“Excuse me?”

“I love you.”

“……… Let’s talk in the morning.”


Morning.


 

That was the last time, I promised myself, a promise I have so far managed to keep. I had laid myself open to a woman who was pretty much married. In retrospect, the memory of that weekend was one of the instances that prompted a cold hard look at myself. I could not continue drinking the way I was. I am not writing today about my struggle with borderline alcoholism. That will require a measure of reflection before I can adequately bring it to these pages, tumultuous and checkered as it is.

Beer fear permeated everything I did the following morning. The mixture of shock and disgust that followed the night of drinking, a large part of which was spent calling and sending messages to friends and would-be lovers, almost paralyzed me. A clumsy show of affection that was not requited, and for good reason. I racked my foggy brain to find whether there were any apologies I needed to make. In the light of day, I regretted what I had done. The slurring incoherence and outbursts were a joke among my family members. I was almost becoming a punchline. But, more than that, I still hoped that I would be heard, my message and not the medium – the staggering maudlin mess that was me – paid attention to. Unfortunately, the medium is as important as the message.

Part of being heard lies in presentation: how does the world see you and how would you want the world to see you. Often, we become so self-absorbed, possessed by what we want to say, to the point of feeling self-righteous and justified in whatever way we chose to say it. However much we may dislike it, a large portion of communication is concerned with perception. I remember my father vehemently disagreeing with the television, as it were, whenever that Sprite ad came on, “Image is nothing, thirst is everything.” “Liars! Image is everything!”, he would say. He teaches communication-related subjects like PR and advertising, so he would know, and I am inclined to agree with him.

The greater underlying point here is credibility. Is what you are saying and how you are saying it conveying a level of gravitas that will inspire the desired actions? In the states I was in, I failed to convey any seriousness. Furthermore, I said whatever came to mind at the moment. Not a particularly good idea, especially when strong emotions are thrown in. (I honestly thought I was going to have a coherent point to put across today and I hurriedly banged this up because I have a personal commitment to always post something on Mondays and Wednesdays. I am growing my cactus, bear with me, indulge me.) Maybe, next time, pick up the phone, or meet the person before that double-vodka. It will make all the difference.


 

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Three Per


On soft bed
sunken, bones touch
unforgiving cold ground.
Weight of the
world on weary
shoulders, weary bones.
Staring at dancing
lights through cracked
windows, mottled by
moths reaching for
faraway warmth. Like
me… Now… Here.

Can you hear
me calling, calling?
These thoughts are
no longer comforting,
they tire me,
all this… this
juvenility masked as
depth, pseudo-profound,
lust dancing as
softness and wisdom.

Pretty words and
puff, chest puffed
out to scare,
flashing bright strobes
to mesmerize and
distract the unwitting.
Look closely! The
facade has cracked,
oozing angst, bitter,
ironic, sarcastic, scared.

When will you
see what I
am, have always
been, hidden behind
white teeth (white
fangs, reddish-tinted)?
This is me,
rose bush-thorned,
pink, green, brown,
sharp, calloused, stiff.

Bent, bending, bending,
towards the sun,
now that I
am juxtaposed against
myself and what
I could become.


Her Silence


Before, there was silence, then there was none. Now, there is silence. Deeper. Piercing. She allowed me into her space, her sacred places, where she allowed herself to be vulnerable with me. I was part of her silence, inhabiting it from within. I am still a part of it. From without. It is cold and all too quiet where she is not. I remember her, like waking from a dream, seeing the colourful fragments that comprised it, before it was shattered. Her colours have turned to shadows. I can still taste her memory, fragrant and jovial. This is surreal. She was here a moment ago. Or, was she? Maybe I am dreaming and if I close my eyes and drift, I will wake up.


 

The Walk


I enjoy walking by myself while listening to music. That is how I consume music, hip-hop and RnB mainly. They provide, I find, suitable soundtracks to the rhythm of my feet. This may come across as an insult to the artists, that their art is something I use in much the same way one may use a spice: not quite necessary but it does change everything. Mostly, it is because the other sounds – the cars and people moving past, the breeze in the trees, the birds – are sounds I have heard enough times. Also, the music distracts me from my thoughts. I have a tendency to live in my head, constantly daydreaming. This is how I spent most of my childhood, alone with my fantasies. It is an aspect of that time I relive almost daily. At least now I can mitigate it with Kendrick growling about his battle with depression. Occasionally, I will listen to an audio book, from writers with keen insights but no lyricism and turn-of-phrase to deliver them, but with sonorous or sensuous voices. Or a podcast.

It is raining slightly and I deeply inhale the sharp cold air, and with it, the scent of the once-again sprouting grass and bushes: fresh, moist and earthy. This is something I may never get enough of, the smell of rebirth and newness. And cleanliness. The air has been washed, free from the dust and the barrenness, it feels like breathing invisible glass. I can feel the uneven ground beneath my sockless feet, seeming to insist I acknowledge it through the canvas shoes. Maybe that is one reason I love these shoes, Bata Bullets. They are close to the ground. I can feel every bump and contour on the roads through them.

Even as I move further from home, there is the unspoken thought that I will be back there soon enough, no matter how far I go, whichever route combinations I pick. To a large degree, no one can walk away far enough. Eventually, all roads lead back to the same place. That is the nature of things. And this is what I am doing, is it not? Walking away, unlatching myself from the place that gives me comfort? I now find it somewhat stifling, cloying even, grateful as I am that I have it. The things that we sought solace in and the warm places we laid our heads, more often than not, become things we abhor, and hypocritically, still pine for. We dismiss the things we know we can always have. I do not hate home, but that world has become too small for me.

