Friday, April 22, 2011

Dammit, more stories from home

Home was fun enough while I was there, but events conspired to ensure that I didn't enjoy my holiday's full potential. You see, I think each holiday is for something, and unless you discover what that is, that holiday is wasted.

The Ex had informed me that she had moved on and was now seeing a musician. My own investigations revealed that The Ex was seeing a musician alright; a guitarist in a live band. I, on the other hand have no musical instrument capacity so far, and at the time, no showbiz girlfriend to enter in the Best Rebound Contest, which The Ex seemed to be winning. Jealousy is often reasonable.

My friend Dave had lately become a father. This meant I couldn't derail him into my own never-ending fickle distractions and trifling amusements. He said I was lucky I had just one parent; nowadays he had four, and he was seriously on the verge of yodeling out a "Papas and Mamas Don't Preach" Karaoke! David's hands were now full with relatively superior concerns, and he could not bear to let his baby mama think he was dumping child-rearing in her lap, just like he had done with child-bearing. As if he had any say in the matter. I nodded with understanding and went off in search of fun-headed people.

I came across Jennifer. Best Friend of the Ex. Naturally, she was anti-climaxing on the whole “now the chick her ex left her for has birthed his daughter, yay!” thing. I can say I was there when she finally let hope die on David, because I saw the dead hope on her face. I even heard her saying good words about Carol, the girl she had earlier said stole her ex and had struggled against for years to reestablish things as she felt they should be. Fortunately, Jennifer was so absorbed in salving her wounded pride that she forgot just how much she hated me. I left before she could remember.

I came across Sister of The Ex, and shortly remembered why she was taboo. She and I have a strange sort of understanding, an instant connection which really resonates weirdly harmoniously at a much deeper level than English can define. I remember the one time we argued – it was about an instrumental track we were fluking out of newfangled computer software. We couldn't decide whether there would be bridge in the “song” or not. The issue was minor, and the decision was purely yes/no, but we argued too passionately about it. It was obvious to everyone who overheard us that the argument was our indirect way of murdering other taboo issues which we couldn't address directly. Talking to Sister of The Ex that day, I remembered that fate must not be tempted, and I kept it short. She invited me to tennis and I promised to show, I asked her out swimming and she agreed to come – but we both knew that because of The Ex, nothing we promised could ever happen.

I came across Brother of the Ex. Young, single, free-spirited, hot-tempered, fast-talking young man, with nothing to do with his holiday time other than TV all day when he wasn't out “for a walk” up to no good at all. A smoker, drinker and argumentative know-it-all. A fast runner when the situation called for your accomplice to be a fast runner as well. A person who knew people who did parties where parents were banned. A cheeky guy I had once mused would become my in-law. Viola! I had found my holiday plot-guy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ugh, homesick reminisces

The holidays were upon us again. I took off for home as soon as my last examination paper had been attempted. Yes, I was also fleeing, mostly because my conduct of late meant there were many Miss Takes on my case due to past enjoyable yet meaningless entanglements in the sack. I was growing a conscience, but Alter Ego hated it. The most entertaining debates therefore occasionally fired off in my head, because the Alter Ego swore that by leaving so fast I was certainly standing Somebody up – but once I got on the bus to Kenya's “West Coast” there was no way I could reverse my decision and not be mentally unsound.

Road trips and reggae combine very nicely, by the way.

They say East or west, home is best. I can't refuse. Home is that place where I can just feel blissful about nothing at all, just because I'm home. Of course, one who loves living by himself needs to adjust to the politics of sharing a house with other people, but being home kind of trumps all that. Yes, I can be a severe loner at times, and yes, I really like going home.

The Ex was present nearby, on holiday from Uganda. We could have pretended to try to talk to each other, but that deal was not even made – so bad was our situation. It was a bit tricky for me, considering I still had a hand-drawn series of pictures of her in my room at home and in my room at school. But the silence between us was not to last.

My former study group assembled from time to time, but our meetings were always fragmented into “factions” - reasons in an earlier post. But the real highlight of the holiday was the birth of a kid to my buddy David and his flame Carol. It was something to celebrate – I mean, a new life. It wasn't as if any of the young couple's parents were the happiest about any of it, but everyone had accepted that the young man had already done his worst but was also responsible enough to swallow the heat for it.

