I like light, I like how it streams in through windows and doors, I love how it makes everything more real and lets you see the defects in things. Am not sure why but I like the defects in things. I like cracks and holes, wrinkles and laugh lines, folds and faults. Perfection is not for me and probably never will be maybe that’s why I have so many typos (that’s probably just laziness though.) the thing that makes us human are the things that we try to improve and no matter how much we work at them we never really get there. Perfection is a province of the gods and in all religions the gods seem unjustly cruel but maybe that’s the point of perfection, to the rest of us it seems unjustly cruel. It seems unfair that anything could hold a candle to the sun and burn it out with a dazzling light so bright it seems like just another star. Who of us hasn’t felt envy? Pure unaldurated envy of those who are better than us and of those who are, gods forbid, perfect. A beauty so sublime we can never hope to own it brings up both admiration and envy and for those of us not possessed of it seems cruel in every way. It seems unfair that someone can be so good at something without having to try and so of the best of us we demand self-deprecation and we revel in their faults. Michael Jackson could make music so moving that we found ourselves tapping along to it but when we found out about his faults, about the fact that he wasn’t perfect in every way we rejoiced in it. His mistakes eclipsed his bests so much that darkness fell over the rest of his life. The rich also cry a soap opera that I grew up with struggled to assure us, the essence of life is that no one is truly perfect and that we can never be. I remember reading about Descartes and his proof of a God, his contention began with the fact of flying pigs, we as humans can only imagine this fantastic creature because we have seen both pigs and wings and we just put them together but we never saw anything perfect, look close enough and the faults and cracks begin to show in anything. So this idea we had of perfection could only occur to us if a perfect being put it in our hearts. So I like faults, when I was younger I could never colour within the lines and even when I tried to trace a picture it never came out the way it should, the lines too shaky, the blurs too suggestive of fault and laziness and lack of skill that I gave up on art a long, long time ago. I can’t sing and this has never been something anyone hid from me, my voice trembles, I lose the tunes, I forget the beat. All that remains is the words. I don’t like perfection, I admire it but I don’t strive for it, “as good as” is my mantra because things should remain human.
But I like light. I throw the curtains in my room open when I sleep and yesterday the moon was on my side of the house. I could glimpse it through the window sending its white, steely light sneaking into the room. A burglar whose presence is there and whose breath can be felt but whose tread is so light that it doesn’t stir the sleepy. A light so faint that it never makes it to the other side of the room, a light so weak that we can’t read by it and we can’t quite see imperfection in it. A suggestion of how things should be is all it throws in objects. The cracks in the wall couldn’t be seen obscured by half shadows cast by the half flight creeping in. Stealing into my messy room with clothes strewn all over, allowed to fall where they may by day or night until they might be needed again.
For the first time this year I went down Thika road, the pride and joy of Kenyan infrastructure. The true beginnings of our vision 2030, a physical manifestation of the dream of our country, our hope that it can be better than it is. Filled with tunnels and directions, free flow of traffic and lanes and lanes and lanes. It had white streetlights casting down their power. The white looked like moon light
thrown by a dozen different moons each helping each other before the burglar’s torch stopped shining. Round ovals of light reaching down to illume the way for cars and the people in them. Thika road is beautiful. The ultimate compliment a Kenyan can give a piece of infrastructure is almost the perfect insult that a Kenyan can give a person, “it doesn’t seem Kenyan.”
I have some cousins visiting from England, my aunt emigrated some years ago and that’s all they know except for some visits back home. They get along perfectly with all my other nieces and nephews and cousins, boys and girls just beginning to write and read, still revelling in the magic that running really fast seems to have. When they travel between family houses they all pile into the car. They are so many there is not enough space for everyone on the seats. One of them has to sit on the, I have no idea what the name is for this part of the car; it’s the place between the co-driver’s and the driver’s seat. Whoever sits here sits looking back at her cousins, the centre of attention never having to crane a neck to listen to a piece of conversation. They obviously have no idea what this place is called either because they all refer to it as “Kenya.” As lustily as people of a certain age call shotgun they call Kenya. Everyone wanting to sit on this piece of land that they can’t back home or when the car is no longer so full, or when the scarcity of this resource and the need for its possession no longer make it desirable.
I was driving around with my aunt. We passed by rubbish heaps and the ride was one long collection of potholes as pockmarked as the face of an unlucky teenager. There was noise all around, the buildings we could see were deprecit and breaking down. The sunlight streamed down as strongly as it does in all the pictures of Nairobi we show to everyone. And in the stark sunlight Kenya was laid bare before us. Not the Kenya of Thika road where there is no space for pedestrians but the Kenya of everywhere else. A place of unending commerce where every single free space is carved out for the sale of this or that, where people don’t think twice before throwing away cigarette butts or mounds of chewed sugar cane. The cracks in the road big enough to snake around a car, the bumps so ill thought out they scratch the bottom of every car. She looked at it and said, “Kenya, you don’t have good things, but you have a good life.”
Because buried behind each of these things was something more. The noise was the noise of laughter and life, of people haggling and shouting. Feeling every emotion as big as they wanted to lending voice to anger, to joy, to despair and most of all to hope. The commerce carried out was filled with bargaining an opportunity to jest, to jape, to joke. The buildings carried families that loved each other, that were struggling to eke out an existence they could be proud of. The discarded cigarette butts were an affirmation of friendship or of the simple pleasure that giving in to an addiction can bring. The chewed sugarcane was once something crushed between teeth, something that squirted that cool refreshing liquid that life can sometimes be. This is another reason I like the light, take it and shine it down the fault lines, peer into the cracks with it and you can see something so beautiful, so happy that you will never want perfection again.