3 Minute Reading: Red Lingerie

Its 2135 hrs – Nairobi time. I’m in my boxers right now, red checked boxers. Lying in bed, I’m covered by a blue, cotton quilt with grey checkers dotted across its surface. Two pillows support my head, and my (now-ageing) phone is clutched between my two front paws.

I type this while staring at my clothing rack, heavy-ladden with my small collection of shirts and scarves, as they too eye me in return. One red, navy blue, and white checked shirt in particular, seems to be begging for personal attention. Craving for it even. Its look holds eerie telltales of desperation. Desperate desire to beckon me over for a little tete-a-tete. Maybe even hoping I’ll invite it over for some late-night pillow-talk. But it knows those puppy eyes won’t work on me. Its place is beside that double-coloured, red and grey scarf besides it. And that’s where its going to stay all night. Right underneath the red, Manchester United, polo shirt, and the red and black lumberjack; both thrown recklessly over their neat order.

That’s five times now that I’ve used the word ‘red’. I too have just discovered how many red items are in my possession, and the statistics are crazy, I tell you. Even my pencil sharpener is of the same colour as these shirts I speak of. Do I love the colour red? Not particularly. Yet everywhere I turn, all I see is red. Like tiny warning signs scattered all across the room.

Red hand-towel; red curtains; red scented candle; one or two scarves with at least a hint of red; a red box of five half coronas; Fahrenheit deodorant in a red, metallic container; a glass, sugar jar with a red lid…..I could go on, but I believe you get the point, don’t you? Oh sorry, let me add _ even red pencils.

Now, so that you don’t view me as a freak, allow me to inform you that most of my shirts are actually in various shades of blue, _ and some brown, and _ I see numerous pinks too. No red shoes or blazers, and no red lipstick for that matter. None of all my beddings either, is of the colour red. But I still feel so naked knowing that if ever my girlfriend was to buy me a gift, it would be as simple as getting almost anything in the colour red; and nailing it.

Perhaps that’s why she bought me this box of Henri Wintermans, that devious woman. Using shortcuts and dodgy bypasses to get me all smiley, and soapy eyed. Well if you’re reading this, girlfriend, better be careful how you tread with these gifts. Or I might just adopt a shortcut of my own to get you the same. Something along the lines of: buy anything that looks/feels/smells like the person that would be interested in it, once believed in fairies. Those that fly over fields of bright and sweet scented flowers, kissing butterflies along the way, spreading cheer and happiness all day. I mean, that’s what excites you – right? No?

Well for me, the colour red does. It gives me jolts of joy and tinges of love each time I see it, or wear anything of its likeness. It gives my skies extra rays of light, and makes the sun shine even more closely. The natural flow of things gets distorted when I’m in a red item, or when this red, vanilla scented candle by my bed is lit. Burning ever so softly, its scent gracefully wafting through the air. Getting my body systems all warm and covered with beads of hot, sweaty thoughts. I’m not trying to be suggestive with you, BUT _ if you were in red lingerie, well I just don’t know??? I really don’t know what things the cover of night, the sounds of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’, and these scented candles would altogether make me do. All I know, and can say, is that I would plead innocence for the panoramic view your night might just take. Don’t they call it the colour of passion too?

So pardon the affinity, or my excitement. Its just that such tiny, red things give me so much pleasure. Well, except for that red lipstick your friend stained my white polo shirt with. I mean, who does that _ especially when hugging someone? And I’m not saying she has big lips or anything, no. Don’t accuse me of that. But damn, who does that?

In This Life…

#np Stankonia (Stanklove) – Outkast

It feels like the perfect night to write. Love is in the air, the cats outside are quiet (for once), and there’s a certain exuberance swirling and twirling around the room. It softly probes, prods, twists, and turns my consciousness. Begging me to pen my thoughts yet once again. Giving me motive to open my world to the readers that trickle down this dark, and dimly-lit alley. All peering into the darkness, hoping to one day peel the cover of night away. The night that always has me in its shadows, never to be seen by the naked eye. The blackness that now sits comfortably around me. The darkness we are now enveloped in, both you and I.

