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Monday, February 28, 2011

the battles

One of my nieces was there while I wrote this. She’s 12 years old and we were talking as I typed away. At first she thought this was for school so when I told her what it would be about she was so disturbed. So disturbed she convinced me that this particular post needed a disclaimer. One of those SNLV things. So consider this my disclaimer. This is not for the weak at heart or for those who are easily affected by things of a graphic nature. It is intensely human and full of folly, it is about one of those things that dog us all through our lives, so read on, or not

This may be the most personal, revealing piece of writing I have ever done, what I’m going to write about is not a secret it’s known among my friends and anyone who has observed me casually. It’s about a demon I have struggled with for years from my high school days through university and all the time in between.

This is in a word or two is my bladder battles.

For the longest time I have had to pee more than the average. This is one of the reasons I have always been able to identify with pregnant women(piss poor attempt at a joke). In high school it was after every lesson. The bell rang and I was outside at the watering hole letting go. It got to a point I was trained, the bell would ring and I would need to tinkle. I was not however the only aflictee. There was this other frequent flyer or frequent unzipper of his fly there. We used to meet and talk about all the things high school boys were interested in, current affairs, geopolitics and economy but we were so smart we did all that metaphorically by couching it in terms of girls and their various body parts.

Then I finished high school and I could go whenever I wanted. This is because like out of prison I didn’t have to ask permission to go. This reminds me of that scene from Shaw shank redemption when Morgan freeman gets out of jail and he can’t readjust to normal life. He asks his boss for permission to go to the toilet until his boss gets mad at him. Well it wasn’t that dramatic. But now that I could go whenever there were so many social constraints to going to the toilet. I would be watching a series and every episode I’d have to take a piss break. Needless to say my fellow watchers were not frequently amused.

Then there were all the times I would be in the middle of town and feel the urge come over me. There were two choices open to me at that time, hold it or sneak into a restaurant with a phone to my ear and look agitated as I walked around. Then head to the toilet and avail myself. This kind of thing needs one to develop certain talents, not giving a fuck being the prime among them. I would walk in there like I owned the place. Put my phone determinedly in my ear and go straight to the bathrooms. I did this at the Stanley once then twice. Swanky bathrooms there. They had these toilet seat covers, paper things that went over the toilet so that you never had to share the toilet with anyone. It was so hygienic and the taps had both hot and cold water, better than home.

However as time went by I got more scared. I went there less and less till I went once and had no idea where the toilets were. The fact had just slipped my mind and flushed away(pun intended, as bad and looked for as it is.) then the last time I went there was this notice that there was a 500 shilling fine for using the toilet if you were not a customer. I haven’t been back.

Another thing I have learnt is basic architecture. With enough practice it is possible to know exactly where the toilets are in any building or facility. At a point I had an almost innate ability to find a toilet. I would walk in and walk left, feint right and before knew it there I was in a toilet. I never had to ask for directions. Let’s face it there is only one manly reason for asking directions and that’s the girl you’re asking is pretty and for some reason you don’t want pretty girls to know that you use the toilets or washrooms as they would call them.

But the worst the absolute worst is traveling by bus. When going to my grandparent’s home I have a 6-9 hour journey ahead of me. This depends on such diverse factors as the state of the roads, the temperament of the driver and most importantly my level of intoxication. In 30 minutes I need to go. I really do. But I can’t. I can’t ask the bus driver to stop all the time so that I can go outside so I soldier on and that’s when it becomes a war.

An intense struggle, mind over matter, pot under piss. The worst thing about it is if I feel like peeing there is no way in the world I can fall asleep. In bed I wake up 3 times on an average night. So while traveling not only am I uncomfortable and pressed I can’t go to sleep, so I toss and turn and turn and toss. In the midst of a never ending torture. Its worse when it rains, its worse when it doesn’t and the reason I committed grammatical murder on that sentence is because I needed to show just how bad it gets or how worse.

