Rock, Paper, Scissors

Scissors cut paper, paper covers rock and rock breaks scissors. Such meaningful simplicity. The kind you search for many times (several times on Mondays) but never really fully come to again. I miss the ease that was childhood. Although I do recall several times I believe it was a fearlessly selfish era laced with just enough doses of cute and cuddly to blissfully be self seeking, unforgiving and indispensable all at once. Oh the bliss and the tyranny of the free era. With the years comes a weight of thought that is hard to escape from at best. Life is clearly not a walk in the park. Yes, all those lyrics lured us into bubbles that cannot hold in the gravity we live in now.

This lane is not so bad though. The greatest irony I am coming to terms with, is that there is no such thing as running from. Only postponing the time it will take to come to full circle. In retrospect, I recall my running phases with a lot of amusement. I am not much of a runner. The few times I have tried to pull off any such exercise have led to devastating effects. Not kidding – I have fractured my foot once, massively sprained it twice and get this –  almost got run over a  couple of minutes after leaving the gym. I kid you not. I should have taken the hint – I am not meant for running. But yet I still do. I particularly remember this one phase where I just kept running from the obligations of religion and all that I perceived to come with it.

See, I grew up in the nineties when ‘revivals’ were in plenty – though I still do not fully understand what that truly meant (or why just that one word? Why not an explanatory sentence right after it? What was a revival anyway?) I knew enough to know it supercharged atmospheres and caused many a parent to leave their children behind (or worse, go with) to an unmentionable number of church services. If your folks were really into it, your friend list would be reviewed and cut down to the chosen few that were ‘aligned in spirit.’ Revival things. I am not sure I understood much at the time but it was planted in me right about then that religion was important. So important that it had the single unarguable pass to shatter one’s axis and claim one’s attention so much that children grew up unattended or on their own much like weeds would and life continued even in the bursts of one’s absence. So I feared it increasingly until I did what I know not to do, run. And in that time I still thought a lot of what I did not want to become – detached. But as all troubled souls are prone to do, one thing is replaced by another and work was what I poured myself into. The circle was still coming to, I just did not see it coming. I did not see that in running I was becoming exactly what I did not want to be. I left myself unattended and life,as always, moved on.

From my childhoods eyes, religion was the problem – but it really wasn’t. I have memories of babysitting myself and watching a massive amount of Oprah. I remember reading through too many books and copies of the readers digests and collecting recipes (Also running up the electric bill with all that experimental baking). I remember being alone a lot but somehow, I do not remember being lonely. I have been ‘diagnosed’ with a dwarfed social IQ by some and a massive by others so I think it is safe to say it all turned out alright, revival and all. I am now trotting across many lines trying to make  a life I can live in and yes, I do wish I had had more time to spend with my family. Not at revivals, but at home. Learning who they are and just being a child – attended to. Not alone. But I am slow to cast blame because no one wakes up every morning wanting to make the worst out of their days or anyone’s at that . One does what one knows to be best at the time.

I am learning that life happens and I can only try to unravel the foundations that underlie mine in the hope that I will understand myself better, and be a better version of me because of it. That is all we have strength to do at the end of the day, no? Rock, paper, scissors – today I got paper so I cover the rocks and wait for tomorrow. What it will bring, I will use. I will not run; the universe clearly frowns upon it. Do the best you can to learn, to forgive and to keep afloat. It may be hard as hell. Or it may just may be as simple as a game of rock, paper, scissors.

 

You will Be Enough

You may not believe this but I have never had many friends. I am friendly with many but friends whose connection last? Those I have always had a habit of having a few at a time.

When I was younger, I was a pretty intense child. Though no longer a child, I think I still am. I always had a lot of what I wanted at a particular point figured out or figured out for me. Somehow, I still do. I know that may sound strange but then I have always been a thinker and a bit (okay a lot) of a worrier and so yes, I kind of always did. I also have always taken life a little bit, well a lot, too seriously; mostly because I heard at a very early age that you only get one shot at it and for someone who always wanted to get it right, I guess many forms of paranoia set in. And because perfection was demanded of me and I successfully delivered albeit most times. But friends and friendship? Those are concepts I came to really understand and appreciate much later in life Nnwa.

