An art of seduction.

A good book belittles you. It makes you feel small, insignificant in front of a pen and paper, your only companion the ideas bouncing off in your head. Because when you read a good book, you realize you are no match for bigger, better writers. Look at Chimamanda. Or Ngugi wa Thion’go. They have a midas touch with words while you, well you just have a lot of words. This was something I got once from reading an article about writers block.

See, writing is a seductress. A toxic ex you just keep going back to. And I would assume the same for other forms of creativity but see, I’ve never made a pot in my life. Or made a world class painting Van Gogh style. Speaking of Van Gogh, I’ve been interested in his life a bit over the past few days. I guess a sadistic part of me is a bit interested in knowing about this tortured yet creative genius who cut of his ear and drank yellow paint. A suffering genius of art if you would.

But I digress. I meant to write about writing. Of the little reward it gives you. Of the sleepless nights of trying to form perfect sentenses and prose, filtering out words and adding others. Reading and rereading your work and finding it lacking. Of millions of drafts hidden from prying eyes and of constant self doubt. Of reading previous works only to cringe. Of seeing your writing voice change and not know what it is changing into. So many times I want to stop. Put an end to this and do something else. Like start a YouTube channel, or a TikTok account and dance my way to moolah and fame. Or lipsync. Or other things people do on the internet. But then in the spirit of an old flame I come back to words. I come back to trying to be a wordsmith, to write my first ten thousand and see if I can measure up.

You must be thinking, for how long does she plan on moaning about this writing thing? You either write or you don’t write. Serious writers don’t write about writing. They are doers not dreamers. So I’ll save you this stretched out torture.

And I’ll continue thinking about a good book. One that belittles you. One that makes you feel small and insignificant as you stand in awe of words written by people greater than you. People who feel like their minds are made of galaxies. But then in a small flicker of fighting spirit you take a pen and start this writing thing again. You take the plunge again not knowing if this time you will sink. Because you know it’s a part of you, and it will always call you back into it’s familiar arms.

Whodunit series 8

……It was a strange encounter to say the least. I have to admit however, that the strangest thing was how quickly I put the paper into my pocket. Maybe it was just plain old curiosity, or maybe something else was at play. Something beyond my own understanding……

Mama Chipo by now knew me by name. That was how loyal I had become. She stood under a small mabati shack that looked like it would fall at the slightest breeze. She was a heavy set woman with an easy smile but hard eyes. Eyes that turned harder every time you tried to bargain. Or defaulted paying. She wore a red lesso on her waist that she kept adjusting every two minutes. Her agile hands peeled the potatoes, dipped them in the hot oil and packed the chips in small khaki bags all in less than two minutes. And she did all this with a smile. I could imagine she had children at home that depended on her humble trade. So i tried my best and never defaulted paying my dues. Maybe that’s why she smiled every time she saw me approach her little shack.After buying my day’s oily meal, I all but ran to my tiny apartment, the whole time touching my pocket to make sure I did not drop the piece of paper. On the trail back to my house i couldn’t help but think about the woman. Why she gave me the piece of paper now safely folded in my jean’s pocket. And her strange words. Her expensive looking attire. I couldn’t help the green emotion that slowly swelled in my chest at the thought of the red dress. I on the other hand could be mistaken for homeless in ill fitting jeans and an old faded hoodie. I hoped i would not lose the note. jumping across streams of sewage that stank to high heavens. Some landlord was to blame for the messy water gushing onto the road and settling in potholes. But no one questions the guy who gives you a roof over your head. So we let it flood the already bad road. Children shouted in shrill innocent childlike joy as they threw balls around. The said balls whizzed dangerously past people’s heads but dodging these was an art. Kids from these streets never apologised for knocking off your teeth. They just stared at you blankly and walked away. But again that was exactly how everyone behaved in the city.

