Grace

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Every birthday since I grew facial hair has been a constant source of disappointment. I am constantly pelted with the need to be the best version of myself. When the ideal is a big juicy creative life of uninhibited imagination and radical silliness, I am doomed to the adult life of faking smiles, avoiding eye contact and patronizing conversations. It breaks my heart and it is a constant battle not letting this happen. I took up an art class, to keep the child in me alive

I marvel at the ease at which one of my close friends can get in and out of a relationship. It is seamless and sublime like the way a chicken swallows a whole grain of maize without batting an eye. I have never quite understood whether the friend in question is apathetic to human interactions so much so that contact or lack thereof leaves little or no emotional bruises. In many ways I admire this skill especially how it helps my friend transition smoothly; I admire this skill because I am in no way equipped to do that.

In contrast, when I love, I love: wholly, thoroughly, completely, drowning in everything. Every glance can be a conversation, eyes just playing and saying what needs to be said. Silence is loud, and the air becomes heavy. When I want you; I want all of you. I have been fortunate in this aspect. I may not have as much money as I want, or the career of my dreams. But I have someone who accepts that sometimes I can be a warrior, a wild child or a volatile mess. Yet every day she is there loving me.

She has taught me how to fall in love with life and realize there is more to life than my books from writers that I hardly remember after two days. I taught her how to swim in water and in return she taught me to swim in the depths of my soul.

It pays to know with absolute certainty that at least one woman in this world has their favourite mug to drink their tea out of each morning. That someone thinks of me when Dolly Parton’s Great Oak Tree comes on the radio. I sleep better at night knowing that she only reads the books I recommend and that sometimes she holds in laughter in office meetings over some silly joke I made.

I may not be what I set out to be just yet, but my life is rich. I have begun recognizing that real happiness is not something large and looming on the horizon ahead but something  small, numerous and already in my hands. It takes the form of a woman, her smile and her tiny palm in mine during breakfast in a cheap out-of-town motel. Thus for the first time in many years, this birthday, I shall uphold myself not in a position of inadequacy but that of grace. I will reward myself with gratitude rather than negativity.

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Entry 002: To Be or Not to Be

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Dear Matthew,

In the course of your life son, you shall have many adjectives attached before your name, some you will love and some you will hate absolutely. Take it from me son, the opinion that others have of you is ultimately unimportant only if ‘Nice’ is not an adjective used to describe you.  Nice men are as important as fruit flies in this world. Nice men hover about the goodies of life like fruit flies do, they never quite participate in anything yet they are everywhere you seem to look. They are mediocre men who have perfected the art of sitting on the fence, walking on eggshells and rustling no feathers in their wake. Try as hard as you dare but make sure that nice is an adjective used to describe you or your life’s work.

In truth, most people see the world based on their own experiences, they attach adjectives they deem fit to keep things on an even keel. It is easier for them to put you in a box, describe you in a way that is familiar to them. It is your life long obligation to never end up in the confines of a bland adjective such as ‘Nice’. Nice men suck up to people they consider their superiors and sport limp handshakes with no eye contact.

”Life is too short to be nice and insignificant.”

Nice men do the speed limit even when nobody is watching. They pay mind to weak willed women who want to bed them ‘for fun’. Nice men are the reason Paris was not destroyed completely during the war. Nice men are missed by their lady friends when they want to go shopping because he will sit and put up with the debilitating activity just for the privilege of being seen with her. Nice men have no backbone; they are the invertebrates of this world. Life is too short to be nice and insignificant.

It is weird how the world works because it is the nice ones who die first. The rest remain and despite what you may think, they thrive. Here is where the balance lies; not being nice is not a license to be an arrogant prick. In fact on the contrary my advocacy is you being humble and kind. Humble so that people lack substance when they want to nick pick on your character, and kind because only alpha males can afford such a disposition.

