Wednesday, July 27, 2011

That Freaky Friendly Feeling

Over more than a decade, I forged a firm friendship with her. We called each other best friends, yet there was little practical evidence (besides the statement of the fact) to support that claim. No long hours on phone, no random home visits, nor any of the things people do to spend time together; no, not even skydiving. I must admit a bit of a social handicap. But there were many letters to and fro, and texts without number.

In the spirit of openness, The Ex learnt from me that my Best Friend was a lady. This was in the days before she became “The Ex”. She audibly suspected that something was fishy about a ‘so-called best friend’ of the opposite gender, resulting in high drama one time; “too many messages,” or something insecure like that, followed by half a breakup. Luckily or not, the Ex has never had occasion to meet the Best Friend and have words - or more.

I think it is possible (and wholesome) for a dude to have a close and trusted lady friend who is not a girlfriend, but I can’t back that recommendation conclusively without indulging hypocrisy. Because one day I fell for the Best Friend.

Things like these are not supposed to happen! That’s why you go the extra mile to forestall such crises. You learn the meaning and applications of the word “platonic” long before your age group catches on to its existence. You become deaf to the body language of attraction, even becoming unconscious of your own reflexive come-ons, because this is your Best Friend in the whole wide world! And so you just can’t spoil the good friendly thing you’ve got! and so nothing funny was allowed to happen.

While allowing nothing funny to happen, a lot of space emerged between us, and time marched on. We met ever more rarely and chatted ever more briefly. Suddenly, it behooved me one day to inform her that we were no longer Best Friends in real world terms. We had drifted too far apart to claim the honors. According to my (jealous) calculations, I had become more marginal in her life than anyone who met her in class every day. Best friend my foot. Fortunately, it was a short and painless conversation: she shared my disagreeable views – so she said. Fine. We shrugged and moved on to mutual neglect.

Losing a best friend is a mental transition above anything else. Nothing really changes besides the lenses through which you look at the situation. Perhaps a little crankiness for the first few days. Inevitably, the Best Friend and I forgot that we were no longer best friends. We reverted to telling everyone about our opposite-gender best friend, even if we did not talk to one another as much as we talked about one another. But one day, we outgrew all this foolishness (I don’t remember who it was that initiated contact), and decided to catch up with a visit. My place.

The natural tendency for platonic friends to overdo reconciliation was our undoing. And we were alone all by ourselves and close together. Somebody spell trouble. It certainly occurred to me – I had already fallen for the Best Friend as soon as we met, at the instant of reunion. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. That day my brain forsook all the platonic things therein and all understandings thereof. (It had been a long absence.)Yet, somehow, I kept my head and maintained my bearings. The visit had no incidents, really. I barely fled temptation only because I ceaselessly exhorted myself, in many fervent 'asides', to behave in a manner befitting a platonic friend.

Afterwards, I started thinking twice about the far-fetched silly-sounding concept called platonic. One or both parties must regularly asphyxiate the natural tendency to fall for the other. And spend their time hiding the fact that they already fell for the friend they weren't supposed to fall for. Third party observers see right through these self-delusions, but their insights are always rebutted with lies as blatant as "It's not like that." One easily tells the platonic best friend a million things one could never breathe a word of to one's romantic partner. Sorta confuses up the ratings: who's supposed to be the special one?

The worst part? The romantic partners of both platonic friends must depend on the shaky trust that funny feelings towards the friend will be stifled, without fail, EVERY TIME they materialize.

Wanna bet?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coast Tripping

Everything there is to be said about Mombasa can be found online readily - all the hype about white sandy beaches, delicacies and fun. By now, Ministry of Tourism and its associates must have employed enough translators to do that job “in line with Vision 2030 objectives”. Of relevance: the swimming team visited Mombasa once again because we (swimming team members) got it in our heads that we could presume to compete with Kenya team members at the same level. The Dunford brothers, et al. Of course, some of us had the capacity for it, and others knew they stood only to embarrass themselves if they tried, but either way, this was immaterial in the decision whether or not to go to Mombasa. Homo sapiens = Thinking man.

We were largely the same lot that, a year past, had undertaken a previous coast trip in the name of representing our university’s sports fraternity at swimming competitions. In all truth, the real climax was nocturnally hitting the club scene, getting smashed and enjoying associated varieties of fun. This necessitated the sleeping away of hangovers during time originally intended for swimming competitively in the heats. (One does not swim a heat when one suspects that pool chlorine is not the best ingredient to add to the alcoholic cocktail that one’s blood has become.)