There’s a metallic trash bucket lying on the ground, old and rusty. Its lid is off, lying on one side of this by-way, its contents are strewn all over. Plastic paper-bags form a heap to one side of the two mighty walls that overlook this alley. Quite a gloomy presence they seem to have. Especially with the old, faded posters advertising strip-clubs and medicine-men still clinging onto them. There are no cats around, no rats either. Even so, it is the ideal haven for the vile creatures we call pests. Those opportunistic living entities that ever lie in wait for rubbish to rummage through, and for dark corners to hide in. High above, on one of the walls, there’s a light bulb struggling to keep up with these digital times. By its looks, you would imagine it was the bulb used by Thomas Edison on the day he invented the first commercially practical incandescent light. Maybe even a bulb once used to illuminate the dungeons in which slaves were held aboard slave ships. I mean, if the words ‘old’, ‘antique’, ‘prehistoric’, and ‘out-of-date’ were to have consensual sex together, the name they would give their child would still not define how badly beaten by age this bulb is.

But how about we move closer and see what lies in the midst of this mess, don’t you say? To help us form an understanding of the lives these creatures of the night lead. To see what this old, dim bulb shines over night after night with ceaseless resolve.

No? … You say you’re scared? … Did I get you right? … Oh, I see. You’d rather not ruin this perfect look you have on, huh? You’d rather not get your new linens stained. You’re more comfortable keeping up this facade of yours, am I right? Showing the world how perfect you are, how superb your life is, how clear your eyes are, how bright your smile is. Never for a moment being honest enough with your emotions to face the demons within. Well here’s a memo for your Royal Highness; something a wittle birdy I taw yesterday told me to pass on to people I know:

In this life, there will be struggle, there will be pain, there will be joy, there will be sorrow. There will be battles to face, and wars to be fought. You may decide to dwell on the victories, to dance and jive in the wake of success, but be warned. Take caution not to cloud your sense of judgement, or to live with an air of invincibility hovering around you. These are just but passing winds, and no strength can be attained from their gust. Just as a calm day can never power a windmill.

Be on the alert for days when you are down and in the dirt. When life feels meaningless to you, and the world seems to be taking a jolly piss on your mood. When you look at your life and wonder whether anything makes sense, whether anything will ever make sense. You’re in a hopeless relationship, or no relationship at all. Your friends seem to be happier, more successful, in working relationships, even welcoming newborns to the world. Everyday, you look at them, and feel like they’re growing further and further apart from you. To cap it all off, you’re unemployed, or stuck in a dead-end job, wondering what lies ahead.

Trifle and strife are all you know, all that seems to care about you. Your finances are in disarray, and your life ambitions seem like a distant haze. A mirage of sorts, for you have no clue about how to cope with this mess you seem stuck in. You have no idea about what direction your life will take, if ever you decided to leave all this behind you. If ever you decided to wake up, take a deep breath and let it all out. The pent-up emotions, the hidden struggles, the night-time worries.

Days like these, when your mind is a whirlpool of hopelessness and regret, are the best days to think through, and plan for, your life. To ready yourself for incoming insurgents, and impending wars. To brew in yourself a hope so potent it might make a housefly confident of landing dead centre at one of Heathrow Airport’s runways, and making it out alive. To lay down your muddle of thoughts and emotions, and sort through the jigsaw they bring forth. I mean, that’s what we are – problem solvers. From birth, up until now, we have always been strong enough to sort through our troubles and struggles. We just don’t take the time to see it.

We exit the comfort of our mothers wombs, and come into this world. Not knowing what lies ahead, or how to deal with it. And so at that point where these two worlds collide, and we say goodbye to the snuggly warmth we previously knew, our emotions get the better of us, and we cry. But still, we move on. We find that the cuddle of our mothers arms helps us deal with it – life. Age gets the better of us, and soon you want to reach for things outside your grasp. You want to get off the floor and soar for the skies – and so we learn the art of walking. It helps us deal with the inability to reach for those drawers we want to explore, or touch those toys that dangle above our heads each time we’re laid to rest.

It is in us, in you and I. The will to make good a bachelor’s lonely life, and clean up after yourself, even if there are harder things to deal with, like the voice of Canadian feminist and Non-Pubic Hair Activist – Justin Bieber. The bravery to look our real friends in the eyes, and tell them how you feel, what you’re truly going through. The strength to cope with a boss whose face you’ve replaced with an ass, or a job that’s hell-bent on making you see kingdom-come. The hope to believe that whether now, tomorrow, or next year – you will find the person of your dreams, and realize that he/she too has been looking for you.