However, out beyond being humble and kind lies no obligation to be any other type of man. Ruthlessness should be your all-encompassing way of life, absolutely nothing and nobody should get in the way of anything that you desire. Destroy yourself and your enemies to further your cause if the need may arise. Living in this fashion ensures that there are very few things that you will want to achieve and not have. Not only will you have respect from friends and foes alike but most importantly you will respect yourself. And each morning when you look at your face in the mirror, you will realize that you may be anything in this world…but Nice is not one of them.

Love

M.K.

Just Lose It

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The adage ‘Life is a long lesson in humility’ has been used so often that I find it trite. I fail to understand the humility part because humility is a lesson only learnt by weak willed human beings who live on ivory towers. Mostly it is second generation middle-class Kenyans, who have been bred to believe that they are actually special because they had Weetabix for breakfast while growing up. Be that as it may, I think life is a long lesson on loss. Loss is the all-encompassing factor that we all share as human beings. We all lose things in the course of our lives, in the worst of times we lose people to death, social class and ultimately we all lose our lives.

I am not new to loss, last year somebody pinched my TV and I tend lose socks every other day much to the dismay of my partner but mostly it is because she moves things. I have lost entire nights that I would have spent in bed having luscious explicit dreams about hammering an Audi S3 sedan through the winding B-roads of Murang’a County. These nights were spent exploring the vast world of GTA V.

We are all dying, some slowly and gracefully thus society deems it fit to call it ageing. Some of us go about the business of dying rapidly; people call that ailing. It is a splendid thought however, that we are all bound by the same fate in this life. The facial features that you are so proud of will one day droop and your skin will attain the texture of an iguana’s and that is only if you are lucky to make it to old age. Nevertheless, there is no need to hasten this natural process.

One of my new year’s resolutions was absolute abstinence from alcohol. I followed keenly in amusement as Europeans marked the end of ‘dry January’ earlier this year which was a campaign (if I may say so) where people opt to abstain from alcohol for that month. The funny part to this is that Kenyans inadvertently joined in this campaign too seeing as how every New Year approaches with new and exciting ways to render them bankrupt. I am no exception, thus, and I am being thoroughly honest here, part of the reason I have been off alcohol is the fact that I am tinkering on the brink of vagrancy.

”I like to think it is my steely resolve and disciplined mind that have brought me this far..”

However, I like to think it is my steely resolve and disciplined mind that have brought me this far. I am fearful for the immediate future if my poverty status takes a wild turn and changes; will I keep up with abstinence or will I succumb? I know of a few lives that have almost been lost because of alcohol. I can name effortlessly close friends and acquaintances who are slowly dying from the indulgence of alcohol related recreational activities. It is a gradual death though and it is self-inflicted so nobody pays it any mind; not even the victims.

I hope that by the end of this year, having maintained an impeccable slate on abstinence from alcoholic beverages; I shall be in a teetotaler focus group preaching abstinence and how sobriety heals everything since sobriety is all there really is. Besides, there are far, better things ahead than those we leave behind. It is still a beautiful life.

ENTRY 001: The Quintessential Man

Dear Matthew,

Given all you have heard and seen, in due time, you shall arrive at the inference that a man was born to fulfill only three primary roles in this world. These are to Provide, Protect and Preserve. Any man who claims the title should ultimately play these roles in his family’s life. This is the only way you shall find any sense of lasting self-worth in this world, all other deviations from this path will guarantee you an untimely death. In the event of your untimely death life will go on as if you never existed, your kids and wife will adapt and learn to make do with your absence. Meanwhile your memory will fade and even they will have a hard time remembering the sound of your voice. However, since this is not going to be your fate if I could help it.

One day if you are lucky, you will a find a woman that will stir up the fire in your loins, so much so that you will feel naturally inclined to provide for her, protect her and preserve her. This is a natural primal instinct, which goes to say it will kick in despite her ability to perfectly do these things for herself. Here are my two cents on how to handle the three P’s.

