Okay, there is Kisementi and there is Cussymenteigh: two circles in a venn diagram.
Each is easy to identify. Cussymenteigh is vulgar, dank and jarring, like a hyena with black bits of old blood coagulated on the end of its neck hairs. A scavenger that comes out at night to rip jugulars out of helpless necks then retreats at dawn with no shame.
Cussymenteigh stretches from Que Pasa, via Sky Lounge to the shadowed alleyway far up the other end, where the discarded durexes pile up each night.
Cussymenteigh’s main function is to facilitate hyena predation. Or, to drop the metaphor, to facilitate the situations where you find someone to have sex with, not because they are cute, but because they bought you four shots of liquor. Fornication. Adultery. Vice. Sluttery. Obwenzi. Usherati.
I sound judgemental and bitter, don’t I? It is because I am all that and more. I am deeply jealous of the ease with which sex is transacted at such places and embarrassed that I just can not suppress my entrenched church-boy hang ups and just go into Que Pasa and be a normal Kampalan. But I am not a hyena. I have no fangs or claws. I am a fluffy little squirrel, an incorrigible Ted who can never muster the testes to be the Barney the night requires.
Last time I had a one night stand I sent her a message the next afternoon to see if she got home safe and I suffixed it with a “say hi” to her six-year-old son. It’s needless to say so I needn’t say what never happened again with her.
Kisementi, on the other hand, is warm and tranquil; elegantly, traditionally classy; calm and welcoming. It is not hectic hookups; it’s late-stage stable relationships.
It’s Endiro. It is the Bistro. It is, or it was LaFontaine.
Lafonty was a legend that should have been put on a list with the historical landmarks of this city. Makerere Main Hall, the Queen’s Clock, …..
Lafonty was the perfect cafe: it had all the requisites, all the boxes were checked. Staff who knew your name and your preferences (and whether or not you wanted your conversation with your date to be interrupted mid-sentence with “Is everything okay?” or not. Hint, Java House: the answer was always not.)
It had coffee so deep and sensual and dark and … there is no better adjective… soooo African.
And most important, it had comfortable chairs.
Kiementi, unlike Cussymenteigh, is more a place to find solitude than a place to seek intercourse. It is a place for people to go and combine caffeine, laptop and cleverness to produce work.
It was the sort of place where you saw white people nurse single bottles of mineral water for four hours straight, demolishing stereotypes and preconceptions about bazungu all being rich and in that way helping bring us all together as one people. Lucky Dube Forever.
Lafonty had arm-chairs and a sofa. Old ones. Those ones so aged and so experienced in the craft of cradling bums that they would not only hold your arse, but your spine and neck would be so supported you would forget gravity was a thing. Aaaaah!
I wrote some of my best work there.
Now all we are left with is Endiro and The Bistro.
I love Endiro deeply, but it was always the side chick. It had the coffee and the great staff, but not as much food and saddest of all, it lacked the seating.
Endiro seats felt like muwasa jjutte. They felt like takeaway seating.
Endiro had wooden chairs, like for school. Senior 5 B. Divinity.
I am going to defer to common wisdom that says this is a good thing: to aid concentration and focus, because Endiro was designed, unlike Que Pasa, to be a place for yuppies and e-commuters to work. But I am like Bad Black in her prime: I do my best work in an at least semi-reclined position, if not completely supine. I need cushioning, man.
Great writers all have this elaborate system of rituals and habits that are prerequisite to entering the state of mind that lets them begin to work and I, being a pretty great writer myself, even though you haven’t noticed it yet, have my own. I draft on paper, with a 2b lead pencil, before I type. I take notes while loitering up and down hallways seemingly aimlessly. I try out sentences by speaking them out loud to myself. It looks like I’m crazy, but genius often looks crazy to the uninitiated.
And also, I lean back.
So this day I brought my yoga mat with me.
So I am sitting here my laptop lit up by Endiro’s easy Roke wifi, with coffee, and a pair of chicken skewers.
I’m supposed to be writing the Chandler and Frasier novel but my WhatsApp is buzzing with the burden of the week. There’s always something to make my Prozac work up a sweat. This week it’s the coincidence from three different sources– I’m sure they mean well. They mean to be encouraging. But they are all essentially disappointed that I am no longer Bad Idea and that I didn’t transition into something more; I’m not Bikozulu, I’m not Elnathan.
I’m sitting here looking at Where Fat Boys, Just Kicking used to be. I can crane my neck yo see Iguana. Fatboys, Just Kicking, Iguana…This axis of debauchery.
And thinking of change, of duality, I’m changing, you are changing. I am thinking of what Macniece called “the dying that brings forth a newer life” and wondering if I will ever be loved by you again the way it used to be.
I’m still writing Chandler and Frasier. I’m still doing political satire, I’m still throwing jibes at celebrity culture, but without a bestselling newspaper behind me, I can’t find the same audience size. I’m growing less famous.
I am also turning into an older writer. Parts of me are more introspective, parts of me are more observant, parts more bold. Where I would say what I felt you wanted to hear, now I find myself sometimes imposing, telling you what I want you to hear.
Like this: Uganda has barely existed for half a human lifetime and in that span it has been several different types of country. Hopeless, inspirational, war torn, peaceful, free, shackled, wretched to doom, brimming with promise. Some days it has been two opposite things simultaneously.
Cussymenteigh and Kisementi.