Now my cousin is here too(mother to the disclaimer loving niece of before) is here too I told her about this post and my issues and her first comment was that there are people with kidney issues and I should thank god for how lucky I am. Followed with the somewhat nonsensical suggestion that I should travel around with a bottle. The sheer logistics of being in a bus, with all the potholes that Kenyan roads have, then taking out my instrument (fondly christened the truth.) and funnel it into a bottle. Turbulence has never been a bigger issue the biggest issue at that point though would have to be the one at hand, and on that note…

Thursday, February 24, 2011

cigarettes: the rings

Authors note: I should mention that this is a prequel, so consider it mentioned.

They were supposed to meet today and he felt nervous, the kind of nervous that guys feel when the phone is ringing and on the other end is that girl they really like. The kind of nervousness that is spelt unrequited. He hated this and so he lit a cigarette.

With it in his mouth he reached for the phone, he had called her already. 2 times in the last hour and he knew he shouldn’t call. It would look desperate but that was how he felt it gnawed at him from the inside and it was the reason he hit on so many girls that he felt nearly nothing for. All they had was beauty and he knew he could get that with no amount of effort put in but every once in a while he let himself believe that he wanted this.

Then he got it. That familiar thump in his chest, that stupid smile on his face and the sinking feeling that came with all that. He thought about all the insecurities. Am I calling too much or too little. Should I wait for her to call back, she said she would and I know what the right move is in these circumstances. Don’t call, act like you could care less. But the truth was it was itching him. Maybe she doesn’t have credit, maybe that’s why she isn’t calling. Even if she has credit maybe she just forgot so I should call her back. But if she forgot about coming to meet me then I can’t hope for a good outcome from the meeting. But the uncertainty, that’s what clawed him. He wasn’t sure whether or not and maybe if he was sure then it would be ok.

He took another drag on the cigarette. His mind went to what he would do if she didn’t show up, he knew that his mind would work him through this. The thing about having the kind of logical, rational mind that he had was that it would find a way for him to be all right. It would hurt, and he considered the pain and the possibility of it. He knew that it would bring him down in a way that things like this usually didn’t. But he really liked this girl and he had let himself because he thought she liked him too.

If she didn’t lie me why would she… and how come she… and why is she leaving me hanging in the balance like this. Doesn’t she understand that I’m waiting and what this waiting does to me. He wavered in between an emotionless response to the situation before him and the urge to just reach over and call. The food was getting cold at this point and he hadn’t the heart to get up and do something about that. He knew that he was taking his cigarette of wait as he called it. But he also knew that for her he could break a lot of rules.


And he couldn’t stand it any more so he reached for the phone and he got her number, shaking because.. Well he had thought about it way too much he put the earpiece to his ear and he pressed the call button.

And the phone rang and rang.

He usually knew if she was going to pick up by the first few rings and the fact that she hadn’t picked up yet was a sign that she wasn’t going to. But he let it ring on. The clutching of a straw by a dead man. Hope held him. Utterly useless hope he knew but hope nonetheless. Few feelings have that particular quality that comes with calling a girl you like and her not picking up and you suspecting somewhere in the corner of your jaded mind that it’s because the caller i.d says you. Every ring was like another piece of him coming apart. He hated liking her so much and every gong of the call brought him closer to despair.

And the phone rang and rang.

Until it finally stopped. He was more than halfway through his cigarette and he realized this was overt. He wasn’t sure who he was more angry at, her or himself but he needed to pick himself up so he picked up his phone again. He wouldn’t call her again. No. that he could stop himself from doing. At least right now. He would call her back in a while. In a few hours when the subject could not possibly be this date. And he knew that when he did call she would give him all these excuses and he would nod at them all. He wouldn’t believe her but he would act like he did. He knew this and he knew it wasn’t manly. It wasn’t the thing to do. But he would do it. He hated liking anyone this much, the kind of like that is spelt unrequited.

He took his phone in his hand and he called the other girl. A talent for self flagellation. This was a girl who was always angry at him for some reason or the other and he knew that he shouldn’t call to talk to her but he was feeling reckless. The phone rang again and she picked up. They had a checkered history him and this other girl.

