Day 363: Drinking Through Seller's Anxiety
Out of cash, out of cushion, and out of resilience, I hope that Wicky's fixed Rafiki for good now. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
IT'S my third whiskey in the last hour. I have a deeply seeded belief that if you ever say “I need a drink” you shouldn't be having a drink.
But, I need a drink.
“Baby, I'm sorry cause there's nothing I can say,” Liz says in her soft southern accent as we sit on the brightly colored covers of her couch in the living room.
She's right. There's nothing she can say.
Things are fine. Reality is fine. However, my anxiety is warping reality.
Money has been flying out of my pockets, flying out.
This morning, it took all my effort not to have a whiskey as I waited for Wicky to call and confirm I could pick up Rafiki and get going.
Wicky wasn't able to finish fixing Rafiki last night. I was supposed to be on the road to Mombasa early this morning to finally sell my dear, needy friend.
It's a long drive to Mombasa on a nasty, lorry-dense highway.
“If the bike isn't fixed before 3 pm... Can you please spend another night in Nairobi?” Linda messages me.
Unfortunately, that's not an option. My backs against a wall with time. I need to be back in Nairobi on the 20th. I need to offload Rafiki. It's costing me a fortune.
The morning slipped by with minimal communication from Wicky.
“Let me go get you a bus ticket,” Lovince says. “You can put the bike on the bus.”
Liz and Lovince also don't want me to ride Rafiki to Mombasa. Liz especially sees how important it is that I get rid of the bike before something else breaks before something else goes wrong.
I've put more than 32,000 Shilling, about 320 dollars, directly into Rafiki since agreeing to sell her. That's not including smaller bits and pieces, which probably amount to another 15,000 Shilling or more. Rafiki has broken my finances more than once right here at the end. Instead of opening up the door for more dice possibilities she's trapped me in Nairobi.
Late in the afternoon, Wicky messages me. Rafiki is ready to be picked up.
She's is running beautifully when I arrive at the shop. I tip Wicky 500 Shilling after Lovince manages to talk him down from 3,000 Shilling to 2,000 Shilling for his time and effort. It turns out that the spacers in the gears needed to be replaced because the previous mechanic messed them up.
Even with Rafiki running like the beautiful beast she is, I can't relax. She might be fixed, but I'm broken now.
I needed it all to be done.
Now, in the living room, I can see everything going wrong on the drive down to Mombasa.
“What if I get pulled over in Mombasa and they try to confiscate the motorcycle because I only have a copy of my international driver's license?” I worry. “What if Rafiki won't start up when I go down to the Lovince's garage with my bags packed? What if she breaks on the ride down? What if Bertie refuses to pay for the bike? What if the paperwork isn't right?”
The list of detailed scenarios rolls out in front of my eyes, like smut in a 24-hour cinema.
This is the last logistical hurdle for Dice Travels. Rafiki is the last piece of equipment I own that is worth more than 150 dollars – not that I could even get that much for my busted-up laptop.
Rafiki represents money already spent.
After peeling 5,000 Shilling off a dwindling wad to pay for Rafiki's parts earlier today, I was startled to find that I'd nearly eaten through the 300 dollars I'd set aside to pay my father back for his stop-gap loan.
I did spend 15,000 Shilling on a used GoPro 3+ kit this morning. However, I can roll out three videos for Top Journey and be back in the black with the purchase. Additionally, the GoPro will allow me to create enough content to carry me through the months back in the US as I try to get my financial footing.
I check my money belt. There's 4,000 Shilling left. I find an extra 1,000 Shilling and change in my wallet.
I'm down to 50 dollars.
There is no cushion at this point. I've spent the cushion. I've used my safety net.
Rafiki needs to pull through for me. I cant afford another issue before pocketing the cash for her.
“When has there been no issues?” I think.
Lovince calls. He's arranged a bus. It's 3,500 for Rafiki to go below. It's 1,100 for me to take a seat on the same overnight carriage to Mombasa.
Out on the porch, in the fading light, with Liz chain-smoking as she struggles to manage her own stress with moving back to the US with Lovince, I type out a message to Bertie:
“Hey, I know we've not talked about the costs of the repairs. Since it was all caused by the oil pump giving out, which is something neither of us could have predicted, I'd really appreciate if we could at least split the costs. Time and frustration aside, I've put 32k shilling into the bike now. She's in the best shape she's ever been in at this point,” I write.
I hand the phone to Liz to review the message.
“Is it okay if I fix some spelling?” she asks.
It's agreed that it seems like a fair message.
“What will you do if he says no? You should think through the contingency plan,” she says.
I agree with her, though there's no point jumping off any bridges until I get to them.
