A year can be a hard thing.
I’m sitting in my living room on solstice night exactly 6 months after my birthday. My house is packed up. Everything is ready to go. I began this year packing up my life for a move to Meru and I am ending it packing up my life for a move to Nairobi. It came easier this time. I’m a year older after all and a year can be a hard thing.
The tone of this post was supposed to have been more upbeat because I was more upbeat I fucking loved the hell out of this year. Work was great, I’d sit there drafting pleadings for court or submissions and start shouting “I’m so good at this.” it was great. Towards the end there was a nice string of victories. I felt the voluntary caress of a woman so beautiful I’m still singing a hallelujah for that night. There were mountains. There were lush greens and blue skies and brown hills in the distance. There were clouds coming down from heaven. Mist walking amongst us like god did with Adam and eve. Beauty, beauty everywhere. Oh I found the Meru Library and read Ngugi wa Thiong’o and was blown the fuck away. I read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and lived the lives of Lila and Elena so caught up I would forget to breath. I went back to Westeros and strolled with knights and villains with ladies and priestesses. Oh this year. I saw a field of sunflowers a couple of times. That’s beautiful a field of sunflowers waking up to bow down to the sun on high and salute the golden delight.
I found a place in Maua where this Somali family created great injera. I’d eat that and be so full and still keep stuffing myself with more and then get in that mat to Meru and have the most blissful afternoon sleep I have ever had. I went with a friend to Three Steers hotel and we had meat. This meat was wonderful. Soft, succulent, so so flavourful. We had the chicken and the chef sprinkled these caramelised onions on them. Sweet, sweet caramel, flavours bursting in your mouth like a sunrise, like a rainbow, like a surprise. I found a little place called Urban Cafe in Meru town where the guy calls his customers “wageni.” Then he proceeds to make ugali that doesn’t crumble and doesn’t stick. This is all I want in life ugali that doesn’t crumble and doesn’t stick. His fish was a thing of wonder. There’s a sauce he kept mixing things in until perfection coated my fried fish.
I saw a lamb for what I think is the first time in my life. It couldn’t keep still. It pranced around, jumping this way and that. It was the picture of happiness in a posture of innocence. And finally I understood all those metaphors from the bible about the blood of the lamb and the lamb of god.
December came around and I felt disappointed politically because the world all over was looking inward. People were reminding themselves of the arbitrariness of their borders, their skin, their blood, the skein that tangled Britain to Europe, America to itself, Syria to sanity it dissolved. And since it came up, poor Syria. Five years of death and destruction and Syria came to her feet. I don’t know who to blame, who was right, who was wrong, but Syria suffered for it. Suffered for the hubris of empire or the deification of dictatorship or the wilfulness of people or the neglect of nations or all of that and more. A friend asked me why we mourn selectively I told him it’s because if we start crying for everyone we will never stop. I remember reading a post by a Syrian girl saying that she would kill herself before she let the soldiers defile her body. I mourned for her, I mourned for the decision she may already have made and mourned more if it was a decision in her future one that could be averted if only.
My poor country I feel like she suffered most of all or more accurately I suffered more because of her pain. It stretches so far back the pain of Kenya this year that I can’t be sure it’s just this year. The doctors are still on strike. The dead attest to that. Five billion was reported missing from the Ministry of Health earlier this year and nobody in the media, no politician is making this connection, this straight line from this to that. Right now they are arguing over some inanity that could be solved by consensus easily enough but it’s not about being right anymore it’s about winning. None of them is talking about these poor doctors. Nobody is talking about the silent dead. A citizen, his lawyer, and their taxi driver were killed this year. It was gruesome and gory. Bodies filled with water. Signs of torture. Screams of pain silenced forever and we talked about their deaths and realised just how many people are killed by agents of the government every year. Then we forgot that too. Jacob Juma was assassinated this year, just this year. They took him in his car and got through all the security he had put up and killed him and we forgot. The government has tried as they all do to shut up its people, to control them and to keep them quiet.
