Archive for the ‘Firsts’ Category

My father is a tyrant. I don’t mean he acts like a tyrant or is tyrannical in nature. I mean he is an actual, modern day tyrant. Kalala isn’t a big island. 242 kilometers squared of rich well endowed land  surrounded by magnificent coastline. About 10 million total population. I won’t go into details about just how technically rich my country is. I say technically because 62% of my country’s population lives below the poverty line yet we are the biggest exporters of tea, coffee, pyrethrum, limestone, salt,the list goes on. Infant mortality rates are at an all time high at 26%  because the health care system isn’t even fit to treat rats. But what do I know, I live in the president’s palace where a man made dam sits on our back yard and the president’s clinic is a golf-cart ride away just past the president’s golf course on our front yard. 

I am 35 years old now.  I was  home schooled up until highschool then joined my country’s top university for my undergrad. I majored in Political Science, minored in Psychology. I was top of my class. To my father, failure isn’t permitted in his house. After that, I was shipped off on a private jet to an Ivy league university in the great United States of America,though to be honest, I didnt find much great about it. But that’s just me. 

The first time I went outside of the president’s palace without armed guards was when I was 19; my friends invited me to shopping then a party and I didn’t want the hassle of being stared at as my security lifts and throws people out of my way. ‘Fine dad, just one bodyguard and he has to blend in’. I was in a store, a clothing store and a child approached me. He couldn’t have been more than 8 years old. I turned to him and gave him my best diplomatic smile. He spit in my face. Your father is a monster and all of you will rot in hell! He said. All my life I had never seen a child so angry. His mother ran up to us frantically asking me to spare her son’s life. Why would she think I would kill an eight year old boy? I turned to my  bodyguard who was now holding up the boy by his belt. It all happened so fast all I could say was ‘It’s ok! It’s ok! let him go!’. The mother took the boy and ran. Suffice to say, my attendance to the party was canceled . I tossed and turned in bed that night. I could still feel the impact of the spit landing on my face and the words that cut through my skin. The next morning I went down stairs, past the ballroom, past my father’s library and study, straight to the kitchen. Sometimes I liked to make my own breakfast. The staff was watching something on TV. “Eight year old boy falls to his death off a 5 storey building.”” Parents nowhere to be found.” “Police rule it as an accident,”read the headlines. The police seargant complained that the building wasn’t up to code. That the poor child must have just slipped on debris and fallen. They put the photo of the boy at the end of the broadcast. I ran outside and threw up a breakfast I had not had. 

When I was twenty two, just before I was flown off to the land of the free,my father called me into one of his home offices in the east wing. He motioned me up to him, up to the president’s seat, the one made of pure gold; also one of our biggest exports. The cushioning of the seat was custom made. It felt like what I suppose it would feel if you could sit on a cloud. No one had sat on that seat except him for the last 21 years and no one would until his death or until he decrees it so, whichever came first. He said he had watched me and my 11 siblings grow through the years and he was proud of each of us; even one of my elder brothers who went to live on an island in the Carribean, something about minimalismminimalism or staying true to the universe or whatever. Your brother was soft, I blame your step mother for all of it. No matter, I have ten more where he came from. He laughed at his own joke; a deep thunderous laugh that I think portrayed more pain than humor. He told me he wanted me to deliver a package; it will be with one of his security officers but that I was the one to take it to the door and put it in some woman’s hands. Easy enough. I thought. At exactly two thirty that afternoon I was summoned to the door, got into one of the armored cars and we drove off. I wasn’t ready for what happened next. 