Street vendors littered the narrow pathway selling all manner of goods. It was the way of life here, seeing a man selling mtumba shoes next to a woman who cooked and served rice and beans to hungry customers. It was crowded. Tired people jostled for space everyone trying to get to their houses before the sun set. The sun itself as if knowing it was the measure of time, well, took it’s time. We were bathed by a golden evening glow that somehow brought calm to the chaos of the street. Women buying ingredients for their supper laughed loudly amongst themselves. Men walked stoically with hunched backs over the days hard labour. Or maybe over the tired cycle of their lives that never seemed to end. A cycle of hand to mouth. Money here was like water in a stream. It never settled in your pockets.

It had better places to be.

An occasional car would drive slowly by. The driver made sure they did not splash dirty water on people. That would be reason enough for a mob lynching. Because people here were angry and just the slightest poke would bring out their worst.

I finally could see the building i lived in. It was nothing to write home about, imemorable at best. The landlord had chosen to paint it a shocking purple that had peeled over the years leaving many white contrasting patches. It had four floors and i lived at the fourth. I had come to learn that this was a wise choice, living at lower floors left you at the mercy of the neighbours’ wet laundry dripping water over your own. Or of banana peels and plastic bottles thrown down in the middle of the night. A black gate served as the entrance. Every tenant got a key to access, it was the thing that drew a line between us and outsiders. But that did not mean we acted like a happy community living in harmony. It was not uncommon to hear skirmishes between neighbours throughout the day. Or insensitive neighbours that switched on their sound systems at midnight. An occasional drunk would knock at your door or at his door in the wee hours of the morning robbing you of your sleep. Or an angry husband would slap an errant wife and her screaming children his angry voice echoing in the walls of the building promising death. But here people minded their business. You could be dragged to the gate bloodied and briused and they would step over you.. it was the sort of apathy that ate into your soul, leaving you feeling lonely. It was the way of life however. No one questioned it.

I opened the gate slowly, you never knew what was behind it. It could be a child sitting there and the mere act of touching the little angel would earn you a tongue lashing and nasty looks. Today it was quiet, a no drama kind if evening. I might have been predicting too early but it was a peaceful evening. The darkness was creeping in and I had to tip toe up the stairs lest I hurry and trip. I finally got to my door and gave it a good noisy push, set my meal on the small kitchen counter top and sat on the couch. It creaked slowly under my weight as i made myself comfortable.

I rummaged my pockets for the note and took a quick look at it. It was now almost fully dark and somehow reading this strange note in the dark by myself gave me goose bumps. Or maybe it was the scare i got the previous evening. So i switched on the bulb, a small, dim, non~extravagant affair. Then i took a good look at the note.

It was folded neatly enough to fit on a child’s hand. The cursive however caught your eye, written in probably a sharp pointed blue pen. I expected a long explanation of the why’s and the what’s in the letter. Maybe a long speech. A letter from a long lost grandmother. My imagination could only run so wild and far reaching. I opened it slowly. My anxiously beating heart settled quickly in my chest then came crushing disappointment. And confusion. An address had been written hastily on the paper. Not even in cursive.

I thought back at the woman. And seethed. Maybe this was a travel company of sorts. One that chose their mode of advertising as beautiful women with strange words. And I had fallen for the ruse. Disappointed I ate hastily and retired to bed leaving the small bulb glowing all night.

Narcissism

I’m a very sentimental person. I’m the girl who’ll keep a piece of paper because someone special wrote on it. Probably even pass it down generations like family heirloom. Hidden in a small box made of expensive wood. As you can imagine i have a lot of odd things that i keep. So many that when I’m arranging my stuff i collect a pile of junk and wonder why they were in my bag. Then i remember…oh so and so gave it to me. And i return it in the same pocket i found it in. I therefore own a picture of my kid self, someone gave it to me and although in an old photo album i have better childhood photos, i keep this one. Back then when i was chubby with angelic eyes that had seen no harm. That photo was taken when i was about to sleep, so my eyes are half closed and my bottom lip is jutting out. And i think i was the type of baby who drooled in her sleep. But at least some things never change. I still obviously have the same disinterest in pictures. I would rather sleep. But memories amirite?

