Margaret Atwood once said that she believed that everybody her age was an adult whereas she was merely in disguise. I share in those very woes. I am surrounded by adults who care about things, like whether the colours of their belts match with that of their shoes. Adults care about what their favourite political icon said or what he had for dinner. In my world these are trivialities, painful bores that drove me to questioning, when does one really grow up?
Every time I find myself in an ATM cubicle, I engage in what would best be described as momentary lunacy. One of either two things happen; I either make a crazy dance while facing the camera which is mostly mounted to the back of the ATM user or I repeatedly make obscene gestures at the same camera usually a middle finger. The dance is saved for the times when my account balance is good and the latter is used when I am displeased with my balance. It is never a something I consciously plan on doing but I cannot help myself; I do it even when I have left a line of people waiting to use the facility. Over the years I have told myself that I would quit the habit, I even included it in my new year’s resolutions in the year 2015. However nothing seems to work, I have little in the way of explanation but I do this as impulsively as African political leaders ask for votes every voting season.
I love dancing in empty elevators for no apparent reason and in the event I find myself in the same elevator as my woman, I quickly degenerate to a horny teenager. I unsuccessfully try to instigate a make out session much to her dismay and embarrassment. I remember this one time she used to work at some office that had those elevators that have mirrors all around. I would bear with the silly security checks at the ground floor just to dance my way to the seventeenth floor. One day on our journey down I tried to instigate a make out session but this time my woman was not in the mood to stomach my juvenile habit. I was ousted from the elevator and to cut the long story short I walked the stairs from the fifteenth floor. This did not hinder my habit either.
In truth, most of us are children deep under the layers of titles, weaves, professions and college degrees. Some people have perfected the art of allowing this child within them to only come out and play during certain times of day and only with the right company. However, for some of us the child is who we are, it is embedded into our very being and we can hardly downplay this. That is why we still compete with our ten year old cousins on fruit ninja and street fighter and relish beating them at their own games- literally. We row our boats down the stream of life, never gently but merrily as only a child knows how to make merry!
When you are greedy, poor and unemployed, and you are unfortunate enough to hail from a third world country such as me, you struggle with everything. You fret over trivialities as well, like whether you can cross the road safely the following day. In this regard, you do anything and everything it takes to get ahead and occasionally it bears fruit; you manage to buy a few things and upgrade your living quarters. In my case you purchase a second hand refrigerator to store primarily your vegetables as well as produce some ice cubes to go with your bargain alcohol. You buy a couch, a two-seater because that is all that the room fits and the previous owner has to be an acquaintance in case he had fleas. You proceed to use hand sanitizer to remove any visible stains and disinfect it because you have no idea how many house parties it has survived.
You proceed to purchase a carpet since combating the cold is a real struggle courtesy of global warming. The carpet you desire costs as much as your house rent but you manage to get it for a third of the price from your local second-hand shop. You choose the latter since after a thorough scrub it attains its original colour which you discover was maroon and not grey as in my case. You get a friend to sketch a picture of you and the missus for free under a gentleman’s agreement of positive reciprocity. The crown jewel of your space though is the television, a flat screen 32 inch LED monitor that sits precariously on a chipboard and cast iron TV stand that could fall apart at the slightest whim. Most important is that you acquire it brand new. It may not be much to some but in a bed-sitter it dwarfs everything. It sets you apart from your fellow poor neighbours and gives the false impression that you may be doing better- attention you secretly relish abundantly. You love your television because it allows for an escape to a world much better than your own and this is the primary purpose of having it in the first place.
The timeline for these upgrades of living space takes months if not years for some depending on how smart one works. Now imagine the horror of walking into your house one day and finding that television gone! That was what happened to me last week.
I am not one much given to the ways of violence in solving a feud. In fact I was skewed towards forwarding burglars to the police when caught in the act instead of lynching them in what is popularly known to Kenyans as mob justice. However, once my TV was pinched I have progressively become more open minded. I have had fantasies in my head severally about things I would wish to do to the goons who robbed me. My consolation lies in the fact that whoever pinched it probably needed it much more than I ever will; that I am a better man moving on to a bigger TV!
