Monthly Archives: June 2011

in deference to my recently acquired status as one of the unemployed youth in the country

Half a decade ago I was a freshly minted member of society, I had finished stage 2 of my schooling and was just ripe for the world to disappointed me and turn me cynical. Sensing this the world took an opportunity to teach me a lesson.

The background of this lesson requires an explanation of the parenting style that has been employed to every facet of my life in the recent and not so recent past, it is devoid of micro-managing and the general directions seem to be do what you want as long as you don’t expect help from this side. I had all these friends whose parents wouldn’t let them stay home bummin’ for a month, a few days after KCSE they were sent off to driving school and then they did French and computers and accounts and international relations each following the other like the notes on a solfa ladder, without space to breathe or even think as they were rushed from school to internships and then to jobs where I must say most of them are doing very well in contrast right now as all I am is a guy who just finished school. You see I was never rushed out of the house, I haven’t been to driving school, I can’t speak French, all the computers I ever learned was while I tried to play movies on windows media player and international relations still sounds like a euphemism for having sex with a girl from another country.

I was allowed to languish after high school, am not sure if allowed is even the right word, it felt more like a condemnation, a punishment for the sins yet to come. You see while I wasn’t pushed to fill my life with anything at all my pocket was still left as empty as my wallet is now. Not a cent of pocket money, I still remember those days of destitution with dread. Back then the DVD player was still a relatively new invention in Kenya so cheap entertainment in the form if piracy was far, far off.

As an industrious young man I decided what I needed was a job and in the paper one day they wrote an advert for me, just for me. There was a job available where all they needed was my high school certificate and in consideration of this I was to be a sales representative taking home the sum of 10,000 a month. On the day of the interview I was early, I had on my one tie and my shoes looked like they had at least been polished in the previous.

They asked me to be at work bright and early the next day, at 7 in the morning, the office was in Nairobi west and I had to be awake at 5 in order to be there on time. Waking up at 5 is evil, just ask the sun. its more evil in the year after high school but I was determined to make some money. So I put on my good shoes which happened to be the only pair of shoes I owned that could be worn to an office. They were these sharpshooter shoes with holes in the front part of the shoe, the kind that only people’s fathers wear not with holes from wear and tear but by design. I have no idea how I came to own a pair of shoes like that, I can’t remember much about these shoes except they were black and too small. Not tiny. But too small. The kind of shoes you would put on your feet in the morning and go through a day without an ounce of discomfort higher than a pinch, but when you got home you would need to take them off. And when you did it was almost worth all the unpleasantness that came before. These shoes were that size.

I was in town pretty early and ready to go to Nairobi West where the offices were. I remember a lot of details about that day, I remember that the night before there was a building somewhere in Nairobi that fell and killed a lot of people, I remember there was such a furore over it and 6 years later the same shit goes down. I remember I got into the matatu and there was this amazingly beautiful girl sitting next to me, being possessed of the recklessness of youth I struck up a conversation with her, am not sure what her name was I think it was Rachel though, I know she was dong CPA in Strathmore and that she wanted to study dentistry when she went to university. I remember that the matatu didn’t take us all the way but I have no idea what the reason was just that I had to get out and walk to work.

When i finally got to the office which by the way was nothing more than a house converted into a warehouse from which streamed really loud music. It was the kind of place laced with energy, there were young people everywhere and the music was so loud. People shouted to each other and I thought I would have a good time working there. I sat with the rest of the new recruits as we waited for our instructions, impatience sitting next to us, tapping his fingers every other second. Then time came to be told what we would be doing.

We were taken into a room and shown kitchen appliances of all sorts, not ovens and cookers, think smaller, think Thermos flasks and… am not sure there was anything else. Anyway these Thermos flasks were worth 800 shillings and for every sale you made a healthy 10% commission came your way. The thing was structured like one of these multi-level marketing things so that everyone who went to work was put under a more experienced salesman and if a salesman’s trainees were making money then he would in turn make more money.

I waited for more instructions.

There were none.

That was the whole spiel. Go ye forth and sell these Thermoses. They didn’t give us contact information for any company they may already have had an in with all they did was give us the product and put us under the wing of a person who had been doing this for a long time. Learn on the job was the basic thing and by the way there was no fixed salary, there was no travel allowance or lunch money, all you got was a carton of Thermoses and the energy from the really loud music playing.

I was under the tutelage of this guy in his late to mid 30’s a real ace they told me, he had made sales worth a lot of money and if I stuck with him I shouldn’t worry soon I too would be minting money like a counterfeiter. So I grabbed a carton of Thermoses, a product which I must say is very heavy and we set off this being a day the god of contradictions had assigned to me, my pocket was feeling kind of light already so when the mentor suggested we walk to town I agreed. The pinch from the shoes was getting tighter and tighter but I thought I could soldier on, surely once we got to town we would have a seat somewhere as we sold?