Soon you will find that everybody, success or smiley faces notwithstanding, has overwhelming things to deal with – we just never want to be honest about them. That your “happy” friend is also dealing with the same stupid bosses, and dead-end job you moan about. That your soul-mate also had hopeless moments at one point. Wondering whether you two would ever meet, why it was taking you so long to find them, and even crying as it seemed you never would. Soon you will find that in this life, the same skies that shine over the next person, shine over you, and me. Its all about what we make of it.

So now, have you changed your mind about walking through this trashed alley-way? Are your linens too irreplaceable to serve a noble cause? I didn’t think so. As for me, my sleeves are already rolled up. I have to find out what good will come out of my mess. What outcome this self-employed life holds for me.

For now though, I have to first find the strength to deal with these damn utensils enjoying their stay in my kitchen sink. Because in this solitary life of mine, there are dirty dishes to wash.

Before you leave though, I’d like to clarify something: NO, that^mess^up^there^ is not my kitchen sink, even though terms and conditions apply _ somewhat _ but not as much.

#np Hungry – Common

A Man’s Honesty, A Son’s Tears

#np All That I Got Is You – Ghostface Killah (feat. Mary J. Blige)

I pace around my newly rented space, silently, pointlessly, thoughtlessly. There’s a song playing. Sweet melodies from the violin are all I hear, the piano too. My mind reads through the story of struggle told by the artiste. His honest take on life with a single mom helps simmer down my thoughts. It takes my mind back to a different time. A time when I was still young. Young and emotionally vulnerable. Filled with hurt from the struggles some of us humans must endure.

I crack open an egg, and pour its contents onto the already heating pan. Then crack open a second, and do the same. The sizzle of the cooking oil, cutting short the life of a would-be chick, seems to extend a calming effect my way. Perhaps I’m in a Freddy vs. Jason state of mind, I don’t know. To be honest I don’t care. All that matters right now are these eggs. Scrambled, or whatever they turn-out to be. They’re all I can afford to think about right now. That, and my parents. For the song playing reflects a part of me. A part of my life that people who know me will rarely fathom. A part that I hate as much as I appreciate. Good or bad, this part of me has made me everything I am.

I click through the images from my past. Those that float inside my head without inhibition. Those of happy times, and some of sad times. I gaze at the stars from my younger days, whose glow still lingers in the hidden depths of my optical senses. I’m spinning in circles, floating in the fragrance of the open fields at Kilimani Junior Academy. Amidst tall trees somewhere in the heart of Karen, it was here that I learnt not to wish, but dare to dream.

As the artist of the class, I would stand in front of my fellow second grade classmates, day to day, taking them through the strokes of a hand, the motions of an art. My art. With this gift, I – an instrument made from clay – would embrace my chances at making the Almighty proud. For if we are made in His image, is He not the one that’s gifted, and talented, even celebrated? Little did I know that this was to be just the first sketch on my life’s canvas, but it felt great to have the entire blackboard at my fingertips. It felt wonderful. Almost magical. A seven year old kid, with the world at the tips of his fingers, and the mercy of his creativity. I must say it helped me grow mentally – real fast.

From a young age, I knew and embraced challenges. For each time I looked at a clear piece of paper, or even blackboard, all I saw were pictures and drawings. It was the challenge of turning this clear and unused medium into a work of art that has helped me become the risk taker that I am today. Plunging into the world of self-employment without any of the tools, or financial support, that most people say the lack.

Fast forward through the years, and my life turned black. A dark cloud engulfed my life, killing my bright, sun-shining eyes ever so softly. You could say I began staring out of Stevie Wonder’s glasses. Yet as the first born, and as is for every first born, I was expected to brave it out. No show of defeat was I to portray, no amount of sadness was I to be overwhelmed by. It was I to help my younger siblings pull through this storm. To face this monster that is life. These were lessons fast learned, not by choice, but by circumstance. By the lack of any alternative routes to take.