There are two things that my father absolutely dislikes about me; the first is my high school mathematics grades. If he had it his way I would have remained in high school till I mastered that crap. The second is my asthma, I think he cannot bear the thought of having sired a son who cannot solve algebraic problems and is constantly out of breath as well. I used to beat myself up about it in my early twenties when I found this out for certain. As life would have it I developed a sense of humour as I found people who had fetched worse traits from their parents’ gene pools than me. Like laziness or animal protein food allergies. I am of the opinion that having protein intolerance in Africa is like having a pork fetish and you reside in the middle-east.
Anyway, while most people walk around minding their business, we in the asthma team do too albeit with more caution. In truth an asthmatic person is normal in most ways, except when they are exposed to their asthma triggers. In my case, exposure to cold temperatures, cigarettes and dust will pretty much get my allergy going. Contrary to urban myth, asthmatic people do not collapse from shortness of breath gasping for air like those big breasted bimbos in porn. It is more of a gradual process that may take anywhere between a couple of minutes to a couple of days.
Asthma is for the most part a private condition, like gonorrhoea or a monthly period. It gets in the way of your mood and triggers spectacular migraines but you are not in any way required expected to complain. This strikes me odd because on the other hand smokers get breaks in between working hours to indulge in their habit. It is very rare to find an asthmatic individual brandishing their inhaler or using it visibly. The stigma is so strong that I have had friends who confess that they would not date an asthmatic man for the fear that they- and I quote- ‘could die on them’. I do not blame them because very little in the way of asthma is knowledge is available to the general population. Like I said, it is like gonorrhoea or menses- nature’s very own private mean joke. Talking about your misery would be frowned upon by the society that we so much seek validation from.
Countless times I have had to seek the refuge of a dingy washroom to puff on my inhaler. This one time I was even approached by a drug peddler who asked me what product I was inhaling from my canister and whether it produces a high. Asthma has allowed me to appreciate the little pleasures that life accords me every day, like going a whole week having not used any medication. For me every breath counts, I do not need to snort cocaine or ingest copious amounts of alcoholic beverage to attain a respectable high. Best of all, it has granted me the serenity to stroll through life without losing the proverbial ability to smell the flowers.
Right off the bat let me say anybody who has been observing my wardrobe habits in this past week must either be mortified or think I have become a junkie. I have been sporting the same pair of jeans for a straight seven days. Yet I have no apologies to make and neither am I ashamed; and here’s why…
Last Wednesday at exactly 0300hrs my sister and I were rudely interrupted from a binge gaming session of Call Of Duty; Black Ops two. We like to keep the windows open in my room to keep the temperatures cooler than normal so as to ward off the brain lag that is accompanied by staying up all night. My eyes were getting grittier with each passing moment and my play increasingly sloppier. I considered going to sleep but I did not want to look like I quit because I was losing…especially to a girl. I decided to soldier on mainly as a matter of principle. It was right then that a healthy looking bat flew straight into the room.
I am all man; I never back down from challenges, I wear deodorant and floss my teeth but I cannot bear the thought of a bat. I would need months of therapy nursing post-traumatic stress disorder if a bat touched any part of my body. My sister being a woman and all meant she had nothing to prove, no ego to protect, so she let out a shriek and jumped under a duvet. The bat swooned twice, dangerously across my face and I tried screaming myself but ended up sounding like a fart given how dry my throat was. It was making high pitched demonic noises probably to summon the rightful demons to my room given the blood shed I had just been enjoying from my video-game.
My sister was lying stiff on the couch under the safety of a duvet screaming for me to quell the menace. I must admit that in that moment right then I would have gladly swapped genders. For many years I have argued that a man should always follow his gut instinct whatever the outcome. However, in this case my gut was telling me to shut the lights out and slam the door behind me as I leave my sister in the room. It was then that my guardian angel intervened and sent the bat careening into my wardrobe. I shut it, turned the key and threw it under the bed.
