Later Nights – Thoughts from a Sleepless Mind (1)


Even with the doors to my room and my cousin’s room shut and while my laptop, Old Faithful, is purring heavily, I can hear the shuffling of feet from the floor above and a baby crying from the house next door. Neither last long. I assume the persons making them fall into a contented sleep. I envy their ability to seemingly nod off, as if the world and its exigencies are mere annoyances and not a stark white, and also black, reality we have to confront with each rising of the sun. From the other bedroom, I can hear my cousin’s muffled laughter. He is probably chatting up one his lady friends, sharing naughty nothings in the darkness before he drifts off. I will know he is asleep when a shortish silence precedes the rumble of a rhythmic snore.

Despite my awareness of the world around me, I often feel disconnected from it all. This, I only notice in retrospect, when I am sitting in gridlocked traffic on my way home or when I am listening to people talking around me and find myself unable to relate to or attach any part of myself to the goings-on. I know the drill in social situations: the expected words I can say, throwing in the occasional bender, timing my laughter just right when a joke is made, where to make the uhms and ooohs and aaahs, when to insert the requisite silences. I know how to keep myself hidden. Who would understand this particular isolation anyway?

I know I may not be the only one who feels these things. I would like to connect with someone who is as disjointed as I am, to reach out and run my fingers along their edges and let them feel mine. The irony here is if I often feel detached, how would I find someone who shares my sentiments, considering they would also not know connect? How would I go about finding similarly-hewn pieces of this particular puzzle to share and interlock with their jaggedness? As I fade into sleep, a last thought keeps lingering at the edges of my conscience, coming to the centre as I fall deeper: maybe I am searching for the wrong thing. There is no puzzle for me to be a part of.


 

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Nani


Habari ya nani?

After a longish pause,

Nani ako sawa. Karibu niulize ‘Nani ni nani?’

Nani. The immediately indefinable someone. That someone: a girlfriend, a boyfriend, the subject of some spicy gossip, that person whom we are talking about in a particular context, the centre of our words. Nani. I often find it polite to use ‘nani’ when dealing with people who prefer to keep their cards close to their chests, or when I am not sure whether a nani even exists. It enables me to put a psychological distance between myself and the subject being discussed, lest I get close to them or assume them wanting, somehow even before I meet them.

Also, if my interlocutor does not volunteer the person’s name, their privacy is preserved, their space remains untainted. And if that nani does happen to walk by, unless they hear all the details of the hushed conversation, they would remain none the smarter. Aside from the preservation of collective arses when discussing other people, nani comes in handy when a subject of talk’s name is not remembered off the top of one’s head, as long as one is privy to the intricacies at play. For example, a typical conversation between two boyz after about the sixth beer,

Unajua….. nani? The one with the *gesticulating to indicate big breasts and/ or an endowed posterior* Naniiii!? Ule black beauty/ light-skinned/ ule dame wa USIU/ ule dame wa *insert wherever it is your particular nani comes from or looks like*? Enhe, so me and her….. *indicating with smirks, eye winks, oozings of smugness and self-satisfaction, and more gesticulating that they had sex*

Buuuuuda! *grudging high five* Hapo sawa! Finally! Umekimbisha hiyo mambo tangu campo! *more grudging high fives because this guy has not gotten laid for a spell and had a secret crush on said nani*

A catch-all to make up for a beer-addled memory, a too-juicy snippet of a conversation chanced upon or over-the-weekend debauchery that, with no names mentioned and not having to remember any names anyway, communicates the nitty-gritty about a certain person or people in quiet delectable question. Nani. A most useful word.


And sometimes


she hopes that he will say no, so that she can revel in the warm muck of self-pity a little longer, blameless that it is not her fault after all, and delight in her lazy delusions of inadequacy.

And sometimes, I want her to say yes, and she does, and I feel satisfied with myself, inflated, reminded that I am wantable, even though I have placed happiness in her capricious hands and, as always, she will drop it, leaving me to pick up the pieces of my dreams alone.

And sometimes, he does not know what to want. He has no strength to want any more. He does not want to want and yet he wants to stop wanting. He wants nothing, to be in the nothing, to become a part of it, to be enraptured in the eternal everything, therefore no thing.


 

Coconut

 


In the depth
of cynical heart,
Where a pulse
lies still yet alive,
Surrounded by
shrivelled shell
is a want eternal.
Tempered by time,
polished you might say,
its lustre is subdued,
unshouting and unblinding.
Perfect light, illuminating,
Coolly bracing.
But,
only behind the walls
that heaven might not
tear down, nor man.
Might, but may…


Sighing for Her From the Distance


I think… Maybe… But I could be wrong…

that in the cold of regret, over what I do not know, in the crystallized silence that plagues the worrier, she found a calm and a peace she could not explain. Subdued by the gently vibrating turmoil that slowly shatters her resolve not close in on herself, she found warmth in her personal hell. I imagine I can feel her motions, her slow pulse as the last of her angst slips from her and the acceptance of her station creeps in in its place, as she listens to the slow cadence of a heart cooling, giving up its vain hopes. It has been a long time since we last talked and I have only imagined how she is. She cocooned herself, as she said she often does, and I am torn between my impulses to slash at the silk and pull her out and letting her be until she comes out at her own time.