We got to town and walked around for a little and then we entered a building, I can remember entering the polytechnic in town and going from door to door knocking on people’s offices and asking them if they wanted Thermoses, the sales pitch had everything to do with herd mentality and panic. We would walk into a random office (with no invite by the occupant), we would strike up a conversation and then bring it round to Thermoses, we would inform the person on whose workday we were so rudely intruding that everyone on the block had already bought themselves a Thermos and then we would tell said occupant to buy before stock ran out. I must have had 50 variations of this conversation that day. Knocking on office door after office door and asking people to buy Thermoses. We went from building to building, we avoided security guards, we ironically eyed the “no hawking” signs plastered everywhere, we hauled Thermoses up staircases and down elevators. We were summarily dismissed in some places, in others people seemed to be glad to have a distraction and would talk to us for ten minutes sometimes and send us on our way.

Finally we had success we sold a Thermos. One Thermos to a lady who was going to buy one from the supermarket that day. The whole day the absurdity of what we were doing dogged my every step. Why would any of these people to whom we were trying to sell Thermoses have that 800 shillings handy and have a need for a Thermos at the exact same time? Why would they trust us after all we were nothing more than hawkers, in fact hawkers were more reliable as you knew where to find them. They were more convenient as you talked to them on the way home. We were unwanted guests and we had been walking for hours into any building that would have us. Finally it was lunchtime.
My stomach growled for attention. But we had sold a Thermos that day. One Thermos the commission coming to us, well not us, as a trainee sharing profits was far beyond the scope of my activities, was 80 shillings. I had used more than a 100 to get there. And when you do work that involves walking for kilometres up and down stairs, work that needs you to smile and joke and talk for hours with not a hint of encouragement you need lunch. Plus this was before there were benches in town where a tired body could slouch and recover, so any seating we wanted would have to be bought. My mentor offered to buy me lunch and I quickly accepted.

After food we were back at work, walking and trudging, interrupting and being turned away, not selling even one Thermos more. At the end of the day we had to get these Thermoses back to the office . By now the pinch from my shoes was a vice grip. Blisters were in my future but I still had to walk back to the office to return these supplies. On the way my mentor prepped me for a test that they make every new trainee take. I duly listened and did the test and then I left that hell of a place.

I got home and took off my shoes to the deepest sense of relief that has ever greeted them. I was bone tired, I was disillusioned. There was no money in my near future and I knew it. But I got some of the sweetest sleep I have ever experienced in my life. i was a log, I didn’t move or turn till the next day. I never went back to that place and that was the beginning and the end of my first job.

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back where i began

The hands on the clock criss and cross and criss again, the sun sets and it rises and it shines so bright it hurts, the pages on a calendar fly by leaf by leaf and weeks turn to months and then the weeks turn into a year and before you know it you are back where you started. In the same place, on the same earth going round the same sun at the same pace and magically you find yourself at just that point in the orbit when the world was blessed by the coming into being of one just like you

On this day 24 years ago I caused a lovely woman so much pain that having me out must have been one of the happiest moments of her life , I know she found it in her heart to forgive me. The first day of yet another trip around the sun as a person possessed of incurable wit would put it. I like that analogy, I like thinking that I am at the same place I have been at 23 times so far, I know that the physics probably doesn’t work like that, maybe the sun moves, or the orbit of the earth isn’t tracked to the same line every year but I like the idea of coming back to where I started off, finding my way back to just this spot in the huge hairy universe without having to think about it, just having to be, to live. I like thinking that life rewards you even for just standing still, “don’t worry,” life says, “just for being there, just for standing there let me show you a place you have been before.”

I don’t know what life has taught me, I if I was asked for wise words I would say that all you ever need is the approval of one other person. The whole world can be against you but if you have the voice and the heart and the help of just one on your side it makes things not only easier but possible. Nobody can push a boulder up a mountain without getting tired and needing a hand, life can feel like a boulder a lot of the times. You push and push and when you look up where you are is exactly where you were. As a consequence I have this long running tradition, on the day on which I was given birth, at the exact moment that I arrived on this nearly too elliptical world I go outside and look at the sun. Right then I think about how true it is that when I look up I really am exactly where I began.

I wish that was true. That whole anecdote about me going outside to look at the sun, it seems like a really deep and powerful birthday tradition to have and I wish I hadn’t thought it up so late. Maybe then I would have timed the sun and walked out at that time (which for some reason I believe to be 9.30 a.m.) I could have looked up and thought, “see you again from here next year,” but that didn’t happen, instead as that time rolled around I was deep into a handout of notes on intellectual property law. It really is fucked to have exams on your birthday.

