I Am An Addict

Yes. It is official. I am an addict.

You never really realize that you are one until it is too late, until that powdery bliss has completely taken you over and you have just but to go on with life or seek help. But by the time you reach that level, you are already too far gone. No amount of therapy or a purge can help you and so you console yourself with the emptiness that comes after defeat.

It began in high school when everybody was doing it. When everyone was sneaking in huge tubs of it, and all I wondered was is it really allowed? Why are the gatemen not confiscating it? And because I was an imbecilic high schooler, I wanted to be just like the others. I wanted to be just like the cool kids where I could whip out my stash and enjoy with the rest.

Oh the glory! Oh the sweetness and the decadent joy that came with the taste because, unlike other addictions, this was taken by mouth upon which it would melt at the slightest contact with saliva and stick everywhere: within the groves of my teeth, at the back of my tongue, at the roof of my mouth… And none of us would ever mind because thank God for the wonders that are the toothbrush and toothpaste.

I had the brilliant idea of mixing it with the famous Cadbury Coffee Caramel back then. And it felt like a burst of heaven in my mouth, while everyone else enjoyed it with plain old water. It was a memorable experience.

Then days came and went and I was in university, purging myself of the horrible body degradation by means of endless, torturous studies. There was no time to indulge, to simply take an oral puff and let it melt in my mouth. I was broke. I was busy. I was brainwashed to thinking that I could become the next inventor, the next humanitarian, the next Nobel Peace Prize winner. I was going to change the world but then shimata happens. The workload became immense. I was tired all the time and I needed some form of release. And that was when, after almost 7 years of being free of that bondage, I was lured back into that trap by that sweet aroma of candy powder. Yes, ‘Candy powder’ I called it, because that was just exactly what it was. A powder made of sweet memories that made me forget my woes and my pain.

It soon became a ritual. Every evening, after classes, I would rush back to my dormitory, or hostel, or bedsitter, or wherever new place to which I had moved then. I would hurry into my room like a derelict junky and steal my arm to the back of the cupboard where I hid it behind bread and eggs and a packet of Raha Drinking Chocolate (because Cadbury Coffee Caramel was out of stock), where I had packed it into a cylindrical tupperware container with three working locks and one broken one. And I would take it out and hug it and say something as absurdly stupid as “Oh Milk Powder-Chan! I missed you so much!”

Yes. Milk Powder. That is my addiction.

It had become mighty expensive. I had bought the smallest amount from the supermarket at the steep price akin to the cost of an arm and a leg, knowing I would regret every cent I spent on it, but I would engorge myself in it. I would make one cup of milk powder cocoa and drink it, and I would make another and drink it, and I would make yet another one again and gulp that one down too like the Luhya I am. And I would make sure I take another just after a heavy meal of Ugali and either Ingokho or fish or sossi sauce (since I am ‘born-town’ as my more agricultural friends would say) because I was sure to sleep very deeply immediately after, knowing very well that the processed sweetness was poisoning my insides and fattening me up by the minute for Lord Death to swiftly take me. But I would still sleep soundly, knowing that the next day’s drink awaited me.

It has ruined me. Goodness gracious this addiction has ruined me. Perhaps the milk powder has gone to my head because all I see in my waking moments are mountains of white powder tall enough to reach the clouds. I would then see myself swimming in it the same way rotten-toothed pirates swim in discovered treasure, or maybe making snow angels the way fat American kids do during Winter despite the load of laundry they would leave for their Mexican househelps.

I have discovered that I am in urgent need of help. And, perhaps if you thought I was talking about cocaine, then you need help even more than I do.

P.S.: I am writing this at 2 in the morning, the time of sleepless creatives, and also the same time African witches and wizards are wide awake since I can hear one chanting outside, probably begging his pagan god for a raise or a curse upon his bitter romantic rival.

When It Rains

I just love the rain.

It first begins with the smell, like an intoxicating perfume that can never be bottled. You can smell it in the sand, hours before it comes. It smells almost like calmness, like serenity, like an unusual type of comfort, one that you cannot even find under your bed covers. And when you look in the distance, you see that curtain of greyness drawing closer and closer, like the abstract presence of a hug.

And then when it pours, when you hear the hushed pattering of drops against the ground and the city roofs, you have to fight the urge to run or stay out, hold your arms out wide before you, look up and cry and scream for joy as rainwater – delicious and icy cold – floods your mouth. It is at this moment that your entire being flashes back to your childhood. You want to skip over puddles without wearing wellingtons. You want to stamp your feet in glee and run around overjoyed, wondering how slippery the ground has become and after how  long you will fall without getting the slightest iota of pain. You want to take your dog and go for a jog while you giggle innocently and your dog barks with excitement. Then, you want to sit with your dog in your patio, gazebo or simply the muddy ground of your backyard, have no worries about a flu, a cold or even Pneumonia, and simply stare at your tabby cat as it stares back, hopelessy willing to play with you but cannot because it hates water.

