Well, turns out Purity didn’t kill herself. I posted on Tuesday, she made me wait until Friday to email me. She started off the email with no salutation. Cut right to that chase like only she would. Also, she thinks it was “cute” that people didn’t want her to die. Strangers. Internetters. A faceless tribe. When I went to do some banking at Housing Finance along Waiyaki Way even the teller, Eric, asked me from the blues, “Has she written?” and I momentarily was like, “Who?” because I thought he was referring to Toni Braxton. [And no, Eric, Toni hasn’t written. But she will.]
Purity wrote that initial email in the format of a poem. Quintessentially so.
“But I terminated the pregnancy,” she wrote, “and it’s the single most horrible thing I will do in my life.” She did it in a “small clinic along Ngong Road.” She went alone. The walls of the room where this life was taken were – ironically – white. She bled a lot that night, slept with a sanitary pad on. But she wasn’t perturbed about the bleeding, “…actually I hoped I would bleed to death and join my unborn child.” Despite the grinding guilt that comes with that she still thinks she did something good, “I saved that baby from being forced to love a messed up mother who is learning to love herself.” She makes light of it. “The thing with abortion is that it has taken so much humanity from me that I now feel like it has become easier to kill people I completely dislike. Some of my colleagues, for instance.”
She thinks you readers will be furious, pious and indignant over her act. “They will be furious to learn that I did an abortion even though I’m not a Catholic. I’m a woman.” [Strange, I would have placed her as more of a Catholic than a woman]. She wants you all to know that she isn’t sorry about it. But that she is sorry that “I somehow still live under the favour of God.”
She’s on medication. When I asked her to tell me what depression really is like, apart from the feeling of “walking around with a black paper bag over your head.” She says only she knows she is depressed. The whole world thinks she’s a happy and normal person with a job she should be happy to have. “It’s exhausting,” she wrote, “to keep those two lives separate- to be happy in public and be myself at home. When I go home I’m so tired being someone else I don’t even remove my shoes or switch on electricity or eat anything, I simply take my medication and sleep or cry in my work clothes. A colleague often comes to my desk and asks me, ‘Purity why don’t you ever put on weight, what is your secret?’ I tell her – ‘Try depression once a month, repeat every other month.’ We laugh. By the way, my name is not Purity, but seeing as you have told everybody that it’s my name I’m forced but to adopt it.”
“Most months are good when I take my medication but I hate the drugs. Some months are bad. December was very bad and I never left my house. January was good because while everybody was broke, I had mad cash [plus bonus] because I didn’t spend any money in December because I never left the house. Who said there is no sunny side to depression, Jacko? If you are struggling with saving, try depression.”
Someone, a reader, wrote a very touching email and asked me to forward it to Purity, which I did and she wrote back and said it made her feel so warm inside “I removed my bra.” [Ha-ha. Atta-girl. Freedom to you.] Made we wonder if she removed her bra in the office, unclasped it from underneath and pulled it right through her sleeve, right there on the open-space floor as printers whirred and elevator doors opened and closed.
She thinks I was too “melodramatic and presumptuous” to write a blogpost with an SOS because she went under for a few weeks. She then warned me that she won’t email again for a while until the “bad evil wind has passed” and that I shouldn’t get “itchy pants” and “shoot off another cry-wolf email.” [I read that part with a wolfish grin.] And that if she decides to kill herself she will at least “have the courtesy” to send me an email first. [Like my very own bespoke suicide note? Why, thank you so much, Purity. How gracious and generous of you. Pray, what will be the subject of this email so that I ready myself?]
It’s all hot air. I know she won’t kill herself. I know because she won’t want to break all our hearts here. Because it will make us sad. I know she won’t do it because she said that she had an impulse to hug that lady who wrote her the email, which means there is still a person in her who needs the human touch. I know she won’t do it because she can’t put her poor mother through that gauntlet of torture and misery in her sunset years. Who will take care of her grade cows?
Maybe she will get a dog. I hear dogs have that calming effect especially for people in emotional turmoil. She will be the girl who talks to her dogs at night like they are having a pyjama party. I know she won’t do it because she will keep taking her medication and she will eventually be fine and she will finally be happier than every food blogger on Instagram. Because this is a story with a happy ending and she won’t have it any other way. Neither will we. She will triumph, because the fighter, the playful child in her still wants to live. She will be happy again. Right, Purity? Right?
