Monthly Archives: January 2015

socks: no side wins one side just loses more slowly

I’m an untidy person. This is not some statement of a truth that I have just learned it’s a fact of my life. The way a short man knows he’s a short man, it has always been so and except for a short period in high school when everyone else shot up and he had a fleeting hope he knows it will always be so.

I don’t know why I am so untidy but I am. It’s something I cannot hide from its something I don’t try to change anymore it’s something that just is. I have to pretend to be neat when I go to work, I need to wear ties and suits, its compulsory to tuck in my shirt and close the buttons. So I pretend to be neat but there is always something off. A tie slightly askew, the back of my shirt not quite tucked, a coat that should fit perfectly sitting slightly sideways. The effort to keep up this lie is exhausting and as soon as I woke out of the office the untidiness is more pronounced, I’m never simply a guy who loosened his tie in order to loosen up; I loosened the tie and folded up the shirt sleeves and untucked the shirt seams and opened the button on the trouser just for a breather.

Also, careless. They say socks and cigarette lighters go to the same place where they meet all the girls that would have been a purgatory that we can never look into. I’m great at losing all these things. Last year my room degenerated into a state of anarchy that seems to be a spirit child of Libya. There are exercise books from the June when I last read for School still on the table. A turned over bottle of cough syrup taking pride of place amongst earphones that stopped working so long ago I’m not sure they were ever mine. Those red rectangles of airtel credit, boxes from the various phones that I have lost that have become storage depots for cufflinks, coins and condoms. Books I’ve read, books I’ve tired of reading, books I wrote in, an unopened tube of toothpaste, a salt shaker, DVDs from what must be five years ago.

It’s a mess. But I have many socks. Many, many socks. I remember walking in town and seeing a guy sell socks and I bought them in black and dark blue thinking that if I had more than one pair of each I could mix and match when there were only three blacks or two blues. I repeated and repeated until I was sure that I didn’t have a sock problem. There is though no such thing as not having a sock problem. They will disappear like sunrises no matter how many more you think you have you will wake up one day and find yourself in drastic lack.

I hate tidying up my room. There’s something wrong with me and this I know. I look at the room and I feel that there must be something wrong with a guy who lives in a place like this. I hang up my coats as soon as I get home because laundering is pretty damn inconvenient. I would have to bundle them up and carry them into town go to the office and then leave the office and go to a launderer to drop them off wait for them to be cleaned and then go to pick them up, I have a feeling that on that day there would be a line for the javs, the floodgates of heaven would open and I would have to somehow carry this freshly pressed suit as the one I wore became soaked from collar to foot seam.

I feel like it’s easier for me to lose my socks than it is for other people. I acquired a bad habit (one of many but as I said in a previous post this is a part of life-getting bad habits and resolving to quit them) I sleep in my socks. I have heard all the stories about how ridiculous a man looks when he is in nothing but socks, and its probably ten times worse to sleep in your socks but writing calls for honesty and vulnerability so I’ll lay myself bare this paragraph, except of course for the socks. There I am in bed in my shorts and t-shirt and socks and then it gets too hot. Nairobi is fucking hot and I want to take them off. So I do. It’s too cold so I pull them on. It’s hot-off. Cold-on. Then I do this thing where I take them half off so they reach just below my heels. In the course of all the dreams I explore they become loose and are kicked off and fall under the bed.

The floor of my room is messy. I have many ties. 20 or 30 or something. Enough that I could go a month without putting on the same tie twice. But how to remember what I wore on Wednesday last week? I came up with an ingeniously maddening solution: I simply come home and dump the tie I am currently wearing on the floor. The floor here, the floor there, the floor everywhere. There are ties strewn all over my room like cold-war mines. They get transferred from the drawer to the floor via my neck and when the drawer is empty I pick them up and put them back in. there are also jeans and paper bags, jumpers and mouses (the electronic type.) This month I lost my towel for weeks only to find it lying on the floor.

So my socks get lost and I have nothing to wear. I’m having to wash them all the time. I’m having to mismatch them anyway. I’m having to really hope they dry and I’m having to tell myself that I am not going to take off my shoes on that day because that’s the only way I allow myself to repeat them. Untidiness is not after all synonymous with dirtiness.

As last year drew to a close I was so sure I would do one massive spring cleaning. I could feel that year bearing down on me hard. I felt as if I was turning the corner on an incredibly shitty year and there were winds of change. I psyched myself up to do it and then…I did not. The year began with the room looking just like it had except there were less socks. I hunted for the socks. I looked under my bed and picked one or two and became lazy because that bought me yet another day.

