I had hardly made myself comfortable in the dirty, dusty matatu’s back seat, between two stout middle age women, when the phone buzzed in my pocket. A gush of irritation flashed through my heart. It could only be one caller. I picked it on the fourth ring, when several heads had started turning my direction.
“Come back, I have talked with my friend. It’s a deal.”
“Okay…” I replied as dryly as possible.
I was desperate. This deal was my last and only straw, I badly needed the money. And as the situations where unfolding, every possibility I had of securing the amount before the end of the weekend were quickly turning to ashes. Momentary I considered not going back, but pride was not a card I could afford to play with at this time. In the end I could lose everything. The engine rumbled and the vehicle threatened to take off, I hurriedly squeezed my way through packed sweaty bodies and alighted, the tout’s cursing words escorting me.
One more time I approached club Spokes.
Three hours earlier I had walked through the beaded curtain at the door, uncertain if I was in the right meeting place albeit optimistic of walking out with a good amount to assist in solving my predicaments. I had taken one sweep of the place. It was empty, and I did not expect the contrary since it was on a Sunday, and only few hours past midday. On the furthest corner of the counter, exactly bellow the booming speakers at the ceiling, sat two male figures. Each with a bottle of Jameson and a glass in front of them.
The person who sat on the outer side had a cap and a dark jacket on. His sides were facing the entrance. His head bowed, he seemed to be staring hard into his glass. His companion at the corner was chitchatting with the bar attendant. He had looked up when I entered and waved at me to go over. From his mannerism I gauged that he could be a little tipsy and wondered if he was really the person I was to meet. I walked over to them.
“James?” The one at the corner inquired, wrinkling his face. I replied promptly, “Yes.” I did not want him to correctly guess that I was using a fake name.
“And I guess you are Solo, the one I am supposed to sell to the phone?”
“That is right.” He replied. Turning to the cap guy, he tickled him at the waist and said, rather too loud for someone barely an inch away from him, “Move, the businessman wants to sit.” The cap guy had jerked, looked up and then locked his big, sleep deprived, bloodshot eyes with mine. He hardly blinked, and I thought he would defy his friend, but instead he inhaled heavily and reluctantly moved to the next stool, dragging his drinks along. I took his place.
“People have it that bars are for the broken and the lost.” Solo said, slowly and seemingly unconscious as he inspects Huawei P8 I had handed to him.
“Mmmh…?” I mumbled in reply but cursed under my breath, ‘drunkard!’
That was not what I had expected to hear. I had looked forward to, ‘I’ll give you six thousand for this phone.’ Or, ‘You really drive a high bargain! Seven is too much but take it and leave.’ He kept mechanically turning the phone over, saying nothing. The place became quiet and the traffic outside sounded afar.
In the silence, my mind traced the events that led me to club Spokes. The habit of making rush decisions that has accompanied me all my life and the consequential past mistakes I wasn’t willing to accept. The beginning of my quandary was at the start of this semester, first semester of third year. I demanded one thousand more from my mother and the paid a thousand less, of the required fees. In the end I had two thousand to spend however I want. No pressure of accountability. That is the campus life they had promised us while growing up, freedom. Right?
The thrill of attaining most of the possibilities of life that money offers heightened, the pressure to conform and be as ostentatious as possible increased. I was lost in desire. Soon, I had due debts in all the loaning apps, my fee arrears huge and exams just across the weekend. Without clearing the fee on time, I risked missing exams and discontinuation from the university would be certain. I had to act fast and had only a weekend to act. Solo cleared his throat. I dreaded he would ask the one question I have feared answering the whole of this semester; am I broken and lost?
“Your first time in a club?”
“No, not really.” He gave me the you’re-lying-but-that’s-okay look. I ignored him and added, pointing at the phone “How much?” The secret trick in bargaining is to let the other party go first. When he says a way lower price, you prepare yourself for a feisty but subtle fight. When he says a moderate or above your expectation price, you remain calm and put a show for his money. This last scenario is highly unlikely.
“How much do you want.” He was good. Tipsy, yes, but good.
“Man’s desire for money is limitless. But…” I paused, fumbled in my pocket and removed SQ button phone. I pressed seven and continued talking as I showed him the screen, “…for today this is the minimum I am asking for.”
“That is an unrealistic price for a second-hand phone. You know I am buying to resell? Most people love big things, and I am not intending to devalue your phone. If I were buying for my own use, I would have bought it” He said with certainty and offered three thousand five hundred. That was like an insult to a phone I bought at ten thousand. I show-cased to him my knowledge of phones and argued that seven thousand is the best price, although it won’t hurt much to accept six. He didn’t move from his three five. Then I became cold and indicated that if he offers anything bellow six, I will walk out with no deal. Nothing worked on him.
His friend spoke for the first time. I was surprised he was sober and very much alert.
“I’ll give you five for the phone. I know you want the money to go and please your lady friends.” A wicked smile flashed across his face. I turned to seek Solo’s approval, but he was already chatting with the bar attendant oblivious of my presence. He was offering a better deal than Solo who had made me travel to Kimbo, but I needed at least six thousand. This was the highest I could get, something in my gut warned me.
“Then I guess there is no deal.” I said out loud for the benefit of Solo too and walked out.
I felt terrible inside. My heart ached within me as I walk out of the door. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away. Will I really get another chance to fight again? If I want to correct the errors of my ways, then I must take the deal. No, the price they are offering is low. You don’t need that phone anyway, you only bought it so as to show off, see where it has led you to?
I stood outside the club and, for the first time, submitted myself to the judge of my conscious. My intuition decreed I should go back and take the deal, but I did what I have always done; desire.
One more time I approached club Spokes.
I walked in head held high ready to stand my ground.
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