I miss her terribly, and even in admitting that to myself I fear that we may never get back what we started to have. I do not know where to start reaching out, and whether if I do I will make any headway. None of us have time, so I cannot fall back on youth, mine and hers. To let it be or to chase? The young man’s eternal question. It is arrogant to put myself at some centre of all this, on a righteous pedestal, as if I am somehow responsible for her retreat, that I have something to do with the way she is. I might be or I might not be and I might never know. I struggle to find a midway, a compromise between what is genuinely because of me and what is her choice. I suspect that with this too, I might not find. How does one prove the nonexistence of one’s fault?

I comfort myself with the knowledge that she is alive, by catching glimpses of her vivacity on twitter or her darkness in her intermittent writing, a darkness I may know somewhat intimately, and not hearing that anything bad has happened to her, not seeing her obituary on the rare occasions I pick up a newspaper. This will do for now, as I rationalize my trepidation by always having something to do, tasks at work, books to read, other people to see. This way, when the gossamer that may still join us finally dissolves, I can always say… What? Say what? What can one say? Think, yes. I can think that I could not have done better.


 

Alafu Sasa?


You told me how handsome you think I am, how you like the way my fingers curl around the glass, how my lips curl lightly around the straw. Ulisema vile macho yangu ni sexy and the way I smelled so good. I had to smell myself when I went to the gents’ to….. relieve myself, before the festivities began. Indeed, I did smell good! I had showered and borrowed my Papa’s cologne and deodorant before I came to meet you. You once told me how a great-smelling man is half the job done, and I had bought you the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, ile bar kubwa, Fruit and Nut. Your favourite. Ha ha ha, nuts! You like nuts! He he he! Aki you’re a jinga! Alafu sasa?

As your hand brushed my arm, I could feel a great warmth rising from my belly and radiating outwards from my face. I was hot for you. And you were for me too. We chatted easily, about all the naughty things we would be sharing, your eyes narrowed and gazing steadily into mine, sharing unsaid sensual nothings. Then you said you had to go home. I knew I would be coming with you. Yes! I fist-pumped Tiger Woods-style in my mind. Kwanza vile ulinishow ulipika beef stew mingi na kuna leftovers….. And there’s that book you said I should read. I hope I’ll remember to carry it with me when I leave tomorrow afternoon, after lunch and dessert. Ti hi hi hi hiiiii! Alafu sasa?

Then… Then you said that your sisters were coming over, ati they just called out of the blue and si I had told you that they come over kimalamala like that, ama? Hmmm. Anyway, this was fun! I really like you, by the way. Si we chat later? “By the way”, like I was an afterthought. I had bought Durex Featherlite, because I know you like those, not those cheap Trust. Actually, I don’t know what you like, but Mike, remember Mike, ule kadinya boyz wangu? told me you can’t go wrong with Durex, dame tu anaona uko na class, yaani wewe ni ule msee hananga jokes. I was going to make sure you saw the packaging. And see the package, mtu wangu! Now what am I going to do with these na vile nimekaa kabla sijaget some? And I only had a samosa and a juice while you had the beef fillet with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Pesa yangu ya wiki nusu ilienda na bado nilikuwa njaa ajabu. Alafu sasa?

I walked you to the gate to your estate and you said I couldn’t come in, huyu watchie anakuwanga fala sana. I didn’t see a watchie. Wacha niseme bye hapa. I’m kinda shy about introducing my friends to my family. Aki they’ll ask too many questions, wah! I had been looking forward to meeting your people. You almost never mention them kwani you don’t like them? He he, nervous laughter. You have met a couple of mine. Surely, they can’t be all that bad. No, I’m not ready, but one day at a time, ama? Wee, wacha niishie. I couldn’t even feel your boobs when we hugged na vile nilikuwa nimejifinya kwako. Ni mifupa tu, collar bones, nilifeel, vile uli lean back. You smelled nice, by the way. I watched you walk away, not once turning back, buried in your phone, sashaying away without a care in the world. It started to rain and I forgot to ask for my umbrella back, the one I lent you last week when you were going to pick your sister up from the airport. Alafu sasa?


 

Hello, Uncertainty


I feel like I have been waiting for something to happen, and it already has. What, I do not know. A weight seems to prickle at my conscience, like that of unknown or unknowing sins. An unsettling peace hangs lightly over me, steeped in a crackling silence, like the tension between a warring couple putting on smiles for the audience. I might know why: the trepidation of newness, that feeling that comes from venturing the first few steps and not being able to ever turn back. You are already committed to crossing the gap between what you are and what you could be, mayhap even, should be. Thoughts bubble, and doubts and decisions  leave me feeling itchy and restless, as if I am shedding this skin, these parts of myself, the chubby sheltered comfortable parts, and stretching into a sweet aloneness. Invigorating. I feel fidgety with the energies of blossom, heavy with expectations of what it is to chart my own path, a different path from the one I have been on. However, you may argue, I have always been on this road, and so have you, on your own road, and now I find myself at the bend in it from where I can look back and barely see where I was. Hello, Uncertainty.