When my sister emerged from the under the duvet she found me wearing a grin, like I had discovered oil or something. I lied that I had rid the room of the pest by throwing a pillow at it. She scurried out of the room without a word and I knew game night was over. That night I barely slept seeing as how the bat kept at the wardrobe door scratching and making those high-pitched demonic sounds. When I did finally sleep it was plagued in nightmares where each ended with a giant bat consuming my brains.
For a week the bat kept up the cacophony although it kept getting less and less while my jeans got dirtier. It became routine to come knock on the wardrobe door and confirm whether my resident pest was still alive. The nightmares too reduced and by the time I swept the dead bat into a dustpan today, I must admit that I might have felt sorry for him. I wondered whether he had a family, hopes and dreams such as mine and whether he had to die for me to protect my ego.
There was a time right after my undergraduate that I landed a job as a store attendant in a bikini shop. We sold men’s swimming trunks too, but men in Kenya had rather hide their pot bellies and unkempt pubes in their cargo pants and bask by the poolside while sipping a beer. My boss was a stoic white lady of Russian decent whom I had to convince I was gay by showing up each day in a shiny glass magnetic stud on my right ear. I had to have my regular pants slimmed and texturize my hair to resemble that of LL Cool J. I even learnt how to apply lip balm and lick my lips to maintain character all through my working hours. Thus for eight hours daily; five days a week I played a gay version of myself. I even had my woman clip my eyebrows occasionally when they seemed to fall out of place. I invested in a “man Bag” where I stored my paraphernalia. The money was good and times were hard, but nothing prepared me for the outcome that I would be hooked to it.
I remember meeting once after work with one of my female friends from college (while out of character of course) and thinking how unlucky she was doing what we trained to do instead of the outlandish course my life took. Most of my days were filled with sending out emails of the store’s updated catalogue to potential clients’ personal emails. Our store was in the snobbier climes of Nairobi in a mall whose name I choose not to disclose. Our customers were vehemently middle class which meant they mostly tipped in excess of KES 1000 which is roughly 10 USD. They used words like ‘exquisite’ and ‘forward’ to describe a swim suit. The occasional bored housewife married to an expatriate would show up after doing the school run and we would spend hours on end trying on swim suits that best accentuated their body. In days like those I would get KES 5000 in tips and she’d probably order in for a chicken or pizza as I aided her exploit the variety of swimwear we had. However, this was a rare occurrence that happened like 10 times in my ten month stint at that joint.
This is how I used to fill my hours the rest of the time. I always had in my possession chocolate to ward off hunger since I could not afford anything decent to eat within the mall. Chocolate, because gum was too mainstream and I did not want to come off tacky and no peanuts because it leaves my mouth smelling like a sewage processing plant on a hot day. I would painstakingly use the chocolate to sketch perfectly detailed skid marks on the swim suits in the bargain section before returning them into their box. This was my way for getting back at the wife-stealing, selfie-taking bimbos that brought along their benefactors and accorded me less respect than you would a rabid dog. The beauty about this was none of them ever brought back a swimsuit to complain! The problem with all this is I may be a horrible and vindictive human being but given a chance I would do it again.
I lost my virginity in a strawberry scented room with a Barak Obama poster on the wall to the sweet mellow night time music of KBC English Service. It was cold and the blankets seemed to weigh down heavily on my skinny frame as I wrestled with my then girlfriend; an equally scrawny bird with a great big ass (or so I thought then came Nicki Minaj). I was confused to say the least and I desperately nursed a semi seeing as how The Backstreet Boys were playing their hit song ‘Drowning’. I remember the anti-climax of never quite managing what we had set out to achieve that night and sitting there dick in hand (literally) wondering what the fuss around sex was all about. Many years have passed since that night but unfortunately that memory remains as vivid as they come. I shelve these things in different parts of my brain in the hope that I never have to revisit them yet the slightest provocation triggers them. People seem to have one-night-stands ever so often or entire relationships and forget them entirely. I am physically incapable of doing this.