I would spend my schooldays with my mom, back and forth this Nairobi city. As a teacher at my school, I had the unwilling chance to be her student, and she my class-teacher. Never have you been tormented by noise-making demons, until you have your own parent as your class-teacher. Still, I pulled through. Still I made those years count. For in our silent journeys across the worlds that lay in our way, I learnt the art of perseverance, of sacrifice, of persistence, and of prayer. I learnt to understand the hard-work, and effort, it takes to be a dad – my dad; and the love and sacrifice it takes to be all that is expected of a mom – my mom.

And that’s why I write to you both, mom and dad.

From neglecting your own hunger, just so we, your children, could have a meal, to staying up all night when you were overwhelmed with life. The endless nights and countless thoughts you must have had, they seem more than what you should have had to endure, to raise me and my siblings right. But now I understand, now I appreciate. Being a mother means more than just giving birth; being a father means more than just being the man of the house. It means hard-work, prayer, sacrifice, tears, laughter, joy, sadness – all because of your undying love for your kids.

I remember one outing we went to, neither of you was there, when I had to forsake my hunger, because my younger siblings were as hungry as I was. Leaving them the first share of what was a fairly decent meal. Making sure they were fully satisfied, before I sat down and took to satisfying my own hunger. This, I learnt from you. I think about all the times that we did without. All the days of hopeless stares and silent cries. Of the letter I once wrote to an anonymous reader, saying how I wish I could help change the world we lived in. Those were the thoughts of an ambitious nine year old. And having just read through that letter, it’s so heart warming to think of how wild my thoughts were back then.

In spite of it all, I sit here and thank God that I am alive, that we are alive. That the love is still there, despite the invisible lines your children have now drawn in the sand. Saying you can only do this much, and only interfere with our lives this little. You and dad have been the inspiration for all that I am. It is you two that have given me the strength to cope with life, and its struggles. The understanding of how hard one has to work at making a better life for themselves, and their kids. The faith of a better tomorrow, no matter how bleak things may be. The power of prayer, and faith in God. The sacrifice that is love; and most of all – the conviction that we all rise out from the ashes, no matter how terribly burnt we are.

As I sit here, alone in this room, I’m caught up in a whirlwind of thought. Reeling from the sad and lonely feeling that is the aftermath of reminiscence. Still listening to music you repeatedly told me was too noisy. Yes, I admit, I was too infatuated with loud, nonsensical music back then. But I’m grown now. More composed, more introspective. No longer the nuisance I was in my high school years. I now look at my life through different eyes. I now look beyond the surface of life, and that’s why this song gives me tears. That’s why it might just make me break down and cry, even as I write this.

The lyrics go “Sometimes I look up at the stars and ask “Was I meant to be here? Why?”.” Well each time I do ask this, it is these pictures of our past, lying on my table as I type this, that remind me of how far we have come from, and how far we still have to go. It is the thought of your tears that gives me strength. The days I would sometimes hide and cry, just seeing the pain in your eyes, made me swear never to see you struggle. Yet here I am, trying to make sense of the mess that is life on my own. Not enough joy or romance with the world as I trudge through the ruthless streets of self-employment.

It pains that you had to go through all you did just to raise us right. You may hate the conditions that you raised us in, but be proud of what you’ve raised. Me, my two sisters, and brother. Despite our faults, and weaknesses, I know there are things about us that still give you hope, that still give you strength. I’m sure there are still moments of joy you find in our everyday lives, moments that renew your love for us. And even though emotion is now getting the better of me, tears now clouding my sight, I have to finish this letter.

May the blessings in our lives mean to you what they’re really worth. May we always make you proud. May your hearts find comfort in the long future ahead. May you live long enough to see your great-grandchildren. And of the things I wish I could do, things I want to do, just to prove to you, that you were getting through – may this tears I cry be the keys to the house of happiness that we couldn’t afford.

#np Family Business – Kanye West

Men Too Are Sensitive

#np Roses – Nas

It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. (Paulo Coelho)

The skies are still gloomy. Monkeys still stare down at you atop the neighbourhood trees. And the watchman, huddled underneath layer upon layer of ‘protective shells’, still asks you for a little something-something.

You realize what’s changed, is you.

For in the few days that you were gone, lumbering along a different lane of life, criss-crossing the mazes of experience; you somehow changed. New experiences, new people met, new stories to tell. All these alter the perspectives you previously held about any number of things in life.