Talking of happiness. Apparently we, as Kenyans, fall very low on the happiness index. That’s why we ignore the traffic lights and zebra crossings and we are always fighting someone on Twitter or blocking them. Happiness is a strange thing. It’s fickle. Also, Kenyans will never really accept that they are happy. It’s almost like happiness is a sin. You can’t just say you are happy. It’s not humble. It’s not proper. It’s unKenyan. We almost believe that if you say you are happy the gods will think you are gloating and take away your happiness. Besides nobody ever seems to want to hear you are happy, they would rather hear that you aren’t, it’s got more grit. It’s like people in business. They never admit that business is good. You ask them, “How is biashara” and it’s always a grim look, a sombre shaking of head. “Man, we are just trying. Si you know how business is?” [Yes, business was born bad]. For a change it would be nice for someone to say, “This is a great year, I’m killing it. I can’t really complain, things have been looking up for many months now.” It’s taboo to say that in Kenya. Happiness is unpatriotic. You can’t just say, “I’m happy. The children are healthy and going to school. I eat chapos every other day, my sex life is also not too bad. God is good.” Nobody cares. We are unhappy even when we are happy.
My dad always says that happiness isn’t “a destination.” You don’t “arrive” at happiness. You find it in your journey. Have you ever found some money in your pocket, money you didn’t know you had? Maybe you were handed change in a bar and you kept it in your pocket and forgot all about it and months passed and one day you stumble upon it; a loose 2K and you are just dizzy with this discovery and you can’t believe there were days you could have used that 2K had you known it was there. That’s how happiness works, methinks. It’s always there, somewhere on us, but we don’t see it because we are looking elsewhere. We need to reclaim it, like a guy I saw recently, the happiest guy in town.
I was drinking with some chama friends in South C when someone asked if Deep West Club is still operational and someone said, of course, we should go and so at 10pm we went. Now for those of you who only know of Mercury and Brew Bistro, Deep West is around T-Mall area and is frequented by folk who appreciate Rhumba/ Congolese music.
They always feature a band of chaps who look Congolese, sing like Congolese but I doubt if all of them are Congolese. Some come from K’Ochia. (Don’t bother Googling that, Google says it’s a herb – Bassia scoparia). There were four of us, including a poor girl that we dragged along.
The last time I was at Deep West was maybe 12-years back. It has changed. It now looks like an indoor piazza. It has balconies on two floors overlooking the dance floor. The bigwigs, plutocrats, the wheeler-dealers, the tenderpreneurs, surgeons and the political brass sit up there on that throne and equivalent of the high table. I suppose the bigger your ego is the higher you want to sit over the dancefloor. I didn’t go up there but I imagine that perhaps every table there has its own small side table where the patrons place their automobile [because we drive cars, they don’t?) keys and their numerous phones.
We sat near the dancefloor. The band – all wearing white – was already playing. We bought a bottle of whisky, as befits the establishment. [Note that I’m not referring to this place as a bar but as an establishment, for a reason. I’m being respectful.] The lady looked at the drinks menu and asked if they had any wine other than what was on the menu. The waiter dashed off to the store to check but came back, apologetic. That was all the wine they had. The lady said she will pass. Life is too short to drink cheap wine. We were embarrassed on behalf of the establishment. It made us look bad. Because if you gathered all the Masters and PhDs in that place you could use it to build a spaceship and take guys to the moon and yet they didn’t have decent wine. She settled for water. Good for the skin, after all.
The music got louder. The band got more animated. The balconies filledup. The dance floor filled up. An establishment like Deep West is a cliche. The men are flashy. Even if they are wearing a cheap watch (they won’t admit it though. Everybody’s watch comes from Switzerland.) it’s a big shiny cheap watch. You can see it in the darkness. It glows like the southern star. That’s how waiters can trace you in the crowded room, by your watches, they are like a homing device. The women come in two forms; either they have big posteriors or they are light-skinned. If neither, then they are accompanying women with big posteriors or are light-skinned. The rhumba dance is slow. There is no gwara gwara dance there. Everybody moves and sways slowly to the music. One of the chaps with us immediately went to the dancefloor. My brother – who is a terrible dancer by the way – just moved his head. And that’s how I know he’s drunk, when he starts moving his head.
The lady leaned in and shouted in my ear, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE SAYING?”
“WHAT WHO IS SAYING?” I shouted back.
“NO!” I said.
“BUT HOW DO YOU ENJOY SOMETHING YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND?”she asked.
Oh, for Chrissake. Who talks when Franco is playing?
“DO YOU LIKE SOUFFLE?” I shouted.
“SOUFFLE! YOU ARE A CHEF, YOU KNOW WHAT SOUFFLE IS!”
“I DO.” Puzzled.