Having long vowed never to consume alcohol again, I could not tag along with the rest of the crew to their ungodly-hour club-hopping initiatives. So, Saturday night found me alone weathering a cool strong gust on the beach. (Audience heckler: “Get a life!”) The next day, my more venturesome teammates discovered with dismay that Sunday nights in Mombasa ordinarily make for lifeless raves. Therefore, Sunday night, we all gravitated to a popular public beach to while the time away with drinking games and other revelry. A sea breeze fanned our exertions.

The way I recall it, after the initial bursts of energy surrendered to the influence of strong spirits, there was a collective knockout session. A literal human heap piled high upon the sandy shore. Those of us who remained conscious – no, I can’t speak for everyone. But me, I fixed my gaze upon teammate Ciku’s comely countenance, and shortly approached her.

Alas! Things from the past will always bite your ass when you least expect them to. A year past, in a similar environment, the motto seemed to be “What happens in Mombasa stays in Mombasa.” I convinced myself that things had gone swimmingly the first time round, and so an attempt to rerun that particular episode with Ciku would be welcome.

So I charged forward to the attack on the double.

I was not a mistake Ciku was going to make twice. She hated me, she said, even though feelings were not supposed to be engaged; the basic principle being “what happens in Mombasa stays in Mombasa.” It became obvious that feelings could only be denied, not ignored. And then it was time to make peace.

I learnt something upon the windswept beach as Ciku and I squared: Karma exists. Ignorance or insensitivity to Karma does not efface its consequences.

Besides that, earnest heartfelt forgiveness is a sea breeze on the beach: awesome.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Suspect has Escaped on Foot

What exactly does someone do with a rejection? Subsequent attempts to get in her good book are propelled by the added urgent need to save face after misfiring the first time round. One feels compelled to correct the grievous wrong, and quite soon, success or failure becomes a matter of pride. There are even some who “aim higher” in a vain attempt to turn the tables, trying to make her regret spurning their advances. The rejection in itself might otherwise have been a non-event, but thanks to pride, its implications resonate in ways that make the whole thing bigger than itself. I trust you hear me correctly.

Because your middle name is schadenfreude, dear reader, you are thinking “Get on with it already; spill! Tell us who rejected you and how you cried boohoo!” But this ain’t “truth or dare”. I’ll find a way to beat about the bush without revealing that I actually drew her a picture before I ever talked to her! Oops! I bet you’ll never find out that I spotted her just once and started drawing that picture immediately. What can I say? I liked her smile.

No, I’m not mad, nor tuned in to space alien wavelengths. But I was definitely younger way back then.

There was a time when pictures of the Ex were arrayed in my room. They constituted a small art gallery. I gave a few of them to her, and she liked them very much. Someone say “get out of jail free card.”But those were happier times, and The Ex was probably more art-loving than her intended replacement.

But the intended replacement didn’t share my expressed belief that she was the intended replacement. (In a future post, I will recount other instances of how people think I’m always joking or pulling pranks.) I can acutely remember standing solitary at the window after the rejection. Staring after her receding figure, somehow, the one phrase that came to my wine-unbalanced tongue was “The suspect has escaped on foot… The zasbect…”

I’ll save you a ton of reading and just say, here and now, that subsequent efforts to apprehend the suspect yielded no returns. But we became awkward friends.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Singling the blues away

“To fall in love is to fall indeed!” I have already come across plenty of practical preliminary evidence to support this position. However, youthful ideals have a way of sustaining dangerous inclinations towards love, even after we have read the witty proverbs which underline our experiences. This is why you will read this and write it off as a bit of foolishness on the part of a disgruntled probably-recently-dumped dude. Your funeral.

Courtship as we know it is a bummer. The thrill of the hunt is in the chase. Thus, as soon as the prey is cornered and savored there better be another hunt or else, no more thrill. Ask any veteran bachelor. With courtship, they will tell you, ultimately the effort is the only real reward. A bird once in hand loses the all-important luster it had while it was singing unclaimed in the bush. Such is human psychology. But there’s got to be another way. Escape the hunt-catch-hunt cycle; be single.

Do I mean you readers should leave your painstakingly acquired mates? Wrong question! Am I advocating for the end of family values? No, actually the government should intervene to preserve marriages and families and all that. Which foreign embassy has poured money at me to subvert national cohesion? Depends on how you define embassy! Kidding! I am just suggesting that if we were all single there would never be a Mpango Wa Kando - at least technically speaking. Promote world peace. Entrench global stability. Go single.

And what of loneliness? I say join a social networking website already. Follow self-absorbed celebrities on Twitter. Accumulate stalkers on Facebook, and stoke their interest with periodic photo uploads, while indiscriminately revealing all your pertinent bio data. You see, real romantic relationships are too serious to go about having them. Too much relationships takes a toll on your life! Relationships which intend to engage the services of true love are so serious that participants must fully intend to go all the way before they even start. Anything less, and my pastor calls out selfishness, fraud and theft. Avoid relationships that implicate you among evildoers. Go single.