And he wanted to tell her sorry for all those imagined slights, he wanted to tell her that he knew he shouldn’t have called but that he had to. He wanted to tell her that he was feeling heart cracked(he couldn’t consider this a break yet) and that the reason he called her was so she could finish the job. Take out his heart and shatter it to little pieces. He was feeling bad and that’s why he called her, he wanted to feel worse and she had a gift for bringing that out in him he wanted to tell her all these things. To have a conversation about something real.

He wanted to but he couldn’t. It was alien and forced and as soon as it started he wanted out. Her voice held nothing for him and by the time he was done with that call, he knew what he wanted he wanted the girl he was supposed to meet.

Then his phone rang and he made to pick it up. His heart thumped with expectation as he saw the name on the screen, he knew beyond a doubt he would marry this girl. He simply knew it. For a second he nearly didn’t pick up. He thought about the end, he thought about what the pursuit of a dalliance with her would do. If she could make him feel this way in 3 dates, what would happen if he fell in love with her and she betrayed him. For a second he could almost see the silence and ashes But that second was over and so was his cigarette so he picked up the phone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

that day

I am an extremely clumsy person, the sort who gets sauce on the clothes somehow and so well its nearly a talent, the sort of person who stumbles over stairs all the time. The sort who knows the next painful reminder of this unfortunate flaw is always around the corner.

And from one of these stumbles this story doth begin. I was running up the stairs, not sure why but sometimes I have the boundless energy of a child or a locomotive heading for a mountain and often I hit it. Anyway I was stumbling up these stairs when I hit my knee in that spot. I don’t know what this spot is called or really anything about it just that when I hit myself there it hurts like a muther…., (am going on the assumption that mothers hurt much more during labour.) it was that nerve part and the pain rushed to my brain. It was the kind of pain that made me want to puke. I could feel the bile rising and then slowly I controlled it and held my leg in my hands waiting for it to subside which it did.

The result of this hurt was a nice, well weird, present. Not from anyone in particular just that part of my brain that still gets confused between pleasure and pain. As soon as I cooled down I knew this would be one of those good aches, the kind that straddle the fence of masochism with all the poise of a reluctant lover. It was confusing and not exactly pleasant but I enjoyed it no end. The pain kept radiating and I loved the feeling. I have never quite understood why this happens; all I know is I would jump, or lean more weight on the foot than necessary and then smile.

That got me thinking about this human tendency to like the things that hurt us. Maybe that’s why girls go out with all these guys who break their hearts, and guys do it too, falling for that one chic that will truly do a number on them. Maybe pain is our mark as a species. Like that old Jewish saying “sufferance is the badge of our tribe.” We hurt and we complain about it. But we enjoy the pain. It makes us feel something, makes us human, makes us feel alive and no one can knock that no matter what else. I don’t think am alone in this. Pain is the real reason we live, the real reason we love. The pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of its end. No one who was never truly happy can be truly sad. Well these sad, depressing, dark thoughts ran through my mind and I felt down.

I had to read anyway so I went to the library. I got a table that was made for 2. It’s a kind of table with a wall in between, on either side there is a chair the effect of which is you can be looking at the person opposite you the whole time. Well, I went to read and I lucked on this table which had a pretty girl sitting opposite me. Every once in a while I would look up and try to digest a concept or cram what I had just read and sometimes she would be looking up at the same time. Our eyes would meet and I was never sure whether she was in that special place people go to when the world disappears and a meeting of the eyes is nothing more than a coincidence or if she was also gazing back. But it always had such an effect on me. It would leave me flustered for a moment or two and getting back to read was an exercise of willpower. It happened a couple of times and I thought to myself “I should greet her let her know how good she looks today.” So I did, just before I picked up my books to leave. And that was when it happened; this look of pure pleasure overcame her face. She smiled the smile of the forgotten, the smile of a child, a smile that isn’t asking for anything just expressing pure gratitude. She looked away and back in the same instant in that contradictory way women do that convey both shyness and willingness. This filled me with such happiness that the dark clouds were dispelled.

