There is this guy I’m mentoring a smart and humble guy. He’s 28, jobless. It’s been a tough year for him living from hand to mouth, eking life from a bowl, counting coins, listening to the sound of his pre-paid elec meter make that beeping noise, writing, shaking bushes, praying and beating another egg on a weak fire of waning hope. He eats alone. There is nothing as stark as eating alone, everyday.
He had this chick who lent him her laptop to get some writing done because his laptop had crashed. Then things got really tough. A month ago she came to his house in the evening wearing a black dress and a dark scowl and without looking him in the eye said she felt “overwhelmed” and she wanted to “focus on her life” because she felt his problems “were slowly becoming hers” and that he should focus on his “and find someone else.” He put on a brave face and nodded, clawing at the jagged edge of dignity and self preservation. She then silently packed a few pieces of clothing she had left over, took her laptop and left. He had some unfinished writings in that laptop; pieces of himself and his thoughts, she left with those.
He sat in his single-room in his single chair and stared at the wall for a bit trying to will himself that he would get ashore. Later in bed he tossed and turned and finally at midnight, feeling wretched, his resolve breached, he picked up the phone and called. It was 1am. She sounded like she was with someone – offering one-worded answers. He did what every man hates; he pleaded with her to come back. He told her not to bloody leave, not now when all his chips are down. She was adamant; she said it was over for her.
A few days later he wrote me an email confessing that he was nursing a “terrible heartache” and he felt “horrible” because she made him feel so “inadequate.” He couldn’t believe she left because he was doing badly. I didn’t tell him this but I think 28-years isn’t a bad time to have your heart broken, it’s far much better than having your heart broken at 45. So it’s actually a good thing. Hearts heal.
That’s how this guy is ending his 2016; with a looming feeling of inadequacy, a broken heart and his finances in the pits. All of which can be fixed, thankfully. He will wake up next year and he will rise. He will get a laptop and he will keep doing what he’s passionate about – writing – and he will keep looking for opportunities and things will get better. Maybe it’s from this darkness that his best writing will come from; something heavy with pain and anger and hopefully self deprecating. Maybe he will wake up in 2017 and say, “I want to be better than the man she left.” I hope he does, otherwise the heartache will be wasted on these emotions. I’m certain that his 2017 awaits with surprises and bountiful promises. But only if he believes it, I told him. And prays for it. Pray and believe.
One day he will look at 2016 and remember how broke he once was and how he felt when his ex walked out in that little black dress and he will wonder how in the world he let that break him. He might not know it now but this girl has done him a mighty favour. Maybe he would have gotten her pregnant because he still believes coitus interruptus works (roll eyes) then he would be a father at 30 struggling to pay for fare and she would fight him daily and call him names and he would feel small and unmanly and he would resort to booze and his life would refuse to pick up because he would have stopped believing in himself. Now he has a chance to go at it with a more significant impetus. So go for it, L.
Unlike my mentee I’ve had a truly wonderful year; 2016 has been kind to me. I come here and talk about the Lord of Abraham and about SDA manenos and you think it’s one big joke. It isn’t. Those guys in heaven have my back.
Here are some of my highlights.
Did you know that they only allow one parent in surgery? I found it unfair. Is it the space? Is there no room for a father inside surgery? When they were surgically removing Kim’s adenoids the guys at the hospital said they could only allow one parent in. “When he wakes up he needs to see a familiar face.” the lady in surgical scrubs told us. I wanted to say, “then in that case we need to bring in Catboy of PJ Mask.” Hohoho.
They said the mother should go in, let the father sit downstairs – sure, fathers will only want to touch things in surgery. So I went down and googled “risks of anaesthesia” and the first thing that popped up was, “Anaesthesia may harm children’s brains.” So I stopped. When he came to, an hour later, I held up a finger in his face and asked, “Kim, is this a finger or a pen?” He said, “Sweet.”
Close enough. Actually, when you think about it…aw forget it.
AA Gill Dies
I have read and followed this guy for the longest time. My Sunday’s at 6:30am are spent in bed reading The Sunday Times because of him (OK, and Giles Coren and Lynn Barber and Jeremy Clarkson). If there is a writing god, it’s Gill. A few months ago he discovered he had lung cancer. Two weeks ago he died. I was shell-shocked; one moment you are here, the next Wikipedia has changed your narrative to the past tense.
If you are into travel writing read AA Gill is Away. If you are wondering if you will ever stop your drinking problem read “Pour Me: A Life.” If you want to learn how to write about food read, “ Table Talk.” If you love words read his work; it will make you laugh, horrify you at times, and bewilder you with its brilliant prose and cheek. Then it will leave you bereft and moanful. RIP Gill.
Talking of books…
“Dogs, being wordless, can only be mirrors of their humans. It’s not their fault that their people are fatally flawed.” That’s a line of Lauren Groff’s ‘Fate and Furies’ my book of 2016. It’s tragic, yes, but it’s a beautifully narrated tragedy. Read it. Mathilde will steal your heart but then Lotto will break it.
Another bonus read: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Read it on a Sunday as the kettle boils.
