Friday, October 11, 2013

A Strange Sameness

Stupid immature prick! That’s what I should have called him, a stupid immature prick. Maybe not stupid, but immature and prick, definitely. Instead I went on and on about loyalty and betrayal; how he had broken something between us, an invisible cord, thin and thready, the only thing holding us together. Now there was nothing, only the realization that we had lost whatever we had, lost it in the abyss of things that could never be unsaid, undone.

Mutua always says anger and bitterness are like a poison, wasting away your body as you watch and wait for it to kill your enemy. But what does Mutua know anyway? He is old, an old man, and way beyond his time. Maybe things were as he says in his day, but things have changed, dynamics are different, today people act differently, relate differently, Mutua himself acknowledges the fact that these are different times, he has no right invading my thoughts, putting words in my head, beautiful words by which his whole existence makes sense.

Anyway, I should give it some time, maybe he’ll call, talk to me, explain himself, or better yet apologize. But then again my expectations will once again leave me staring at the wide gap between them and reality. Expectation and reality are always worlds apart; I hear Mutua’s words in my head again. I hate that the old man’s words are always around me, I should have been more cautious, I shouldn't have let him fill my head with his nonsense teachings. Anyway, I don’t think my expectations will be met, they’ll probably stand there like a lonely lover on a dimly lit corner, waiting, waiting to be met, to be validated, but reality will not come, and maybe my expectations too will be as frustrated with reality and maybe they too will think of reality as a stupid immature prick; I guess that’s just how life is, a barrage of immature pricks waving, winking, saying, smiling, as you wait for Mister Right to come riding his white horse of expectation, which will never come.

Maybe I’m overreacting, overanalyzing. I’ve been called overdramatic before; then again, me? Overdramatic? I’m the victim here! Mutua would…. There go the old man’s words again! What’s with old people and thinking they know so much anyway? Entitlement issues, that’s what it is. You live long enough and at some point you will think that the world owes you something. You think it’s the world’s fault that you have milky cataracts in your eyes, or that you lost all your teeth, or that your back doesn't stand straight anymore. Or that you lost the flawless features on your face and now the furrows on your brow stand strong, valleys deep enough to swallow worry and concern and leave you in a state of perpetual peace and seeming wisdom. It is not anyone’s fault, it is not the world’s fault that you lived this long. If you want someone to blame…. I’m getting carried away. It’s not Mutua I’m angry at.

Maybe I should call him and tell him what I think, but he will probably ignore my call. I should write him an email instead, tell him how immature he was to do what he did, tell him that I now realize that I had been wasting my time, that we were never going to be together. That I should have known right from the start, when he used the word wait more than he said my name. I should have seen it in his eyes when I noticed that they never really met with mine, that they always skirted about my face and then stayed fixed, just above my shoulder, beyond me. I should have known that his spirit was never in tandem with mine and that his was always meant for something else, someone else. Forget the email, I’m beginning to sound like Mutua. Come to think of it, what is the difference between these two? Age? Experience? How they relate to me? One is the fool I decided to give my heart to, the other is the one who saw a fool to give his heart to. But both are one thing, both are the same. It doesn't matter who they are, a failed boyfriend, a friendly grandfather, all are cut from the same cloth, both are the bane of what is wrong with the world, both are filthy beasts which I want nothing to do with, creatures I can live without, beings the world does not need; both are men.

Both fill me with angst. One takes over my heart the other my mind. My words are swallowed by want, a wanting to tell this man how he hurt me, how in his indecision my life stopped and now I can’t remember how to walk without my hand being held. My words are swallowed with feigned wisdom, borrowed genius, of a man who taught me all I know, and now I do not remember what I know, what I knew, who I am, who I was. I am caught between these two forces, and now I fall into an abyss, further and further from the truth, from who I am.

The immature prick and the old man. Antonyms, funny. Immature is old and man is prick. Sameness. A strange sameness.

Maybe I should let them be, assume that all they did was be who they knew they were. Maybe the problem is I don’t know who I am. Maybe I’m living a borrowed life. Maybe I just need to let go of both and walk my path. Learn.