The story goes that during her pregnancy, Carol had refused to divulge the father's identity to concerned watchers of her bulge. When the kid was born, however, Carol's mother, without a surprised look on her face, looked at the kid and said, “She has David's eyes.” Carol's father nodded quietly beside her. Nobody tried to argue, not even David, who had been hovering around the premises, pacing impatiently. Am I losing it if I find this very funny? That someone can struggle so hard to keep a secret, only to discover at the end of the day that the secret is no big deal to anyone at all?

Anyway. The little girl's birth helped break the ice between The Ex and I. We met amidst the sea of humanity that congregated at Carol's place to admire the newborn. We did small talk, which did not even scratch the surface of our monumental mutual grudge, which we were busy ignoring. At least we were smiling and being friendly with each other. The issues could wait, or maybe they could be made to disappear, using the “wait-and-don't-see” approach.

Hey, how come the first concern when you meet an Ex is always to find out whether they moved on? The information demoralizes a boy, especially if he finds out that his Ex is now seeing, say, a musician. If the guy cannot also claim to be in a relationship, or can only say his attempt at a relationship backfired and was more like a fling anyway, the implication is that he is faring very badly after the break-up. Misery multiplies tenfold when The Ex then transfigures her face into a Mona Lisa smile.

Small talk with The Ex yielded few benefits, so I turned my attention to the new parents, both my friends. There was a tinge of embarrassment on David's face, maybe some overwhelmed confusion, but pride shone brightest. I've seen happy people, but none so happy as David that day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Council

College is good.

I somehow became part of a group of students who would commandeer a cafeteria table from morning till night. The way it worked, a few of us would gather for breakfast at a round table, then others would join in gradually. Council Members, a mix of character types, came and left as class schedules dictated. Lunch time was a full, loud table. Food, music, discussion, laughter, fun, flirting, panicked last-minute plagiarism. As evening approached, numbers thinned as Council Members left for home with aching ribs and tall tales.

Man perpetrates many errors, not all of which qualify for Hague Trials. A Miss Take is someone you do, irregularly, just because you can, and without a proper understanding of her consequences. In the wake of seismic shifts in my social life, Miss Takes seemed therapeutic. Thesis: loneliness correlates positively with Miss Takes. Youth too. Plus an Alter Ego which cheers you on with the tagline “Play the game!” Plus a Council with many women proud to be associated with it.

This is how I rationalized this period of my life (me, or Alter Ego, or perhaps it was unanimous): the actions of my friends had brought me to look down on relationships in general. I had seen Angela paired happily with violent and cheating partners, had seen Best Friends Forever in a love triangle, had seen my own girlfriend turn out to be my non-girlfriend-for-real after all, etc. It was all a bunch of games in my head, where everyone was trying to grab the best deal out of everyone else.

At some point The Council considered registration as an official club which would focus on the core business of sitting around cafeteria tables and chatting about whatever from dawn till dusk. That plan didn't go far. Neither did a plan to have 'one of our own' infiltrate the student government body yield fruit. Most items on The Council's agenda involved such diabolical schemes. (That one was called “Diabolical scheme to run SAC forever.”) One day The Council decided by a 'vote' that one of the aspiring club's Diabolical Objectives was to find me a girlfriend, even against my own wishes. Consequently there was a brief romantic confusion with the Council Treasurer - but I embezzled the experience somewhat sensationally.

The Council eventually fell apart after the rise and fall of relationships within it caused too many sensitive cracks in its foundations. We scattered in all directions after the crash. To this day some former Councilors still hold me responsible for the disintegration of the Council into semi-autonomous individual personalities. The way I see it is different, though. First of all, their nostalgia is coloring their emotions. Secondly, just because the former self-appointed Chair-lady developed spectacular mood swings in my presence shouldn't automatically mean I did anything bad. She should change her attitude, that little lady with a correspondingly massive temper. At any rate I believe I was too marginal a character to cause any real damage to The Council even if I wanted to. Those guys were sharks compared to little quiet harmless me, I, who couldn't hurt a fly if it wasn't looking to hurt me first.

Why am I explaining myself?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Games and Sports

It was dark and rainy outside. Inside, I was not alone in bed. Alter Ego was to blame.

GalPal whispered things: this can never happen again. We will never talk about tonight, not to anybody, not to each other, never.

I would have initiated interrogation (featuring “But Why Not?!”), but I figured that by feigning nonchalant agreement, I would eliminate her leverage of affected detachment. She wanted to be the Queen of No Strings. She would lose that title if I became her husband, the King of No Strings. Semantics can't be so big a deal if the underlying truth works for you, right? “Sounds good,” I said breezily, “First let's finish tonight and I shall append my signature on the dotted line later.”

