We are all going to die someday.
It is 8 pm and I stare at nothing in particular. I am on my bed, going over the events of the day, and my train of thought has its last stop here: we are all going to die someday.
I was to meet Chirie at about 10 am. I hadn’t seen her in a while and we had plans to meet for breakfast in Westlands. Such a sophisticated lifestyle, yes? Meeting someone for breakfast is even fancier than doing brunch, I think. It immediately makes you sound busier, of consequence. Like your days are full of business meetings, charity work, and corporate events where you get to cut the ribbon with the huge scissors and officially open the big fancy building that will change the economic landscape of the country. World-changing stuff. Like you have names such as Caroline Mutoko and Manu Chandaria in your contact list and you can only fit someone into breakfast because the more conventional meal times of your day are already booked solid for the next two weeks.
Anyway, Chirie showed up at 12 so we ended up a having a regular lunch date (see how much less sophisticated that sounds?). We walked to Westgate chattering incessantly about anything and everything, as girls are wont to do when they haven’t seen each other in a while. She was in a thick woolen sweater and little else underneath, and I pitied her. The sun seemed bent on being the best sun it could be and the heat was suffocating. But I couldn’t blame her. We are, after all in that time of the year when mornings are chilly and by 11 am the clothes are just about melting off your body. I was in worn out ballet flats that dug into my soles and she pitied me. She couldn’t blame though. They were my sister’s and I didn’t know that they were beyond use. Never mind what happened to my own shoes. Okay, they were also beyond use. Sigh. The relationship between a girl and her shoes can be complicated.
We were going to Dormans- a little café in Westgate that I loved mostly because of the fact that it was a little café. Something about such small intimate spaces makes me feel like I’m supposed to be there. Also, they usually have the kind of food that I enjoy most- ‘bitings’ and beverages, not whole meals. So we got there, sat down, and began debating over what to eat.
Just a side note btw, it’s not just when we are with guys that girls have trouble deciding what we want to eat. We don’t do it just to frustrate you; it kinda just always happens because sometimes we want to eat everything and sometimes the very thing that we want is not there. Okay, and sometimes we actually don’t know what it is that our bodies want- we only know what they don’t want. So just relax, okay?
Anyway so we were flipping through the menus when Chirie said, “Aki I want everything here. Everything and nothing. Ama we go to Artcaffe?”
I laughed, because of the suggestion of going to Artcaffe, then said, “Consumerism itakumaliza aki.” Consumerism will be the end of you.
“Consumerism itatumaliza sisi wote.” Consumerism will be the end of all of us. “Kwanza vile I haven’t worked out in a while. Na jana I had almost a whole pizza,” she continued.
“Eeh. Tujijaze tu hapa na calories kabisa.”
“ Eh, I’m not the one thinking of getting a carrot cake. Calories ni wewe. I think I’ll have a chicken sandwich. Halafu we detox leo usiku.”
I laughed. “Beetroot and sijui what? That stuff is nasty!”
“You know I once did a detox with my mother; she lost three pounds.”
“Impressive as that is, beetroot ikae mbali na mimi. I’ll drink jasmine green tea.”
“Halafu from tomorrow we start eating clean again?”
“Of course. Monday is the only day to start eating clean.”
We placed our orders and the stories moved along: food, sex, books, travel, boyfriends, relationship drama, shoes, black hair care, our futures, food again, sex again, school, parents, money, God, clothes,…to be honest, having lunch with one of your girls is one of the best ways to spend your time.
My carrot cake arrived first, along with our juices. I took a little bite and let it sit in my mouth for a bit, thinking of all the empty calories. Would I regret it later on? Didn’t I deserve this delectable piece of goodness after being careful with what I ate throughout that week? Did this undo everything- however little- I had achieved? I thought about my predisposition to diabetes. I thought about my uncle who had worked with his hands and eaten clean food his whole life, and still got diabetes at age 50. I swallowed.
Chirie picked up her fork and scooped a little of the topping off my cake. “I just want this part,” she said as she popped it into her mouth.
“Why just that part?”
“I don’t like carrot cake.”
I gave her my best horrified look. How can you not like carrot cake? Especially with the false sense it gives you that you’re eating healthy.”
She laughed. “Carrots are healthy”, I affirmed with a very serious look on my face.
“I don’t know…I just don’t understand how you’re going to put carrots in a cake. I mean, they’re carrots!”