Sigh, I’ll let it go. Immature prick can take his nonsense somewhere else, maybe he will learn to look into the eyes of the poor girl he charms next. Maybe she’ll wait like he wants. Maybe she’ll convince his scared heart that she can take care of it, like I couldn't.

Old man, grandpa, Mutua. Maybe I should keep this one close. Every day he sits waiting for the gracious horseman to bring with him sweet death, and though I won’t admit it, I pray the horseman takes his time, for whether I like it or not, I am him.

I am him.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

#SmallFatesKe: The Old Man

Everyone saw it, the dark blue Toyota Vitz with the bloody back seat. Everyone also noticed how the two men handled the old man; like used diapers, pinky fingers sticking out, noses facing away trying to smell something on their backs. The rumor started immediately the tiny car pulled off the emergency parking, and soon after, everyone knew the story of the man who bled from everywhere.

The collective gasp of the doctors almost sucked all the air out of Mombasa when one of them suggested that the 61 year old man might be ailing from Ebola. The man, who's bleeding they could not stop, was placed in a shoddy quarantine and handled with two pairs of gloves and two masks, for extra care. Later, when the tests came back, Peter Simiyu, the Coast Director of Medical Services, wiped his brow and breathed a sigh of relief, "We can now celebrate," he told a nurse as the old man was moved, unconscious, to the general ward, "at least his severe bleeding will not kill us as well." 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Her Mother Died

Her mother died on Monday, or Tuesday, you are not sure. Diabetes. For some reason they thought you would be the best person to break the news, never mind that it has been two years since you last saw her. So you call her and arrange to meet. At first she does not know who she is talking to, then a few awkward words later she recognizes your voice, and you listen to the excitement, and the Oh My Gods, and agree to meet on Thursday next week. She picks the venue.

She seems smaller. You hug her and feel it. She pulls away quickly, and then reaches for her chair. You follow, slowly and cautiously. She asks many questions about home, and you try to answer all of them. She doesn’t ask about her mother. After a short while you both go quiet. “I should have told you I was leaving.” Her eyes are fixed on yours, she caught you unaware and now you have to think of something to say, something that will throw her off the scent of your emotions. “It’s okay, I understood that you had to leave.” You manage, and then you reach out for your iced mocha, because suddenly your throat feels like you swallowed a thousand coins. Silence.

“How is the city treating you?” You ask, trying to change the topic, trying to pull her away from where she stands, a place where she sees your vulnerability. She doesn’t barge. “I thought about you every single day that first year.” You didn’t see that coming. You reach out for your glass, it’s almost empty. You swallow the last of your drink, and then the words gargle out of your mouth, “Let’s not talk about that, please.”

She reaches for her mug, and buries her nose in it, then places it gently on the table. “The first few months were the hardest. I got a job at some restaurant, it didn’t pay well, but I met some people who helped me settle.” “After two months I got a job at a movie place, then started my own MPesa shop. After a short while I decided to draft my CV, and got a job as a blogger for some company. Now I write fulltime, I like it a lot.” You watch her as she speaks, you take in each word, and feel the loneliness, the strength, the resolve, and then you feel it in your gut, hard like a punch, the realization that she did it all without you, that she did not need you. “You should have called me, I could have helped.” The words fight hard to come out. She doesn’t say anything.

It’s been two hours. You need to tell her about her mother but you do not know where or how to start. “Do you plan on going back home?” You ask. “Not really, there is nothing to go back to.” Her words plough at you, you feel the way you did two years ago when she left; hurt, betrayed and abandoned. “What about me?” You ask, then immediately regret it. “What about you Biko?” She asks, her voice breaking slightly, “but I explained to you why I had to leave.” She adds.

You aren’t sure if you are angry but something in you has changed. “All you did was leave me a badly written letter telling me things that didn’t make sense.” Badly written letter the words float about your mind, they were unnecessary, and you know it. She lets it pass, she knows you too well. She knows how you get when you are angry. “You were my best friend Biko, but our friendship was laced with attraction, with a desire to become your lover one day, I wasn’t ready for that.” She says this leaning forward, her back hunched as if trying to get as close to you as possible. “Biko I needed to be alone.”