There is a recurring conversation I have with my parents. The “What more?” Conversation. Sooner or later, we always get what we want in one variety or another, but is that it? Is there nothing more beyond the wanting and the getting? Or, maybe, that is the point, that the craving and its fulfilment are for their own sake? Circularity. No matter what we do, are we to always somehow wind up in the same place, or mental and emotional state? Eventually? I used to walk home from work, before I hurriedly resigned. I told myself it was for the exercise, but really I did not want to get there. “I should not be here”, I kept thinking. Walking might, in a twisted way, be a reflection of my embrace and abandonment of some aspects of myself. I am reaching for something and/or I am running from something, alternately and at once, like an eternal spinning of a coin. Heads or tails? Both. Neither. We are back at the beginning. Or, is there even a beginning?

And, once again, I am back at the pale blue gate with the peeling paint, sliding the tiny door to the left and reaching my hand in through the hole in the small “people gate”, twisting away the unlatched padlock, turning the lock below it anticlockwise and sliding the konji to the right, in a rapid sequence of smoothly-executed flicks of my right wrist. I am back. I am both glad and deflated. This place again! This place again. These walks are blurs now, I have seen these roads before, and nothing is much different, except I am hot now, from jogging to beat the impending downpour, and quite wet, but not drenched. Maybe tomorrow, I will walk a new road. Maybe.


 

The Stick

Two days ago, my father went out for a walk and took a stick with him, a longish straight one, about three-quarters his height, that one day was not there and the next one was. It is a walking stick of sorts, but as such things go, it is not just a stick. In my culture, it is called a mutheegi (an old man’s stick), not a muti (a stick stick, otherwise known as a switch. I had to clarify that for the benefit of some of you prurient readers), as I had mentioned when he came back and I was poking fun at him; him being old and no longer as athletic or able to fend off an attacker as he used to be. He went on to explain, in a patient stiff and comically grave manner, that it was a symbol of wisdom and age and, he implied, the things that come with that. I told him I found it a bit Freudian; a middle-aged man carrying and seemingly luxuriating in swinging his long stick… The implications. Tsk tsk.

Walking towards his bedroom to put his long stick away, he said over his shoulder,

“Ni uroona maundu maria wabiriria? Dwe mundu mwega ona hanini!”

Contextually this translates to “Now what is that you’re saying? You’re not a good person, not even one bit!”

Methinks it is a subconscious grasp at diminishing youth and virility. It seems to say “I still have a big dingus!” Somewhat like playing golf, or why luxury vehicles are undoubtedly masculine: minimal curves, long and phallic. A body language expert on a National Geographic documentary, or was it History Channel? I forget, once said that the reason the president of the US sometimes gives his speeches standing below Air Force One is to metaphorically wag his penis in your face and show you just how much bigger than yours it is. One of my favourite stand-up comedians, George Carlin, went further, extrapolating this argument and saying that this is the reason guns, bullets, missiles, jets and such war machines are phallic-shaped: their bearers are f-word-ing you. Think about that the next time that black Mercedes Benz S500 cuts you off in traffic, or your boss wags his finger sternly in your face. And, really, any one who has to go out of his way to show you how big it is… 😉


 

Goodbye?

, or the catharsis continues.

The song that has been playing in my head is Jamiroquai’s Love Foolosophy. Even with the vodka (double Flirt for a double-flirt) on her breath and her conscience telling her she should stay away from me,

“Get out of my head!”, she keeps saying,

I want to kiss her, to remind myself of what I lost and what I would probably never have again. We make googly eyes at each other and say the same silly things we always say: one day things between us may work, we are not yet done, we can only go up from here. Between her dreams of seeing the world and my dreams of stepping out of myself and embracing my youth before it runs out, there may never be a chance to recreate even a shadow of what we had. Now, she plays the comforting shoulder, listener, confidant, and I the wise friend, all-knowing and mature. What else can we do? Our timing is ever impeccable. We are always out of sync and far from each other. She has another thing going and so do I.

I have never asked her what her boyfriend’s name is. I have never asked her anything about him. I do not care, an apathy partly borne of guilt and a deep self-resentment. I ruined a great relationship with a beautiful woman, The Beautiful Woman, The One. Partly, it is that he is the embodiment of everything I am not: he is in her daily words and thoughts, he is the one she sends dirty WhatsApp messages to, he is the one she goes home with after a weekend out, he is the one fucking her. Him, not me.

He may as well be the devil and in this, my feelings of deficiency have taken on a peculiar bite. They would go very well with a shot of vodka (make that a triple Flirt, or Kibao, whatever, as long as it burns, cauterizes). I stay away, keeping a respectful distance, just like I had promised. One of the reasons I am still enamored with her is that I know she would never compromise herself, however seductive I prove to be. She may get mixed feelings but that is all they would be, feelings, and she would untangle herself from my clasp. I cannot be with her, not now, maybe never. And it is in the wanting of things we cannot have that kills us, no?

I still have one of her hair-clips, one I liberated during a stolen moment of passion in the backseat of her mother’s car. For days afterwards, it retained the smell of her hair, coconut and honey, and I caressed my face with it until the scents wore off, reaching out to her from across the void. And I cannot continue wanting her. And I cannot stop wanting her.

Flying on sunny wings,
silent wings,
the silence of a quiet heartbeat,
nary the thud of expectation,
no sound of the unquenchable yearning.