When we got to the house; a mansion with perfectly manicured lawns, a fountain right on the parking lot and a huge wooden door with a golden door knob. My security ushered me to the front. I rang the bell. A woman opened. Her eyes were puffy and red and her hair messy. She wore blue sweat pants and a T-shirt with the Kalala flag on it. She looked very familiar. I said Hallo and stretched out my hands to hand over the parcel. The woman fell to the floor and started wailing. “Why are you doing this to us?!” “You have killed us!” Her voice and her words would haunt me for years to come. The security men forcefully stood her up and told her to take the package. That her family gotten what they deserved. My hands were shaking now; I just wanted to leave that place. It was a silent ride home. I knew better than to ask the bodyguards what that was about. When we got home I quickly ran to my room, got on my laptop, switched on my VPN and entered a name on the search engine. The woman’s face came up. “Governor’s wife says they will not stop searching for her husband. Pleads to the president to then just give her his body to bury.” The story was much worse than the headline. The police had laid siege on the governor’s property for three weeks. They had cut off the water, electricity even the  sewer system; nothing was allowed in or out of the compound. After twenty two days, the governor finally surrendered himself to the mercy of the government asking only that his family be spared. There was a leaked video of the whole thing on one of the ‘forbidden websites’. I have never seen a man cry like that.

 Akili was the only bodyguard I really trusted. He had started with perimeter-patrol detail but recently promoted to my mother’s detail. I found him outside in one of the parking lots washing my mother’s car. No one was allowed to touch the cars except the president and members of the security team of 53. I had to know what was in the box. You don’t want to know. He told me. But I just asked again and again. He explained that It’s called the ‘President’s Gift’. When someone wrongs the president or the president’s family or the president’s clan in whatever way, the guilt is on that person’s whole family.  Said person is given a chance to plead his case to the commander in chief which is really just a formality as the president at that time has already determined the ‘culprit’s’ fate. In special circumstances the family would be spared and can leave with just their lives and the clothes on their backs. Everything else is seized by the government as ‘evidence’ and whatever the government doesn’t keep is auctioned off in a secret auction open only to the president’s inner circle. Here is the gory part. The box is a sign that the president has pardoned the family and contains a body part of the ‘culprit’. It could be and ear, a finger, lips; whatever really depending on the message the president wants to send the family. The part is put in a black gift box that has the Kalala flag printed on one side and the president’s seal on the top. Once you get the gift, you have exactly 72 hours to clear out of the island; your photo and that of each of your family members is posted on every wall, in every office, in every newspaper and TV station in the country. You are never to set foot in Kalala ever again. It’s considered an act of mercy really. Akili finished.

 I regretted ever asking. I stayed in my room that night and the rest of the week just pouring through the internet reading stories upon stories of everything my father had allegedly done. Each one worse than the last. None of it was in the local news of course. 

I wondered why he sent me to that house. He must have known I would find out everything else. He’s always told me I can be annoyingly inquisitive sometimes. I kept it to myself nonetheless. I left for the US two months after that. On the flight, after saying goodbye to a man I could no longer look in the face, I spent 12 hours promising myself that I will never again set foot in Kalala. 

But here I am, 13 years later; Minister of Patriotism and Development.
End of part 1….

Love or rather being in love is a beautiful but deadly force. It goes into the very depths of your soul. Your spirit holds on and your body yearns for that one touch. That daily dose of closeness and intimacy that is only yours. And when you don’t get your fix, you have chilling episodes where you can feel the pain crawling on your skin like a caterpillar leaving a trail of allergens all over you. I’m not making sense I’m I? And such is the concept of love.

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But lust, well lust is much simpler. It starts with the eyes. Sometimes with a voice in the next room. Sometimes with a scent that whiffs past you on the street and somehow sticks to your clothes. Sometimes with a touch, even just a slight graze. He sat too close to me in the matatu. Maybe on purpose? I don’t think so. The PSV was packed to the brim with a few people standing on the aisle. It was raining and water was sipping through the hinges on the window and onto his seat. He shifted to my side slightly and some water dripped from his wet umbrella onto my grey pants and some onto my black boots. He apologized. I said it was fine. It was more than fine. He paid my fare, citing the ‘inconvenience’ he had caused me. Wawili (two). He said to the conductor. He held up two fingers,left hand, his index and his middle. There was no ring on the third. Don’t ask me why my mind chose to emphasize that fact and write it in bold but I think you know. Veins, well defined, criss-crossed the back of his hand and disappeared under his black Calvin Klein watch and then under the sleeve of his leather jacket. He checked the time and sighed. Late for work? I asked him. I needed more words from that beautiful mouth with a hint of a beard. Yeah, but I got my friend to open the studio so it should be fine. He answered. An artist! My legs squeezed together. Reflex. It wasn’t just the streets getting wet. The prospect of discovering someone’s art, a stranger nonetheless has always enticed me. It’s like going on an adventure in some virgin island. You know you might find mosquitoes the size of your hand or get bit by a 6 foot snake no one’s ever seen before or fall of a cliff and into quick sand but the thrill of spending even just a few minutes discovering new beauty is just too alluring to pass up. I digress.

