For the crew, experience is the best teacher.
Hanging out has taught us that it is not just who you hang out with, but also where.
My kind, under our drunken and smoke-free leadership, rarely jumps for boozy invitations without asking: Who is it? Who is around? What stuff? Where? How is it being taken— plain or on the rocks? Accapella or with some snacks? Why or why not?
This is common sense for imbibers allergic to cheap liquors mostly gulped morning, noon, evening and night-time by jobless and unskilled young Malawians in dark corners where even the devil fears to take a sip of mkalabongo jerry cans.
What does the future hold for the youth who look quite old really—with swollen faces, fresh wounds, numerous scars and toothless jaws like goats?
Every step into this chipwilikiti [an alley of chaos and self-destruction], pushes the Crew miles back to dignifying places where our hearts, livers, lungs, bones and brains find non-stop peace.
This is why we had questions when our accomplice phoned one Saturday morning to ask “for some company”.
“Yes, you got me right; someone to hang out with.”
“Machinjiri is no small town, bro. Where in Michigan are you messing up today?”
“Some hide-out behind Chikapa Market.”
“It isn’t 9am yet.”
“I lost my sense of time last night.”
“So what company do you want? A slim diva?”
“A big one?”
“A big one?”
He retorted: “I love them big, but I would have stayed by my wife’s side if I needed XL stuff. She ticks all boxes. I need your company in five sips’ time.”
I yawned, remembering the previous night’s drinks. We slept out. Drunk. Pubs are no sleeper’s paradise. My wife had found some used stuff in my pair of jean trousers.
But what happens in Vegas remains in Vegas.
The Honourable Caller’s words were sweet to the ear.
“Come and see this wonderful pub, with nice flowers, soft music, limitless chats and maximum privacy. But our dear friends in the refrigerator have very few rescuers to lift them from the cold. Come before the bottles freeze to breaking point,” he implored.
He sounded lonely, for perfectly chilled bottles more often speak of poor sales than a flawless fridge.
Before he swallowed five sips, I joined him at the booze den where no-one takes mkalabongo spirits or illegal herbs.
Some call it Kwa Hastings or Kwa Fletcher. My accomplice called for a crate. So did the regulars, who told us they love the bar in its nameless state.
“Those with no idea of how potbellied creatures mess up just call it the decent place,” said my neighbour, the most bearded one.
But neither the Black Missionaries nor any male ward countrywide know a more male-dominated place than Nameless Pub.
As more drunks walked in, I wished the Pope, my namesake, really opened the doors of seminaries, sacristies and monasteries for these married priests.
The crew seemingly fears women—even their wives—more than mambas, pythons and puff adders.
Forget the famous all-women flight from Lilongwe to Tanzania and the two youthful pilots.
The drinking hole was an all-male ship, with Captain Pambalibwe manning the bills at the counter and drum-bellied Manthongo roasting ‘a goat’ outside.
The weighty imbibers were friendly, except to smokers, thieves and those who urinate anyhow. That’s suicide, they say.
The only smoke in public emanated from the charcoal hissing under the burning goats clients buy every Saturday just to ensure no-one dies of drinking without eating—for they do not buy rounds , but two or more crates at once.
The Bearded One said it all: “When doctors say a drunk has died of hypoglycemia, it does not mean beer kills, but that hunger has no mercy.”
We laughed uproariously.
What happens in Michigan ends in Michigan