Anyway i digress. For me,just the other day could be any day, even today. So just the other day i attended a wedding. It was a simple event because the virus. A nice garden wedding under tents that bore the anger of the hot sun and a beautiful view of the nearby lake. In weddings, there is a certain strategic place that one sits, one where you see every reaction by the bride and the groom. Who cries first, who gets more excited at the mention of the cake….important stuff like that. And so i sat somewhere i had the bird’s eye view. But unfortunately every time a photo worthy moment happened, this lady in a white sundress stood blocking my sight and ever so conveniently left when the moment shared was over. I was mad, of course i was. So was every one else. In fact i was so mad i had to keep drifting my thoughts back to that sweet innocent childhood picture to stop me from screaming some obscenity at her. Actually i had to keep bringing that one photo to my head. Innocent and sweet, it held me back from doing something that would land me a night in the cell.She however, was oblivious to the outrage behind her, either that or she didn’t care, because she came directly in front of my aforementioned bird’s eye view every time. So much so that I’ll never know which one of the newly weds dozed off during the sermon.

So my angry violence~filled eyes follow this woman all day. I see her lying her way through the long line up to the buffet and gets served first. I see her push her way through the crowd of guests to the newly weds and take a couple of well angled selfies because she needs to have an exclusive photo with the new couple in town. The rest of us don’t. We could eat dirt for all she cared. How she treated her children who hovered around her bored and hungry, yet to her they were similar to the old tree that stood next to the bridal tent. She couldn’t care less. And of course when she finally betrayed her emotions and threw her phone in blind rage after staring at the likes accumulate under her picture. 50 likes apparently weren’t enough for a woman that beautiful, sumkissed and with amazing angles.

Every once in a while i see that small innocent photo staring at me from my desk and remember that woman. But in that same line of thought i renember an article i once read about how we are all narcissists at heart, it’s the level of narcissism that differs. Articles like that encourage introspection.

Ukona connections?

Hypothetically if I had a car, I would not play that particular song. What sort of music is that anyway. And does it have to be so loud?

Just normal thoughts I would have in a matatu on my way to God knows where. At that time I get this sudden burst of motivation to study hard so I can one day afford that V8 I just saw cruising by, tinted windows and smooth engine to boot. Or maybe I’m a Ford type of girl. Or a Mitsubishi because they look like they have powerful engines. I don’t know someone with a Mitsubishi however so I wouldn’t know.

And those are the evenings when I decide to study because I still want to believe that education is the key and the door to success. Those evenings I look for the long lost note book and a pen and sit down ready to grasp concepts. And while seated there I can already see my self as a rich successful woman making motivational speeches telling students to study because education pays.

We’ve all heard those scary stories however. Of people who graduated with high honours but have been tarmacking ever since they removed that graduation cap. Of all those people who keep saying hakuna kazi, tafuta plan B (There are no jobs out here, look for another plan). Of all those people who constantly remind us that there is no need to put our all into education, it doesn’t pay of anyway. And we want to so desperately call them naysayers but the likelihood of so many people lying to you are minimal. Apparently the door to the room of success shifted and the locks were changed. Now it’s connections. The probability of succeeding in this country depends on how many people you know, how many of your friends are in top offices. Otherwise you are doomed.

Maybe this is the reason so many of the youth in our country right now are not putting effort into much. Why waste the energy anyway if it all amounts to nothing? I can already see our parents shaking their heads at us seeing us as a lazy generation but maybe it’s the hopelessness of it all. Years in the education system that amount to nothing. For some, years in the job market that amount to penniless wallets. It makes you realize that for most part what our generation lacks is not the motivation to be successful but the hope of ever being successful.

Books

I was sitting staring at the wall as one does…or maybe as I do too many times….holding the book ‘Grief’ by Chimamanda. The first time I heard of Chimamanda was on YouTube. A night of insomnia that I chose to spend listening to Ted talks about every thing and nothing, because Ted talks make you feel intelligent. She was there talking about feminism in a calm voice that just seemed to enrapture her audience. And when I finally got to read one of her books, I was thrilled. She surpassed my expectations, talking about grief in a way I’ve never heard anyone talk about it. But don’t worry, I’m not here to ruin your day with stories of loss and pain. Also because I highly recommend the book. It makes one think a lot. Just go read it yourself.