I have a plastic chair that I use as a wardrobe. I drape my trousers and half coats on it. It is cleared whenever there are visitors and all of a sudden I realise just how many clothes I have in this state of limbo not dirty and not clean, not ready to be washed not fit to be hang up. Then I looked for socks there and found two. I dumped them in a corner of my room and found more socks. Took those and put them away. They were rarely siblings. Singles abounded until they did not. All of a sudden there were doubles and trebles. I was finding socks everywhere. Under the mattress: socks, under the pile of newspapers whose provenance or purpose in this room I could not say: socks. Socks under the ties and socks under the trousers.

There was a mushrooming of socks such as I had never witnessed in my life. I had 5 then 6 then 7 then 8 pairs of socks. I had 9 and a 10th pair showed up just yesterday. They matched I could wash them and place them side by side. All. These. Socks. The only order I have established in this room, is these socks. Black and dark blue, and dark grey and a lighter yet still dark shade of grey and that one pair of brown socks. The spring of socks as if I was suddenly being plagued with socks.

Ask me for my one significant achievement of 2015: I found my mutherfucking socks.

While editing this I found that all the gains I had made I lost. In this never-ending struggle for the socks of my sole i found that no side wins, one side just loses more slowly.

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uwanja yetu

I’ve began so many different stories today. Writing is supposed to clear my mind. It’s the thing I do that’s supposed to make me feel better, to give me focus to lead me to clarity and funnel my thoughts into a tunnel instead of letting them explode all over the place.

Today I saw so many pictures of children being tear-gassed by police officers. Those pictures are moving. You can’t deny the power of an image of a child crying because he was exposed to the kind of police brutality that should be reserved for… I’ not sure who teargas is supposed to be used on. I don’t have in my mind an instance of a government properly using teargas.

There has to be a situation when there is a time to use teargas. There has to be a reason why teargas is so available to every regime in the world. What we have in common with Egypt with Russia with Greece with America with Canada with any place where the citizens went to the streets to protest is that there is teargas.

Today children were tear gassed. I don’t care what they were doing. I don’t care about any justification that may be used to lay blame on their parents, the activists, their teachers. I don’t want to hear anything that would absolve the police, the power, the president.

Children were tear gassed. It there’s a beautiful passage in the Brother’s Karamazov where one of the brothers is thinking about the existence of God and he takes out a book of newspaper clippings. He reads out one by one the horrible things that have happened to children. The things that have been allowed to happen to them as God stood by and watched.

That passage haunts me. It bothers me that those who we are most taxed with protecting are the ones we are so bent on hurting. I don’t know why we like to see children suffer why we laugh so much when their trust is abused. A tiny version of this is parents gleefully recording their children eat lemons on YouTube for the first time. A tiny part is “we ate your Halloween candy.”

It’s almost impossible to draw a line from here to teargas being used on children. Well what about the line that goes through the fact that it is perfectly legal to assault and batter children. That while it may be illegal it is tolerated for their teachers to do this it is tolerated. But only to children who break the rules and who question authority.

Children were tear gassed today though. They were obviously children. Nobody who has a choice in the matter wears a green sweater. Of course they were children. The police knew this as they lobbed canister after canister of teargas. They knew it because this was a school. They knew it because anybody with half a brain would see that these were children.

They were challenging authority though. The authority of the government to do as it pleased. The authority of money to exert power over those without it. They were standing up and defying what they thought was wrong perhaps after hearing a broken narrative about rights and the constitution about democracy and citizen involvement.

Is there anywhere else this happens? I think there must be because the world is not uniquely shit in Kenya alone but that can’t mean we should excuse it. That does not mean that someone and a lot of someone’s should escape responsibility. I hope the president has something to say about this but then I don’t think he will.

This is so depressing in its predictability. I want to call myself a prophet and say that all the noises we are making right now will be made even this predictable blog post. That we will talk about this on twitter and share pictures on Facebook. We will see it on news today and it will have the huge front cover in tomorrow’s paper.

I can almost hear the conversations that we will have tomorrow. “You kikuyus and your government” “Uhuru can’t be blamed he wasn’t there” and both of these people will be so wearingly wrong. So sadly miss the point about what happened that I wonder if it’s worth going through the second act.

Indignation and anger. People are fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts. Nobody endorses these acts. Everyone thinks what happened is vile but I can almost already see the fault lines as we discuss this. Someone in the opposition will make a strong statement. Somebody in the government’s resignation will be called for.

