“Right there, was a sunken bar,” I told my friend about Slims Bar, which was there before Cheche Steakhouse on Nairobi's Ralph Bunche Road. He was visiting from Romania.
He is a doctor with OCD [Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder] which is the worst kind of doctor because they keep wiping the damn table with a serviette and moving your glass around to face Bucharest. I’m a writer, he’s a doctor. He likes order, I like controlled chaos. Beats me how we are friends. We were at Cheche and they had a deejay playing an amazing soul/ new jack swing, something we both enjoy, now in our mid-forties.
We were home. To mean, we were amidst people of our age group. People you would not have to explain to who 'Color Me Badd' is.
At the corner, a lady was leaning into Roni by Bobby Brown with her eyes closed. She wasn’t just dancing to the song, she was reliving a special moment when she had not been shaped by angst, fear, heartbreak and children but also a success, hubris and crippling ambition.
A time when she was pure and free and she didn’t pose impossible questions to herself. She was dancing by herself, for herself. Cheche evokes that sense of nostalgia, a braille language of the heart, engraved in music.
I was telling my doctor friend about how life moves on fast. How every other week I sat up straight at the sunken bar of Slims listening to a band, a young idealistic man. And now I occasionally sit here at Cheche, a middle-aged man, sitting in the same bar which isn’t the same bar, slumped a little, bowed by the weight of life. How around everything has changed while also somehow feeling the same. He nodded. “And I’m divorced,” he sighed, shaking his head. “Life sometimes feels like a divorce,” I told him, sipping my whisky.
It’s hard to go to Cheche, listen to its music and not wonder what you were before Bobby Brown became clean.