There are three possible ways to spend a birthday without feeling sad. One is in deep reflection about the person you have been and are becoming, an honest exploration of the choices you made and the reasons behind them. A promise to try harder and to shift your priorities if they are wrong or keep tight hold of them if you think they aren’t. You can be wise and contemplative, feed your spirit. You can get a jump on wisdom.
Another thing you can do is spoil yourself, or let yourself be spoiled, what is it you want to buy? Who is it you want to see? Where is it you want to be? Guilt all of those things your way. Don’t be coy about accepting free gifts and delight in every call you get, go on facebook and see how many people took time out of their lives to post something on your wall, remember they could have been doing something else with that precious ten seconds but they spent it on you, say thank you for all those birthday wishes, happiness is not a bad thing even if it comes out of vanity.
The third option is to forget it entirely, not pretend to forget but actually forget, get so wrapped up in school or work, in exams or deadlines that the day passes quietly into night without so much as a whisper that it was anything different.

Today was my birthday and I chose none of the above. I couldn’t celebrate since I have my final university exam tomorrow and until such a time as I am free from the spectre of such things I have put such strict austerity measures on myself Greece could not possibly have a better role model. The third didn’t happen, I know its my birthday, I went to sleep knowing it and I woke up knowing it. The thing about being busy with exams is that dates are important, you know the date of your next paper and you have to write one on your script so its not possible not to know the date of the day. Plus I know and have known for quite a while that I finish exams on June 23rd a day after my birthday so this birthdate has been watched from afar.

The last option is deep reflection, thinking about my life and how it has been over the last year and what I would like to change, what I would like to keep. But I finish school tomorrow and its nearly impossible to separate what I feel because am getting older and what I feel because life has pushed me to the next stage. I keep thinking I was a great 23 year old. I really do. I had all this experience at being 23, I had a year’s worth of experience a year’s worth of experiences. For a whole year, for sunsets and sunrises, for rainy days and moonless nights, for all of everything that happened for a whole year I was 23. I got to be good at it or at least experienced at it by the time it was coming to an end but now I have all this experience being 23 and there’s nowhere to go with it, nothing to do with it. Does being 23 really have anything to do with being 24? I can’t help feeling that it doesn’t, so there’s only one thing I can do with all this garnered experience; bequeath it to someone who just turned 23. but they don’t think am nearly wise enough to listen to, they don’t think my experiences have anything to do with theirs but I was 23 for a whole year and I got out of it alive, I must be doing something right.

I was happy at 23, I really was. I took a lot of risks and they seemed to pay off a lot of the time and sure there were really fucked up times when I wanted to throw a pillow against a bed(the year when I actually considered property damage is not yet with me.) and I got rained on that year. That sounds suspiciously like a metaphor but its not. It seems like I get caught in the rain every year, and whenever that happens and it rains hard I think to myself “I won’t run just because of the rain.” as soon as I think that the rain gets heavier. And then I think its some stupid kind of game because despite all my prior experience I always think to the god of the drops “do your worst” and then it gets heavy. Now its too heavy to run. It’s not falling in drops but in sheets and sleet and its always diagonal. It attacks me and gets everywhere. There are few things in life worse than when the rain gets in your undergarments. When it gets in your sock and shoes. When it soaks through your trouser till you’re sure that your phone won’t work in the morning. And horror of horrors when your boxers are wet. These are all bad things only made worse by the knowledge that home is at least a couple of hours away. At this moment of birthverserries a different man, a better man, a man more prone to learn from unpleasant experiences would resolve to carry an umbrella but that’s not me,i am not a wiser man, I am not a more heedful man than I was yesteryear. In fact I feel no different, the year softly shuttered into the next without so much as a stop to let me know that I was supposed to change and so am not sure I did. Am not sure that’s a bad thing, or even a true thing. With time people come to realise that change is gradual, that a dripping tap can with time wear down a diamond, I guess that’s how we change, not moment to moment exactly but every moment there is something different. Measured between 9.29 and 9.30 nothing is different at least nothing perceptible, but measured between last year and this it could be monumental. All that experience as a 23 year old cannot count for nought. I guess that’s it I just have to figure out who’s the diamond and who’s the tap between me and this world.

