Helpers in borrowed robes

Some memories are forever and not even the greatest attack of amnesia can erase or bury. Here is one:

The place was a busy public square that houses a drinking joint on the second floor of a shabbily erected building in the capital city.

The mission was to pick a friend. The necessity of making it there,and quick, was the nature of the SMS he had sent about his getting caught in a situation that needed a friend’s help. I saw the SMS late and by then his number could not be reached.

Two hours later, in the company of three friends, I hurried into the poorly lit entrance into the building, all the way up the stairs to the second floor. I was so tense with imagination on what could have befallen the friend by then.

Darting into the bar, just by a glance at the number of drinks most merrymakers had in the ‘vicinity’ of their hands, I was reminded it was the end of the month. One could tell the hard justice people intended to do to their insatiable throats.

My friend, a lanky light skinned accountant enjoying ‘privileges’ at his workplace, was seated by the counter.

When our eyes met, he shouted above the stereo, announcing his welcome.

Welcome asilikali. Musakhale mutayenda ndi mfuti zanu zijatu!’

To my utter surprise, the closest I have ever got to being a soldier was in a Sunday School nativity drama cast where I played one of King Herod’s no nonsense men!  

Before I uttered a word, he ordered whiskey and slammed the bottle on the counter before us.

Paja asilikali kukonda zakumwa za mphamvu!’

It was completely ridiculous.

I noted a couple of punkheads, like vultures, were salivating at a backpack my friend had strapped to his chest. I quickly relieved him of it and his phones knowing that the breed of thieves in Lilongwe can even smell a handkerchief neatly tucked in your jacket’s inside pocket.

Moments later, there walked in a guy selling kaunjika. To be precise, it was second hand ladies’underwear. But all the time the vendor walked towards a potential customer, all he got was a contorted face in a show of utter displeasure at the merchandise.

Tipeze ulemu wa mkati!”

Surprisingly, my friend seemed interested in the vendor’s call.

Mukupanga bwanji itoto?’ the friend inquired, gesturing at the pieces in the vendor’s right hand.

5 hanzi,’ the vendor shot back.

Mundipatse10, makamaka tokuda pakatito. Timeneto ndiye dhilu!’ said the drunken friend, to the complete distaste of my ‘soldier friends’ and I.

He opened the backpack, wanting to pay for the underwear. I stopped him. In the bag was so much money for one to carry around in a place like this.

Eeetu, ifeyo ameneyo. Paja ifetu ndi a saaathaaniki. Magazi ndi msuzi,”shouted the friend in his drunken stupor.

All the ladies nearby scattered at once in all directions. A couple of men too stepped back.

It irked the barman who promptly ordered the friend out. I took it from where the barman had stopped and took the friend out.

Once outside, the drunken friend stood upright and looked around.

He told us he was only feigning drunkenness and that he had dashed into the bar fleeing from some three guys he suspected wanted to rob him on the street. The ‘robbers’ were the ones standing behind him all the while in the bar.

Eeee! Koma Amalawi amaopa asilikali!”said the ‘freed’ friend as we started off. n

 

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