Mysteries and the Sweep of Life

There are days you wake up and on your way to work you have this wild craving to bump yourself into the people coming your way. You feel pugilistic and when you try to think, you can’t get a reason for picking today’s wars other than just the fact you want war.  You want to knock them down. Every time a godforsaken soul approaches, you steady your shoulder and erect your muscles for offence. And when they pass at a distance you feel very bad and promise to lure the next patient well into your war trap. And when you reach your workplace you feel you should pick a quarrel with your boss or colleague or any object near.

There are other days you want to do something you don’t know. You are there, feeling a great emptiness in yourself and you grace yourself and make calculations about it. Trouble is, you don’t know what you want to do. And when you tell yourfriends you are busy, they can’t seem to understand. They think the index of crazy Africans has gone up by one. You eventually become a misfit. An introvert.

Such is the tide of life.

I once lived in a household where the host was a friend. He hosted me. And when another friend came, he hosted us. But the dance was not there. He had a wife. A girlfriend actually. She happened to be pregnant only too soon and when the parents became too worded, she decided to move in. So we were the four of us. Five if you count well. That was the time I learnt that five human beings can together find refuge under the roof of a single 8 by 8. Our stay was spiced up by the world of member number four.

Mademoiselle began her pregnancy by craving for the obvious things. My host soon had a fridge full of mangoes and grapes. We exchanged understanding looks and helped peel the fruits sometimes. Mademoiselle soon threw herself on colour and we helped our friend buy purple and pink robes to pimp the walls. She smiled and beamed satisfaction. Then it took her to spitting whenever she saw short people. All the men in the household were barely five feet. So instead of staying away from the house we valued, I personally bought her a bucket with soil so she could spit and shit if she wanted.

When Tim was six months inside that belly, Mama Tim developed a craving for the smell of bedbugs. Whenever a bedbug was caught in the house, it had to be kept and waitto be burst when madam was around. That was the only time short people were appreciated in the household. We would trap bedbugs and hand over our catch to the madam for approval. We made it look like a game but there we were, hunting the animals day and night. You know how bedbugs are hard to catch? I would have three or four of them trapped in a plastic cup I hid under the bed. Then the habitat depleted itself of bedbugs just when her demand was blossoming.

That is the time fortune came my way and I moved out to begin a new life as a teacher. But I kept on thinking of the desperate men that I left behind. His Shortness the Host and His Shortness the Guest. I kept dreaming that they had started a Sacco to buy Nairobi’s Eastlands bedbugs on wholesale. Or that they had decided to get a brooder. Many are the sleepless nights I spent trying to mind their agony. I spent nights thinking how a small homo sapiens (insert caps) inside of the madam could put the entire household under siege. It disturbed me.

Last weekend I called.

“You are lost too much Mama Tim. How’s the young chap?”

“Oh Tim is hell here. He now standsagainst objects and even talks fluently. Imagine of all the young kidsin the hood he is the only one talking!”

“He has grown that fast? Take care he will start disturbing other girls and you will be arrested.”

“This child I don’t know what I will do. You should see him use a phone. Imagine! And he dialled an unknown number last weekend, just leave.”

Then I listened to the words every mother has about her child this and her child that. And when it was over:

“By the way Mama Kim, do you still eat bedbugs? A friend here was selling a sofa with an entire colony of them and I thought you could want it. They are immunised….” I only realised the other end was dead the time her laughter stopped echoing. And I know the person who will not make me tea the next time I visit.

There are stories that can only be understood by the individual living them. No matter how queer, they must be narrated because even that mainstream narrative was once a scaring ridiculous thing. There are people who have more serious stories than the Kims.

mysteries
mysteries

Last year I wrote a story about a guy in prison. It was based on a true life experience. Because I was submitting it for some literary contest, I was forced to cross here and there, and add some smoke where the sun was too naked. But I have thought and thought about it and agreed it is only the central persona in it that can tell the tale well.

Let’s meet Isa. Not his real name. He is a second year at a public university. Call it Kesses University. Because he scored an A in high school, and because he is a youth leader when they go for worship, parents of Ana, another fake name, decide to approach him to help Anna pass her exams too. So in his long holidays he becomes her tutor in the evenings when she comes from school. One thing leads to the other and Ana discovers not all lessons can be taught under her father’s roof. Isa has a house.

Then one day she stops breathing. Okay, nobody knows if she stops. Nobody knows what happens. But there is on one end a happy and healthy Ana going for extra-curricular classes, and, on the other end, Ana’s shallow grave at a dust heap in Isa’s home. In that grave lie Ana’s parts in small bags. In one bag are ears and the tongue. In another are the legs and intestines. But what happens between the two points is a mystery, and Isa now stands in court before national cameras. Then he begins life at Kamiti Maximum. 40 years, and only a day with the shining sun is counted.

Isa wakes up every morning with the haze still in his eye. Every dream he had has been shattered. He will not raise that family he always fantasised. He will not come home to the warmth of house games with the kids. He will not drive back at the end of every year with new dresses for the old lady and old man at home. Isa will spend 40 years here and when he comes out, the sun will be rising in the west and setting in the south.