'People play games all the time. Play along, Mr. Feelings. Play to win.'

We never really even stood a chance, GalPal said, we were too antagonistic. I agreed immediately; we are different people with opposing perspectives, we repel each other because of our discordant characters and are only physically attracted to each other, so it will never work.Clearly.

There was some kind of hidden clause therein, poorly masked beneath a seeming negative.

Shortly we weren't whispering - we were panting for breath.

And then we were whispering again. She hoped I was happy, now that her friendship with Angela was ruined. It was none of my business, I said, perplexed at her, she had done all the ruining by herself.

I hate you, she whispered, you judged me before you gave me a real chance.

Hey, now, no strings.



Here, have some more hatred...

Morning. Showered, had breakfast, said goodbye. I didn't want GalPal to leave but I couldn't say that out loud or I would automatically lose the game whose rules only the Alter Ego understands fully.

"My ankle hurts", I said. So I couldn't escort her.

"By the way... What the hell did you ever see in Ailis?"

"She didn't play games."

A pause.

"Um... you... what did you see in QezH?"

GalPal slapped me for asking stupid questions, and did not deem to answer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


 Long story... Get comfortable.

It's a small world. After a long period of not having encountered my Alter Ego, that idiot appeared when I least expected it. I had just twisted my already bad left ankle playing soccer. Limping away from the pitch, Alter Ego came out of nowhere (maybe from inside my subconscious) and started gloating.

'Hello, Mr. Feelings! There goes your precious soccer. Bet you can’t swim either, not with the spoilt leg and all. Haha. To where oh where will you divert all your energies NOW? Suggestion: women. They're everywhere.'

I crossed my fingers, and hoped that the doctor at the dispensary – which happened to be where I was limping towards – had a quick fix for my sprained ankle.

'Don’t you wish you find a young but older nurse there? You can start with her…'

I cringed. The annoying bit about Alter Ego is it’s propensity to say scandalous things in an emotionless, matter-of-fact tone, usually to defeat celibacy resolutions I vowed to keep after my assumed girlfriend turned her back on me and knifed me in the back at the same time.

'You’d be surprised how many coital positions a virile young man like yourself can pull off, even with a bad ankle. Most of the Kama Sutra is still within reach, luckily.'

I needed to ignore the alter ego. Urgently. I reached for my phone, intending to get a social network to occupy my brain.

'Booty calls; that’s a start, big boy! The dry spell is OVER!'

I put the phone away. This calculating, evil-sounding Alter Ego seemed quite immune to moral qualms, and quite perceptive of channels for the furtherance of iniquity. The long trudge from the fields to the dispensary was exasperating, because Alter Ego was not keen on going back to whatever rotten part of my brain it had crawled out of.

The dispensary was crowded. Diseased youths sat gloomily in the waiting room. A few, the sort who were not sick enough to avoid standing, agonized about their weight at a nearby scale. I quickly discovered why all eyes in the waiting lounge were fixed on the doctor’s door a few feet away. As soon as the previous patient left, nearly everyone else sprang to their feet and dashed towards it, scrambling to be next. It was the law of the jungle, survival for the fittest, even amongst the least fit, the sickly, they who needed a doctor! Marx and Darwin were right after all! Society has gone to the dogs! My prospects of winning such a brutish contest with a sprained ankle were low indeed.

Yet despair is uncalled for; miracles are not to be dismissed lightly: a young man who looked like he was on his deathbed (a headache requiring painkillers or a missed class requiring a doctor's note) managed to lunge and elbow and shove and sprint until he reached the door first. He gave me a perverse hope.

It turned out to be false hope. I sat there for nearly an hour more, as fitter individuals jostled vigorously at the door at intervals, as a trickle of more sick students streamed into the waiting room, as the Alter Ego declared theses and opinions on each one who was female.

'The girl across the room looks familiar. She could even be in heat. Go for it. Wink and throw in a “get well soon”…'

I looked. Said girl was GalPal. She had already seen me and was now steadfastly ignoring me. I wasn't going to talk to her anyway, alter ego was mad if it thought I even wanted to. She hated me for knowing what I knew about her past, and I disliked her because I consciously blamed her for losing Ailis. Righteous anger flamed within.

