You know you are growing up when…

Last weekend…

You start comparing medications.

Individual members of our family, I included, have allergies – to dust, smoke, pollen, some fragrances and a host of other inhalable particles we cannot quite pin down. The havoc wreaked on our noses, throats, ears and eyes is unlike most discomforts I have ever endured. The flare-ups always come at the best times: when we are at a party, on a night out, in church, or during the weekly company meeting.

I go for a tiny mchele-like tablet called Zyncet. It works, as the saying goes, like magic. The relief is near instant, lasting for up to a week, with no visible adverse side-effects. Unlike Celestamine, there is no drowsiness and lethargy, and you can pretty much go on with your day unhindered. I recommended it to my cousins last weekend. One took me up on it yesterday. I always have a couple of tablets handy.

Mara Moja is the best painkiller for hangovers. It works so remarkably well; it is suspected to cure the pain of broken hearts. At least that is what was implied about its efficacy. Panadol is mostly a dud. You buy the name, not because it works better.

You no longer feel left out when spending a weekend indoors.

There we were, cousins and an aunt, indoors having lunch and catching up and it came up: how going out is becoming something of a moral decision more and more with each passing year. There are so many things to consider – how you are getting to the joint and back, what you have planned for the following day (or, more accurately, the next week), will there be food, and so on.

Notice in all these no mention is made of money: how much the drinks cost at a particular spot, how the cars will be fuelled, what accommodation will set you back. Rarely does money come into these negotiations. You are arguing with your mind and your body whether going out is a good idea, not with your bank account.

Barely a year ago I would have been the one asking “Turn-up wapi leo?!” Nowadays I grudgingly suggest it, a bit too meek to keep quiet or admit that I would rather sleep or watch a series or a movie. I always hope someone will say no (someone always says no) so that it will look like I tried. I am still unconsciously living up to an expectation set up for me a long time ago: The Wild One. That is a story for another occasion.

Then again, barely a year ago I had no money for said turn-up, and now that I somewhat can afford to go out, it no longer seems important or even necessary. I am thinking of getting a better phone or nice-smelling cologne, something just for me (after I get my place, of course). Or, I could get my Mum and sisters some cute bags, or Papa a few packs of Heineken, maybe save up and see the world.

A better class of problems indeed. Isn’t growing up lovely?


Over Her

Ain’t no Frank Ocean playing in my head.

It was in when I thought of someone with whom I wanted to have a solitary coffee, someone I could be alone with and together with at the same time and did not remember her. It was in my forgetting about her when we officially opened our new office. I thought of her on the last day, when I had exhausted my allotted invites.

It is how I do not mind the silence from her, how I do not reach for her anymore from across the void that sprung up between us, the emptiness that I refused to acknowledge that now tastes like honeyed freedom. It is how on those increasingly rare lonely weekends spent reaching for comfort at the bottom of a bottle, I send her saccharine text messages and feel nothing as the days stretch out before me without hearing from her.

It is in my lack of guilt at not returning her very rare phone calls, how even when she is near me I no longer experience the titillation of her laughter and her smile. It is how I gave her hair clip to my sister, one I slipped out of her hair one night long ago as we tried to relive the passion we had once shared, a hair clip that had become a way to hold on to her.

It is how I no longer worry about who she is with, no longer worry that she is not with me, not minding that we may never come close to what we had, that the chasm between us might grow wider. It is how I see my life without her, how all right it is, and how I am living in her absence and not feeling diminished. It is how I feel relief, not guilt, not sadness, in being aware of myself thinking all of this.

She has slipped through my fingers, I no longer clench, sand, not diamonds, now that my hands are open. I am over her.

There is nothing inherently wrong with him yet he gets on my nerves. I find myself being irritated in his presence and when he talks. I know why: I feel jealousy at his ability to be himself, to not care what people think of him, his unabashed sense of himself, how he talks, walks and acts confidently, oblivious to every one around him. He is energetic and he smiles and laughs easily, on a permanent high, and this freedom and his expression of it chokes me.

It is petty of me to feel this way. My thoughts are inadvertently validated when I hear one or two other people comment about him. I have not stopped myself from gleefully joining in the merciless lampooning gossip and I hate myself a little bit for how much joy I have gotten in making him the object of our derision.

We laugh, and however true what we say about him might be, it is not right to talk behind his back like that. He is a good guy, honest, caring and hard-working, things that shine through the boisterousness and the annoying hellos. And, despite his dazzlingly sunny disposition, humble. It is not his fault that we are too cowardly to always be ourselves.


Before News Cafe

Big Square

There we were, at the tipsy tipping point (if you got the reference, consider yourself part of the culturally elite), the one after which things could either go, either way, getting lucky or getting gone. Just beyond two beers for me, just beyond four glasses of wine for her. We started talking about our relationships. I had always been slightly jealous of hers with my college roommate. Theirs seemed ideal.

