Body Count


Hesitantly she ventured,

How many women have you slept with, how many have you had?

Yaani, what is my body count, you mean?

Yes.

Pretending to think and count, then

Hmmm. I’m not telling you. Or, let me say, X. Well, now X plus one.

We were lying in bed, our entwined bodies hot and sticky, in the suffocating stuffiness of a room slept in for too long, way after the sun had risen and had been baking everything for hours. She asks a lot of questions, her curiosity comes off her in waves, in engulfing waves, like her baby-lotion-ish fragrance mixed with sweat and coconut oil. I smiled. I felt warm inside. I enjoyed the sensation of being unravelled, of someone trying to understand me and get beneath the layers of bravado and smugness and whatever else façade I was wearing then.

Body count. It sounds a bit genocidal, intimating murder and mass killings, something a mad despot would say, or a serial killer. Admittedly, it rolls out of the mouth delectably. Body count. I find the term amusing, as if a man’s worth is measured by how women he has… Conquered? Subdued? Seduced? Alas, yes. A considerably important metric for measuring manliness is the number of sexual conquests partners. Another name for the boys’ rooms when I was in university was ‘kichinjio‘ (slaughter house). Well, some boys’ rooms anyway, and no, not mine. I am somewhat shy around women. I have never been… That Guy.

That said, however, the pursuit of woman has always been and is still seen as a right of passage, a ritual that is carried out to cement one’s place among the brethren. Underneath the “success”, I always ask the lingering question, “Am I one of you now? Am I man?” This is a question I have always had difficulty answering. It seems like every other measure of how well one is doing: no matter how hot you think you are, there will always be someone hotter, and thus the importance of having your own conception of what it means to be successful. Although, having said that, getting some every so often does most definitely not hurt 😉


 

 

Tiny Win


I was relieved when she said she would not be showing up. I had hoped she would not. My invitation was perfunctory, a flailing clumsy grasp at a reality that I am believing with each passing day will never materialize. We will remain here, in this comfortable thoroughly explored space. We will remain good friends. Nothing more. I am constantly aching for her, yet numb with the knowledge that she might never want me back the same way. I glanced to my right as I listened to her tell me on the phone that she would not make it and saw on my opened notebook, in a blocky all-caps handwriting HAVE ONE TINY WIN EVERYDAY! I thought smugly that was my win for the day, to be alone instead of with someone whose affection I felt I was begging for.

It cannot be my fault that we are here. Or, is it?

I am not above pettiness, and this was clearer in that moment after the phone call when I felt light and gay at the prospect of further justifying my laziness as far as our relationship was concerned. My elation did not last long. I came back down, to admitting that maybe I did not deserve whatever it is I wanted. I have been feeling unreasonably entitled. When I look into myself, past those dark corners that I am scared of, those spaces where I sometimes drown, I can see that I am not as upstanding a man as I often think, and this constant realization prickles at my conscience, scratching on my facade of righteousness loudly and peeling it until I am left naked. The whispers of my past sins whip coldly against my skin and the promise of more hurt to come from me glimmers on the horizon.

I have been here before.

And I still keep coming back, to this place where I lie back and cloak my unwillingness to open myself up as “not being ready”, “I have my career to focus on” and “all these books are waiting for me! to read them”. You see then I do not have to do much. Hey, si I told you I am not down like that? Nothing becomes my fault, except when I do get what I want and then, yes, it was all my hard work. Mi ndio ule msee niko na game! It is all too easy to forget that you can also be vapidly selfish and arrogant, and that you can get away with it too. For a spell. But with things like this, where you are forced to confront your own shortcomings and to be constantly aware of them, you cannot run for long or run far enough. Maybe the kind of win I need is to, as an old flame once put it, get my head out of my arse, and even when doing that, recognize that it is seldom about me.


 

Later Nights – Thoughts from a Sleepless Mind (3)


I: You don’t like me. You just wanted to get close to my friend. You want my friend.

M: I like you. I can have any woman I want and if I wanted your friend I would have had her.

If ever there was total bollocks. The sheer sakara, as Wole Soyinka once put it. Bravado, no ice. I could not stand being exposed for the liar and hypocrite I was and I was going to eel my way out of that apt accusation in any way I could. Not long after, I would fade away, cowardly, from her life. She was right. I do not know why I did not just admit it from the beginning. Maybe things would have been different. In some ways, I still find myself persisting in charades like that, adrift on the turbulence, riding crest after crest of heartache, surfing expertly, never once wiping out.

Do you know that sensation, where you look forward to being hurt the same way you have hurt others, where you feel that there are debts you have not paid? I sense that I owe karma somehow. Maybe then, after the dance where I am the one left with bleeding feet, I will shake off the guilt of my sins, the presentiment that my comeuppance is overdue, ever skulking around a near corner, sharpening the knife with which to bleed me with and remind me that whatever my thoughts, I am still just human.


Later Nights – Thoughts from a Sleepless Mind (2)


Beneath all the rationalizing and snappy explanations to myself, there is a quiet laughter. It might be my conscience clearing its throat before whispering to cut me down again, before bringing me back to earth from my lofty fantasies. I feel my pulse quickening when those parts I keep hidden uncoil themselves to bask in the glow of an impending truth, one made sharper by the fact that it may never happen.

I would not be this obsessed with her if I had already fucked her. I would not be this angry with myself, and secretly, silently, with her, if she had cut me off after we had spent a few days and nights with our lips and our bodies glued together.

All that she is and all that she could be and all I ever seem to think about is feeling her hot breath on my neck and smelling her feralness, or rather what I imagine it would be, were we to end up a beautiful naked tangled mess, me tracing her tattoos gently as we lay exhausted in each other’s embrace, her looking up at me, unbelieving that what just happened happened. If it is not that, my mind wanders still: bumping into her in some restaurant in town or a night joint, her seeing me and all the prior feelings, again my imagination, coming back to almost choke her and thrust her back to me, or some such scene.

“One step closer is still miles away.” – MNEK

When she finally shook herself and reciprocated my attempts at a hello, I saw all the possibilities I had abandoned resurrected. Later, when I sobered up, when cold clean cutting reason swam to the shores of my mind, it felt more like shovel-fulls were dug out from an already covered grave and then put back and compacted to better seal in the dead. I can still almost smell her and feel the softness of her hands. I was joking with a friend recently, how in every relationship there is a dog and a cat: the loyal, affectionate and loving one, and the aloof, often unfeeling and entitled one. I have mostly been the cat, and now in this situation….. Woof woof. Honestly, I enjoy it, this melancholy and longing. It reminds me that I can still feel something. Anything.

I know this fixation on her is unhealthy, but it is a wound I do not seem to know how to leave be and let heal. I am constantly scratching at it, reveling in the sweet blue pain, lifting the scab to see the pulsing redness and to feel the sting of loss coloured with guilt and regret, tearing away the new skin to grasp at a daydream I have never admitted to anyone of having – the one where the love that could have been but was lost returns. At least I have pretty, and often not so pretty, words with which to milk myself dry of these poisons, to cauterize and harden what my nails find irresistible. Words with which to heal by numbing and killing and then justifying myself. All over again.