Yet one truism remains. That regardless of how old we are, how far and wide we travel, or how mature we claim to have grown; our emotions will forever be existent. They will forever be ours. They will forever remain as just that – emotions. No one will ever get to throw their hands in the air and shout, “Yeah, I’ve become so mature that my heart just turned to stone. No more emotional roller-coasters for me.” For this life we live is driven by emotions. They are the fuel for life’s endeavours, the one thing that keep us in check of the realities of the world. Pain and pleasure; joy and sadness; grief & rejoice; there wouldn’t be any of these if it weren’t for how we perceive them – through our hearts.

………………………

The other day, that would be a few weeks ago, one of my bosom buddies received that death-threatening call from his girlfriend. The kind of call that has a strange and ominous ring to it. Its sound reverberates through your senses with an emotionless chill. You can feel the sorrow from the angels that watch over you. The tiny devils around probably share some hearty laughter, with each chuckle even more sinister than the previous. For what is about to happen, is that your boyfriend/girlfriend is about to end things with you. And somehow, someway, you knew that something was amiss. You felt it as soon as that ringtone on your phone came to life. In some strange way, your heart could perceive that something not so joyous was about to happen…

I bear no knowledge of how much emotion their conversation held. Or whether either of them sobbed during their talk. So please don’t quiz me about any of that. All I know is that at the end of it all, they were no longer a pair. What was once looked at as a long-standing affair, one that was probably headed for a lifetime companionship – is no more.

The first day of it all saw my dear brother exclaim at how he saw it coming. And why he wasn’t the least bit shocked at the way things had turned out. I could tell he didn’t want to go into the details, for he skirted around my questions like a prom dress about to lose its innocence. Our conversation lasted as long as any ordinary human can hold their breath. In true “macho” fashion, he brought the two-minute discussion to a close by stating that he never wanted to talk about it again. Ever.

Understood.

Yet as it is, men are all sensitive creatures who constantly try and deny the fact that they too are sensitive beings. Treating sensitivity as a trait of lesser beings. Matters of the heart as best left for discussion within the confines of a bottomless glass of vodka. One sporting a dash of brandy, and maybe some gin, and some whisky, just for safe measure. Only with such a concoction will most men open up. The kind of concoction that tests all your senses. (Sight) You stare; (Touch) your fingers then play around with the glass as you prep your brain for suicide; (Smell) yes, you smell it; (Taste) – the odd-coloured waters finally hit your tongue, sending wave upon wave of chills down your body; (Auditory) the sound of a choir, humming a solemn hymn in acknowledgement of your brave endeavours, echoes through your now induced brain.

That, dear brethren, is what might get a man talking about his emotional woes. I repeat: MIGHT.

I must say it’s one stupid paradox. One that has gripped most males by the balls of their existence. Driving them to do insane things when they find no way of dealing with their hurt emotions. My dear brother here chose not talking about it as his avenue to emotional redemption. (Sick, isn’t it?)

Most men are like that.

I on my part, was ready to give him as much a crying shoulder as the next brother should. As a matter of fact, I believe I already did give him the most crying shoulder a man should ever give another “heart-broken” man. I offered to buy him the most ping-pong tiddly in whatever nuclear-sub our plums set foot in. Which, in lay-man’s terms, is an offer to buy him the strongest, most potent, alcoholic beverage at whichever liquor store we could find.

We set a date, and whatever was to unfold would unfold then. It’s now three weeks later, and he’s still unavailable. (I think emotionally _ in a bromance kind of way.)

…………………..

But what does this have to do with my absence? Everything.

For in the same way I’ve wound up home, there comes a time when we all find our way home. No matter how deep in the dirt our emotions have taken us, or how many unexplored seas we drown in – there will come a time when my dear brother will wake up and realize that nothing in the world will have changed.

Nairobi’s unpredictable weather will still be just that – unpredictable. T.V. anchors will still switch from one media house to the other. The men that run this country will still neglect the plight of teachers, policemen and other hard-working civil servants – while spending more on themselves and their cronies. And his neighbourhood watchman will still try to beat the cold whichever way he can. Sure enough, he still will ask for a little something something for the eyes. (Direct translation for: kitu kidogo ya macho.)

In the many months it takes him to get his emotions back in check, he’ll turn out a different man. New emotions to deal with. New experiences to have. New stories to tell….

He’ll realize that what will have changed, is him.

#np Keepin The Faith – De La Soul