Then outside on my way to class I met this other girl. She is usually so chipper, one of the few people who can actually be described as bubbly. She smiles all the time and talks so quickly. Am not sure that quick speech is necessary for bubbliness but it seems to be. And her voice is the kind of voice that picks up a dead army, while at the same time convincing them of the wonders of pacifism. she’s who to call when am feeling down because the hello is enough, simply enough. But today she was sad. Really sad, she was down and damp. I know this happens to everyone, we can’t have just good days. But it had such an effect on me. I wanted to leave but I was rooted to the spot convinced that perharps I could help, and I would tell her a joke and she would smile but it was fleeting. A look that would come across her face and then disappear, a memory before it was fully formed. And I would try to make it last but nothing I said could help. And it felt so frustrating. Sometimes only sleep can heal things.

Then I left and went to class where I saw real power. In the middle of her lecture one of the lecturers stopped talking and stared at the back of the class. Except stare is not the right word because it lacks the sense of purpose that this look had. All through class there had been the chattering and texting that goes with young people gathered together somewhere. But when she looked to the back at someone who had interrupted her everyone fell silent. She cut through all the noise and distraction until in that class there was just her and this person she was looking at, in fact the person was not even part of the equation, all that was left was that stare. It was deadening and sound died like in one of those rooms with muffling acoustics when noise flares up just to realize it can’t beat design. If she had held that stare bit longer a few people would have fainted but she didn’t. She spoke and then the silence was broken and the moment gone. It was that kind of silence where no one notices they are quiet or that anyone else is until it passes and relief washes over everyone. A collective breath is released as people realize the world isn’t really ending. There was nothing this lady could do to punish anyone at this stage in our education but just by keeping quiet and looking with purpose and yes power at some poor person she silenced the whole class. I had noticed earlier that she could get everyone to hang on her words when she was on one of her rhetorical rolls but getting people to hang onto her silence, to hold on to nothing and hold it till permission was implied to let go, that was real power.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

restlessness

It’s maybe 4 months till I finish university. When it started I didn’t have any illusions that 4 years was a lifetime like we do in high school, I knew it was at best an interlude. A time left in the middle between obligations to your parents and obligations to… am not sure what yet but I know that a time comes when your childhood is dead and buried under mounds of responsibility, constraints and social expectations and at that time my most pressing obligations will not be to me.

And in the middle of all this is this brief interlude, the period of your life with more freedom promised and given than ever before or again. I loved this period, I really did and I indulged in all that’s promised. Except I never grew a beard, but I have time to rectify that. I never understood how people couldn’t wait to be out and making money of their own. I never got that people thought they would be happier when they were out on their own with everything they own. I saw the allure of complete independence. To have your own house to shelter all your escapades, your own car to fuel them, your own money to sponsor them.

But this came with the spectre of work, of a job, of having someone to answer to in a way that I have not been used to since high school. Even if you start your own business you’re never really your own boss. The business takes over your life making more demands than a nagging wife with the libido of an eager mistress. You have to attend to it when you wake, when you eat, when you sleep, when you do anything and there’s no time. At least in the beginning it swallows everything, a black hole of deadlines, clients, worries and maybe even bankruptcy. The life of employment doesn’t even bother with the illusion of freedom. The modern form of slavery, the rat race where either you’re trying for all your life to get to the top of the corporate ladder. Climbing one frustrating, humiliating rung at a time yet never getting to the top because that’s reserved for the winners of the genetic lottery. It does matter where you’re born or at least who you’re born to. The other option is a dead end job. Life put on hold for the weekdays, going to a job you hate working for someone you hate and watching your life fade away into nothing, a series of memories that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy


But this is a heavy dose of pessimism. Perharps too heavy. The world is filled with lots of people who are truly happy. They love their jobs and describe it as their passion, they love their spouses and think of them as their destiny, they love their life and live it with no apologies to anyone. They built what they had brick by brick in spite of what they were told. Because no one who is truly happy was wholly supported in their endeavours. They were told they would fail and they felt they would. They were told that this was stupid and they believed, but they just believed in themselves a little more and despite the world holding them back they got to a point where it was holding them up. And this third option is probably worth all the sleepless nights, worth all the coming rejections and insecurities. It’s probably worth all the shit that life has in store.