I kept a journal in my teen years and sometime into my early twenties. I read it today as I cleaned out my room and ended up taking a two hour plunge into my pubescent mind. It was awesome, my outlook of the world and the way I believed in absolutes. In a way, I’m still idyllic in some ways but the core of my being never quite changed. I retained my cynicism and an untainted love affair with words since clearly this is how best I express myself. I also avoid getting too involved with people because the end of any relationship however trivial leaves me feeling like I did that night I lost my virginity. This took me to some shit I have been dealing with lately.
I lost a cousin in the recent past; he was as close as they come. His death was untimely, the details to which I shall choose not to share out of respect for him if no one else. I have memories about him taking me to the mechanic’s to fix my bike on a hot Saturday. He had on those half-coats and a tucked shirt, black leather boots with the laces undid and round rimmed shades to match. I remember him showing me how to sharpen a knife and how to do a proper push-up. He loved reggae music and was himself an artist to some degree before his demise. Last night I found myself thinking of him as I played my reggae playlist. It is surreal to think that he is no more let alone sad. The problem with people is that God produces one of each despite there being seven billion of us.
There is all this residue information about him in my mind. Like the way he used to smile when he blushed, the Scooby Doo branded tie that he gave me in 2011. I remember his flawless round chapatis, his graceful ways and open mind. The tragedy is I cannot recreate his presence even with all this information floating in my mind, and that’s what gets us all in the end…
There are only two ways to find unconditional love in this world. The first is to charm the masses in an intimate way. To command emotion from the human beings at a primal level, like Fidel Castro or Nelson Mandela. This would call for tons of character and charisma that boarder that of the Biblical Moses. In any case, this calls for a lot of personal input in the way of time and/or personal sacrifice. If you happen to be a regular slob like me and like things easy and quick please pay me undue attention for the next 300 words for I shall be handing you pearls here.
Get a Dog.
Have you seen that movie ‘Marley’ starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson? No? Well, that movie is the inspiration behind Bobby. I named him Bobby after Bob Marley the Reggae icon; it was a no-brainer because I couldn’t call him Marley as that would have been too cliché. Bob was purchased from my friend John of Shujaa Dog Breeders and Trainers for KES 19,000 which is roughly the equivalent of USD190. I felt it was a steep price for a five month old puppy whose only promise for a bright future was the fact that he was the healthiest at birth relative to his four siblings.
I took him home to my parents who live in Murang’a which is in Central Kenya. My parents are middle-aged folks with a nurturing spirit that is only rivalled by that of Florence Nightingale. I knew Bobby would be in the right hands. The only problem with my parents is that they have a way to spoil anything they nurture with too much love. Yes, there is such a thing as too much love. For instance, Bobby was raised on Dog food for most of his puppy years, thereafter; he was introduced to beef which is only served boiled and cold. Occasionally when the beef is not present he is served with Ugali made from maize flour that is fortified with blended fish. That may not mean much in first world countries but it is definitely champagne life for a dog in Kenya where a dog’s main diet is left-overs from the master’s table. Thus Bobby is spoilt in that way.
In many ways Bobby is similar to Marley from the movie. He occasionally chews on shoes and he has destroyed at least one pair of my favourite moccasins. There was a phase where he would pull on all the clothes from the clothes line and my parents had to re-do their laundry. Then came the dip-in-the-mud phase where he would find the nearest puddle and douse himself in some red mud all over his fur. However, do not mistake Bobby for the cuddly canine I describe him as. He may be clumsy and may sometimes venture outside the line but on the right command he can easily maul your heart out.
We live in a beautiful time of jealousy envy and greed. My parents live in the snobbiest part of the town where almost all households own a car and nobody uses the pavement. Seeing as how I have no car, it is in that light that I keep a regular schedule walking Bobby whenever I am at home. Nothing says I am better than you to a fellow social climber than a healthy looking, well-groomed canine pulling on a leash. I am addicted to the marvel of security guards and the motorists who lower the tinted windows on their Camrys and Lexus RX300s at the speed bumps to have a glimpse of my canine companion. The ogles drive me crazy and I feel like Franklin from Grand Theft Auto V complete with the cargo pants and wife-beater to match. I couldn’t think of a cheaper way to harness the rock star experience…