In retrospect, I think I lost the concept of these words when as a 4th grader or thereabout, my then teacher asked everyone in class to write about their best friend – which I did. Only to find out much later, when everyone had to read a bit of his or her essay aloud, that I had written about someone who had written about someone else. I was a bit confused of course and now that I think about it, later hurt not because I claimed sole exclusivity of any sort over this human but because the sniggering that followed told me something I had not known before. I was a friendly child but I had no actual friends – at least not in the 4th grader understanding of the word.

You see, I was almost always surrounded by people that found me aloof in some way. Perhaps it was even because I always had a brother or two around watching over me and that, I suppose, scared the little humans. Maybe it was because I was almost always buried in a book or to much television and sometimes thought or spoke as though I belonged to other realms or maybe I was just not as good at making friends as I thought. It could have been any of these things, or none. I don’t know. I remember wanting to fit in and wanting to be the one with the best friend.

It may be different in your time but in mine, that was a 4th Grade necessity I thought. I wanted to morph into someone more acceptable. Someone more relatable. Someone they would find worthy. (See? Intense child right there) Maybe then, I thought, I would be that kid. I also remember your grandmother saying to me, often after my rants, that I was enough. Over drive imagination, stubborn personality et al. That being liked is not something a child needed. All I needed was to know that I was enough she said. To young ears, she sounded like she lacked empathy at the time but I am glad she did not cuddle me to believing otherwise. Because I was just a child becoming many things and to have believed at that age that I needed to sate this innate craving to be liked by everyone saved me from myself. She believed many things but she did not believe that likeable is a thing I should have strived to be and so I did not. I was kind when I was shown kindness, smart because I was my parents’ child, tough because I learnt too soon that there are really no teams – I was on my own and that was okay too.

Much later I began to understand what friendship meant and I made a few. It was at this time I also learnt that I was doing it wrong in many ways before. I understood that it was not about having someone to write about in an essay, someone or someone to queue on the lunch lines with. I learnt friends were not people that stood by you because they felt, somehow, that they had to but because they chose to. My 4th grade self did not know it was a choice. She pretty much figured it was a right that came with the school package I guess. As I grew older Nnwa, I understood myself, I understood others and I have met some pretty interesting humans. Some have come and gone and that’s okay. Their season came and bloomed and I am forever thankful for that. Some came and stayed. Those ones you will meet. Your aunts and uncles they will be.

I wrote this for you because I know I will want to give you too much that in doing so I will forget to give you even much more. You will be your mother’s daughter. Perhaps your own will be a more carefree spirit free of thoughts and fears of what lurks in the places we cannot see. Perhaps you will be spared the curse of the over active mind. But then again, you will be your mother’s daughter. So I tell you this: likeable is not something you need to strive to be. Be kind. Be patient. Be honest. Be loving. Have empathy. Those are things to strive for. Be you – you are enough.  The friends will come and go. Sometimes in unequal proportion. You will have some for seasons and some for a day. So just be, some things you will learn along the way. And one of them, is that a lot of things top being likeable. And one of them is choosing to be you. Every day.

Yes, Nnwa. Selfish. Be Selfish.

Nnwa, it is said that if you lie down for them to walk on you, they will say you did not lie down flat enough. Nobody is born wise but it should not take you half a lifetime to realise that you matter and yes, for you, you should be first.

Selfish. Yes I said it. Be selfish. lack consideration of others enough to first consider yourself. Serve yourself first. No matter what the voices will tell you, there is no shame in putting yourself first.

You will be a girl first. And then you will be a woman. All will have to fight many demons in this life but none more than you. When I will birth you, they will give me blinkers. They will tell me they are for your own good and they will be beautiful laced but that will not change what they are. They will tell me you need them because, you are a girl. You may be distracted or panicked by this life and so you do not to see the side or the rear. They will tell me, and later you, that this or that is because you are a girl. You will be a woman. Therefore you have to be a certain way.

These unsolicited voices, will tell you how to walk and who to walk with. They will tell you what you should look like and how you should be because a girl, who will become a woman needs to be a certain way. They will say a girl, who will become a woman many times as though such multiple declarations will stop you from being the shoe you were (unknown to your mother and to you), purposed to grow into.

They will be pleased when you succeed a little or enough but not too much. With the same voice they will cheer and feign pride they will tsk tsk and say you are too much for a girl who will become a woman. Too strong. Too smart. Too decisive. Too aspiring. Too ambitious. Too feminine. Too much. They will say it with their words and with their eyes and if they do not say it they will whisper it with their words and with their eyes and if they do not whisper it they will write it with their words and with their eyes. Because you are a girl who will become a woman. And they will constantly say you need to be a certain way.