But Isa has a story. His story. He has something for what happened between that evening when Ana left her home to the time the armed cops wielded their weapons at angry villagers as the remains of Ana were exhumed. We will never know what happened and why. Not even Isa, if he had a hand, might know.

There are many stories we cannot explain. Mysteries. Like what we do when we are doing nothing. Like how shecould crave for fresh bedbugs and loathe short men. Or like why I feel like knocking my shoulders in the chests of approaching people so that they fall down and I find gratification.

Life sweeps without explanation.

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No Story Today

In the morning you are still sleepy. But it’s 49 minutes to 8. The fuckin power is back and since you don’t go to work any longer, you decide to sit in front of the screen and give it one more try. You close your eyes and shut down rationality. You let the hands strike the keys and pour out the flow in your mind. Your eyes are still shut but you trust that whatever your fingers are doing will not let you down. You harass the keys proper. Then when you are through, you paste the text on your ‘Posts’ page. You give it a title you think little about. Then you punch ‘Publish’. You check your watch; it is 7:56 a.m. Some four minutes to pleasure. You even resist the urge to go through and edit the post.

As an amateur blogger, sometimes you go out there and find no story for your blog. You try to engage your muses, even for a miracle; your muses laugh at you. It thus pains you that the reader will today have no shit to bother them. It pains that today your reader will enjoy the cheapness of life and at the end go unpunished. This cannot be allowed. You therefore think of a way in. You think of a fake story.

You are now faking a twelfth story today. You are travelling aboard KQ510 and you are in the yellow rain clouds, which means that you guys are sailing. The yellow has covered your plane that you can’t see outside. It has also fissured into your plane. You curse that you can no longer see the Italian blonde that was on the adjacent seat. So you write about the clouds smelling like the smoke at Grandma’s. But a problem arises. You have never travelled by air and perhaps the clouds bit is the only thing you know about planes. Your story won’t be bought by a toddler and you throw it away.

Then you think, why don’t I write about Diego Maradona? Good idea. Google gives enough of his information. But you want to look like you were in Santiago interviewing him and you are so far doing good. You have asked very tough questions, most of which he couldn’t score home. Your mind goes dry and you cannot any longer imagine anything interesting. The interview therefore hits a rock 376 miles into the sea of words.

But your lazy reader must be tormented by millions of words, not just three hundred. They must know you can write. You conjure something about the Argentines sending a spy into the Samba camp. Here you need some solid facts.

Alejandro will feign Samba nationality and pick the name Flavio. So Flavio is an established doctor living in Ireland but whose native home is Sao Paulo. He’s back home on holiday and would like to watch the boys’ training session and hand over some motivation. He has one million shillings for them. He has a video camera hanging from his neck. Day one he talks to the coach and gives his promise. Day two he calls aside Faustino, the captain, and tells him about his errors on the pitch. Captain laments over delayed allowances. Doc Flavio vows to bring something for the team on 22/06/1999, which is the following day. Shit, this story sounds Kenyan!

You have even forgotten the name of the coach and you are telling Captain Fantastic that the AU is soon deploying you to Sierra Leone to fight Ebola. You have already cursed Uncle Sam thrice for inventing Ebola. You also curse your story and tell yourself that the reader can as well go to hell.

You look at your watch. Seventeen minutes of God past midnight. You imagine night-runners showing their shrivelled nudity to the darkness somewhere around Lake Victoria. You and them have something in common: you are both awake and at work. The only difference is that they are happy while you are a frustrated mass of a loser in the city. Don’t even pinch yourself – it won’t help.

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Somehow, you admire the story about night-runners. You imagine Oroya being their ringleader and commander. You ponder over this story for so long that you almost start writing it. Almost, until another more appealing idea comes.

It is one, midnight, right? Grandpa used to tell me stories of ghosts from the coast. Why don’t I terrorise the lazy reader with one?

The big ghost walks in the heart of the night, eating the intestines of everyone awake (you change it to ‘everyone asleep’). Everyone Almost everyone is scared. You open a new window and start hitting the keyboard. “He ate raw blood and human intestines, roamed the night and walked without noise. Every rainy night, his diet was thirty three intestines of teenage girls and two pots of blood from old men who still combed their beards….”

The lights go off.

Fwakni! You had not saved the work. And fwakni, the ghosts! You immediately become scared in the dark, wondering whether your beard is combed. The house is scaring silent! You curse the power company. You curse the rain. You curse your neighbours for being asleep when important literary issues are being addressed. You curse the ass of your reader and swear you will revenge. And that’s how sleep finds you.

In the morning you are still sleepy. But it’s 49 minutes to 8. The fuckin power is back and since you don’t go to work any longer, you decide to sit in front of the screen and give it one more try. You close your eyes and shut down rationality. You let the hands strike the keys and pour out the flow in your mind. Your eyes are still shut but you trust that whatever your fingers are doing will not let you down. You harass the keys proper. Then when you are through, you paste the text on your ‘Posts’ page. You give it a title you think little about. Then you punch ‘Publish’. You check your watch; it is 7:56 a.m. Some four minutes to pleasure. You even resist the urge to go through and edit the post.

And as you go back to sleep, you pray that your reader is still alive, and that they find the work very terrible and very tormenting. And you start thinking of another story, perhaps about the eternal punishment to those who do nonsense on the web.