A lean yellow hand reaches for your empty glass and places a leather bound wallet on the table. You stare at it, then at the white mug with her long fingers wrapped around it. Her nail polish is chipped. You look at the cracks and think of your own, and you watch as your emotions sip through the cracks, through the walls you had built the last several months.

“So, do you ever miss home? Me?” You ask.

“Not really,” she says, her eyes staring out of the window next to us, “I’m so glad I came.”

“Why is that?” You ask, staring at her face, taking in all that the light throws at you.

Her eyes start to water, and then she looks at you. You see those eyes, familiar eyes, eyes that carry you back to your childhood, back to when things made sense, when your whole world was just about you two.

“Because I am so in love with a girl right now.”

You don’t know what to say. You want to throw up. Everything moves at super speed then nothing moves at all.

“Your mother died.” You say, and then you swallow the hate that has been dancing all the while, in your mouth.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Deliverance of Comfort

I wasn’t supposed to write this, but for some reason I felt compelled to. I felt you needed to know the truth so I gathered enough courage and decide to write. The truth is I wasn’t really writing for you, but for me. I needed to write this more than you needed to read it, though reading it will give you more peace than writing it did me.

There is a noise, faint and continuous, coming from the wall. It sounds like a metronome, marking the time to life’s heartbeat, slowly, like it will soon stop. So I write faster, to you, but for me.

Hope you can read my writing. I tried to change it, but his hand is strong on mine, and every few words remind me of him. Of course you know I’m talking about Mark; and no I will not call him by any other name. A man should earn his title, and mark was never a father, at least not to me. So my life has been about being as different from him as possible, but all I have learnt is in life we become what we run to and what we run from. So I’m sorry if my writing reminds you of him, and if I remind you of him.
I should write him, but I won’t. Peace is given those who deserve it.

I won’t take much of your time. Remember that red tie you bought me? The one…. Forget it. He came to love it. He ruined everything I loved, including you. I am sorry I couldn’t be there for you, I could only watch as he called you into his room, and as he shut the door, his face blank, void of any emotion. I would hear your muffled cry and his grunting, and I would watch you leave his room, doing nothing, not even sharing in your pain, but what could I do? After all, I was and still am, my father’s son.

When I left, knew I had damned you to his hell, but what could I do? I had dreams to run to, nightmares to run away from, and I could not be the one he loved, I could not be the one he didn’t hate. I had to leave on that cold April morning. I felt your warm gaze on my back, I felt its weight on me, but I could do nothing, I was nothing, I was everything to him and therefore I was nothing, so I had to leave, I had to leave you, and be something, by being nothing to you.
I am sorry.

I’m done going though. I am done running. After a while you realize dreams and nightmares all share one thing in common, they both stand on the other side of reality. When you wake up they are no more, and all you are left is with choice. So I’ve decided to wake up. To wake up from a dream that is made up of my running from my nightmares; and nightmares made up of not running towards my dreams. I am waking up.

I hope as you read this you will get to share my freedom. I hope in my disappearance you will feel my presence more than ever, and I hope in the land of the living, I will not meet him. I will have nothing to tell him when he asks why, unlike you, I didn’t go for his funeral.

I wasn’t supposed to write this, but for some reason I felt compelled to. The room is filled with silence. The wall is silent, my mind is silent, my heart is silent.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Crayfish Melancholy

Njeru could have sworn he heard his name. He had been standing next to the large acacia tree that stood dutifully at the center of the soundless campsite, fixing his gaze into the nothingness that seemed to sway with the blowing wind. The straps whipped against the slacken tent wall, forming beats to a dirge that played in the deepest darkest chambers of his heart. He stood on the same spot for a few more minutes, barefoot, the soft green grass licking his feet.