They will tell you to be selfless. To give of everything you can give because a girl who will become a woman should learn to give. selflessly they will tell you, is without expecting to receive. It is just what a girl who will become a woman should know to do. They will tell you to do as told because questions about why now or why ever are not becoming of a girl who will become a woman. They will teach you how to say yes so much you will not know to say no is equally as freeing. They will teach you a girl who will become a woman should shut her legs but they will also teach you a woman is as much as her bottom power. They will teach you to say yes Nnwa, they will teach you to give of yourself without abandon until they will also ask why you gave so much, why you never said no. They are the voices. They will say this until they decide to say that.

You my child, will be a girl who will become a woman and from the time we will have you till the time we will leave, you will be smothered by voices that will say this until they decide to say that because they will say but this is what a girl who will become a woman should be. Nnwa, this is why you should learn to be selfish. Yes, nnwa. Selfish. Be selfish but do not forget if you are filled with pride you will have no room for wisdom. I will not have a foolish child so listen proper Nnwa. You will not be proud or haughty or lack empathy. You will not lack love or happiness enough for you and others. You will be your mother’s child. What your mother is saying is that just as your right hand will be quick to offer to another, it should be quick to first give to your left. Just as you will build others, you will remember that first, always first – you build yourself.

No one will ever claim their neighbours house just because they laboured for its foundation. What is theirs is theirs. So even as you give, remember what is yours is yours.  Just as you will remember to love another, you will know to first, selfishly and unapologetically so, to love yourself.

Do not stand in the open fields and let the winds blow parts of you away. Run in the wind, lay in the sun and remember, when it blows it takes. When it shines it burns. They do not because they have no heart but because it is who they are. It is what they do. So run in the wind and lay in the sun but cloak yourself so even if some is taken or given, if some is burnt or lost, most remains.

At the end of the day, only you are responsible for you. And building every other at your expense will, like dusk, only heighten the crickets songs about you in the cool. But when the sun returns, they quiet. And you will be alone. What will you dance to if you do not know enough to have had your own song?

You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. That is why I am writing to you now. Before your ears learn to listen Nnwa, i have told you – be selfish. Concern yourself chiefly with what will fill you simply because in all truth no one else will.

 

 

 

You Will be the Fire.

Nnwa, forgive your mother for her rambling. I would still my tongue if I was confident that when the time would come, I would forget nothing that ever i said I must speak to you of. Forgive me and listen for what you will not need today, you may need tomorrow. You will go through many seasons in this your life. Many seasons. Some will have plenty, others will have lack. Some will be just fine and others would make a fool wish there would be no tomorrow. It is true what is said, one must learn to live with much and with little. For who is a man to say what his own will be tomorrow? To think fate is ones friend is to set oneself on the path to an early grave. I wish more for you than that.

I wish for you understanding, patience and the kind of soul that does not wait for the wind to fan its flames. Because this life is written by many hands. The gods will have their say. So will the voices in the winds and in the earth. So will those of men deem themselves sculptors of what they do not fully understand. They will all want to spit and not have it dry because a man’s life, who is to say whose voice it will yield to? Even in these times Nnwa, let not your faith shiver in the cold because what shivers will surely die. Even when moved with great sorrows do not set the world on fire. A fool would burn his mat before nightfall or take a battle against the gods. And me, I will not bear a fool. Of that i am sure. So I beg, listen when you still have ears to hear because a time will come when even my voice will not stir you. Listen now and perhaps when it does, you will have heard enough to remember.

It is what life is for everyone; to have both day and night, both sunshine and rain. It is what it is for every man Nnwa and your own will not be different. But it has always been the reserve of man that which he will do with what he has of each. Decide early enough you will go under, over or through until you get to the next field of air were your soul can breathe until you have to move again. Always decide early because death comes swiftly. Death does not know to knock and give one time to open his own door.

I told you before that I wish you the kind of soul that needs not the winds to fan its flames. If anything nyathiwa, I wish you this. You may not understand your mother now but she knows enough to know it is the riskiest thing to be set alight but it is not living when you are not burning long enough to be formed of fire herself. For who can burn fire? Not even winter when it comes, and it surely will. Who can stop a soul that burns for itself? Not even magic can tame it. Not even men that think themselves gods.