And we will all feel so sad. This will all be so very bad. And in spite of yet another symptom of Kenya losing out on the freedoms it had we will stay blind to it. I can almost hear the cries for unity because talking about what happened is the thing that is wrong and not the fact that it happened.

Maybe in the second act some low-level police officers will get caught and resign. Let me ask you though do you really believe these policemen wanted to teargas children? They are after all fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts. They know the tenderness of a child’s hug and the beauty of its smile. We all know the fragility of childhood.

Does it matter though? Does it matter that they didn’t want to do it? If their wills are not strong enough to resist being bent by orders from above, by the fear that losing a job can bring in them, by the mob instinct that strikes those who controls riots as much as those who riot should they be police officers?

So they may go and act 2 will drag on. We will angrily talk and talk and talk and do nothing. We may riot. We may protest. We may do the things that seem so ineffectual in our country. Nothing extreme even though this calls for an extreme reaction. Lukewarm has been spat out by our government so much, so much. Aren’t we tired of this?

But children were tear gassed today and we have to, we have to have our second act. Silence is the worst thing but I wish I knew that noise changed something. I wish I was sure it changed some people’s minds. I wish that there was a person who supported the government who realised that this is some shit that cannot be supported.
I wish it wasn’t the same voices saying the same things and having the same arguments. A friend of mine wrote progress not perfection. Really I just want some progress but how can we not be tired of hoping? I don’t know what we can do to change it. To make it better.

I wish I was better than I was and that we were better than we are. But here we sit. And if we stand there we will stand. And if we march there we will march. But it’s being seen before this second act in Kenyan scandals. It’s a time of great emotion, an outpouring of anger is seen, a condemnation of demons is heard

The third act rolls around and things are silent. Slowly, very slowly it becomes quiet. The traffic stops. The sun sets. A solitary voice wanders the desert trying its best to remind us that this is not what should be. That because it is doesn’t mean we should accept it.

The third act overlaps the first act of another play. The drama is began all over again and we make our noise and our arguments and then settle back in our silences. I can’t help thinking that during the worst sin in our country that I witnessed we chose peace over justice and now we can’t have either. Things go quiet and the criminals still roam because we were scared.

Another Kenya was born in 2007. We managed to forget all that. People died then. Children died. The people who killed them were fathers and mothers and aunts and uncles. All that happened today is that some children were tear gassed. Of course we will choose peace over justice. That’s the third act. A fragile peace non-existent because it lacks trust but it’s the devil we know.

All that happened is some children were tear gassed of course we will forget.

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njaanuary

The things i hate about January.

Well it comes after December and that in itself is enough. In my heart I am a child of December. Its lover, its true friend, its boy to the end. It’s the best time of my life consistently and I hate when it ends but it does and right around the corner is

 

1. Njaanuary. (For any non-swahili speakers Njaa means hunger)

Remember Drinksember just a few short weeks ago? Well welcome to the opposite. That padding of fat that you strived and struggled to put on will get slowly eaten away as your diet changes drastically. Meat isn’t as plentiful and it’s never roasted and never, ever free. You cannot eat so much that it’s possible to drink all night. You can’t afford to drink all night either. Being a beer drinker is great because with beer it’s possible to continue having it all year long but the quantities reduce. Shit you still love as fuck that first sip. It’s still the thing you want to hear poems written about, the lure of true love, the promise that maybe at the bottom of this bottle you will find the answer. But you can’t go on as recklessly as you would earlier. You have much fewer chances to realise that the answer is never there and everyone wants to go home anyway. If you drink Jameson for the bitter taste and the great advertising you are going to drink less, you’ll remember the 750 ml, you’ll remember the famous grouse, you’ll remember that there are other whiskeys that Rihanna doesn’t sing about but still make you feel like it’s a weekend. Bills came calling. That Kenyan tradition that means you get two salaries in December also means you get none in January. The economy slows down and then

 

2. There’s something in the air.

January and its newness is a season of promises. We may pretend about how artificial this passage of time is but that does not matter, it’s ingrained. It’s a part of us. For years we went to a different class every January. New clothes, new teacher, new books. For years we were conditioned to believe that the New Yearbrought with it a relentless march of progress. We were better this year, older, wiser. Kenya. Kenya and East Africa. Kenya and the Rest of Africa. Kenya and the World. When this is how schoolbooks progress every year you cannot help but feel more worldly. Just from the topics it is clear that you are a better person than you were the year before.