A Hard Question
We were from the salon in Westy one Sato. She – my ride or die – was seated at the passenger seat her nails freshly done because you don’t want some horny goat one day in her late teenage throwing mani-pedi’s as a seduction incentive to rope her in. (Yeah, make it harder for them). She suddenly turned to me and asked “Papa, why is it called Naked Pizza?” The earth shimmered on its axis.I kept a straight face and stared hard ahead at the road. Yeah, I wondered, why is it called Naked Pizza? What had it been stripped off to be referred to as naked? When they say extra toppings do they mean that they are layering? And so if the top is off, is it naked? Does pizza have boobs? And why are other pizzas not getting naked? Are they not hot enough in this heat? What are they afraid of? What are they hiding? Are other pizzas – like Mambo Italia, or 360 degrees – not proud of their (cheesy) bodies to show them off? Most importantly, how can we as parents be expected to raise well adjusted children if we can’t even explain to them why pizza can opt to be naked? Is this the democracy they speak of?
I turned 39 years in October. I’m in my final year to the fourth floor. I’m leaving third floor and I won’t miss it. I won’t specifically miss the rubbish insecurities of the early 30’s. I’m growing a bigger and ghastly beard – some of which is turning white. Tamms absolutely hates it. She says, “Papa, why don’t you shave this?” Well, she can kiss my ass. It’s my beard and my life. (Sulks). Thankfully, Kim loves it. He strokes it. It’s a guy thing. How does the final year of 30’s feel like? Well, liberating. There are no more fucks left in my pocket to give, for one. The excuses I used to give myself are getting lesser and lesser. I joined a gym to (try) rid off the flab in my midsection. I joined a spin class for crying out loud, spin class! If you would have told me at 34 that I will be spending my Wednesday mornings cycling a stationary bike with a bunch of girls (and men) in tight things I would have said you must be losing your marbles. I await for my 40’s with relish because I will go in on my own terms. Inshallah.
Of the Departed
A friend of mine lost her brother early this year and was going to view the body of her dead brother at the morgue and asked me how it is to view a body. (Yeah, because I have experience). I told her to touch him. Touch your dead brother. When we went to view my mom’s body in the morgue she had this vein popping at the side of her head – like death had given her a bad migraine. I remember touching that vein. It was cold and hard, like it had solidified, turned to ice. I have never forgotten how it felt and somehow I’m glad I did. I regret touching my grandfather, though. He lay in this long fancy coffin, coiffed in a crisp white shirt and a black suit. Even death couldn’t steal Jackshon’s elegance. Then we buried him as the sun rode west on a cloud of sorrow. I should have touched him. My friend touched her brother on the forehead. She says she has never forgotten the feeling. She won’t regret it. Should death visit you in the coming year (touch wood) you should touch your departed loved ones. I suspect the dead want to be touched in farewell.
A message from our last sponsors of 2016.
Do you know GreenPark housing development along Mombasa Road? The gated community with those fancy houses with long driveways and clubhouses and gym and green backyard. They have this thing called TBYB (Try Before You Buy) thing where you pay 20K and live in the fully furnished house you plan to buy for four nights. If you like it the amount is deducted from the booking fee. They also have this one called BOLT where you buy the houses within a period of one to three years on an agreed monthly deposit. The idea is to buy your house in a fixed price over an agreed period of time without having to take a bank mortgage. If you are planning on owning a digs and you want to pay it pole pole over time and not take a massive bank loan, check that out.
My best Interview of 2016
I went over to John Sibi Okumu’s home, we sat up in his study in the attic where the roof slanted over us and his hundreds and hundreds of books stared at us from every space on the wall making it some literal colosseum. It’s also there that I saw a stack of VHS tapes after dog years. Intense, windy, accommodating, curt sometimes, and eloquent, Sibi’s interview didn’t even need me. It was lighting a candle during daylight. Sibi was deep and I remember folding my trousers up to the knees and wading through his cerebral and leaving there feeling somewhat unlearned and buzzed with inspiration and bewilderment at how much further I might have to go to get somewhere.
Thanks to Yvonne and Ciku who have edited my rubbish typos here this year. You ladies are a scream. Unfortunately my typos won’t get better next year, so please don’t abandon me. I appreciate your time and skill.
Thank you for coming here every Tuesday. It’s been a real pleasure having you here and reading from you. Not to sound like your mom, but don’t drink and drive. That shit kills people. Get an Uber, makes everybody’s life simpler and safer.
I would like to ask just one question before I pen off. And this is to the guys seated at the front row. There is one question I have been asked constantly by people who read this blog and don’t comment: “What’s the story with that first to comment thing, Biko, they irritate me!” I honestly don’t know either! It’s as baffling to me as it is to you, because it’s not like I give free shaving hampers from Philips for those who comment first.
Could the guys who come here and write “first to comment” tell us today what this is about? And is there a way we can help you guys in 2017 to read first before you jump to comment? The guys seated at the back might sleep better (and stop demanding answers from me). We just want to work together in 2017. How can we do that?
Anyhow, thank you for reading. Stay safe. The last person here should switch off the lights…after reading that is.
See you in 2017. Inshallah.