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way too busy

Today is the June the 16th of the year 2011. In 7 days, exactly seven days from this moment I’ll be walking into my last exam as a campus student, barring the nightmare of resits and other such horrors this is the last time I will walk into a classroom in the pursuit of my first degree. It took four years to get here and in a week I’ll be able to look back on this through a haze of alcohol and joy but right now…

My future still holds four papers, one tomorrow, one the next day, yes that happens to be a Saturday. But that’s life. I have this one friend who has been in the throes of nostalgia the whole month. She feels so sad that campus is over, she talks about how now if she wants to see someone she’ll have to call them. She complains that we won’t bump into each other randomly in school and have lunch together or go for a walk or go get drunk on a Tuesday,when she says this she has this wistful look on her face, missing the memories before she’s done making them. And then she asks me if I feel that way too, and she asks so earnestly, so honestly and with such hope in her voice. I wish I could tell her not to worry, that things won’t change, that her life will still be a good one that forever she’ll be surrounded by loving friends willing to surprise her but…

All I can say to her is that I haven’t thought about it. I say I’m saving the nostalgia for when am done, right now am too busy to feel all these things, I have to read for exams and I have all these papers to get done and I want my transcript to look good this semester so that I don’t graduate with something that’s “near stupidity” to quote that guy who was interviewing chief justice nominees. I tell her it’s possible for me to just focus on this because guys can compartmentalise and that’s what I’ve done.

But whenever I say this I wonder if am just lying about it. If I’m lying to myself or to her and am not sure. Emotions are good I guess, am really not so sure about that. Conventional wisdom tells us to open up and spill our emotions, for men society allows us to do this once we have some alcohol in us. With that as an excuse guys can now tell each other how much love they hold in their hearts for their friends. They can tell each other how much that girl really meant and that keeping up the façade that everything is ok is costing them everything but giving it up would mean giving up the only thing they believe they have left, that façade. 10 years ago this was not kosher but that’s mostly changed and now I can even admit to this twinge of sadness about campus. But I am busy perharps too busy to allow myself this self-indulgence, every moment spent in sorrow with my head held low is another moment I can’t recover, and I have too much to do.

So this is what am thinking of, I recognise the nostalgia from a mile away, just today I read this blog-post by this guy who is in my class, sort of, we both finish with this place in a few and he wrote about campus life, he talked about how it allows you to determine the pace at which your life is run and for some reason that pulled a chord. For the last four years I have been the master of my life, bar none and now all that freedom comes crashing down into a sea of expectations and uncertainty and I can’t help but be scared.

In a week I can’t tell people I’m a student. When I check any official documents my status has changed to unemployed, all the structure I have quietly built for myself over the last four years is disappearing, it gets washed away all at once, with no more ceremony than the hand on a watch telling me its time to give in that last exam script. And I can’t pretend that’s not scary, for the first time in my life it is wide open with choices and I get to determine them. From here on out there is no guidebook, there are no more foisted expectations, there is only choice and right and wrong and living with what I decide. But I have no time to be scared, every moment I spend cowering behind my fears, afraid that more thought only gives them more form, and with that single thought giving them more form than they need to have me weak kneed is yet another moment I can’t recover and I’m too busy.

But it’s not just fear. On the way home I felt one of those emotions that expresses itself in my stomach, butterflies some people call it, am not sure what it is, it just happens when I think of something I like thinking of. And I like thinking of the next phase of my life, I have such plans and if I don’t get too lazy I want to travel to places that its hard to get to. I want to go on trips that give me 5 stories in a day, each of them interesting, each of them different, each of them itching to be told, mad that I decided to tell another first. There are books I want to read and people I want to spend more time with than I do now. I want to take long walks, really long walks by myself sometimes but not always I want to walk with someone with no thought about where our feet take us and I want to spend time with my friends without the spectre of exams looming in the background. I want to talk more to my family and get to know them better, I want to have time for me and all the things that make my life richer. I want to be able to just think, to read something that challenges me and have it not be for a test but for myself. But every moment spent planning the future, so impatient to find out what they saw when they crossed the road that am counting them before they hatch is a moment am losing and am too busy, way too busy for that.

And this is what I can’t allow just now I have all the fears, the hope and the beginnings of nostalgia that I don’t let grow into a big boy because that am way too busy for. To tell the truth I want to write a piece about the last four years, i want to fill it with all the emotions that I have experienced and I want it to capture all the experiences I had. I want it to give homage to all the people I met and all the time I spent with them, I want it to be all the unsaid words between potential lovers, I want to write a sorrowful thank you, or a cheerful goodbye. I want it to be tar-sweet if only tar could be sweet but I want it to be a story about a road and tar is good for that. There will always be regrets, there are all these beautiful women I never had the chance to explore, to talk to and find out how deep this beauty really goes, there are all these conversations I never had, conversations that could have changed the way I look at life, there are all these people I should have talked to or talked more to, a gift of a different perspective is an amazing gift and so to all the earlier emotions there is also regret. So I have to compartmentalise, I am too busy to let loose all the emotions inside me, later definitely later but right now I feel too busy, I won’t be too busy in a week. In a short week, in the time it took to put together this dysfunctional world i’ll have all the time I need and so for now i’ll be hard at work making the walls of these compartments stronger,

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cigarettes: quitting

Heartbreak happens when possibilities don’t exist any more, the thing that breaks hearts is the loss of hope. All humans are born broken, lost in a place they don’t and can’t ever understand, filled with thoughts, wishes, hopes and dreams of how things are supposed to be but berated with experience, experience that lets them know things will never be that way. Despite all this,so much sorrow and misery, us walking around with a hell inside of us, we still love and laugh. We still smile and play. We should all be broken, all our hearts should be shards of things, but they’re not. This is because of hope, the glue that holds together pieces that are falling and failing and ailing, hope with its bare hands keeps us together too strong and too stubborn to let us go to the pieces we are.