But I never understood how people didn’t just enjoy their interlude for it would be over soon. Nothing more than a distant memory like the perfume of an old lover, or the name of your first best friend. A memory that’s taken out of the store every once in a while and polished up because it brings a smile to your face but it soon overcomes you with its power and takes you back to a place when things were good and the future was ahead of you, littered with happiness yet to be made. But this is the point where the memory betrays you by letting you know how you betrayed it. Life wasn’t supposed to be this sad and happiness wasn’t supposed to bring so much misery but it does and it did and so you shove the memory away.

Maybe this is why I was so scared of finishing, of being done with this. I can already see an unsettling tendency in myself to enjoy things more in the rearview. Too many of my conversations already start with “remember when…” and I have no idea how to fight it. If you’re best days are forever behind you….

But lately I have been overcome with restlessness . I feel this is not my real life. beyond the veil of the curtain there is something, something to do, a different way to live. I feel like this interlude was a dream. A lovely dream that I wouldn’t trade for the world. A dream that ‘twas necessary for me to dream and to tire of. I feel like I have been asleep for 3 years. Not a wasted sleep because I learned and lived, I grew and changed. I am sure of a lot of things while at the same time completely unsure of so many more. A lot of my convictions have disappeared and maybe that made me more open to life. It was a beautiful time and in the beginning and in the middle I had no idea how anyone could tire of this life in the clouds.

But not anymore, now I am impatient to be done with this. The dream is over, well not quite but now I know that I am asleep and that one day I have to wake up and I look forward to that day. I have no idea how this happened but it did and now I can’t wait. I want to see what the next dream is.


I can’t think of a better way to end this than that Shakespeare quote about all the world being a stage, although the heavily paraphrased version.

Seven ages: first puking and mewling;
Then very pissed off with one's schooling;
Then fucks; and then fights;
Then judging chaps' rights;
Then sitting in slippers; then drooling.

Monday, February 14, 2011

post hoc ergo proctor hoc and delusions of grandeur

Post hoc ergo proctor hoc is a Latin term that means after it therefore because of it. I’m not just writing this to show off my impressive handle on the language of the dead it bears on the events inspiring this post. The substantial meaning of this piece of Latin is that human beings have a tendency to think in cause and effect. We think that whenever something happens before something else then it is the cause of the second thing. This is not always the case.

You may be wondering what that highly educational intro has to do with the rest of the title or you may not but that doesn’t matter am going to explain it anyway with a series of 3 short illustratives that took place on a Sunday with no electricity.


1. .

Everyone knows the feeling of the last song you heard in the morning getting stuck in your head whether or not you like it. I am so familiar with this phenomenon that whenever I go to do an exam I time it so that the last song I hear before I leave the house is one I really like.

Anyway on this Sunday before the electricity went I was listening to the kanye west song celebrating assholes (in the straightest way possible of course). The song starts with this really simple pianoforte (full name because a post with Latin in it deserves some solemnity) sample. One key is played over and over and it sounds like the tune gets trapped by water or a bubble, stopping dead in its tracks then the rest of the instrumentals are laid over like a cocktail with different colours. I should mention here that making and drinking cocktails is one of the side jobs of every we were four member.

Well I started tapping the piano part of the song and in no time at all my sister began singing one of the lines in the song. Whether it was because of my amazing skill in the drum beat business or not I thought so. I thought I had caused it.

2. .

I have a cousin who’s a little older than me, ok she has a husband and her first child is in class eight. They are the stereotypical young family, she encourages her children to speak their minds and question commands in order to develop their personality she doesn’t believe in spanking and most telling of all they have a young poodle like dog. I have no idea what kind of dog this is. It’s just small and has a bark more high pitched and annoying than the girl you’re thinking of right now. And the dog’s name is Paris

This dog has been in boarding school because of its manners. It went there because it shit everywhere, was what everyone was told. My theories about its disappearance are a little more morbid. One of our neighbours has a similar dog and on that Sunday those cousins were visiting.