How had we come to this? I had started by first getting to know her (then) best friend when we were still in school, who we both found out had become awkward with both of us. We laughed about this. We reconnected after we graduated and found out we work quite near each other. How had we started talking about our relationships? I gave her a hint of mine and told her how I used to hear their intense fucking, separated as we were by a diaphanous wall (hence, roommates).

She smiled and then told me how she was never that into it, how she used to fake it all, how well she could act and put on a show. “Why?” I asked her. Because he had been pursuing her for three years and her friend told her to give it a shot. Or, more appropriately, let him give her a shot. She was in her final year of university so what did she have to lose? She acquiesced. She regretted it from the get-go, the fun times they shared an insignificant consolation.

How did you do it?“, I asked. She had her eyes closed the whole time, and when she closed her eyes, he could have been anyone. A sardonic smile paints her lips as she says this. There is no irony, no sarcasm. Just the cold hard truth. All this put quite the spanner in the works of my intentions with her.

So, what will be happening when you close your eyes when you are with me?” She smiled warmly and did not answer, instead sipping from her glass and retouching her lip gloss. And then it occurred to me: if there will be this, us, I may also be rendered nameless at the moment, obscured for an ugliness that only she can see. This thought terrified me. I did not want to be invisible, a fungible unit of what is supposedly a memorable interaction.

I wanted to sleep with her, had wanted to for a long time. The problem with wanting something almost obsessively is your mind builds up a certain feeling of entitlement and a fragile hope that, indeed, you fantasy will come to tangible fruition. I certainly found myself there. Throw alcohol and good music into that soup and you have quite the collage of emotions and actions.

She ended up saying no and I was oddly relieved. I gathered we would not be more than what we already are, good friends, which works for me just fine. It was an itch, which in hindsight, I can do without scratching. Sour grapes? Perhaps, but more, the cliché goes, that I was a dog (guffaw) chasing a car. I would not know what to do with it if I “caught it.” There is always a “Then what?” for me with these things that I have never been able to get a satisfactory answer.

The bigger issue there was that I was able to catch myself, and to a much larger degree, she was able to stop me, before I became a complete caricature. That long conversation cast an inviting glow on my habits and behaviours: how many things had I done without necessarily having had to do them? It reminded me of something I heard, where I do not remember: you are not missing much. I should dial myself back.

On Profile Pictures

For the longest time, I had a cartoon avatar on my social media profiles. On the few occasions, it was not a cartoon; it was a poorly taken photograph of an object that was significant to me at the time or my logo, one I badgered a cousin of mine to design for me. I revelled in the anonymity. I only talked with the people who had my number and knew who I was in real life.

Once about eight months ago, I put up a photo of myself on a whim, and I ended up making a new friend, whom I later hurt in a fit of childish misogynistic behaviour. I took it down later and went back to my hiding ways.

My Facebook profile only has my name and the company banner. I deleted my Twitter account and only recently came back to WhatsApp (for a job role that went to someone else, so it turns out I still do not need a smartphone).

Part of the reason for this was to hide from the consequences of what were spectacularly poor decisions. I was cowardly pre-empting the fallout. A bigger part was because I have never been comfortable in my skin and to assuage this feeling; I made sure as few people as possible knew me well and even fewer saw me.

If you cannot see me, then I cannot be ugly and for a long time, I felt ugly. I have been working through my self-esteem issues for about three years now. That, the low self-worth, could be the reason why I never applied myself in pretty much all my romantic encounters.

I did not feel deserving of affection and love and so, subconsciously and otherwise, I found ways to ruin those relationships. It would have been much simpler to admit that I was dealing with some problems and even ask for help, but we are all wiser in hindsight and by this time, it is almost always too late.

About two weeks ago I decided to update my avatars to a picture of myself! I was not expecting anything to happen, just the usual close friends making the token comment about it and the obligatory why. Instead, I: got contacted by people who had never taken any initiative to keep in touch, added to a group I had quit and numbers I lost years ago popped up. I was no longer invisible.

It was thrilling and daunting at the same time. One of the people who got back in touch wanted a favour, most of the others were just newly curious. Can a simple picture change that much, even significantly alter the dynamics of interaction?

Why now? It is time to stop hiding. I have done a lot of good things in the last six months. I have also behaved recklessly and done a lot of stupid things in that same time. I reiterate that acknowledging my crimes is not enough and even in admitting my awareness of them I realize I have a lot to do to make things better.

It feels like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, with the noisiest and quietest parts of my mind both urging me to jump, to dare to be seen and to reach out to the people I have hurt and the ones I have neglected. I feel glued to that same edge. One of an old friend’s favourite sayings is “Leap and the net will find you”. I have leaped, showing my face again, realizing that I cannot hide for any long span of time.

Might be I will go back to Twitter, although not in the capacities of days past. I will just link the account to my blog(s?) in a way to lazily drive traffic. It goes back to what I touched on: if I am unseen, I cannot be unsightly, just like my work. You cannot judge the invisible, another layer to the cocoon, protecting a butterfly with already good wings. But, small steps, small steps.