Provide

Provision does not only stop at monetary hand outs, any asshole can successfully give money to a woman. In fact seeing as how society has deteriorated, I would not be fazed to know that by you time, a wad of cash will be a valid pick up line. It is your God given duty to provide for your woman beyond money; foot massages, good conversation, life basically. As a rule of thumb never ever bore your woman, women hate boredom, they can do that by themselves. Actually you have a better chance keeping your woman if you pulled your fingernails off for comic effect than you have giving her money and being boring. Provision varies from woman to woman thus you have to adapt, learn and execute. Learn what she likes and provide fuckloads of it.

Protect

There is a verse from the bible that I love because it comes short of a threat from God Himself;

Ezekiel 25:17- “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the founder of lost children. And I will strike upon thee with great vengeance those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”

I like to think that the righteous persons in question are your wife and kids. People will try to take advantage of them in one way or the other. It is in your place as a man to ensure that you either protect them physically or using a proxy. Protect them from the swindle-eyed mechanics at the garage, the sassy silver-tongued used car salesman or the bully at the school yard. Ultimately, their safety lies squarely with you which is why I consider it mandatory to have a concealed carry firearm. If you have learnt anything from watching UFC and playing Call Of Duty, you would know that bullets are a force multiplier.

Preserve

Human beings; and mostly women and children are best stored in a cool dry place with minimal exposure to direct sunlight. This is why I always made sure your mother was in car as soon as I could afford one. It would behoove you to do the same when the time comes. Female skin is susceptible to many things that make it age prematurely, instead of spending lots of money on skin care products or worse chemotherapy to rid of skin melanoma, preserve her in the coziest of car interiors. Look into European makes because generally people from that region know a thing or two about engineering proper cars.

Preserve not only her body but also her mind by reducing the number of things that would potentially stress her mind. This you will do by anticipating her needs way before she knows they were even there.

Lastly and most important, do not expect brownie points for doing what God designed you to do, conversely, you should make it look easy. It is a great show of power to belittle your success as it gives you a god-like aura of efficiency. Never openly admit to the intricate struggles that you face as a benefactor. In the event that you cease to exist, trust me, your spirit will live on long after you are gone in the hearts and minds of your nuclear family.

Love M.K.

Dear Matthew…

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A Younger, Faster and Smarter Me

I hope they do not call you Matt, in school at home or anywhere. I think it is silly and quite frankly it makes me think you are a bubble headed goon who goes around vomiting sunshine. I hope you developed my level of sarcasm and borrowed a pinch of your mother’s sense of humour. The fact that you are reading this means that something about our parenting was right and you can at least read one foreign language (English obviously, sarcasm is universal). I am also of the opinion that if you are reading it from a Mac Book Pro you should be thankful too.  We your parents, had to do this from a crappy Chinese make that we had to share between us, the very machine I am typing from right now.  However, it is not the lifestyle discrepancy that is important. What counts is the fact that you learn to appreciate what you have because, someone worked very hard to have it. It’s a curse or a vicious circle; one time you’ll go out on a limb to secure something for someone who will in turn take it for granted. It is a special kind of pain that; and I pray to God you do not have to experience that.

I was prompted to leave you these memoirs since a budding young man needs pointers if you may. Guidelines as to who you are, where you are from and then you can figure it out from there. I hardly think that I would require leaving you a manual on how to live your life. That would signify that you are a spineless human being and I a parenting failure. This is an insight into who I am and life through the lenses of my eyes. There is much from me you could learn, some of it bad, some of it good but all of it useful. In this world you will need a mentor, someone to shine a light on your path. For the better part of your life, that beacon of flight will have to be me, but there is only so much I can do. In some ways I am afraid I may come up short, this is not something I may not completely agree with but I have come to accept. In these here memoirs you shall find ways to identify one such mentor and in a timely fashion so that you may grow to be all you can be.

In this life Matthew, you can only be either one of two things; you can be real and loved or you can be shiny and admired. I hope you choose a little bit of both. Just you make sure to have the love of your family and the admiration of both friend and foe. This as you shall discover is the most sought after balance in this era of social media. Welcome to my life son, do not ape me, just take what may please you and give back what you can.