Off to one side my sister was talking about this place in china called Guangzhou that has all the new designer clothes and originals too. I remarked rather wittily, if a little, ok a lot unoriginally, “so it’s the Paris of China.” And with the characteristic attentiveness I pay all conversations about fashion immediately let my mind wander to the other set of people.

At that precise moment they had began talking about the disappearance of Paris the dog to boarding school. Any number of triggers could have led to this conversation but I chose to believe it was me.

3. .

This takes the kicker. In the year 2008 as part of my law school studies I was supposed to spend some time in the courts observing lawyers in action. The report was to be tentatively titled “the law is nothing like Boston legal”.

In order to go we had to dress up in suits every day. And the compliments poured in. I began to think of myself as a man in a suit. I wasn’t willing to give up the look or the feeling, I would look in the mirror and smile at myself and that’s something every human being deserves to do. However it’s too hot in Kenya to just wear blazers. As sort of a half compromise my brother and I invested in a couple of half coats. Deciding that this wasn’t enough of a throwback we also decided to get those really slim ties, knots and knots of them.

By October we had enough of these outfits to wear them day in, day out for a year if we so pleased. And we so pleased.

For a year I always wore a shirt, half coat and slim tie. This was our look. Sometime last year there was a mushrooming of this outfit. Everyone wore half coats now and those who didn’t wore slim ties, always the slim ties.

Now it was the look to be looked at in. my brother and I were discussing this with another of my cousins who recently adopted the look, on a Sunday no less. At the end of the conversation we shook each other’s hands for starting a whole new fashion fad in the city of Nairobi.


And that is what post hoc ergo proctor hoc has to do with delusions of grandeur, at least in my case.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

too much justice

This should start with a simple explanation of the fact that mob can mean a lot in Kiswahili. Not a lot of different things just many, excess.

I was talking to a friend of mine about this video that shows these two Kenyans fighting for five minutes. He remarked about how drawn we all are to misery and pain and how strange it is that all those people would gather around and watch a mob scene happening and record without helping.

This got me thinking about this incident that happened a few years ago, me and a couple of friends had gone down to Kakamega to watch some bull fighting. We got up early and headed towards the bull arena which is actually a field in the middle of nowhere sufficiently far enough from the police so that the bulls can be force fed some marijuana because it makes bulls red with anger. While on our way there we met a victim of too much justice.

By the time we had got to the scene the scuffle (as it would be called if I was trying for a prize in understatement) was over. But from the effects I can imagine that the purveyors of violence got that look on their faces, that distortion of features that signifies anger and hate and inhumanity. I can almost see the people shouting with fury and mirth. Balling up fists and slamming them into this helpless man, lobbing stones at him until his skull broke like a dam and the blood started leaking out from it. I can imagine the ruthless kicks delivered to all the soft parts of the body, the stomach, the groin, the neck. And surely there was someone there who had fire ready, gasoline or maybe a tyre and all the ogres participated in the orgy of violence.

We didn’t see all that. all we saw before us was this man, lying down in defeat and submission. Hitler once said “even the greatest of sprits can be broken if its bearer is beaten to death with a rubber truncheon.” On that day I understood what he meant. The body is this clay vessel and what’s important is the soul, the thing on the inside that drives all that occurs on the outside but without the vessel the water all spills away and cannot be saved.

And his body was broken, before us lay this man who had been beaten in every way that a crowd can imagine. He had been kicked and clawed at, pulled and punched, hit and heaved. There was blood all around him. I remember his clothes were torn and that the blood was mottled. His physical appearance was of someone who was at death’s door. I never saw a man dying because of violence inflicted on him before. And he just lay gasping. After talking to my pal as I walked home there was this stretch of road that was as a silent as sin. No cars were passing by and not a soul breathed, while I walked there I thought about how beautiful silence can be when it is complete. When for once in a week your ears rest as if you found a shade on a particularly sunny day. But as i walked there I also remembered the silence of the mob scene. It was a different kind of silence, not peace but the end of a war. The air was thick with breaths of tension. I could hear every rattling breath this guy took. It cut through the air and reached to everyone who was there. A solemn manner had befallen the whole place; it was as if we were at a funeral, which was almost true.