When we lose hope we lose it all, pieces fly everywhere repulsed, finding in themselves too much contradiction to stay within feet of each other and then the heart is all over the place, a huge vacuum, an abyss filled with nothing, the kind into which hate can so easily seep, soaking all and everything, changing us, turning us, churning us. The loss of possibilities is the loss of everything because it is the loss of self.

These sad thoughts ran through his mind as he sat smoking on the ledge, using abstractions and philosophising to make sense of and to try and obscure the sad things he really felt or didn’t want to. This was his favourite spot in the world and he though it was fitting that he should come here now. It was as high as he could go in this his city, his home. Well not his home really this was just a place and home is more than a place, it is an emotion, a comfort, a certainty of acceptance, a promise of love and warmth and those were distant memories. The city before him was beautiful he could see the jagged edges of the building reaching out to the heavens like a crocodile with a bad dental plan, the streets winded through these teeth like floss, going this way and that, stopping and starting and stopping again. It was a beautiful day by any standards. The sun had come up with the intention to impress, its rays reaching down to the earth shaping everything,giving it a glow of health from the lowliest of the shanties to the sky scraper that had millions of little windows each of them reflecting the sun in that way that blinded anyone who looked at them. And yet this too was oddly beautiful, a halo around the achievements of man making them gody and if not that at least angelic. Even the smoke rings he blew caught the sun’s ray as it shined through them, piercing and passing through and in them like a quiver of arrows.

But he couldn’t see it, he couldn’t even feel the warmth of the rays. The sun stopped before it got to him, an invisible layer separated him from it and left him in a cold wasteland. Worse than a wasteland a cold pit. He was cold. And he felt it all over. There was not a trace of temperature anywhere in him if there were two suns it would make no difference to him not now, not when he felt like this. What is beauty without hope? An empty promise, a mocking taunt, forever out of reach like the sun is, a lesson he did not need wax wings to learn.

He wondered why he smoked so much, she had always said that it was an unconscious death wish, he was unable to resist the impulse to one-up her one more time but couldn’t see how right it proved her when he thought rather smugly to himself “the death wish isn’t unconscious any more.” he twirled the cigarette in his fingers a cheap party trick he had perfected with biros while he was still young, he liked that when he did this the mouth of the flame visited every one of his fingers in turn burning them just a little singeing his skin not too much, but enough to let him know there was still something there, he liked to know there was still something there something more than the sun that couldn’t reach him.

He couldn’t believe he had proposed here. It seemed so long ago, years and years of fears and fears. It wasn’t just the time that made that place seem so inaccessible it was the difference in emotions between then and now. He had been so filled with hope and wonder back then, amazement at his good luck. It had been a cold bracing day and the first specks of a drizzle had been falling down the kind that are usually the coldest of all but he hadn’t felt any of that as they kissed and time seemed to fold in on itself and stop and then become this period when tears stung his eyes without him even noticing, cutting a path down his cheeks leaving traces of salt and moisture on his face making it a caricature of what it used to be.

He knew he shouldn’t have come here but like a celebrity to cocaine he couldn’t help himself. Its strange that the happiest of memories can make us sadder than anything else, with the benefit of time to lend irony we can realise that the things that rack us with grief are the things that once gave tears of joy and if he had been asked right then he would have sworn it was raining. Except he had nothing to swear on, his life seemed empty in retrospect. A collection of cigarettes smoked turned to smoke and nothing else, sure he had left stubs everywhere but he couldn’t see that through the haze. He could hardly see anything through the pain.

The sun had been covered by some clouds by now, they were the dark clouds that came out of nowhere and turned a day filled with sun rays to one of darkness and anger, a sense of foreboding, the kind of light that made the crocodile teeth building less like a renaissance painting and more like a real crocodile with its teeth ready to snap and bite off the life from anyone who was foolish enough to trust his fate to gravity.

Maybe it was time, he would fall right into the throat of the crocodile, he wouldn’t be chewed by all those teeth, it would be like falling into a deep slumber and not waking up again. he had to wait though, his cigarette still wasn’t done, his last tether on this life. But he took smaller and smaller puffs. Two lovers who knew they would never again speak talking over the phone for the last time and whispering goodbye in lower and lower tones as they prepared to never hear each other again, perhaps thinking that if their voices just faded into the nether that last decisive motion, hanging up the phone wouldn’t be so bad, wouldn’t be so hard.