If he refuses, I'll still sell it to him: I'm running out of time and I've run out of money.
I hit send.
His profile pic shows up next to the message. There's a delay and then an ellipsis wave begins: he's typing.
I hold the phone out to Liz.
She makes a face that doesn't look good.
“He's still typing. It's not a simple answer. Oh, he's just stopped.”
Bertie starts writing again. It's not a huge deal, but the extra 15,000 Shilling would make a huge difference down the road. Or, right now, to be fair.
The message comes through.
“I think that seems fairly reasonable – is that 32k in the last week?”
All of this should make me feel better. Hell, the whiskey should be making me feel better, but none of it does.
My focus is wavering in and out like a new filmmaker unsure of what their focal point is as Liz talks to me about credit scores. Her goal last year was to fix her wrecked credit. She's accomplished that. It's looking much better now. She runs through the different types of credit, suggesting I check mine.
I have no idea what my credit score is. I can't imagine it's good. I've not had any line of credit in the last six years. Before that, nothing besides school loans.
It seems like a real-person thing. A real person adult thing. Like many in my generation, especially those who have fled abroad, adulting is not my strong suit.
This is also perhaps not the best time to be thinking of something as abstract in my credit score. As Liz shows me credit cards that she's zeroed out, I do my best to be enthusiastic. It is important because sharing these things is part of our friendship to share. However, my voice seems a bit hollow, my mind drifting.
I check the time. Lovince was caught in traffic and never made it back from buying the ticket. I'll meet him in town and we'll go to the bus together.
The city is dark as Rafiki and I pull out of the underground parking lot and onto Ngong Road, heading toward the Central Business District to meet up with Lovince.
We cruise through the heavy construction.
Rafiki heaves below me.
“Fuck,” I mutter. “Please just be out of fuel.”
We coast into a gas station on fumes.
I check the tank. It's empty.
With petrol in flowing through her, Rafiki fires back up.
“We're going to be okay,” I tell myself. “We're going to be okay.”
Lovince steps out of his small SUV in a light blue, textured, three-piece suit. He's wearing a black t-shirt with a silver chain underneath the vest. He put on the outfit to come in town and buy the bus ticket. The only real way to understand this is to simply accept that this is how Lovince rolls.
I follow him through congested traffic to the bus bustling bus station.
“I'll stay with the bike,” I say.
Lovince pops into the office to confirm loading Rafiki, which is included in the price.
Lovince talks with a man behind a counter in the back office of the small Modern Coast office on the steep slope of River Road. Lovince is insisting that it was all agreed on when he bought the ticket.
Stupidly, I stand outside with Rafiki.
Two young kids, maybe eight or ten years old, wander up toward me, their eyes glazed, as they clutch soda bottles with a thick paste of glue congealed to the bottom. A deep hit of the glue fumes will numb their hunger a bit at a time.
“Bruv, it's taken care of. They'll load the bike at 9:15,” Lovince says.
“Okay, let's go up and have dinner at this cafe. It's the best in the area,” I say.
Lovince looks surprised that I know the place.
“It's the best?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say. Whether or not it's actually the best I don't really know. However, it's the one I ate at when I first caught a bus to Kilifi several months ago.
Inside, the waitress I had the first time I was here recognizes me. She wants to know why I didn't take her away last time.
“What time do you get off work?” I ask, teasing.
We order ugali and chicken soup. As always, Lovince shy's away from eating, but I force the point – the man doesn't eat enough.
I sip on a tea until it's time to load Rafiki.
Lovince storms back into the office – they're now trying to say we have to pay a loading fee. Apparently, someone in the office tried to pocket the fee. A tense five minutes pass before things are taken care of and a group of four or five men starts jamming Rafiki in the luggage area below the bus.
My face twists and cringes as they awkwardly push and jam my baby into the small space. This is not the first time a motorcycle has taken a bus down to Mombasa. However, by the way they are loading her, it sure looks like it is.
The side-view mirrors were removed earlier at about the same time we lied about Rafiki's tank being completely empty – it's not.
A small trickle of fuel comes out of the tank as they push hard on her back tire. One of the men hesitates, but doesn't say anything.
I think I hear something plastic snap as they make a final push and get Rafiki completely under the bus.
“Jesus, be careful guys,” I mutter.
Lovince and I hug before I climb onto the bus, preparing for the long, overnight trip to the coast.
“I'll see you for the safari when I get back,” I say. “Thanks again for everything.”
I take a seat, clinging to Rafiki's side-view mirrors. The man next to me is peeling miraa stems, a slight stimulant chewed throughout East Africa.
I close my eyes.
Let me just get there. Let this all be over.