This man had been beaten for some crime committed. And for this crime he was paying the ultimate price. He lay dying, he wasn’t dying alone which is supposed to be one of the worst things to happen, but he might as well have been. There was a vigil of people watching him die, some with disdain and a sense of justice and justification and some even with amusement but beneath this veneer of emotions I like to hope there was some repentance, some horror at what had happened and a feeling of sympathy. There was nothing I could to help him I keep telling myself. The same mob that beat him now kept watch over him till the angel of death arrived and carried him away. He was beyond help, not because of the severity of his injuries but because among the crowd there was a policeman and I was sure that if he wasn’t doing anything neither could i.

We walked away before he died. However the sound that he made as we watched. That choking, grasping attempt at breath, His death rattle is one of the worst sounds I have ever heard. And there he lay, a victim of too much justice.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Segue

Just outside sarit there is a lady who sells credit I used to use that route all the time to go to school so I became quite familiar with her. No I did not get to know her in the biblical sense I don’t think I even know her in the sense that if she saw me she would recognize me. I was just one of her regular customers. The reason I’m writing about her is because next to her in her little booth there was always this guy. They seemed to be in the most loving of relationships. She would sell credit and read a book; she always had a book of some kind. A novel, I think they were always romance. The only reason I think they were romance is because I can’t remember even one title of the books and I don’t read romance so either that or self help.

He would chill with her all the time. They didn’t engage in deep soulful searching conversation or seem unable to keep their hands off each other like the characters in her books. But they always seemed so content. They couldn’t be more than 28 years old but they seemed to have reached this deep understanding about their relationship that people don’t usually or at all. And I never thought selling credit was enough of an occupation to keep 2 adults in the red, enough for one of them to hang up his boots and just keep her company so the only thing that makes sense is that they actually ate love. Sometimes we mess with happiness by wanting too much I guess.

This would have been an excellent segue to anything. Unfortunately it just seems to be a segue to using the word segue which is one of the least used amazing English words. I almost used awesome there which is definitely one of the most used words in the language right now. Ok maybe not right now but a year ago you couldn’t listen to a movie for any length of time without coming across the word like a land mine in the space between east and West Germany. I remember as a child I read any number of espionage novels and when the moment came when the spy or hero had to sneak across the Berlin wall to save the day or see his long lost family he didn’t make deals with men of vague oriental origin involving dreams and limbo but hired one of these kids who had crammed the route that took one through the minefield to the other side. And these books seemed so realistic I have no choice but to believe there was an actual occupation like this. There were children who could snake across a mine field and when I think of this I remember that old computer game called mine field. Where you had to click on squares till the whole field had been navigated through. Then there were random numbers on the edges of the boxes that supposedly said how many mines there were in the vicinity. That was a hard game.

More like dumb luck really. The other day I got off at the wrong Matatu stage. This is because we moved recently and one of the stages looks exactly like the one for where we live. No luck there just me being dumb.

Another thing since I started writing regularly my thumb hurts all the time. Not all the time but every time I hit the space bar which is a lot. Thinking about the space bar right now has made me use it more than strictly necessary. I have a feeling there doesn’t have to be a space between space and bar but I hit it every time like I was going for a jackpot. Do people actually win at casinos, how? I read a book about dinosaurs recently, the lost world a sequel to the Jurassic park. There was this whole exposition of chaos theory. In it the doctor said that over time everyone loses. If you flip a coin enough times it doesn’t matter you end up losing so it’s all a big con.
There was a time I attracted con artists like flies. Not that I attract flies or anything like that. The fact that I know you can’t feel them when they walk on your feet just above your sole should also not be an indication to the contrary just an indication of my powers of perception. Anyway the con would usually go like this a guy would have the winning tickets for a lottery. However he was from upcountry and he couldn’t cash it in because he had lost his identity card. All he needed was help, you could go with the ticket and cash it for him and he would wait patiently for your eventual return and break off some bread for you. But he needed some security, could you leave your phone with him in the meantime?