Her book however reminded me of a conversation I had once with a bunch of friends. We shared this certain aversion to the things people say out of common courtesy, especially on days when we imagine people want to hear our heartfelt utterances. Like in a funeral. We say they are in a better place. People die, life moves on. We are guilty of not rethinking our words first. Not considering the effects of this words that we say because everyone says them.

It reminds me of those days when we or more accurately when I try to explain anxiety to someone. And they say..don’t worry, if you worry too much you’ll get old and wrinkly, you need to stop worrying, what is there to worry about?

And of course many more statements said of course in good faith but are not the things that give you as much comfort as we need. We all agreed that some times when we share our problems we don’t require utterances of common courtesy, just a listening ear.

So just like grief, a lot of things in this world, just like Chimamanda says in her book, are about language. We realize how language does not fully give justice to human experience, it’s limited. Of course I paraphrased because I don’t remember the exact statement she wrote.😂

July❤

To be honest, I had this week’s post planned. I had just recently learned about July being mental health awareness month and had to jump on the bandwagon. I planned to write about the strides we have made, making mental health a normal conversation. How depression among other mental health struggles was now not a reserve for the ‘ crazy’ in the society. How the mental health stigma has reduced in recent times. But I changed my mind.

Just recently I turned twenty, and to be honest ,I’ve been less scared. See, as a teenager I think I knew the drill. A lot of things I did were excused with an eye roll and an exaggerated sigh, ”teenagers, right?” I could get angry outbursts, be as irresponsible as I wanted but somehow my age made all these excusable. Maybe at first turning thirteen is confusing but a few years down the line, you actually realize how fun it is. You basically look like an adult, can pass for an adult but when times call for it, you could drift back to being a kid.

Maybe it’s all those ‘adulting’ skits I watch on YouTube (and laugh too much at the exaggerated suffering that adults supposedly go through) but somehow turning twenty and basically being stamped as a fully functioning adult is a bit scary. And I don’t think I’m scared about things like paying taxes or finding a nice job but maybe I feel like being an adult is a seal that you are pretty much alone now. You still have support from family but not as much as you did as your naive ten year old self. You just can’t call your parents in the middle of the night to help you make a decision. Remember how as kids we just wished for the freedom adults had? Well maybe some of us (read me😂) were not prepared for everything that came with being grown. It makes me wonder if I’m supposed to act a bit more mature now. Probably stop making all those out of context jokes I make that mostly are funny only to me. Maybe invest in suits now because I’ve outgrown jeans and t-shirts. Maybe even start a fully fledged business because apparently that’s what every twenty year old on instagram did.

But maybe I’m overreacting a bit. However, this is a milestone I hit and I’m surprised I haven’t had an existential crisis yet.

Whodunit series 7

……My pride would never allow for me to do such a thing. I would rather die than go back to the village. What would my peers say of me? At least now everyone thought I had a job in the city. They were just waiting for the day I’d show up in a big car. Or the very least, a rich husband. I was here to make sure the former happened….somehow.…..

Every one knows that feeling that you get when you are being watched. It is a feeling ever so present, like someone it searing through your skull with a mere gaze. The streets were crowded. Every one jostled, in a hurry to go wherever. If not careful, one’s shoulder could easily be dislocated. I could see our reflections on the smudged mirrored wall next to us. We all looked like wild animals, hostile, untrusting and ready for the next meal. It made sense though, we were animals, stuck in a concrete jungle. And no, this had nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

Then I spotted one thing that stood like a red dot in a sea of polka dots. One woman stood next to a wall on the other side of the street. She had this thing about her that pulled your eye. It must have been the red dress that hugged her figure so perfectly. Or that big black purse that she held close to her chest, more for style than for security and convenience. Maybe it was her perfectly coiffed braids on top of her head that framed her beautiful oval face. It was obvious, she sought attention, to be seen by everyone. And this she got. It was her eyes that stood out from all these, not for their beauty but for how focused there were on me. And for a whole minute I felt like prey in the sights of a predator. I shivered.