Perhaps I wish many things for you because I fear. I find myself afraid for you more than I care to admit. It is strange. This caring of another more than you could ever find to care for yourself. Perhaps it is because I fear the very death I have warned you about and yet; I wouldn’t mind this dying so much if I knew for certain this to be true. That for a lifetime Nnwa, you will be the fire.

 

My Madam

Mirror, mirror on the wall; am I my mother after all?

Growing up, I always wanted to be just like my mum. To my little eyes, she defined perfection – except of course when I was getting spanked for running off to the neighbor without seeking her consent first (not that I was doing anything at home anyway :)).

My mum didn’t respond to tantrums; so I didn’t throw many. She believed in loving her kids, bringing them up in the fear and knowledge of God (to my little self, mostly fear), spoiling them when she could and spanking them when she should. And there was always a gift for me under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, there always was that ladybird book or that dress she made.

When I was growing up, mum was always on the move. She was a teacher, still is, and a tailor cum farmer on the side. I have pictures of me in home knit sweaters and dresses she stitched up herself and yes; I believe growing ‘sukuma’ and keeping a few chicken always comes in handy because it’s the only way I know how. I remember the afternoons she was neither in church or chama, when I had her all to myself and we’d watch an old movie or read old copies of Readers’ Digests. One of us always fell asleep halfway and it was the others ‘responsibility’ to fill the other in on how the movie ended.

I’m not so little any more. I don’t want to be a teacher or a tailor; but I love reading and I sure do love clothes! I don’t prefer tantrums, I still don’t throw many but I’ve been known to give in to a few to keep the peace. I still believe in kitchen gardens and keeping some chicken. I still read, watch movies and sometimes fall asleep somewhere in between. I believe in Christmas and Christmas trees with gifts from ‘Santa’ underneath because what’s Christmas without gift wrappings and the scent of fresh pine filling the house? I read when I can, even as I eat, and if you stay around her long enough; you’d see that she does too. Best of all, she laughs and she loves and of these I did learn from the best.

Mirror, mirror on the wall; am I my mother after all?

Am I growing up into her? No. Pieces of the same fabrics, different quilt altogether. And boy am I glad that when I look at her, I see parts of what I will be. Is she perfect? No, she’s human; one human I’m glad I’m almost growing up into.

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Nnwa, it is Sunday…

 

Nyathiwa, today is Sunday. As I watch mama nani walk into church with her beautiful twins in tow, I cannot help but smile and think of you. I hope you will not be the kind that finds every reason to fuss because I cannot spend your first few months sitting at the back pew and walking out every few minutes. I can’t. But mostly, today I find myself thinking of you and faith and church and God.

I will teach you all I know to share about God, about love and about life. I pray each day they will be one of the foundations of your life. Foundation nnwa, that which you build the rest of your life on. I did not say lock and key. I did not say blinder. I did not say religion. I did not. Foundation, that which you build your life on because you will need a strong one if you are to grow as far as I see for you. I do not know any other stronger than faith.

I would love to teach you colour because contrary to what I may find verses to reinforce, life will never come in black and white. There is a disillusionment that overcomes those that feel that they ‘paid the price’ and have nothing of the life they had bought that I never want you to feel. It is dangerous, this faith business. Dangerous when you see it as currency. Nyathiwa, it is not. It is not. What I learnt with age I want you to learn with words. That is why I will teach you to be connected to faith not because it is a means to an end but because it is a floater that will keep you safe till you get to the shores no matter how high the tides. Faith more than people, faith more than community because faith you know will always be there.

1

 

I do not think people separate you from God Nnwa. You separate yourself. Slowly but surely, you separate yourself. Like every relationship that dies, you stop talking, you stop arguing, and you stop spending time together. That is when you stop seeing them. Slowly but surely, they fade away and that is not because people stood in your way. It is because you did. With faith, like with many things in life, do not be afraid to lose your way. Do not be afraid to separate, to doubt and question, to stand in your way, to make mistakes and live a full life. There is no such thing as perfection Nnwa; keep away from such crippling thoughts. You were born to live and to live is to find a little bit of yourself each day and for this there is no shame. Never blame people; never blame yourself when you need to find cause because of the moments you cannot see God anymore. Move out of your way the same way you stood in it. Find it, wherever it will lead, the same way you lost it. There is nothing new under the sun.