Everyone else had gone to the lake, a ten minute walk from where he stood. He didn’t want to go, he had told them that he wasn’t feeling too well, a lie that had left a bad taste in his mouth. “You guys go, I’ll be in the tent taking a nap.” He had hoped that Kui would not offer to keep him company; she always cared too much, so he lied to them with his eyes on the green grass, his toes digging into the soft blades, his body inching away from the group slowly and smoothly.

It had been more than fifteen minutes since they left. Njeru had paid attention to their voices as they faded away in the wind, their voices an accidental orchestra, an unseen conductor signaling a diminuendo.  Now all he could hear was the unscripted melody of the Eastern Bluebirds that perched atop the acacia tree, each adding to the other’s song. He watched as some of them flew down to the poorly pitched tents that surrounded the tree, he took in their blue feathers and orange chest, he watched them as they flew away, in pairs, and sometimes in groups of three. He watched as they danced together, then he listened for his friends’ voices, and at that moment, he felt it.

It rose from deep in his gut, a flaming ball rising up, taking all the air from him. He looked at the birds, then thought of his friends, and he knew at that moment, more than ever, he was alone. 

(For Kui ;-) )

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Letter

Mugwe can’t sleep. He tosses and turns in rhythm to the thoughts wrestling in his mind. He opens his eyes to utter darkness; a blackness that envelopes everything in the room, everything except his thoughts. He stares blankly into the space his thoughts replacing the darkness. Images form in the dark, images he tries so hard to erase from his mind. He turns and faces the other side, the wall. He fills its presence, the stoic mass supporting him, being there for him, letting him rest, if only for a while. He gets up and finds the switch next to the door. He decides not to turn it on and instead reaches for the door handle. He turns it slowly, not wanting to wake Mureithi up.

He walks towards the kitchen, passing through the small sitting room decked with 3 old, brown (creaking) uncomfortable chairs that make a noise whenever someone sits on them. The TV, an old hunchback Toshiba nestled at the corner next to the 3-CD-Changer Phillips music system. On the far(thest) corner his brother’s guitar leans on the wall gathering dust and right next to it, resting on one of the music system’s speakers is his father’s framed picture taken during one of his acting days. It is black and white, old, probably taken before he met mum, before their fancy wedding, before they were given the brown fabric sofa set as a gift on that auspicious day.

The kitchen is small. He can see the white tiled walls as they reflect the light produced by the neighbor’s security lights. He can see the outline of the dish rack. He reaches out for a cup, slowly pulling it from the pile of washed dishes, hopping that he will not cause an avalanche. The cup is cold, smooth and cold. He passes his finger slowly over the surface feeling the smoothness, getting lost in his thoughts again.

A noise outside the kitchen window startles him. It must be the landlord’s dog, he concludes and reaches for the humming refrigerator. He places the cup on top of the small fridge about half his height. He reaches for the handle and opens the door. An icy blast embraces his body, jolting him wide awake. He looks around, still dazed, still cold. The fridge light reveals his nakedness. His checked boxers cling onto his body as if to escape the chill emanating from the almost empty refrigerator. He reaches for the white glass bottle and unscrews the top quickly, then pours the clear liquid into the plastic cup. He scans the label for a moment, glances at the half yellow sun that forms a backdrop to the two palm trees and then slowly moves his eyes to the writings: Malibu Caribbean Rum with Coconut. He places the bottle back towards the light and closes the door, the cold air letting go of him. He picks up the cup and brings it close to his mouth. The coconut scent is delicious. He empties the contents in his mouth, the cold water quenching more than his thirst. He fills the chilly flow inside him and secretly wishes it was actual Caribbean rum.

The sun’s rays struggle past the morning clouds. Mugwe looks at the grey glow round the bedroom window notices the room becoming brighter as the minutes pass. He can now see Mureithi lying on the mattress on the floor completely lost in sleep. Mugwe lies in his bed staring at the ceiling, the same spot he has been staring since he got up in the middle of the night. He reaches for his phone, a black iPhone wrapped in a black and white protective casing. He presses the lone button at the bottom of the screen and the display bursts ominous announcing the time: 6:45 am. He holds on to the phone, a gift from his father from America; he holds on to it and stares at the ceiling.