They say a smile is a lot more like a universal greeting. And so when she bared her pearly whites the sense of unease left me and for a reason as unexplainable as why we exist, I crossed the road and headed straight towards her. By the time I stood directly in front of her, her smile had grown wider, and somehow her eyes softer.

”Hi, I’m sorry for the staring, I must look like a creep, but you seem lost”

She had the voice of a salesperson, calming, engaging and one that somehow made you curious. Then it dawned on me that she said I seemed lost. Of course I looked lost, I was walking aimlessly albeit slower than everyone else seemed to walk. Heck, I’d crossed the road towards a stranger who had been staring at me. Had I walked right into a trap? I backtracked quickly away from her. But before I could make my escape, she handed me a folded piece of paper that seemed to magically appear on her hand. There was a cursive writing on its top fold.

”You will find your way”

When I looked up, I found her staring at me again. As if satisfied, she smiled and walked away, her heels making an interesting beat that faded as she disappeared into the throng.

It was a strange encounter to say the least. I have to admit however, that the strangest thing was how quickly I put the paper into my pocket. Maybe it was just plain old curiosity, or maybe something else was at play. Something beyond my own understanding.

Changes

Opinions change and that’s how we grow. And I can confidently say my opinions have changed. The growth thing…still trying to figure that out. Anyways a while back I wrote about eating disorders. Honestly I was mindblown mostly because I could not fathom how one gets a disease of to put it in African terms, ‘not eating’

See, I’m black. A Kenyan to be precise, and here most of us live to eat. You should see the hotels that pop up every so often, the street food that is sold at almost every corner you turn. And yes, they all have loyal customers stuffing their faces.

So I could have sworn eating disorders were a white man’s disease or to be more precise a white woman’s disease. Even after all the articles I combed through there was always one constant factor, it was the story of white women. Of course most triggers popped, like the need for control, body standards, childhood trauma, but it was all from a white woman’s perspective. But a while back, someone asked me about eating disorders in black people that made me insatiably curious.

And after a lot of interneting (you know that should be a word) , I found one too many stories of black people, especially women who had eating disorders. All of them ranging from restricting to purging types. Most of them though admitted that it was not something they could have opened up about because as you can imagine,anyone would have looked at them incredulously and mumbled their disbelief. This could be mostly because of differences in cultural body standards where here in Africa, people appreciate curves…thicker fuller women, whatever you want to call it. And so trying to understand that someone who fit into the cultural body standards could want to look like one of those Victoria Secret models and sometimes even slimmer can be something needing explaining.

This just makes me wonder if constantly changing body standards can be to blame for the rise of eating disorders or if it’s a combination of a lot of factors at play, eating the society from within.

Introvert musings

Why are you so quiet? You are so shy. Do you ever talk? Open up a bit. Don’t be too serious. Be yourself.

If you are anything like me, you’ve heard these statements so many times…including from your inner critic. But you aren’t shy or serious or closed off, at least not that much, you are just an introvert. And by the way, you are being yourself.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to give a long monologue on what an introvert is and everything else you could have Googled about introvert life. Just a realization on my own change of opinions on my personality over the years.

Admittedly, I hated the fact that I was quiet. I hated my natural inclination to avoid the spotlight, my love for sitting in a quiet corner alone and enjoy my thoughts that somehow always seemed more interesting than any conversation I ever listened to. I hoped it was a phase. Something I would grow out of and one day I would crack jokes on how quiet of a teen I was. In fact, I decided to speed up the process at one point, making daily goals to talk to at least one person, make as many friends…you get it. But try as I might, I always ended up exhausted, frustrated and an over thinking mess wondering why I didn’t have anything to say for most part of the conversation or why I zoned out within ten minutes of talking to one person.