I will take you to church. You will love it when you are younger because you will be that baby everyone fawns over and queues to carry. You will love it when you are old enough to sing and doodle and colour everywhere apart from inside the lines of the 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread drawn for you. You will love it when you begin to learn the outdoors and all you want is for Sunday school to be over so you can go out and play. Then you will start to think for yourself. To question. There is nothing wrong with that. Then maybe you will not like it so much anymore. Maybe we will fight about it, maybe we won’t. I do not know. All I know is I will need you to know this God. What you will do with that knowledge will be your own. If you will be anything like me, you will ask a lot of questions and I will do my best to help you understand what I can. You will take a faith sabbatical at some point perhaps because you are tired of feeling like you have to suffer to be ‘of the kingdom’. You will lose your way not once or twice, to find it again. When this happens, do not beat yourself up, it is what we call life and it is okay. Lose yourself again and again until you find that what you need is not religion. You will need more than a belief or a faith system; you will need a relationship. And when you find that to be true, then you will understand why mama said it is a foundation.

 

avoid crossing roads and grow eyes at the back of your head

Nnwa,

You will come to experience a lot of things. I pray you do not go through pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons you do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods you are told to keep fighting through when really, you no longer know what you are fighting for. This prayer is selfish, for what is life without the black, the white and the in between? At this point, I would say bliss but it is not my place to make that call. Yet still I pray you get to be an exception. Should my prayers fail, you will know at least I tried.

Someone said bad things come in three. I think this someone does not know how to count well enough because I would say three is an understatement. A week ago I was doing well. My head was in the right place and I was all set to kick ass. Then right out of nowhere, an okada had to speed right into me. When I was younger, used to fascinate about how it would feel like to faint. I had seen people faint in movies and it had looked cool – well it isn’t. That mix of lightheaded confusion in moments you cannot control your own body is nothing ‘cool’. The guy sped away of course as the throng of spectators watched. The only one that cared enough to help was this one lady who kept insisting on helping me carry my phone and my handbag while offering to take me to hospital. Did I let her? No. I was hurt and angry and half cognizant but I was not stupid. Later I asked God to forgive me if I mistook an angel for a swindler. But I foresaw the lack of energy to mourn the loss of my bag, documents and phone so I clutched them close and declined her offer. Politely I hope. So I hobbled to the nearest shop and sat on those chairs spread outside under wobbly umbrellas. You know, the ones you either pay to ‘hire’ or buy something from the shop. My first thought was that this time, I had busted my leg for sure. I. Even I thought it was my fault when in actuality, I was not the one speeding. I was not the one trying to maneuver through traffic when I should have been patient enough to keep to my lane. I was not the one that saw a car and a pedestrian and decided hitting the latter was the best call. I was only crossing the road, trying to get back to the office so I could file my field visit report.

It had not been a while since I cried. It had been a while since I cried under the gaze of a dozen or more people but I couldn’t help it. I was not crying because of the throbbing pain across my leg and from the bump on my head. I wasn’t crying because the idiot had not even bothered to find out if he had ruined my beauty of a leg. I wasn’t crying because I had such little trust in people and good intentions even when I clearly needed help. I was crying because I sat facing the scene of the accident, realizing there was about a hundred ways that scenario would have played out. None would have ended up with me being able to move, let alone limp my way to that spot. I cried because I was bruised, dusty, happy and relieved. Cried because even when the people in my head worried about broken bones, my spirit sang praises as my heart gave thanks for what I now call my miracle. I cried again when the doctor said there were no broken bones, just muscle/ tissue trauma. I was mad, did the why me whining for a minute and then sat amazed at how there is always a ray of light, even though thin and feeble, in the storm.

The following days were not so easy though. The pain, the fear of leaving the house because perhaps this time, it would be a speeding car and I wouldn’t make it through and the questions. There are always questions. Life happens Nnwa, we cannot control how and most times what you will need to remember is to keep the experiences from tricking your mind into caging you. You will try to avoid everything, try to be safer every way you can. But that is no way to live. For no matter how safe you will think you are, you will still be a prisoner of fate. I have had a rough couple of years and yes, I would change how some scenarios played out but I cannot. Neither can I shape what is to come. But I can commit my ways to the Lord. I can ask for his grace and the cover of He that never sleeps nor slumbers. I can lean on His strength because there are days I cannot even muster enough energy to get out of bed. I can live one day at a time, avoid crossing roads and grow a pair of eyes at the back of my head ☺

This is not the last I will see of pain; the confusion of having to live through seasons I do not understand or the damned feeling of fighting shadows – periods I am told to keep fighting through when really, I longer know what I am fighting for. But I will aspire to get up each day and live. Because I realize it is simple to be the one that locks me in a cage and throws away the keys.