'This is no time to be carrying THAT torch! It’s GalPal - You CAN’T MESS THIS UP even if you want to! ...unless you decide to. There she is, right in front of you! And where is Ailis now? Hundreds of miles away! Here's a tip: don’t cook up old beef.'

GalPal felt my stare on her. I know, because she looked up, down, left, right, everywhere but at me; shifting her weight from one foot to another, adjusting her hair, alternating between arms crossed and arms akimbo and otherwise refusing to look at me while her gaze skipped all over the place. I wasn't looking at her as much as I was fighting the Alter Ego in my preoccupied mental battle. My stare was on her only because she was in my looking place – (that place your eyes seem to look at, but don't see, because your brain is some other place or theory.)

'Yes, Mr. Feelings. Take a good look. We are drafting a hell of a bitching game-plan for lickin' a taste of some of that goodly goodness - preferably TONIGHT.'

GalPal couldn't ignore my unintentional prolonged staring any more, so she chose to bring the fight to me. Her scowl at me brought me back to alertness. I motioned her to join me. In reply, she stuck the tip of her tongue out at me, rolled her eyes, crossed her arms and looked away.

'Play that game!' ordered Alter Ego.

As soon as she glanced back at me (and I watched for it with taut precision), I stuck my tongue out at her, mirrored her mean facial insult, and motioned again for her to join me. It worked- a chortle burst out of GalPal; she couldn't help herself. Averting her face to hide her amusement, she stumbled towards me.

“Lucas was right - you're just a big clown,” greeted GalPal, forcing on a serious expression and jabbing at my forehead using her pointing finger. “What do you want? I haven't got time to waste.”

'You can smile now, Mr. Feelings, you idiot.'

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Culinary Heartbreaks


Many quarts of various edible liquids
Industrial-strength coolant


Bring stuffs floating in water to a boil.
Cut up other stuff very carefully using a chainsaw.
Mix hot stuff with pre-mixed foodstuff to make semisolid stuff. Stir vigorously.
Introduce cut-up stuff and liquid edibles. Continue stirring.
Heat all the combined stuff over a Raging Fire. WARNING: open ALL windows, doors, turn on air conditioning to forestall asphyxiation by fumes. Tip: Give early prior notice to fire department.
Allow cooked whatsitsname to decompose to radioactive levels acceptable for human consumption.
Permit further cooling to temperature levels acceptable for human consumption.
To introduce flavor, add salt.
Serve with straight face.

So I have an over-active imagination. The foregoing is the closest to a recipe that I ever obtained from Ailis. She said the actual recipe was secret, and I was not about to push to discover the details of it either, as I had low expectations from the outset. As I sat watching Al Jazeera and waiting for the special dish that she was taught to prepare by a friend, I visualized the recipe above, especially as I heard noises and saw a haze of smoke from the kitchen blurring my view.

The occasion was some sort of reunion, but we wouldn't be reunited for long. She said she would be graduating that August, after which she would go home to Malindi. To say I was taken aback is to put it mildly. August was less than a month away.

I was willing to entertain thoughts of a long-distance relationship, but she blew those clumsy ideas away so casually that my third eye was opened. I attained a new perspective of her repeated exiles over the most insignificant issues, and her real conception of just what our relationship had been – a fling, a hedonistic toast to the end of university. It had nothing to do with me.

I can say it now because it has been a while and I have lost all raw knee-jerk bitterness that accompanies such things: I had been deluding myself, or I had been suckered all along.

Yet, somehow, I still think well of her.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Boys vs.Homophobia

In those days I took a detour into what I thought was Lonely Lane. It turned out to be Lonely Highway. And life is full of speed traps. So I made myself comfortable in singlehood.

( I could launch into a long diatribe about the evils of relationships but something tells me someone might hold it against me sometime in the future. Besides, here on “My Life and Times,” I am format-restricted to mildly embarrassing narratives of my past indiscretions. No bitch tirades. Company policy.)

The transition in my life from having many taken-for-granted potential friends-with-benefits was new. Nothing comes easy in the real world. And regret has a way of mauling your ass just when the deed is already not done and there is no convenient time machine nearby to go back to the past and catch tail.


The Boys are mostly buddies of mine sourced from class, the swimming team, the soccer team and assorted random acquaintances. At some point there was an aspiring rock band called NaiRobbeRock (keyword: aspiring) whose biggest anything was our name. We would sit about in someone’s room at the end of the day and talk for hours. Now do not confuse man talk for girly gossip. We made fun of one another in each other’s faces and laughed raucously.

