in primary school. We didn’t meet again until freshman year here.”
“I see you guys together everywhere…”
“Hold up, hold up, not everywhere. That sounds gay.”
“There’s no shame in that. Besides, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I mean, he’s cute and everything.”
I can see the discomfort in his eyes and I am enjoying every moment of it. Charlotte chuckles. He gets even more uncomfortable. “How can you speak of such things?”
We all laugh and try to picture Tevin as a gay man. Not bad.
“But I assume he’s your best bro.”
“You could say that.”
“Most people that know you two think that you are the more stubborn one. Is that true?”
“I don’t think so. Eric is cheekier and more pig-headed than he looks.”
“I can imagine that.”
Demore calls. He is ignored.
“Who was the first person you met from class, and what was your first impression of them?”
“It was on the day of admission, at the queue.” He then narrated how he saw a girl from the back of the queue. Well, mainly just her ass. He saw her behind from way behind. He was so impressed that he approached her and started a little conversation. When I asked him what her name was, he didn’t have a clue. But after a brief description: her glasses, her complexion and one other thing, I knew exactly who he was talking about.
“So, what was your impression of her?”
“Well, it was a fine ass.”
"I meant the girl, silly."
After a lot of teasing from Charlotte and me about what a fisi he is, he asks, “You’re not going to include her name in your article, are you?”
“Hell yeah I am! I mean, may I?”
“What did you think of the Welfare Economics paper?”
“Fuck that shit, mehn.”
Demore calls again. This time, he picks up. After a series of omera buanas and a lot of other Jaluo words I didn’t understand, he hangs up. A moment later, Eric shows up. So Demore was just a strongly fragranced Eric. Huh.
“Hey Sharon, my manly friend.” He was unusually loud that day. He must still have been drunk from the previous night’s Ciroc.
This seemed like a reasonable point to stop the interview. Eric wouldn’t let us do our thing anyway. Also, it was getting dark, Charlotte needed to go home, and the mosquitoes were beginning to bite. So we talked about mosquito myths, how Eric could smell gay from a distance (a little questionable, don’t you think?), how Tevin isn’t a big fan of technology because it’s destroying the world, the time we came up with the phrase tit for tit (which is like tit for tat, only in matters involving tits), M-Pesa, the differences in the way men and women search for stuff on Google, and serendipity. This was after Tev had noticed that I was scribbling on the page on my notebook (diary) that read 7th August, his birthday. And that both he and I have ever met Mo’kiwizy. That is not a celebrity; just my class prefect back in high school.
We then headed out for supper at klabu. Es called, asking me to bring her two hot chapatis. Tevin and Eric insisted I tell her to come get them herself, but I knew better than to do that. As soon as Eric paid the bill, I rushed to Es’ with the hot chapos which she eventually used to warm her hands.