After a break up, there is always that time you break down. You first try to pose as if nothing is wrong. You will post photos of you and your colony hanging out there. And these photos will always have a smile indicating that you are doing well and the break-up was all you needed to find your happiness. Indeed you will find happiness. For some time. Then nostalgia will start dropping its shells. And you will pull yourself together and convince yourself that nothing is wrong. And you will nurse this lie until it rots and starts smelling from within. Then you will buy everything for cover-up. But then the tide will increase and the wave will quake itself to a disturbed sea. Then you will say the first and third-class aboard your Titanic can mingle. Then you will break down to pieces.
When you break down, you will cling to anything near. You will try to stalk her but every time you will find her happier in your absence. And that will plant more pain in you. Why do they always smile? Bitches.
But you will still be three million pieces.
You will remain a shell. Happiness will maintain its radius like it were a good mathematician. And fwack you happiness. We all know you can’t add one and six to give yourself seven. So fwack yourself again.
Ai papa, you are so down today.
Yeah. You are always on point.
So what is cooking?
There is nothing cooking. I slept hungry yesterday because there was nothing to cook. And there was nobody to cook that which was not there.
I mean, what is up Papa? What’s making you look like death?
I’m smart, you mean?
You’re lamasabakhthani, I mean.
You are my person. No insults.
What is eating you?
My love. Miles away in the baking of the sun.
Papa I didn’t know you had a love side of you. How’s she?
Hot. Always very hot….
And how comes you….
Hey. There are children reading your mind. Mend your speech a little.
Moron! It’s you who must review your character. You jump into conclusions quickly.
I’ll let that pass. Is there anything we could do? Like buy her a fridge and an umbrella and a walking AC? There must be something we can do to un-sun a hot lover.
The something you can do is get an overhaul of your manners. And know I am not your age mate.
It’s been a bumpy road up there. Then the Arab lady comes to say something I don’t understand and I see people fasten their belts. She could have just said I’m coming to pee on you and you need to be stable because my pee is hard. The dark guy next to me gestures something and I think he means I should buckle up. Then the brown down the window begins to solidify and figures begin to take shape. The bird touches down. The Blackman gets freedom.
But when I get out, this is not freedom. The Khartoum International Airport is ablaze. Actually that is what I first think alighting. From the cool intestines of the bird I meet an unfriendly breeze dried and roasted by the gods of the Sahara. I look around to see if there is any smoke; if there are fire fighters; if there is a direction people are rushing in; I look. The guys are at peace. A man in a big jalabiya is waving us to follow him to the escalator path that will deliver us at the Arrivals. He looks charmed and even tries to say something to me in Arabic.
I contemplate rushing back to the plane. I don’t know if planes have number plates but sure I can trace it among the several Marsland birds. But the hostess might as well be there waiting to pee on us a hard pee. I contemplate breaking down and crying. Or feigning possession by spirits. By the way can’t I just start shouting in that soprano we used to do in the school choir and when I’m asked I’ll say the spirits can only be quelled at my grandmother’s grave? These Arabs with their blazing airports must still believe in ghosts.
On a rational plate, however, everything I think will only be foolishness. I have left the kingdom miles and miles away in those silent horizons. And who knows, these people who never feel the heat in an airport might even be eating visitors who cry. Especially that man with a jalabiya didn’t look very omnivorous.
So I am on my own. Me versus the burning sun. Me versus the men in jalabiya. Me versus this world of a spotless sky. Me versus all the carnivores of the Sahara. I am alone.
I am officially in Sudan.
In the Arrivals Lounge, I sit coiled in a chair. I admire the people being received. One girl actually faints at the sight of her father. I admire the scene and hope that my reception will be much better. Then it occurs to me that nobody is coming to pick me. Nobody even knows I am in Sudan today. The guys at home know I am still eating matoke in Kampala or roast cassava in Gulu or Nimule or Juba and coming by bus so I could save change. They don’t know that it rains in September in the south of Sudan so that the only means of transport is the Nile and a Marsland craft that operates between the bushy Juba Airport and a sandy Khartoum. So when it downs on me that I am only waiting for myself, I spring up. I must find the way to that university. If possible I should walk to further save change. But the heat!
Just in case you will be going to Sudan, the Sudanese men know everything. They know every hotel and every street. Especially those who know nothing. They know the president of Uganda and the next place war will erupt. They know every fruit, its seeds and why the seeds are ugly. They know all roads and avenues in the world. When you get lost, they will be there to sympathise with you and give you directions.
As a rule, no Sudanese doesn’t know. Two, they are always willing to help in their ignorance. Tale has it that one day a Tanzanian guy wanted to do some urgent stuff in a cyber cafe but couldn’t locate one. So in broken English he asks someone on the street.