Anyone who knows Boys will tell you that they stick to their beliefs only to the extent that the gang has not shredded those beliefs to bullshit. Peer pressure. This results in some very animated arguments most which end as friendly fistfights and brotherly vendettas. You know how we do.

Between The Boys, deals over girls were made which had many parallels with human trafficking. Sometimes the line got blurry. For example Tweak and Stitchie would exchange partners and rate them, negotiations being done in The secretive Boys’ presence. Confidentiality was an unspoken rule.

Boys have a competitive edge because they can get away with dissecting taboo topics whereas civilized society must give Parental Advisory warnings first and then censor even the word ‘God.’ Not Boys. They spent their night times hating on gays and wondering what was wrong with lesbians. Yet we all knew many friends of both persuasions. On certain topics, bleeding heart liberals don’t butt in when the Boys are frothing at the mouth with intolerance.

The world is a cycle. What goes around comes around. The Boys, we who rattled out rabid homophobic rhetoric, became victims of homophobia. Not to say that we were actually getting it on among ourselves, hell no. But we became very suspicious characters after a while; sitting up in one room all night and laughing for who knew what all the time and otherwise having an uncommonly good time. My room earned a nasty reputation especially after we started transnighting there for video games and politically incorrect anti-establishment banter in the era of the Waki List. My semi-buddy Angela wanted to pass by my place one night for a late visit, but at the prospect of sitting therein with a swarm of seemingly stoned dudes laughing with one another with too much familiarity, she opted out. I wondered where the rumors came from...

Life in a hostel block with two hundred other students is a series of gray situations. Nowadays the place has degenerated to fistfights between drunken boys I don’t know over drunken girls I don’t know. Freshmen. Most of The Boys graduated. One feels old and out of place in a place one has called home for years. I looked at the past with nostalgia saw it would never be the same and moved out.

Big mistake. Some home it was.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Saving Ourselves from the Saviors We Are

I have observed a thing among a certain breed of men (being myself formerly among them? No comment.). As soon as they detect damage on a lady, they take advantage of it. It's like a weak spot, an Achilles Heel on a woman, the easiest way in.

Men have a Savior Complex which, if unexamined, leads them away on crusades that are strictly none of their business. And this Save The Girl mindset permeates in the media and is propagated by popular culture. Here are some hit song lyrics from a tune singing about a guy at a train station meeting a girl who has fled her batterer. Reggae fans will identify the culprit responsible for the song:

“I'm taking you home with me tonight/
Coz I'm a lover, baby, I don't fight...”

Let's not even discuss Nollywood movies and Latin American telenovelas which make mountains of this theme: Good girl (the victim) rescued from bad boyfriend (the villain) by good man (the hero) who she marries (the happily ever after) in the face of great odds (the villain's villainy) oh!

I made my fair share of Miss Takes in life. A Miss Take is somebody you do who you should not have done. A couple of them were misconceived as Superman Missions; the knight in shining armor who rode in, usurped the bad dude and thus saved the wrist-wringing damsel from misery. I know better now – experience teaches Man that certain luggage does not fit in Superman's red cape, and Superman is not a psychiatrist, and Superman is not even real (Oh no!). How often have we heard of saviors who, after liberating the downtrodden, became the oppressors of the saved? Think of it this way: quite apart from my own Savior Complex, the 'distressed damsels' quite likely have a Helplessness Complex of their own, which pissed off the Predecessor and will very quickly get old for the Savior-Incumbent – if the relationship survives the initial gap in logic.

If I may propose a theory: (some) men subconsciously identify signs of vulnerability in women who are fundamentally near-broken at a psychological level (or simply “man issues”), and take advantage of this for their own selfish purposes. It's the law of the jungle. Few men are honest enough to identify that their initiatives are driven primarily by their own self-interest, just like most candidates to political office; they all campaign claiming to have a prosperous vision for the country, constituency, town, etc. telling us how we are in a bad (socioeconomic, developmental) position to be in but they are our redemption mostly because they are not as bad as the previous guy who was just plain rotten. Unfortunate is the man who actually believes relationships to be pro bono charity work.

As individuals, we all have our problems, some more heart-wrenching than others. All I am saying here is that we should separate real problem-solving from chest-thumping self-congratulatory predation upon the vulnerable. And let's be honest about it. Sure, let there be empathy for those in hurtful relationships, but let there be no delusional obligations to make them ours. By examining ourselves, we come to the truth.

In related news, thumbs up to all strong women.