He looked around at the place he would soon be leaving, he looked back at the life that had led him here,it was his fault a lot of the time, but he felt he hadn’t being given his seventy time seven and he was sure now he wouldn’t. Now he was just smoking the filter, his equivalent of clutching at straws. Just then a strange thought entered his mind, after all those earlier efforts he was finally smoking his last cigarette. Well she had always said this would kill him and he could one-up her one last time too. The filter was over and his fingers burned so he threw away what was left and took a deep breath.

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ignorance

There are a lot of things I have no idea about. I can’t write/make/code a website for example, I don’t even know what the right word is for when a person constructs/creates a website but that’s OK, I can’t fly a plane and I can’t build a car. There’s so much that I can’t do but its OK because human beings can’t do everything and I tell myself there’s so much more I can do and I should just get better at those things. There are a lot of historical facts I don’t know geography was never a friend and when it comes to current affairs… well let’s just say I am not about to substitute any political analyst out there. But I can’t know all these things.

However there are a couple of things I should know but don’t. A good example is the vitz. Now I know exactly what a vitz, its some small car that makes everyone around it feel the need to assert their masculinity by making fun of it and simultaneously vowing never to buy one, it doesn’t matter that all the choice most of these people have when it comes to mobility is whether to take a loud matatu or not. Anyway for the longest time I had no idea what a vitz was. Till last year, late last year I had no idea what this vehicle was that brought such bile to people’s throats. I went through months of hearing the vitz being compared to anything that was easily available. I went through months of pretending that I had an idea what people were talking about. I have no idea what it was that finally prompted me to ask or be shown. I had reached and passed the point where shame at my ignorance was a valid option. It had been months since I should have asked about these kind of things. I couldn’t suddenly admit my ignorance and so it festered. I could have googled the answer. Yes I could. But…

it just didn’t happen and then I found out what a vitz was and I was pleased with myself. I feel sure it must have been a moment of cunning, of smartness and fox-like stratagems, I was so proud of this new knowledge I extrapolated it to everything. Everything here being supras. This is a word that sounds like it’s a vehicle. A supra sounds like the name of a car, the kind of car Toyota would make and market. So it’s not my fault that for months and months I thought a supra was a car. I heard all these speeches about the supra generation. I heard that they were these kids who sagged their jeans and wore sunglasses and had supras. I burned with envy. I had never owned a supra. All my life I had walked around in shoes that got more and more dusty with every step. I was like an ancient traveller, the first thing I would do when I entered the house was get a glass of water. At the end of every day my ankles would ache and need a massage, my shoes would need to be off my feet, I would shake the dust off before I entered the house and I would lie to myself that this was good exercise. But I knew I would much rather have a supra. Where oh where did these young children get supras. Why couldn’t I be that spoiled, a car all to myself because I had made it past high school. Then a couple of months ago my 12 year old cousin came and showed me her supras. Before envy completely took over my body I looked at her feet to see these bright shoes, blue if I remember and looked up at her smiling face. Relief, shock and surprise fought each other to inflect the next sentence out of my mouth, “supras are shoes!”

I had another eureka moment just last week as we were driving home with the family from yet another family function. I must say though, I love these shindigs so much more since they allowed me to drink at them. My cousin was getting confirmed and we sat outside church as a three hour service was conducted by john cardinal njue. At the lunch later at their house, a 5 litre cask of wine was served. I will take this sentence to profess my love for the 5 litre cask. The aluminium foil where the wine resorts is silver, pure silver. There’s a tap in these casks, a tap. They put a tap in every one of them, a feat of micro-engineering if ever I saw one. And that tap runs and runs, the wine does not stop, a river spouting out love with every turn. I was in a white trouser so of course I spilled some red wine on myself, Murphy’s flaw is that he likes me too much. But back to the eureka moment. As we drove home a vitz drove past us. The customary yelps about how much noone wanted a vitz came about then my brother said, and I can’t stress how illuminating the next sentence out of his mouth was “Toyota vitz.” he said this with such derision that I knew he thought toyota had done the unforgivable by allowing their name to be soiled by having the word vitz attached to it. However for me this was a moment of revelation, of the kind of illumination that jay-z is now accused of and the sentence jumped out of my throat, “vitz are toyotas!”

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walking

You know how lazy lack of supervision can make you? I do. Now I do. Without a doubt. The sweetest conversations are the ones stolen from moments promised to hard work. I went to school, to the library to read for this my final papers as a university student. Then I didn’t. I saw someone I wanted to talk to so I did. Then I went to photocopy some notes and the guy there said I should come back in twenty minutes. I was so glad at this excuse not to visit the big bad library. The store of information that I will just say intimidates me, maybe that’s why we don’t get along. I feel like its mocking my tiny brain with its huge vast stores and the extra knowledge that if I gave it all the years of my life I still wouldn’t best it.