But sadly, all you can do is act mature because that is what you are expected to do. You are expected to run to the car and retreive your umbrella, or run to seek shelter while you hold up a flimsy newspaper or bag, either of them keeping you at arms reach from Mother Nature herself. You are expected to stay indoors while blessings pour outside, put on anime, a telenovella or a movie that you have watched over a thousand times, while you prepare a mug of hot cocoa which has long lost its exquisite taste. You are expected to lie lazily under your covers, contemplating the horrors that the next day (probably Monday) will bring, and debating whether buying a gun will help end the misery.

There are a lot of things you want to do, things that will let you feel happier and livelier, but noooo, you are much more contented with being miserable and losing yourself every single minute.

…Well, unless you are a writer like me. This way, you get to re-experience the joys of rainfall from the confines of your blankets without worrying about tomorrow, dirty laundry or Pneumonia.

image

The Secret Life of Weightlifting

Linguists say it is obsolete for a writer to begin a story with the weather. Therefore, being the lawbreaker that I am, that is just what I will do.

It was a bland weekday morning and I was in much more bland attire when the family doctor broke it down for me.

“Let me break it down for you,” she said. “You’re fat.”

Obviously, I did not cry. It was not a cry-worthy moment. But my mind was blank. I did not know what to think or how to react, so I just gave her my trademark stupid smile and said, “okay.”

She went ahead to explain the predicament in which I was since my expression showed just how daft I was then. If I did not reduce my junkfood intake, she explained, and if I did not exercise regularly, I would die at 21 due to lifestyle diseases.

I was 20 years old then. And that was the beginning of my intergration into the fitness world.

I remember the first time I walked into a gym. If I thought I felt fat before, it was nothing compared to how unhealthy I felt then. I had walked into a temple filled with animate chiselled gods and godesses. Muscles were wrippling left and right. Coca-cola-bottle-shapped bodies glistened with sweat. The room trembled with the groans of powerful men and women, the whirling of machinery and the clang of weights. And from the corner to which my fat mind had receded came the sigh of defeat even before beginning.
I wanted to run. As slow as my plump legs would have taken me, I still wanted to run. And worse still, I wanted to escape to the fastfood joint nearby where I would drown my defeat and despair in french fries and an ice cream sundae (even though I had no money then, having spent it on the gym membership).

But the gym instructor and members were very welcoming, and that is when I realized that those American cartoons had lied to us. Despite their intimidating bulk, these guys were some of the humblest and most helpful people in the world. And despite disrupting their gym regime, they were keen on giving advice whenever possible. And they also made some of the greatest friends too.

But it is like a cult, once you start working out, but the good kind. There are certain rituals to be followed and standards to be kept. And once you go black, there is never going back, for it is like a drug.

For instance, working out is more than a narcistic desire to look at your chiselled body in the mirror of up to two hours. For some, it is a desire to lose weight as per the doctor’s instructions, as it was for me at the very beginning. For others, they are looking for possible mates. (Did you know that as animals, we are automatically directed by our most basic of needs to search out for the male/female counterparts of ourselves most suitable to produce and raise healthy younglings? I bet you did not know that).

Others are driven by competition. To be the best; to be the strongest; to be the fastest in boxing. Just like the comment before, it is an in-born trait. Then, for others like me, we simply have nothing to do and become restless.

Then there are the issues of suppliments, workout regimes, and (God forbid) steroids, but this are stories for another day. At the moment, however, I aim to be the best, fittest and strongest I can ever be. And if you want this for you too, all it takes is one decision: to go for it, even thought you have no idea from where to begin.

#IAmWillie

I am made furious. My anger is boiling. Frustration is an understatement. Do you want to know why? Because of these killings.

I used to pride myself in the communial culture of us as Africans. I still do, but not as often. We used to live in clans and communities. Fun was had at festivals, so much fun that a whole village would celebrate simply at the graduation of a young one. Stories were told by the fireside; stories of peace, love and unity. So when, and why, did we turn away from this? How did we become so individualistic?

To make matters worse, there is the so-called Kenyan security system. For the longest time I have wondered, are there detectives in Kenya? Are there investigators? Why is it taking so long to get to the core of this situation?

Well, someone might say, “si wewe uende u-investigate!” Sadly I cannot because I’m just but a writing accountant. What I can do, however, is to urge us as Kenyans, and beautiful Africa as a whole, to go back to our former state of tranquility. Let us retain the true African unity, fortitude and love that binds us. Let us not degrade to the same level of violent Westerners. Let us be the kings and queens that we rightfully are.

#IAmWillie
#IAmMwenda
#IAmMuiruri

Music: Are We Doing It Right?

Too many times have I been told by my foreign friends that Kenyan music, the most of it anyway, is too horrible. I have agreed, and I still do. Well, I cannot blame them. As someone whose writing muse is music, whenever I write as I listen to most Kenyan music, I tell myself to stop, lean back and wonder at the gobbledegook that I just wrote.