“Na vile you look like the type to eat those pancakes that have spinach in them,” I said, another piece of cake going into my mouth.
“That is different.”
“How the hell is that different? Maybe in that it’s even worse. Eew!”
At this point her plate of chicken sandwich was placed on the table and I was torn between wanting some of it and being happy with my cake. The sandwich was cut in two and lay on a bed of salad. My eyebrows went up as I eyed the salad. It was everything I did not like. Beetroot, olives, some green leaves that I couldn’t recognize because they didn’t look like sukuma or spinach or cabbage…some onions and tomatoes.
“Everybody seems to be really into salads and I cannot even get myself to understand how you’re digging into yours like it’s the best thing you ever tasted.” I watched her fork go into the salad.
“Si it tastes good.”
“What? No, it tastes like potato skins and earth.”
“Now if everything that tastes good is going to kill us si we just have to adapt.”
We went on and on about health and fitness and calories and body fat and working out and the cost of gym memberships and the bodily insecurities that appear will enslave women till the end of time. I tried an olive and spat it out with a firm “Nope.”
“It’s an acquired taste,” she said, piercing one with her fork and putting it into her mouth as though it was an éclair.
Now on my bed, I turn over the conversations of the afternoon in my mind, chuckling a bit, sighing some more. The health and fitness wave had hit us all, and sometimes we were riding it, other times we were drowning. Some days we feel good about ourselves and the efforts we were making to improve our lifestyles, and some days we say to hell with it and go ahead and have that burger. Some days we get frustrated at the cost of ‘clean eating’. I mean, we are just college students and all we know is that we can get fries for 40 bob and a Caesar salad sounds expensive. And sometimes we wonder where YOLO ends and responsibility begins. You might die tomorrow anyway so have the cake. But then again you might not and you will regret having the cake when you’re 40 and your doctor is telling you that your cholesterol and blood sugar are way up and you will die if you so much as look at anything that is not leafy green vegetables. Some days we follow fitness pages on Facebook and Instagram and get psyched because they tell you that it is possible to have the body you want. But then some days we think, what about loving yourself with all your curves and not allowing the media to tell you that you will be worth more when your body looks a certain way.
So we try.
We download apps that help us track our calories and follow blogs like Foodie Fiasco that show you how to enjoy food while still eating clean. We try to follow healthy recipes and realize that we cannot afford stevia or raspberries and we had no idea that there is such a thing as almond butter, and we try to look for less expensive alternatives and find that either we had never heard of the alternatives either or they are still too expensive. Or that the alternatives are almost just as unhealthy as what we were eating initially. We go to Nairobi Sportshouse to look for dumbbells and a bunch of other stuff that we read somewhere would help us work out from home because we are very busy or cannot afford a gym membership…especially when we know we will skip very many sessions and end up basically throwing the money away. And we find out that we also cannot afford dumbbells so we vow to wake up at 5 every morning to dance with Chichi…which we also know we will not do, but a little hope and faith never hurt anyone. We attempt taking our tea or coffee without sugar and quickly realize that maybe the verse that says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me did not quite cover ‘all things’. We try to eat less salt in our food. We decide that we will develop a taste for salads and avoid all streets that have a KFC or a Pizza Inn. Hell, we even avoid Moi Avenue when we can because the prices at Manhattan are just about right and you might not make it to Kencom on an empty stomach. We download more apps or work out videos that promise to burn all our belly fat within a month and we begin with gusto, jumping onto a bandwagon that we know we will fall off before it gets too far out of our comfort zones. And when we realize that we have gone a month without working out or eating healthy we fall into despair, lament over western standards of beauty, and feel unattractive and un-enough, before finally embracing ourselves and eating whatever the hell we want like grown ass women because we will not be enslaved by what the world wants us to be.
Then after a while we think, “I should really start working out”. And the cycle continues.
The point is, we try. We realize that our entire generation is going to die of lifestyle diseases (if road accidents don’t get to us first) and we try to keep them at bay so that we can still eat pizza when we’re 40 years old and be around for our kids’ weddings. We try.
But we are all going to die someday.
We will struggle and our steps will be now faltering, now sure. And one day, we might even get the hang of it and we will have almond milk and almond butter in our cupboards and have chia seeds as a snack instead of a hot dog. But…we are all going to die someday. Kind of depressing when you think about it, yeah?