Traffic was a mess, bumper to bumper.

Two posh cars were in the middle of the road, not moving. There was some kind of a minor accident. Neither drivers had come out to even look at the damage. Maybe they didn’t want to get their designer suits and shoes wet just for a minor scratch. The irritated police officer just made sure they exchanged insurance information and waved them through. Excuse me. My seat partner said and pointed toward the aisle. He was alighting at the next stop. Nooo! I wanted to scream. Instead I  moved my legs to the side and gave him way. Sorry again. He quickly said and walked down to the door. I watched him move like you’d watch a baby taking their first steps, soaking in every moment. Weird analogy, I know, but you get my point. I probably was never going to see him again. Not physically anyway. But in my dreams; Yoh! On a horse going to war for his kingdom; Or in a blacksmith’s stall beating hot metal into submission ; Or on the beach,shirtless,sweaty,bringing in his catch; Or in a wizard’s den mixing potions and calling on powers above and below.  I have strange dreams(fantasies) sometimes. But such is the concept of lust, it lingers on, it evolves, it sticks onto you until your eyes latch on to another.

Intimacy is yet another complex entity. Into Me See. Closeness. Not necessarily romance as many believe. Just the very act of allowing another or a few into the most intricate parts of your life, your heart, your mind, your being. it transcends social rules and norms of relating, spits on them sometimes actually. You slide in gradually. It’s never forced, never coerced,never shoved down your throat and always years to be reciprocated. You see her/him/them and it’s an instant connection. She’s out of your league. She’d never be friends with you. You know how awkward you get around new people. Remember how that one time someone said they liked your pen and because you were crushing on them you went ahead and bought them a whole set of assorted pens, matching pencils and marker pens and a matching set of scribbling pads?

Plus, she’s really serious. Looks very together and you are a mess. She’ll never give you a second look. Crap! She just did. Well, smile back you idiot! Don’t just stand there. Oh my, now she’s walking towards you. Can we take a photo together? She asks. Yeah sure. You mumble back. I mean, we,are at an art exhibition anyway and they are allowing photography and it’s raining outside so it’s not like we are going anywhere and we both look pretty good, not that I was looking or staring just that when you were walking toward me you were in my line of sight and …..Geez! Stop rambling and just pose! You tell yourself when you realize you’ve been talking for 3 straight minutes and She’s been waiting for you to finish so y’all can take that photo. You go home that night reliving that moment over and over. You text that you got home ok. You have a long, unexpected chat. You sleep with a smile on your face. You are convinced that that night is the start of a long and beautiful friendship (something). Come over for lunch sometime,her last text said. Sure, I can cook a mean fried chicken, actually any type of chicken, chicken is my middle name. You text back then realize that you just called yourself ‘chicken’. Lunches,dinners, sleep covers, out of town camping trips,long chats, ridiculously long calls,family visits. Soon you realize, there is nothing about you that this person does not know. Even those deep dark secrets that wake you up in the middle of the night. Even the weird stuff like how sometimes on your way to work in the morning you kinda wish you’d get slightly hit by a small car so you’d just break a leg because you really hate your job and you just need a two-month “accidental” break from it and life in general. Bffs,soulmates,peas in a pod, birds of a feather, flocking all over town painting things red and mixing in other colors in the process. Always defining and redefining what levels of intimacy you are on or going on. Like I said, it’s complex. Mix it in with love and eish, that’s a roller-coaster ride you never want to get off from.

Until it ends and then..heartbreak. But that’s a story for another day. For now, enjoy the ride.