And coming to the end of the post I think i found my segue, the little things we forget.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cigarettes: the stub

It had been a very bad year and as he watched the dying embers of his last cigarette he reached involuntarily for the next one. His brow was damp and furrowed. The worry lines on his face showed that anxiety was a greater threat to his health than lung cancer.

The smoke spiraled to the roof of the lounge. One of those places men came to lose themselves and women came to lose their virtue. The lighting was dark enough to give a hint of perpetual depravity, the music was low enough to facilitate conversation and yet shroud it from nosy neighbours. He felt like doing something dangerous. So he took out his lighter and put it to his cigarette. Already he was feeling impatient. He had done that thing that most men do when the woman they gave their lives to disappointed them in the most primal of ways he called the one he should have spent his lie with.

Now she sat across from him, looking at him with something that approached pity but never quite got there, she had understanding in her eyes and he knew he could talk to her about the rift that had occurred. He took a deep drag of his cigarette and sat there for a moment enjoying the silence in a comfort that enveloped only those who had known each other in every way.

“I realize why I can talk to you about these things,” he began, his hands stilled, even his breath had slowed down to barely perceptible levels, all that was alive within him were the words, “When thinking about you I think with my heart and when feeling I feel with my brain. Talking to you seems like some kind of intellectual interpretation of emotions or an emotional enunciation of thoughts. We have always been stuck halfway and I can only half believe what happened.”

“I’m sure that this was no surprises, it never is” she prodded and then went on, “I don’t believe that people just snap like twigs, there must have been signs of tension or silence. The kind of silence that begs for words yet knows that whatever words are spoken will be the wrong ones. Many people think that it is better to live in silence than to constantly scream and shout , but that’s not true. The deep kind of silence, the soul deep silence that not even sex can breach that’s usually the end, was it like that for you?”

“I wish it was that simple, but then nothing is simple not even that, I feel like i lost myself when I found her like that, a part of me was gone and I never saw it decay or maybe I did and thought the cancer would go away if I just imagined that it wasn’t there, and sometimes when am honest with myself when I look inside I wish I could forgive her and then an image flashes and I wish I could forget her.”

“Is it really that hard to think about?” she insisted, “Her reasons for what she did, can you even admit that … that some of it was your fault. I won’t go into all the pop psychology about women experiencing an emotional detachment before they step out on marriage, because you know that as well as I do. And I know her, you do too if you admit it to yourself, she loved with her whole self and committed with much more than that and you know it. So whatever happened I am sure she didn’t leave a warm bed at home. Am not saying that it’s all your fault but I am saying that it’s important for you to see the fissure, can you?”

He took a long reflective drag on the cigarette, by now it was a matter of rote, nicotine on this night had long since stopped calming him down. But he smoked because he defined himself as one of two things, a husband with a faithful (though not happy) wife and a smoker. He felt like if he stopped smoking the world would spiral out of control. He thought about her question and then slowly with infinite care began to answer her.

“I knew she was sad, and that she was sad all the time. I couldn’t give her what she wanted and everyday, with her words, with her looks I knew I disappointed her. Then I regretted it I felt horrible that I could treat her so badly. And instead of making me want to struggle to become who I knew she deserved it made me feel better. This feeling, this sorrow of regret had made me more human. My regret became more and more valuable. The point reached when my capacity to regret the actions I had done and the pain I had caused became more important to me than my capacity to refrain from doing those actions or causing that pain. I think that is the day it really ended and for a long time we were actors on a stage that had long since been cleared and without an audience we sat there remembering with fondness and sometimes with a feeling that approached love the characters we had played. The show was over for a long time but we couldn’t leave, we had to be forced out, and we were.”

The cigarette had become a stub and so he ground it into an ashtray.