My Engineer #2

Things were simpler when we were younger. We had the one best friend, the one favorite food. We had not seen enough movies to have a favorite one so the tape that didn’t get ‘eaten’ by the VCR became everyone’s go to by default. If you had a normal childhood, you never had clothes that were really yours. Most of them were someone else’s before they were yours. Woe unto you if you were a girl after two brothers and all that came your way were the supersized t-shirts that were all the rage that did not go with anything else you owned. So your favorite clothes were the ones you were only allowed to bring out on Sundays or for visits to your aunts where your mother had to make sure you out dressed your cousins, at least to show you were doing well. And even though you could not play because you knew not to break the commandment ‘thou shall not stain the lace frock’ or could not walk much because those pumps you saved for Christmas and other special occasions pinched all around because they never had the chance to be broken in – they were your favorite.

But we grew up and things became different. We made new memories everyday. We were no longer consumed with the unending wait to go to the rich neighbors house, the one with the Nintendo and the bicycle they did not know how to use -because why else would they not ride or play until they could no longer ignore their rumbling stomachs? We no longer had to find ways to dub over video tapes and cassettes so we could have our own channel O video mix or hits from whatever FM stations we listened to then without our mothers realizing that one of their ‘volume one to sixteen’ tapes was missing. We make new memories every day without even breaking a sweat. But still, those were the days.

If I was to pick out just one memory to never lose though, I could not. But then I just had a fifteen-minute conversation with my Engineer today. Fifteen. And I had done nothing wrong! Just a normal father – daughter catch up. I told him I had a massive back ache (because you do not tell your father that you are having cramps) and something close to malaria at the same time. We talked about how I was too young to start complaining about my back. Then he asked me how school was and I told him I was not sure – we complained that it was taking longer than we thought it would. 2 years they had said but now, it looks like it will be three. We talked about those math units from the last semester. The ones I did not think I would pass much. He said did I not know I was his daughter, I had part engineer brains and there was no way I would fail to scratch at least a pass. I laughed, not because I doubted my share of his gene pool but mostly because I remembered I needed to tell him about my friend. The one that keeps betting on sportspesa and has not won anything yet. And how the other day, he really could not sleep because his stomach ran and ran every time he thought that maybe he would lose that money he bet, the money he had told his wife he didn’t have. He is a funny guy my friend. He did not sleep. He did not win either, poor guy. We laughed not because we do not play but because we understood the wait and the disappointment of having that one team ruin your winning streak all too well. Us, we are waiting for the jackpot, we said as we agreed to send the other ‘kakitu’ when the big bucks came through.

Of course we went back to talks of school. It is what a good parent does. Focus on the big things. We talked about how these universities these days want to keep serving units like special diets, never enough to get you where you want to go so you can stay longer and they can make more money. We talked; and when I hung up, I saw the counter. Fifteen minutes.

We have come a long way, my Engineer and I. Today, I made him laugh. It takes technique to make Engineer laugh like that – that hearty chuckle that fades off but you can still picture him eyes closed (because we cannot laugh and open our eyes at the same time) and chest moving as his faded laughter tickles your ear. And I did it. For fifteen minutes. I did it. He called back a minute later and said he had forgotten to ask if I had a spare cable because the one he had for his phone got lost. I had made him forget that he had a question. I was on a roll. Of course I did not have a spare cable but I said yes and that I would send it the next day because why would I want to break our flow with unnecessary jargon?

I was talking about memories and how we make so many now that we can’t really hold on to them like we do those from way back when. Myself, I have decided I do not want to make any so soon. I want to savor this one for a day, or a week. A couple of months at least. You may not understand if your Engineer calls you just because or if you and your Engineer talk everyday for an hour and joke until your phone battery gives in. Me and mine have come a long way. Fifteen minutes. If I was to pick out just one memory to never lose though, I could not. But then, maybe I now can. We talked. I made him laugh. Fifteen minutes. And tomorrow, I will buy a cable. No, I will buy a charging unit and send it to him so that next time we can do twenty, maybe thirty. And I will be sure the battery will not die on us. Then, I will make my next memory.

