This wordplay belongs to the league of BBC’s Jonathan Gets Good Luck on how fate conspired to make Goodluck Jonathan Nigeria’s leader. However, sexy statements sometimes mute the painful pub tales which Chimimba and I, Zikathankalima, encounter since the kwacha lost value.
“Gone are the days Malawians only needed to cross over to Zambia to become stinking millionaires,” says storyteller Chimutu.
This is neither an opening line of another how-to-get-rich book nor sarcastic thanks to our neighbours for the fuel donation that dignified our fallen president’s funeral.
Chimutu believes Malawians and Zambians are cousins, arguing: “Even our currencies are now equal, for it takes a basketful of either kwacha to buy a spoonful of necessities.”
But stories are nothing without a bottle. So, I buy drinks for the storyteller weeping for the falling kwacha.
“When will our salaries catch up with the soaring cost of living?” he asks.
“But we saw this coming, didn’t we?” counters a guzzler of gin.
“Yes we did, but devaluation is evil,” Chimutu replies.
“A necessary evil,” says Mr Gin.
“Call it anything,” Chimutu opines. “But what will happen to the cost of food, housing, clothing and education?”
That is not all. He also ponders: “What will happen when everybody starts sucking sachets of cheap distils. Who will stop crime when people cannot afford packets of matches, salt and sugar? Think about marriages and other relationships that depend on the kwacha. What about girls and women? Will the short-time thing men do with them vanish or flourish? How will government cushion its citizens from HIV and Aids as devaluation bites?”
“Every storm calms down. Why do you doubt the woman behind our rise from the ashes of Mutharika’s messy economic engineering?” asks the gin drunkard.
“The recycled brains that helped Mutharika plot this meltdown are being rewarded with top positions,” he responds.
My mind is in wonderland as Chimutu beckons a lady with a big tattoo or tortoise to give his argument a human face.
“Hi, he is Jim Zikathankalima and I am Jack Chimutu.”
“Hi, Jim and Jack. I am Jacque, call me Miss China.”
She has a Bemba accent. Chimutu asks whether she also offers herself free of charge to every Jim and Jack when the Zambia national football team wins.
“No, I’m no hooker,” replies Miss China.
Knowing she plays no short-time ball games, I start converting some of my lightweight kwachas into her booze. Surprisingly, she offers herself at K10 000 to Chimutu, elaborating: “I don’t mean Zambia kwacha, for only salaries haven’t gone up this week?”
Silence reigns until she says goodbye, leaving a â€˜devaluedâ€™ Chimutu fuming: “This is devaluation. Even girls from Ndirande Zambia are overpricing themselves.”
Whining, we gaze at many other beauties in the club. Besides, Chimimba is salivating as if he was still married because divorce lawyers don’t come cheap. Later, Chimimba settles for Miss K10 000.
As the couple disappears into midnight darkness, the man of gin whispers: “I think devaluation lies in the wallet of the beer-holder and your problem could be somebody’s opportunity.”
We laugh and continue boozing until dawn not knowing I would bump into Chimimba’s wife on my way home.
“What’s happening, mlamu? Is my brother still the matter?”Â I greet her with questions.
She doesnâ€™t answer, but fishes out used condoms from her wrapper.
Her teary eyeballs piercing mine, she asks: “Is this really yours?
“I found them on the bed on my return from night duty. My husband claims they stuck to his clothes in your car.”
I am dumbfounded. How do I plead innocent without making Chimimba guilty? Is my car a sex hideout? Does the woman know aboutÂ the K10 000 her husband spent last night? The truth will not free Chimimba andÂ I.
“Madam, my car has been off-road since filling stations stopped selling fuel in readiness of price hikes,” I explain and dust my feet. Like a speedometer, the dust testifies to the mileage I have covered since devaluation came to town.
Readers, it’s a year since Cultural Ride started. Time flies, but is the cost of exposing our lives and beloved partners to sexually transmitted infections lower? IsÂ sleeping around a way to cushion ourselves from HIV and Aids amid theÂ aftermaths of devaluation?