Introversion, it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows. Unlike movie depictions, we don’t sit near windows on rainy days, drink hot chocolate and wear oversized sweaters. It’s a personality viewed mostly as snobbish, antisocial and most times arrogant. It doesn’t help that I’m a girl. Remember all those articles you’ve read on researches done on men and women? Women are more social they say, they talk double the times men do in a day. It’s common for a woman to talk your head off than a man. An article I once read put it better, ‘we are so used to grandpa going up the attic to read a book while grandma entertained the guests, but what would happen if roles were changed? Everyone would think of grandma as a crazy old woman, right?’ Well think of me as the crazy old woman then. I would rather stay indoors and read a book than get out there and meet up with people. I would rather write my thoughts than talk them. Socializing exhausts me so much I need a day or two to recharge.

Of late though, I decided to do some research on it. Call it my way of self acceptance. Just trying to understand some things much better. And no, reading that Bill Gates is an introvert did not make me feel any better. He’s a billionaire, I’m just a student. In all honesty what made me feel better about it, was the realization that there are so many introverts in the world, who go through the same social exhaustion, judgment, criticism that I do. So yeah, I am one of those people who finds relief in solidarity.

Whodunit series 6

…..Actually, that thought kept popping in my head like an unwanted advert. By morning, I was shocked I had not driven myself to madness. But when the first ray of sunlight snuck through my curtains,a sudden baby like sleep overtook me. I guess it was safe to say that I was afraid of the dark.……

During my campus days, my biggest fear was getting in the wrong side of the law. I had heard stories of campus students who had gotten in trouble and had been consequently expelled.Knowing the expectations the people I had left at home had of me, that was one thing I crossed all fingers to never happen to me. The last thing I ever wanted to see was my father’s aged face crinkled in disappointment and my mother hunched in shame as neighbours pointed fingers at their daughter. I knew they would take it personally.

”Na venye amesoma alafu anaenda kuharibikia campus’!’

(”She has a lot of education but see, she gets indisciplined in campus!”)

Or at least that was how I imagined they would say in their little groups sipping their milk_deficient tea. Ha! Nosy neighbours they were.

In my final year, there was a raid in the hostel room I resided and the administration discovered couple of rolls of weed. I, despite the knowledge that I had bought them only a few days ago, denied vehemently to high heavens that I had known of their existence.

I’m ashamed to admit it but one of the things I was known for was my lying skills. I had somehow lied my way past a lot of things and had confidence in this one ability.Despite this, I spent a week behind bars, until I luckily got a friend to bail me out. I somehow had survived my biggest fear with my parents being none the wiser.

That was the dream I kept having. Only that this time, instead of the cell I was bailed out of, I was thrown into an endless black hole. I did not wake up in a cold sweat, no.I slept through the nightmare, slept even when I felt the sensation that I was forever falling, slept even when I felt the fear I had felt in the presence of the dark morbidity that somehow had appeared in my dream. After all they say dreams are the product of our unconscious thoughts including our fears.

I woke up hours later, the sun high up in the sky. My ancestors had to be turning in their graves at my show of laziness. Even with the hours of rest, I still felt tired, like I had an unshakeable weight on my shoulders. I gave up the hopes of finding a job today and decided to take a walk through the busy Nairobi streets. Maybe I would cure myself of the madness I was slowly becoming.

Today the streets were busy as ever. Not good news for a person with only few hours of sleep and whose last meal seemed like eons ago. I felt dizzy under the city sun, scorching my forehead mercilessly. One too many times I had wondered what kept me in the city. Nothing was working out for me, the least I could do was the act of the prodigal son. Back at home, my parents would obviously show me more mercy than the city ever would. I banished the thought from my head. My pride would never allow for me to do such a thing. I would rather die than go back to the village. What would my peers say of me? At least now everyone thought I had a job in the city. They were just waiting for the day I’d show up in a big car. Or the very least, a rich husband. I was here to make sure the former happened….somehow.