M.K.

The Naked Truth

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My name is Simone Khetu, I hail from a small town in Eastern Africa called Afeni. I am currently a resident of China, eastern China to be precise. I live in the city of Chongqing; never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would ever be this far from home. At GMT +5, dawn comes a good eight hours before papa wakes up to milk ‘Fiona’ his prized Frisian cow.  The distance is unfathomable if calculated by miles even to my mother a primary school teacher. My siblings Wehtti and Rufusa who are both technology savvy and are sated by the weekly emails we exchange and the photos on social media. I will be frank and admit that there is no day that passes that I do not miss them.

My time here was preceded by four grueling years studying in a local secondary school near my hometown. Every ounce of me wanted to study civil engineering in my later years. It was somewhat of an obsession that was triggered by a female doctor who came to our school during a prize giving ceremony. Mrs. Seko was her name; she was not only a doctor but also a successful farmer. She was everything I wished I could be and to this day I can recite her speech from that day, word for word. She offered to sponsor the two best girls for higher education in that school. I developed tunnel vision toward s that goal and I achieved it. In retrospect, the aforementioned is by far my greatest personal triumph thus far.

When I came to this country I was inevitably hit by culture shock, but it soon wore off given the fact that I wanted to absorb as much of the culture as possible. I stayed up late, walked the neon bathed streets of the city. I grew a pot belly from indulging in the delicacies the place had to offer and I made a myriad of friends from all walks of life. Put simply, my life here has been a far cry from anything the small town of Afeni would have ever offered. I however, did not have in mind one of the best lessons learned during my six year stay on self acceptance and body image.

I was never one given to problems with impulse controls and especially not food, but the food here was so great I gradually gained weight. On my second year here I joined a local gym towards the end of November as winter crept in. I had grown accustomed to standing out given my ebony complexion as opposed to getting lost in the bland masses as I did in my country. Countless times did I have people politely ask to touch my skin or even take photos. I cherished this status as it won me a platform to make good friends and fast.

I am very modest and was raised in a house where nakedness was shunned like you would witchcraft. My mother could not fathom how a skirt’s hemline would expose the knee let alone be above it. In that regard I managed to avoid showering at the gym. I walked home to my apartment that was nearby and showered there. This was not the most financially viable option; power bills in the city would dictate a free shower being most sensible. I would have taken my showers at the gym had the idea been less intimidating.

Women would hang their towels at the entrance and strut, soap in hand, to one of the twenty shower heads in the white tiled hall. They would plunge into animated chats while showering with friends of all ages immune to the embarrassment regarding their own pubic hair, cleavage, stretch marks or pot bellies of others. I was mortified upon noticing this and got gravely self conscious despite the fact that I never got down to stripping in front of the other women. Each time I would splash my face with cool water, take my bag out of the locker and go.

Two weeks into my routine, the electricity at my apartment complex was knocked out following a fire in the next building. I didn’t mind using candles as much as I dreaded the cold freezing showers in the dead of winter. I cursed at the lack of private shower stalls at the gym for two days and refrained from full showers. For two days I took sponge baths but on the third day it was soon clear to me that the power would take longer to be repaired. I had to take a shower at the gym. After my work out I stripped down; I figured that if I was going to do it, I would start in front of my locker. I took my towel and scurried to the showers trying not to stare at anyone.

That was probably the longest shower I have ever taken in my adult life. I took a shower at an isolated corner and stood under the hot jet grateful for the chance to rinse off two days worth of grime. It was not until I finished my shower that I realized that nobody was watching. Everybody went about their business cleaning their bodies. I was impressed by how women of all ages, shapes and sizes, women with telling scars and even children in their bellies pacing the locker room in confidence. It made me proud of being a woman just like them. I had never felt that way before.