He doesn’t move, even when Mureithi mumbles something in his sleep, Mugwe just lies there, his head forming a depression on his pillow. Under his pillow lies the letter. He knows this; as much as he tries to forget, to wish it away, he knows that the letter lies on the other side of the pillow, crushing under the weight of his thoughts. He replays yesterday’s events in his mind over and over, the memory emboldened each time he replays it.

He remembers the gentle knock at the door, how his heart broke beat faster as he walked towards the door, as a cow would making its last stroll in the slaughterhouse. He remembers how Mariah stood there, a blank expression on her face and a white paper on her left hand. He even remembers how he stood on the other side of the glass door, bracing himself for what stood on the other side, how he opened it and how she talked. “Nimeambiwa niwapee hii.” She had said, with a submissive finality. He replayed that statement over and over again, wondering if he had missed an underlying truth in her voice, in her tone. He had thanked her, not really meaning it, the way you would thank the hangman as he places the noose round your neck.

He remembers how heavy the document was as he carried it towards the single seater chair facing the TV. How the chair squeaked its complaints as his rear rested on it and how the sunlight coming from the window behind him placed a gentle pat on his back, a comforting gesture. He sees himself unfolding the document, going through the contents, the air becoming heavy around him, choking him.

He gets up and puts on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He walks to the bathroom and brushes his teeth. He then goes to the living room and seats on the sofa. He stares at the TV and remembers the days it wasn’t there, how empty the room was. His mind wanders off to the days when the room had only two cushions on the floor and the radio. No seats, no drawers holding his books, no picture at the corner, no guitar, just two cushions and a radio. He thinks of the letter but decides not to read it again, he lives it to suffocate under the pillow, to become a bad dream that he can wake up from.

Mugwe gets up and looks outside the window, straight at his landlord’s house. The door remains shut but there is some movement in the house. He walks back to his bedroom and reaches into his closet for a stack of 12 1000 shilling notes. He looks at Mureithi who does not stir, he wonders if he should tell him, if he should wake him up from his sleep and into reality. He questions if he should tell him that they only have two more weeks to stay in the house before they are evicted. He wonders if Mureithi will understand that it was a misunderstanding at work that caused it all, that a mistake in an invoice meant that his money would come two weeks later and that it would already be too late to pay the month’s rent. He decides not to. He walks out of the room and whispers a prayer under his breath.

Mugwe opens the glass door and places the keys on the kitchen counter. He looks at the cold bunch of keys as they rest on the faux marble surface and wonders if at some point they will no longer be his. He feels the tears forming in his eyes; he holds them back and walks out.

Mugwe slowly walks towards the mahogany colored door. He can’t feel his feet, he feels like he is floating. Fear grips his heart and he wants to run, run from all this stress, run from Mureithi, run from everything, from the world. He remembers how he ran from Rongai, his childhood town, how he couldn’t wait to move away and be free. He remembers how he found this house, the one bedroom extension in Lang’ata conveniently placed between Rongai and Nairobi. An answered prayer he called it. He remembered how he got his first job, how he could barely pay rent and survive, how he did. How he moved in with James, how they struggled to pay bills and make rent in time. He remembered how he ran away from that job and decided to start his business, how hard it was, how late rent became the norm and how broken he felt when James went back to school and Mureithi moved in. He thought of how hard he worked and how things were finally looking up, how his business was catching on and how finally he could comfortably afford rent and spend his money on a few luxuries. And now, all that seemed to be for nothing.

As he makes for the door, he wonders if his landlord will understand that he was just another young man trying to make it in the city. He questions if his landlord will consider the poor state of the economy and how the price of things have gone up. He even wonders if the landlord will see him as one of his children, if he will picture his son in the same shoes, He wonders if his landlord will consider how far he has come to make this house into what it has become; his home and finally he wonders if the landlord even cares.

Mugwe stands at the door, the door mat hanging under his feet, the feet yearning to flee, to run like he always has. He pulls his thoughts together, this is it, then he gently knocks the door.