When I left school I promised to come back the next day and read a whole extra hour than I had planned to, I promised not to be distracted by the people that lay everywhere, mines in such an intricate trap that if I close my ears I would still find an interesting conversation. I promised to come back the next day and make a set of promises I couldn’t hope to keep. But it’s OK I think. Am not too lazy, it’s just sometimes i don’t feel like working and I find that the last things are the easiest to phone in. I almost never have this problem, or maybe I do but I bury the light in so much night that I can’t see it unless am right in the middle of it.

So I left school and walked some of the way home. I was wearing these alladin shoes, well not exactly. It was those shoes that taper upwards at the end like a shovel . And its so dusty along the way home,. plus its so hot all the time. the sun shines and shines. It beats down convincing the man from Aesop fables to take off his coat and show the wind what persuasion is about. When this happens I hope that the dust will be thrown up in such quantities it obscures the sun but that’s not how eclipses work so my path home is a line drawn under the shades of trees and billboards. A walk of avoidance and not of purpose. I can feel a little trickle of sweat begging to make its way from infancy to the fullness of its potential tracing its way down my face and I whip out my handkerchief like an ancient Egyptian Mubarrak and wash it over my face and continue on the way. The dust is bad for the shoes because they can’t help but shovel. with every step I take it’s like a spade is stuck in the earth and throwing the sand behind me to land on these shoes that were shining so bright in the morning. It’s like they are a gravedigger and he needs to make graves 6 millimetres deep with every step he takes. So now my once black as tar shoes are brown as sand.

But am also walking faster and faster. This is because am on the stretch of road between museum hill and chiromo. I have had bad experiences with this road. the kind that have changed the way I feel about Nairobi and the safety that urban life here represents. It is on this stretch of road that I was once brutally mugged. Strung up like a kite by four to five men, men turned from the life of the legitimate like I wished I could turn away from the sun. I was beaten and robbed and am not sure what was worse just that I remember that day and I remember that place so when sunset finds me waking down that road my steps speed up to match my heartbeat. A little injection of adrenaline and muscle memory.

The faster I walk the more devilishly the little gravedigger works, now he’s on a deadline, its the middle of the night and he can’t allow himself to be caught digging graves at the witching hour. Because he’s a gravedigger with superstitions. Only those people who spend their lives in the sun and in health and life can live without superstition but he know better my little gravedigger does. he has been at work for far too long fixing places for Lilliputians to put their lilies. He has seen the things death can do and stared into eyes without hope, heard voices filled with nothing but despair, felt grief as if it was a wind threatening to tear away his sanity. And he know that these things do not lightly lie away. He knows of the energy of thoughts and the power of feelings and he knows that if he is caught here at that hour it will leave him torn and tattered. So my little gravedigger digs more recklessly with every step, he throws the sand back further and further placing stain not just on shoes but on trouser too.

But the sun continues to go down anyway. I can’t walk fast enough and for a moment I am worried I will be caught here by the dark. I know that the dark that finds me here is the kind that’s not scared to be the first at parties,its not the dark that makes decisions but it doesn’t matter. The wimps of that kingdom have me cowed. Especially here. My sight is darkened by the memories of what happened and there is menace in every shadow. the shadows keep getting longer and the menace keeps being more pronounced until that’s all I can hear. Filling my eardrums and beating a beat that spikes and falls. I can see all the people making this route along with me but it doesn’t seem to matter. Not right then. I think I can be plucked like a chick by a hawk and taken away to this little place where bad things happen. Or have bad things happen in this huge place where nobody stops to give you a thought or even a breath. And so I walk faster.

I really should stop walking down this road, even when nothing happens I feel like it should or could and the adrenaline makes me feel like it did. Then I come to the end of the road and its over just like that. I get into a matatu and wait for it to leave. The only concern I now have is how much this guy will charge me. Will he be fair or make me break a note, these kind of situations I like much more.

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changes

I began coming home on Saturdays a couple of weeks ago, I reasoned that I go drinking on Thursday and I go chilling on Friday which usually involves drinking so on Saturday I’ll be tired and all I’ll need is a couple of hours of sleep, maybe a good movie or series and then I close my eyes to the week, wake up on Sunday and have time and energy to do something, an assignment, a dissertation anything. Plus am usually pretty broke by Saturday, very so we all win(my wallet is so empty inside sometimes i can’y help but fell it’s a human being).