Mr Sheikh Good Samaritan first sympathises with Mwinyi Hamisi and apologises on behalf of Albashir and the Arab League. Then he calls another guy to come help our poor Tanzanian. The other guy takes half an hour of life but he arrives altogether, smiling and adjusting his turban. And ready to help. This boring story ends three hours later. At a football stadium. The jalabiya man even pays the ticket for the Tanzanian and talks to the security guys to help him because he is a foreigner.
Back to the airport and Sudanese hospitality.
I meet guys leaning on their dusty cars and posing as if there is no sun in this story. One of them tells me “something-in-Arabic taxi”. Marhaban or else. Even if I weren’t going anywhere I’d still jump into their cab to ask for cold water and tell them I come from a cool kingdom and my neighbour has a new bicycle. So I try to talk to him and he calls the rest. Like they want to form a commission of listening to foreigners. When they don’t get what I’m saying – I don’t even remember what I told them – I open my case and hand them my university admission letter. If the university is known in Kenya, they should fwackin know it very well here. So they look at it for some minutes, turning the paper upside down and calling a random Sudanese into their discussion. I let myself become their mystery and for some celebrity moment the sun doesn’t look too lethal. I’m happy when I see them laugh at last and return the paper to me. Then one of them rolls his jalabiya and gives a gesture that I follow him to his cab.
That day I got lost twice. This guy took me to a hotel 40 minutes from the CBD and he didn’t say malesh. A second guy took my dollars and drove me to the immigration offices near the UN. When I complained and he couldn’t understand, he handed me back the dollars, prayed with me (to get my destination I guess) and drove off saying that inshaallah word. When the third taxi got me seated, I never trusted the guy until he parked at the gate of The International University of Africa.
There are people who get broke in Nairobi and say life is hard. Shame on you. If you don’t know what hard life is, read this rag frequently. Or get me a girlfriend who knows how to cook green pizza and I’ll volunteer to give you evening lessons on what hard life is. As an advance lesson, let it be stated here that anyone who can live in Khartoum for one day can live in hell a whole year without complaining. Ho! Sudan is rough.
Sometimes it burns till you get angry with the sun. Sun and brown sand. And thirst. And cracking feet. By the way if a person comes to you one day and announces he is from Sudan, a litmus test won’t do. Just tell them to show you their heels.
I miss missing ugali. It was always a wonderful idea finding yourself sentimental about something so commonplace back home. Made you feel different. Difference was power. We would sneak into the room of any freshman and ask if he had come with enough bales of flour and he would take us for spirits. When we got ugali, we prayed so hard and gave burnt offerings of fish and more fish. Those were the determining moments of spirituality because anyone who did not thank God here was a hardcore pagan.
Our ugali affair was like a game and so we knew our team. I played number 9 and never on the flanks. If we were to meet Barcelona today I’d mess Messi so bad. Word. And come to think of it, how can such a big country, with men in jumbo turbans and crocodile skin shoes, fail to have maize flour and posho mills on the streets of Arabi? What do they eat, you may ask. Rice, I’ll tell you. Do they wear pampers, you may again ask. They claim they don’t, I’ll answer you. Imagine even their president eats just rice and sleeps till morning. As if rice is not for city children and women on oxygen.
I talked to two women all my stay there. One was a supermarket attendant whom I asked where I could get Nancy Agram CDs and she pointed to a shelf. The other was that hostess with hard piss. Otherwise Al Bashir had dug a giant trench between us and women. I must have told you about Muzawwar. Remember that Comoro friend who used to wait for a girl to use a cup on the street before he used it, putting his lips where she had done hers? You can’t laugh if you ever were a captive of that life of minarets and mosques and muezzins.
The muezzins! Despite the heat Khartoum has the best muezzins in history. Always outdid each other at 4 a.m when a Majdhoub guy would come waking us up. There was always the first crier, and the rest would pick it up. Each had a different tune, and these tunes married each other so well to soothe the barren sky. I think the angels heard us. Only it did not rain. And so our feet continued to crack.
I stayed at Markaz and built dunes there. Eventually I came to accept my destiny with Khartoum and we became intimate. When I hungered she fed me esh and adas and fuwl. When I thirsted she gave me water to drink. When I sweated she baked me even more.
I now sit on the balcony and see planes land at Embakasi. Masses. Some of them are Sudanese. The planes always take me to that brown baking I once disliked. They land and fly with the images of karkade. The cockpits piercing into the clouds are mementos that re-live the colour of their destination. Each day I dream jalabiya and balad mujamalah. I say I will come. Like a forgotten lover I’ll come, deep in the secrets of the nights. The memories have since turned intimate I must go back just for the feel. I want to go back and experience the thirst.
Markaz. Mayu. Arabi. Omdurman. Lovely Omdurman….
I miss you Sudan.
You are old now. You need to settle down.