And then school ends and there is nothing like this anymore. There is no automatic promotion just because you lived through another year. Nothing changes not even you. So there you sit and try. Do you ever notice how, the older you get resolutions stop being positives. Now everyone wants to stop drinking and stop smoking and stop eating so unhealthily and stop being engaged in such toxic unhealthy relationships. Fuck that I want to start swimming and that’s it. Nevertheless there are people all over not just broke but denying themselves the things that made them happy in an attempt to be better. An attempt that they are so scared of failing at that most of them do. The fear, the denial, the attempts at discipline seep out of everybody’s pores and infects the air. You can try your best to be happy but nobody can be happy by themselves. While in university I hated going to study in the library because I could feel the tension in the air in January you can feel that people are repressed and also

 
3. We went back to work.

How long has it been since you worked? I mean really worked and not just waited for closing time while doing the bare minimum necessary to keep things moving. When did you last show initiative? When did you not have the excuse that there was no point of working because no one else was and you can’t carry the world by yourself.?Remember the December go-slow? Of course you do. How many people took massive December leaves and left you in the office and still you couldn’t feel the pressure? Imagine if they did that now. I’m trying to remind myself how to work and it’s an uphill struggle. A go-slow for the better part of a month and then a holiday so short I had no time to rest is not the best preparation for January . It was over before I could blink.it was over before I could think. I was unable to sleep and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Holidays are work from family to friends to plans to plots to drinks to dreams to travels and travails. But its good work and now you are back at work. Hitting the clock even though you feel so broke you wonder why you bother and let’s not forget that you aren’t the only one back at work so

 

4. Traffic is as long as you wish everyone thought your dick was.

Really look at it. Look out the window the next time you are stuck in it. Pull the window down and admire it. It starts almost as soon as you join a road and it snakes along, forget the shape look at its turgidity. Even when it moves its compact. Come to a junction and be shocked by the number of people who have cars in this country. Who somehow can afford to drive their cars around because maybe just maybe you are the only one experiencing this njaa from behind the conductor. And then there are the special junctions, the places you come to and everything stops. No cars are moving and everyone is in a hurry, they look irritated, they want to hoot, they want to fly. It feels like a long-held beer-piss something you can only remember in memory and when it starts moving you remember the relief with which you let everything go.

I don’t understand this traffic that does not move, I can’t remember if it was this bad last year, can you? Aren’t you leaving the house the same time as you used to. So how come you’re running into the traffic that smacks people who wake up late. Where are all the clear roads of December when cars ran in freedom and you felt like you were getting somewhere now you sit in this pipe. Feeding this huge petrol penis with penny after pretty penny that you feel rolling away from you. Traffic is only good for one thing and that’s getting late for work which happens a lot in January. As soon as you leave the house you feel as if you’re already late, not just the traffic but also

 

5. That fucking sun- who told you we miss you?

I quickly have a problem with the sun. Always. I want it to rain and it never does in January. I broke my glasses in December and Njaanuary means that they are not being replaced anytime soon. The sun’s rays begin to burn me as soon as I step out of the house. I can feel my eyes getting red, they’re sore and I try my best to shield myself from this sun. And with the sun comes heat. Heat can be great. You can wear shorts and linen trousers, you can go around in sandals and caps, you can rock t-shirts and show off your chest in polos. You can negotiate the heat by wearing less or dressing better for it. Do you know what most people wear in January?

Suits.

Heavy fucking suits. Suits so heavy I make an immediate beeline for the water. Suits so hot I take off that coat as soon as I enter the office and don’t put it on until I leave again, suits so hot I practically throw it on the floor when I get home. They trap heat these things. You become an oven and then they also want you to wear a tie. I hate ties. It’s strangely symbolic that there are jobs that actually insist on you wearing something that strangles you as you put in that work.

Here’s the thing though January can be beautiful. Beautiful like a statue. Beautiful like winter. Beautiful like the sun. it can move you to raptures if you look at it from far away. One day in January there I was 1. broke as fuck 2. surrounded by other people’s resolve 3. back at work 4. after battling through porn-star length traffic 5. in hot, hot weather under a heavy suit and tie when I looked out the window and the sun had just decided to set it off. I was inspired and I dashed off this little poem:

Oh January, dress yourself up in golden sun all day long
Oh January, allow the evenings to stretch till 7 before shadows get long
Oh January ,be more beautiful and distracting than all that come after
Promise us beauty and walks and leisure.
The lady doth protest too much though
Give me a frigid, rainy December any day of the week!

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