 

My best friend Lisa met a guy at a bar last night. I know; who parties on a Sunday night right? But the dreaded 64-day January was over and people always need a reason to celebrate. He was quite the charmer. And, no he didn’t come up to her with the tired cliché; “Hey babe, you look hot tonight.” He wouldn’t have gotten anywhere with that. Do people even use that anymore? And, no he didn’t buy her a drink and insist on joining her table as some men do and think they suddenly have a right to your time and space. I mean just because I don’t have the money to dirt-ify my table (kuchafua meza), doesn’t mean am not content sipping on my two drinks all night.

This guy actually did something new. She had to pass by his table to go to the bathroom. So every time she got up to go to the loo, he would see her approach, smile and offer to escort her to the ladies room, wait outside, tell her not to be long and remember to wash her hands after. When she’d get out of the washroom he would walk with her to his table then usher her to hers. Aside from asking for her number when he was about to leave, they did not exchange more than just those few sentences and a few glances and smiles from their separate tables. Even as the night grew older and the alcohol took its inevitable effect on the patrons leaving some passed out on their seats, he never lost that awkward charm.

Lisa couldn’t even give me a definite physical description of this guy even though they have been texting non-stop since then. She may not even be able to pick him out of a line up if he turned out to be psycho but I get the feeling she will remember those moments for a while to come.

Let’s not pretend; we have all met a few psychos in our lifetime as ladies in this big city and most would never come on too strong in the beginning. It’s when he texts you cheesy poetry at 3am in the morning followed swiftly by 10 texts asking why you are not responding that the warning lights start flashing. Or when he follows you on every social media platform including my-space and likes all your photos and posts from 2004-2017 and comments ‘Be My Baby’ on all of them. Or when he changes his status to ‘Married to *insert your name here*’ and changes his profile picture to a googled photo of yours. Thanks a lot Google! That’s when you know you need to have 999 on speed dial and send a – ‘If I disappear one day look for this man * insert psycho’s photo here*’- multimedia text to all your friends and family.

But enough of the morbid talk, what I am really trying to say is; there are charmers out there. I hear even I, am one of them but rarely would you find someone with new game, new lines and a unique brand of charm. A simple gentlemanly act such as an escort to and from the bathroom with no form of obvious intent is a welcome change to the usual;

‘ I got you a drink (s) now turn around, hands to the floor and grind up on me like I just sent 40 cows to your father and have now officially planted a flag of discovery on your behind’

Happy chivalry-hunting ladies. It’s not quite dead yet.

Hi, I am your next obsession, it’s nice to meet you.

You don’t have to be psycho to be obsessed. That day, I came in to the room;I was late as usual; I sat right across from you. You raised your head from your laptop to see who had walked in. Our eyes met and in that moment I knew you would never be able to get me out of your head. I played it cool. I knew I had you locked in. During the break, I was standing alone on the balcony, watching people. Those are actually my most enjoyable moments. I love observing people in a group setting; you always see the most interesting stuff. There’s this guy, loud, charming, and very keen on having people know he exists. He talks to everyone even the conference facilitators. My lecturers in both colleges I’ve attended didn’t even know I was in their class until I went to ask for their signatures on my graduation forms or for a recommendation letter. But this guy; he’s always talking. I don’t think I’d get along with him. He can’t really listen. I was talking to him once and I could see his eyes shifting constantly like he had better places to be or more interesting people to talk to. I just smiled and switched to talking about the weather, giving him an out to move on to the next person. I wasn’t offended; just impressed with how right I was about him.

The bourgeois chic (sorry, lady) just passed me. She looked me over as always, she does that with everyone. I just smiled and waved. She irritates the heck out of me. She always has so many questions during the sessions which would be fine except she sprinkles a whole load of criticism about everything in the conference. No facilitator is good enough for that one even though she clearly doesn’t know much outside of her profession (tiny bubble). She always sits at the centre of the class and it feels like she always has her hand up with a question or a point of correction for the facilitators. It’s so much fun to be one of the silent ones in class; you just sit back and get entertained.