Of Queer Habits | My Engineer #1

Nnwa,

Over the years I have picked up many queer habits. Or maybe I should start by telling you I have managed to piss off my engineer today. I did not pick up his call because I was in the middle of something. Not something –  a belated surprise birthday treat that…I digress. That is for another day. So I made him mad enough to send a mad text because he was mad. I did not pick up his call, I did not call back immediately. Queer habit number one.

My engineer and I are not friends. We had no time for that. So he would not know that I do this sometimes, maybe many times. This postponing of talking. If we were friends, perhaps he would know that it is not just with him or that it means something apart from ‘Please, I will call you later’ or ‘Can’t talk now’ or ‘Had a day from hell, need to breathe’. But he does not know, so he thinks it is something that it is not and that is okay, because he does not know and I did not tell him.

Because of this queer habit, sometimes I do not call back for a day or two; or even until you call back and then I realise that was supposed to be something I did. It varies because it depends on the why. There are days that are longer than others and I cannot find my voice at the end. Then there are those that cover you with too many thoughts that you cannot even find yourself. Sometimes I just fell asleep too early – there are many things. Sometimes it is just because this queer habit has caused my mind to believe that you will know it is not a you-thing.  But sometimes later is not soon enough. Sometimes, they do not understand this thing that my mind does when it needs to breathe. I do not have many friends.

Those that understand this queer habit have somehow become those that I talk to very often. I don’t know, maybe it is because with their understanding they have made friends with my mind. Because when it gets back afloat it remembers who reached out. Only that sometimes they have moved on and can no longer be found.

I hope I find a way to break this habit soon. I do not want to cross my engineer’s path this way again. I do not want you to learn this from me. I don’t want you to pick it because not everyone will be your friend, not everyone will understand how it works – this queerness. This world moves fast Nnwa, too fast. Sometimes the moments you lose you do not get back. Do not have queer habits. Pick up your phone. Because you will have your Engineer, perhaps you will be friends but if you won’t be, he will not understand. So I will need you to pick your phone and I will start to learn how not to make this queerness make people mad because in my head, I did not mean to.

Red Dust

They are not hiring today.

That it what they said. It took them four hours to decide while we waited outside, hopeful souls in the yellow sun too afraid to think of what ifs. Now they tell us they are not hiring, maybe tomorrow. I can see others dragging away but myself, my feet are planted. Where will I drag them to anyway if I leave here now? Its too late to go queuing at the red gate, they must have taken whatever they needed by now. It must be closed by now. Nothing to sell, no work. What next?

At the front one man is arguing with the gate man, throwing big words around and when they seem not to work, even bigger tears, begging to go in even if just for today. He would take half pay, he says. Anything, just as long as they don’t let him go home empty. I did not know men could cry, beg even, and my eyes look away in what I think is respect in this his one-time show of weakness.

Is the sun getting hotter or is it just me? There is no one close enough to ask so I have no answer. The feet will not move, the mouth is beginning to feel cracked yet I am afraid that motion of any form will cause me drop the little hope I feel I am holding onto. Have faith, she had said. Today will be different, she said. Well maybe it was. This time I was standing at the green gate with the security what-not all around and not the other one two streets away. I wonder if this was the bright future mama had said her children would grow up to. I feel something in my eye. A tear? No, it is the wind playing tricks on me. Once I heard my father said men that cry will die. I do not know if he meant they will lose their breath when they allowed a tear drop or that they will die someday as all men would but baba was a bright enough man. I believed him anyway and now did not seem a good time to die, just in case he had meant the former. Not with the baby on the way, not with mama’s death still so fresh. I cannot cry, I am a man; and so I move.

There is no thud when I walk, no shuffling. Nothing anymore. Mother would have said I let the voices eat up everything inside. Whatever weight I hold is that of the clothes on my back and even those are thin and frail, not much. It is almost as if they are bidding just enough time for me to get work and get something else before their threads break.

Heh, this life. I am afraid if it insists on going on this way, I might have no choice but to cry. Maybe if I shed enough tears it will take me and keep my baby from coming, it is safer for her in heaven. It is safer for her I think. The red dust settles on my feet so comfortably, I notice it less and less everyday. It is almost as if my feet are bleeding from tarmacking too long. Maybe I will cry, but not today.

8/8/15