It’s been corruption scandal after corruption scandal this year. I remember saying that UhuRuto are doing their almighty best to eradicate tribalism by stealing so much that we all unite and rise up against them but even that sarcasm was for brighter days. After a long gruelling, never ending, ever multiplying argument I have given up. I know that people will vote for who they voted for last time for president. All of these shits we have been through will change nobody’s mind. All of the shit Raila did hasn’t changed his supporter’s minds either. I admit that the problem with us when it comes to the presidency is so ingrained that we can’t see. Most of us can’t and won’t ever see. We won’t see what’s right in front of our eyes and the seat of the presidency becomes a crusade. It’s about removing or keeping the devil from the seat of power depending on which devil is yours. 2016 has taught me not to be optimistic about elections. 2007 taught me that, 2013 reminded me. 2016 made sure I knew that democracy is not my will but that of the people and many times I won’t want what the people want. I can’t control them and it hurts to see it everywhere. All I could ever ask Kenyans to do is to send home the other incumbents. Who in a seat of power has helped? My home county needs to wipe the slate clean. Let’s get rid of that corrupt woman beater first and then take the rest of them down on the same damn day. Nairobi seems to hurt even more than Kenya. I’m shocked when I go home; I’m shocked to see how dirty it is and how tall Kidero’s towers are.
Three people I knew, friends and family died this year. I howled for them in my sitting room like a dog at the moon. I fell on the floor and curled up and squeezed out tears so painful it hurts to remember them. I found out about the last one on Sunday and I’m so tired of death. Despite the world’s sorrow I was fine, I was fine until Sunday. Grief is so hard. I’ve been trying to push it out and I’m better. Monday I felt broken, physically broken. Monday I wasn’t sure that I would ever heal again. I’ve done it so many times i fear that at some point a break will comes a. I was sad and worried. I left court during a break for a cigarette and a cry. I had a headache the whole day. I looked hangover. There was mara moja in my pocket and I was so angry when my phone went off on me. I had a feeling that these deaths would finish me. That the blow after blow after blow would become too much that I would one day go to sleep and not be able to wake up because of these deaths. It could have been a good year despite the world but my friend died and it clouded everything. I had managed to get past the other two but this one. The permanence, the constant re-opening of the wound it’s so hard. Monday night I had dinner at another friend’s place. He has a two year old son. I played Batman on PS4 and the child was so happy. The child, he ran around and talked and joked all through that night. It was what I needed and Tuesday was better. Then Tuesday evening I saw one of my closest friends randomly driving through Meru. We had a burger a drink a few laughs. Those two nights did me right. Those two nights reminded me that it’s ok to feel broken and battered but there’s hope. Behind the clouds the sun comes up. It always comes up.
Someone else died this year before I really knew him. Leonard Cohen passed away in November and at that point all I knew of him was hallelujah. Then I met him. All I’ve listened to for weeks is his music, his poetry. He has blown me away more times than I thought possible. The number of favourite songs he has given me in this time approaches 15 at the very least. He has me singing along to so, so many of his songs. I sing them when I’m away from music. I sing them before I sleep. My neighbours must think me a convert because he’s got me singing the hallelujah song (which is actually the chorus for another of his songs.) it has been my main mission in life to convince more people to listen to Leonard Cohen. When Kenya was bleeding he comforted me. When my friend was dead and I was far away and alone he comforted me. He showed me that death doesn’t clear away the slate. That death doesn’t take away everything a person did. That even from the grave you can touch somebody. He gave me that thing that I love above all else he made me fall in love with something in its entirety and reminded me that I can fall in love again and again. That happiness is around the corner. Because though love be struggle falling in it is always, always sweet.
I realised that the very second post I ever wrote for this blog was about the song Hallelujah. After Leonard Cohen’s death I wrote about it again I prefer the six years later version but it was heartening to see that I’m still me despite all that’s happened. That I can still take the same from that song now as I did then. Six years is a hard thing but it doesn’t have to change the core of who you are and it’s good to be reminded of that. His music makes me wish for a woman to sing it to and for a god to hear me praying it to it.
A year is a hard thing. A year is so hard that we need to congratulate ourselves and each other for holding on to sanity or madness, to life and love, to hope and the hope found in despair, to faith and the complete despondence that can accompany it, to our convictions despite being heckled, to our willingness to allow the majority and the hecklers to proclaim. To whatever we held on to it was difficult because a year is a hard thing. 2016 was hard for a lot of us, but so are they all. On we march though. Onward and forward.
Merry Christmas to the whole wide world and may you have a happy whory (or holy) new year. The next one needs us fresh to tackle it.