The eccentric guy just gave me a big hug followed by a big ‘Hallo! how have you been?!’. I say a big ‘Great dude! You?’ He says he’s been awesome as usual. No need to tell him I had the longest, hardest week of my life and cried myself to sleep almost everyday. He’s a nice guy and all but we ain’t tight like that. He always sits at the edge of the semi-circle in class. He wears really bright, crazy clothing, has brass rings on all his fingers and bulky long chains hanging on his neck. Not a single piece was generic. All hand crafted; all African or African oriented. I would love to just sit with him one day and ask him about all his pieces. He’s an artist through and through. I wish I could be as carefree sometimes. But that would direct too much attention my way and I’m just not a limelight person.

Something clicks in front of me. The photographer dude is at it again. He’s always taking pictures with his camera with the big ass lens. He’s sneaky that one. He posts a few photos on his wall on facebook and Instagram. Action photos of everyone in their element. He took one of me buried in my notebook. I have no clue what I was writing about but damn that was a good shot! I’m pretty sure he also has one of me digging through my nose or furiously biting my nails. Can’t wait for those to come out. Haha.

You come back from the bathroom downstairs. I happen to see you as you come up; you don’t see me see you. You have no idea what’s coming. You look up once you get to the top of the stairs and as you walk down toward the conference room, your gaze is stuck on mine. Feels like we are playing  ‘who’s going to blink first’. You do, obviously. I’m a pro at that game. You say hi. I come in for a hug just as you stretch out your hand for a hand-shake. Awkward! I pull back, whisper a quick sorry covered by a cute giggle and stretch out my hand to meet yours. Shouldn’t I be the one blushing after that little awkward fiasco? So why are you? We catch up for a few. I can’t remember what we were talking about but it must have been very interesting because I remember laughing all through. You mention that you love the way I laugh. I say thank you and wink, I don’t know why, my eye just went there. Did you just blush when I winked? Did I just stumble on a piece of your kryptonite? I don’t mention it but I put that little piece of priceless information in my pocket to be used later.

The conference timekeeper who was really just one of the attendees who had volunteered for the job was nagging people to go back into class. I say nag because honestly the fellow is an actual nag. He’s always passing some form of instruction masquerading as a ‘suggestion’ or a ‘personal opinion’ about one thing or the other. Yesterday was the first day of the conference; we barely know each other because we are all from different pursuits and passions, different walks of life, different parts of the city. This guy walks in and the first thing he says after announcing his arrival is how maybe we could change the sitting arrangement to be more class-like so as to enable us to focus more on what’s being presented at the front.  I hope he saw how my face cringed at his ‘suggestion’. This is a flipping conference dopey not your chance to finally become the class monitor you’ve always wanted to be. Of course I didn’t say that out loud; nah, such outbursts are for my journal’s pages only. During one of the breaks I was having a light conversation with Mr. Eccentric and Mr. Class Prefect comes up to us and tells us to lower our voices and turns to me and asks if I could laugh less loudly. The nerve of this guy. We actually gave him props for having the audacity to come up to us to say that but then we went back to talking just as before. Mr. Timekeeper actually turns back and gives us a warning look. Whoa that just kills me and I let out a glass-breaking guffaw. Why was he trying to bring out the last traces of the rebellious teenager in me? I should probably tell him that I don’t think I was created with a built-in volume-regulator for my laugh. But I’ll keep the peace for now.

The last session of the day goes off without a hitch. Time to go home. The hotel venue is a fifteen-minute walk from the CBD where most people get their buses home, if they are not driving that is. I like taking long walks alone sometimes just to think on the day and unwind for a bit. I pick my backpack and head out saying a quick goodbye to whomever glanced my way on my way out.  Down the hallway, down the stairs to the ground floor, I wave to the nice receptionist and walk out of the hotel main doors and into the driveway-parking lot. Halfway through just as I’m about to walk through the main gate, you suddenly fall in step beside me. You apologise because you see that you startled me a little. Its ok, I wasn’t exactly complaining. You try to hide the fact that you are out of breathe because you probably had to jog so you’d catch up with me. Just another piece of information for my pockets to be used in the near future. As we walk down to town talking about this and that, I’m thinking; ‘Well this is going to be a very interesting five days’.

End of Day 2…

*All characters in this series are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.*