This i think is a solid plan on so many levels, it cuts down on drinking, it cuts down on spending and gives me a whole extra day a gift of a Sunday So i came home on Saturday a couple of weeks ago and I found that the house was empty, not a whisper of life to be found in it. No-one else had this discipline that I seemed to posses so everybody had gone out and all I was left with was the TV, and some food. I have never understood an empty house, in fact all my life I have had to share a room, I’m like one of those Indian kids Russell peters would make fun of. The white kids would show up in school and complain about being punished, how? The Indian would ask.
”I got sent to my room!”
“you have your own room?!!”

but the thing about being cramped for so long is you come to get used to periods(of stuffiness.) you come to feel like fresh air really isn’t and not be able to sleep unless someone is sucking the air out of the room or house you live in. Our house carries 5 people between the ages of 21 and 25 so its usually pretty noisy and its impossible to get the TV all to yourself. Dinner can be a rumbuctious affair, I say can because am not sure what the hell rumbuctious means but it seems like a nice onomatopeaic fit. So i’ll come home on Saturday and have a DVD to watch a series for some of the past month. Something good and smart enough that I feel like watching it can be equivalenced with reading a book. I’ll put that on and watch an episode.

When time for supper rolls around I find my way to the kitchen and I have this buffet like quantity of liver(I love liver, just apparently not mine.) I have the opportunity to heap it Everest high and make my way slowly and purposefully up the mountain one shovelful at a time until am scraping plate and wondering where it all went but its too late(this is somewhat funnier if too late is mispronounced to sound like toilet.) but there’s no pleasure in that at just that time. I serve a healthy portion not too much and then I go have the kind of dinner that I used to all the time before we moved, a TV dinner. where you carry your plate and plop your food right in front of the television like an offering to the god that brings you entertainment and provides escapism.

The images on the screen flicker on and off, the scenes change and a lot of different colours leak from the screen, they leak right onto your plate making that white ugali red and blue, green and purple, pink and yellow. Lighting it up before leaving it dark when they have one of those intermissions that are the equivalent of a blink. And then they are both over.

Its about this time that loneliness comes a-calling. Then because there is no-one home I assume there’s nobody home all over the city and that making a phone call makes no sense. I wouldn’t want to call someone at a club. They pick up because they don’t want to be rude or they really want to talk to you. Then you have a shouting match where instead of e, ehh? Becomes the most common vowel. After a while you realise that this phone call isn’t adding much value to anyone unless you get a drunk willing to spill all her secrets and all she needed was a sympathetic ear or the subject of those secrets to say hi.

But a lot of the time there are a lot of people having a chilled out evening at home, people to call and talk to and pass a few minutes of this dreadfully long night with. Or text and wait for them to come up with a witty response before you have to, but I like witty responses enough to wait for them. Then I fall asleep before the conversation is at an end(being in bed always makes me sleep.) then towards the morning of the night my cousin will check in with his friends after a night out. They try to be quiet or they don’t. Am not sure anyway I always wake up, say hi, turnover and sleep. Then I wake up on Sunday and dispense sage advice distilled from all my years of failure.

I go down to get a cup of tea. I read this article in the nation or standard a couple of weeks ago about the adverse effects of sugar. So I decided to cut down on my sugar intake. The reasoning behind this was that I take too much salt, way too much and I know. Every time I eat with someone thy make this comment about how salt will kill me and I know. I know the dangers I know about high blood pressure and right then I feel like all those smokers who are told by everyone they know that lung cancer will kill them. But food without salt doesn’t taste as good, in fact I like salt so much that there’s this one fairy tale from my childhood that I remember so clearly but no-one else seems to so they think I made it up. It was a child’s version of king lear I think.

The story went, this old king with 3 daughters wanted to find out who loves him most. He asked them to give him presents and they did. The first born gold. The second silver. The third salt. The king was so angry at her he banished her from the kingdom. After all the plot filler they put into these things somehow she became the chief chef at the palace when the king was holding a state dinner, an important shindig where maybe he was negotiating a truce or expansion of territories or something equally important. With the reckless disregard for consequences that fairy tale princesses show she decided not to salt even one dish in that whole feast. Nobody could stand it, noone could eat. And the king asks for this chef to be brought forward and when he sees her and realises it was his daughter he breaks down and forgives her seeing that she really loves him. Does anyone else know this story? Or did I make it up?

Anyway the reason I cut down on my sugar intake is so I can keep salt levels where they are. Am sure that you can’t exchange health risks like that. A drug addict can’t say for example let me cut down on the meth so I can get more crack in my veins, I see that’s not how it works but it makes me feel better to be doing at least this. I cut down my sugar intake by nearly 50% and the result of this is that the amount of sugar in my teacup is a distant echo. I feel there must be sugar in there but it’s lie an unsubstantiated rumour, you have heard it from so many sources you feel sure its true but then again you can never be sure. I feel absolutely certain there’s sugar in my cup but its such a faint whisper that I drink the rest of the tea on faith.

Anyway those are some of the changes am going through right now, am not sure for how long but for right now sugars and Saturdays stand changed.

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