Up until that day I had been mutually naked with my sisters and my boyfriend who we had long since broke up. The only other female bodies I had seen naked were those of retouched celebrities in movies scenes and heavily made up cover models. I even got to see the bodies of senior and middle aged women. I thought they were beautiful, the wrinkly pudgy types and I do not mean that in a condescending manner. Seeing their aged bodies gave me relief about what awaits the few of us that make it beyond yore. The sixty and seventy year olds I saw were particularly not bad looking, I thought they could certainly have attracted some positive attention.

One woman who particularly stood out was Georgina; our gym instructor and aerobics coach. She was originally from Nepali and spoke little mandarin like me. We avidly became friends owing to the fact that we both spoke fluent English. She was a cancer survivor who had lost both her breasts to the disease. She never got implants as in most cases like hers; she said she liked it that way as it stood to remind her of the battle she had fought. She freely entertained jokes about her flat chest especially as she walked bare-chested almost all the time in the locker room. She insisted we call her George and laughed heartily when I asked her what her husband’s opinion was.

“That man would follow me to hell if I needed him to! He stood by me all through chemotherapy; it reminds him of how much of a gift I am of him. Those are his words not mine…” she said amid giggles and a wink.

Georgina or George as she always insisted o being called went on to mother two sons and last I heard from her she was coaching acrobatic minors in Australia. She had so much life in her not even cancer could take it away. I could never thank her enough for the wonders she did for my confidence. She made me appreciate the present and approach the future with constructive pessimism.

In sum, I learnt to feel comfortable in my own skin and love my naked body. As time went by I developed certain camaraderie with other women in the locker room. I realized we all have those body parts and we are expected to meet society’s vain expectations; but we are going to be alright.  I marvel at how character shone through the mundane confines of a place like a gymnasium locker room. Georgina tattooed it in my soul that we were capable of doing more than just getting by. We were capable of living the good life!

If I died today

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This is going to be my year. Nobody says that about the year they are going to die. I will not lie that I haven’t the vaguest idea where my life is headed let alone the meaning of it all. I grope in the dark like most people, fighting my demons and pretending to have a bearing. However, I enjoy this shit, the universe is generous such that there are things and people I have lost along the way that I may have thought were irreplaceable only for the void to be filled.

We all have high hopes at the wake of every year’s beginning. Which drove me to thinking what would happen if I died today. For starters I would owe in excess of 2000 USD in debt. Half of that debt would be a student loan that I would be glad that I made away with. In Part this is because I will have saved some poor youth from making it out of campus with a pointless degree and a mountain of debt like myself. The rest of the money I would owe to my siblings who lent it to me in the form of soft loans that I have been too poor to repay.

My laundry basket would have at least two pairs of socks and a pair of light grey corduroys. My bed would be in what my mother calls a ‘sorry state’ which is to say it would not be made. My pillow case would have 2000KES that I stashed in there a couple months ago so I could ward off nightmares.

On the bright side I would die in clean underwear because I make sure I wear crisp fresh boxers every day, it is one of the few pleasures I allow myself. I would also die in pristine physical condition, with the ability to run three kilometres in 16 minutes flat and the kind of muscle to fat ratio that my beer drinking peers had when they were in their teens.

The only regret I will have will be having people talk about how pure my heart really was which will be a blatant lie. In truth, I have great big conflicts inside my soul as all human beings presumably do. They will not tell you about that or the fact that death didn’t really faze me; just the fact that I shall have all these unfulfilled fantasies and intricate vanities that I allow myself when I am daydreaming.

I really do hope that in heaven (which is where I pray my soul reports) there is nothing vaguely similar to Twitter. I cannot tweet for shit to date and quite frankly I do not know what it was for, I hear people have handles there. As far as I am concerned a ‘handle’ is a derogatory term that is used for belly fat that settles around the sides of well-fed human beings. I hope there are no taxes too and that there is an endless supply of motorcycles and roads to ride them in.

Seriously though; I hope that today is not that day.