“WE ALL ENJOY IT, RIGHT? BUT DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?” I said. “IT COULD BE FRENCH FOR F*** YOU!”
She rolled her eyes.
“THIS MUSIC, YOU LISTEN TO IT WITH THIS PART,” I pointed to her left breast where I assumed her heart was under. “YOU LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART, NOT YOUR EARS. THE HEART IS A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE.”
At some point the girl drew our attention to some guy dancing up on a raised area near some tables. He was a short – almost diminutive guy – but dressed to the nines. He had in a charcoal grey three-piece suit that didn’t look expensive because you can always tell an expensive suit, but it was how he was wearing it. He was wearing the hell out of it, filling it with not only his body but his person, a big person. Still, it also made you wonder; who goes to a ba..sorry, establishment in a suit, let alone a three-piece suit? Unless they are from a funeral. But that cat was too happy to have been from a funeral, unless he had just buried his debts.
Even though the place was already crowded, he stood out. He used a very small surface area to dance; twisted and writhed very gently like he was being caressed by the music. A leaf in a slight breeze. He would dance and then slowly dance back to his table an arms-length away, sip his drink and slowly dance back to his spot. He was a great dancer, a sensual dancer even. His dancing drew attention. It seduced onlookers. And sure enough a knot of girls started inching closer to him, wanting to dance with him, but he ignored them. He would slowly but tactfully turn and give them his back, a great back filled with a suit that he wore well. We were fascinated by him. Most people were. I liked him. His chutzpah made me happy. It was like watching an emperor dance. We were all plebeians in his presence. You almost wanted to go over and ask him his name. And where he bought his suit. (He would probably lie: “This is a Brioni Vanquish II, can’t you tell, bwana?”).
He loved his moment. He loved his space. He loved being alive. I could tell that it was a fine moment for him to be there, in his suit, in his shoes -which I couldn’t see – to be bathed in that music that he listened to with all his pores and his heart, and all these girls circling him like predators and how little time or attention he accorded them and how he was completely immersed in that night and in himself.
“I loved that he was so very confident of himself,” the lady told me later when I asked her how she had noticed the man, “ that he was sure the world revolved around him, that he was the world and he was the only man in that place that was worth anything.”
That man was happy. Maybe he wasn’t going to be happy the next morning but at that time he was happy. You could tell from how he closed his eyes while dancing, how he would hold the tune with his mind, embrace it with his movement and rock along with it as if the song was ailing and he was there to heal it. Have you ever looked at someone dance and even though you were seated looking at him you felt like you were dancing with him? His dance was like a neon of happiness lighting everybody who laid their eyes on him. APA Insurance is trying to insure happiness, well, they should insure that gentleman’s dance and suit for starters.
However there are many other things that make me happy. Like Exe. I can’t think of any brand that has made me happy so consistently since childhood. Let’s see, there is Omo, yes, but whoever claims that Omo has made them happy is lying. It has made you clean but sometimes cleanliness doesn’t necessarily make you happy, it just makes you closer to Godliness. Then there is Kimbo. Kimbo is great yes, but can you say it’s made you happy since class four? No. There is also Nacet razor blade. We grew up cutting our nails with Nacet before someone invented nail cutters but surely you can’t say that you are the person you are today because you cut your nails with Nacet.
But Exe? Come on, Exe is our soulmate. Exe was there before anyone else was. Exe never left us. Or changed. We went to secondary and uni and we got jobs and we got wives and we got kids and Exe never left. Exe was the “constant x” we were taught in mathematics, they just didn’t want us to know explicitly. Exe, apart from bringing us happiness also made us obey our parents more. This is because the only time you would go straight to the shop and back without detours when sent by your mom was the day chapos were being cooked. You wouldn’t mess around. You obeyed their command which means we obeyed the fifth commandment. So apart from Exe being nourishment for our body, it helped in the nourishment of our spirituality.
You would run to the shop get the Exe and not leave the house while chapos were being cooked. Oh and the aroma! My God. Is there any aroma better than the aroma of chapos? If Bvlgari produced a cologne that smelled of chapos I’d wear it. On Fridays. That was pure happiness, smelling chapos in the house. You’d not wait to be told to take a shower a hundred times. You’d shower, oil yourself and sit obediently and wonder why time for dinner was dragging. There are strange neighbours who cooked chapos with chicken or with beef, just very strange neighbours with strange parents. Normal households cooked chapos with beans or ndengu. That’s how it is even in the Bible. [I’m sure the verse is there somewhere].
There is a Chinese proverb that I like, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day go fishing [In our case, Olepolos – if it’s still there]. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. [Or win the sports betting jackpot] If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”