The scourge of passion shall ever be with us, and unfortunately so. That is why the failsafe prescriptions spelt out here are doomed to fall on deaf ears. Yet do I persist.

Listen! Feelings have a way of hiding, sneaking up on our cool rational minds from behind and clobbering them unconscious, so as to institute a liberal regime. The junta of mutinous Feelings then proceeds to misgovern all the Faculties while popping champagne, to devastating effect – a big self-congratulatory flood of hormones swamps the victim’s itineraries with bureaucratic romantic dates. Such dire circumstances force the heart to take up the job of thinking, lest all reason be lost to the insidiousness of adrenalin-laced testosterone/estrogen. Thus, errors in the pumping of blood tend to occur in the environment of love. Erratic palpitations coincide with the instant of love at first sight. The heart is so one-minded that it cannot multitask thinking thoughts and pumping blood without churning out poor results in both processes. (Just like a man can't multitask.) If this has never occurred to you, then you must have long acclimatized to soap operas.

Certain researchers I am too busy to fabricate right now discovered that being in love is addictive. Do you want to be considered an addict? They scientifically proved that any given individual is more prone to succumb to spontaneous death when their romantic relationship ends – same way a crack addict mercifully dies eventually - but only after a pathetic manifestation of various withdrawal symptoms, including tears, shivering, wailing, moodiness and incoherence. You don’t want to go there. Go single.

Going single is the hardest and most unnatural undertaking you will ever attempt. Still, try it. Your heart is for pumping blood – so it better stay focused. Bear this in mind and keep a keen eye on those feelings. Rule them with an iron fist. Herein lies safety and national security.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Radical hairstyles are the preserve of the few. I learnt this soon after sporting dreadlocks early one semester. Prior acquaintances could not even identify me at first, and then they mostly claimed that the so-called antiestablishment hairstyle was unsuitable for conformist types - such as me. (Me, a conformist? Yet, prior, there had happened to be wild shaggy clumps of nappy hair all over my scalp.) Quiet guy that I am, that revolutionary social-misfit hairstyle may have been the loudest public statement I had ever made yet. I loved it.

As for my personal life, Pearl was that acquaintance I last saw when she was a little girl and I was a little boy. A rather quiet Friend on Facebook… I sent her a probing message. She replied. Enough inbox exchanges later, it was time to exchange numbers. Conversation was mostly on phone in late hours of the night. Yes, hours. Enter sentimentality. Days passed when Pearl occupied all my thoughts. One day, I met Pearl - a hard-sought privilege - briefly, over lunch and ice cream. We then embarked on an exclusive relationship. Call it rushed if you dare.

Ours had its highs and lows. Our narrative will skip the juicy bits of the plot, however. This particular blog post (read: not “tabloid column”) is one of those ones that are overly abstract. (For readers who are not inclined towards intangible concepts, the issues covered herein will tend to fly overhead.) That said, I learnt many things.

Emotional distortion of perceptions prohibits effective problem-solving. Something about being in a relationship makes cool-headed rationalism within that particular relationship very hard. Emotion-colored thinking – if at all the brain is engaged – usually escapes rational conclusions. Self-justifying platitudes tend to polarize lovers into combative stances. Unfortunately, lovers can’t usually seem to avoid reverting to self-justifying platitudes during joint flying rages.

Pearl, like many other friends of mine, voiced concerns to the effect that I think too much. (GalPal, someone else I half-liked, earlier claimed that I could think things to death.) A more formally-inclined person would talk of Analysis Paralysis. But thus do I retort: “Analysis Paralysis is just a buzzword.” In my world, that term lies disused under the same scrap heap of impressive yet suspect phrases as “in line with Vision 2030 objectives.” Point is, anyone who tries to get me to think less is surely misleading me. Thinking never hurt as many people as failure to think did. Is there anyone at all for whom a little thought wrought not one spot of benefit? There are worse things than having a hyperdeliberative partner. Like, duh.

So, that love trip bombed.

I know I need to grow up a bit in certain ways before I attempt another relationship (…as if this entire blog has not so far been a testament to my unparalleled unfitness in matters cupid). Meanwhile I have no business trying to be in love. In my idealistic head, a relationship should not feel like a painstakingly contrived musical in which characters `must fit inside certain prefabricated roles while hitting the right notes after cutting their dreadlocks. All of which I did to the best of my ability. Yes, I transitioned from dreadlocks to “Jordan”. What a shine my head became. I hated it.

What happened to individuality?