Save for the select few – Sauti Soul, Third Hand Music, Elani, Just a Band, Dela and the others, I just have to say that just about everything else is hogwash. Harsh you might think I am, but it is the brutal truth. Music is supposed to be more than booming beats, more than rhyming words, more that trying to be cheeky with half nude women gyrating around like the Americans from the US, who are doing a perfect job at misleading us. Music is supposed to be poetry beyond rhythm. It is supposed to make us feel more than the need to get drunk, hunged-over and to get laid. It is supposed to make us feel things… like really FEEL!

Music is supposed to not only tell a story, but engage us in it, for example, Wahu’s ‘Still a Liar’. Yes, it is an old song (old is gold). Yes, it tells the story of infidelity, something that everyone watches in the telenovellas that air between 8 pm and 11 pm, in any local channel of your choice. And yes, it has a catchy tune. But there is so much more that underlies this. Here is a lady who finds herself in yet another compromising situation of infidelity. Does she run away frustrated? Does she dramatically throw herself on any stationary figure nearby and weep like a despaired Disney princess? Does she go to the salon and gossip with her frenemies?

No.

She stands up for herself and decides enough is enough. She takes matters into her own hands (because the Kenyan government obviously won’t, especially with all this IEBC cacophony), tells herself that she has to be the best she can be, and thus selects only the best for herself. And better still, she urges the women around her to stand up and be better… and choose better. And, just like that, an entire novel about women empowerment is sung within four minutes.

I miss the songs of old (haha I sound like a character from Game of Thrones!). I miss when Kenyans used to sing Lingala and Rumba. Those kinds of music adeptly produced the culture in our beloved country which is dying… No, dying is too lenient a word. ‘Decimating’ is a better definition. Or peherps, ‘being obliterated’. Our Kenyan-ism is being obliterated by what we are tricked to perceive as modernity, and uptown-ism, as metrosexualist music and nonsense. God I miss it all, even though I was less than ten years old when the last songs of old were sung. And my soul cries out in agony. Where is the poetry? Where is the romance? Where is the beauty in sounds that used to define us so well? All that is left is the noise that haunts me all night, especially after boarding a Rongao Sacco matatu!

I could lament on and on. I could critique till the end of time, but my thumb tires as I am typing over my phone. But as a last note, please, let us not resort to the Safaricom advert songs (because they are really nice) to identify our kenyan music. Let is make music like Elani, dance like Sauti Soul, feel like Just A Band, T.H.M and every other Kenyan artist who still remembers what music sounds like.

Let us sing in the true African way and not just ‘dandia tu kama mat’.

P.S.: Gobbledegook = ‘mathogothanio’

P.S.S.: You are, of course, entitled to your own opinion.

Titanium: Prologue

Prologue

“TELL ME YOUR STORY,” the woman asks in a quiet and tired voice from across the dark cell.

I do not know how long I have been in here but I think it has almost been three days since I arrived. However, this is the first time that the stranger – enveloped in the darkness – has spoken to me.

“I’m not really good at telling stories,” I confess. “I’m not even good at talking to people. My words always come out mixed and senseless.”

“When you have been in here as long as I have, any story, even one that is not well-told, is still good enough,” she says, chuckling hoarsely. The movement rattles her chains, the sound reverberating on the cold walls.

I pause for a minute, planning on what to say next. Even though I cannot see, I still look around as if I am expecting the dark silence to help me. I am in a strange prison cell in a strange land, I think, chained to the wall with the only company being that of a prisoner, whose face I have never seen. With the recent chaos in my life, what more can I lose?

Therefore, I start…

“Once upon a time, there was a boy and he was death…” I say and pause as I feel her immense anticipation hit my face like a cloud of smoke. That was something I had only just recently discovered I could do: feel the emotions of others. However, she does not say anything and waits for more. For a moment, I actually think she has already fallen asleep due to the fatigue from just sitting or maybe my story was already so un-intriguing. She breathes out heavily in response. I take it as a cue and I go on.

“It was too dark, despite it being in the early afternoon. Thick dark clouds covered the sky from horizon to horizon, as they released the heaviest rain of the year. The wind did nothing to better the situation as it blew almost as hard as an on-coming tornado …and there I was, hanging on for dear life by my tired and strained knuckles, on the edge of death.

“Normally, one does not spend their afternoon hanging off the edge of a broken bridge, being hit by the cold and relentless rain, getting whipped in the face by a blue-and-black Ankara scarf that beat in the wind. Half of it was not my fault; that much I remember. Half of the Inegress Gate, the colossal suspension bridge made of white titanium, and which stood as a symbol of the peninsula city, was broken off. The remaining half swayed dangerously in the wild wind as more and more loosely hanging sections of the tarmac broke off. A number of vehicles with helpless, screaming passengers followed into the cold waters below. I was surprised at how I had not fallen off yet.

“‘… Zenobias!’ someone yelled and, suddenly, whoever it was had come to my rescue. She grabbed a handful of my torn shirtsleeves. The rain occasionally blurred my eyes but even with that, the sight of the girl somehow holding on to me, was one that was most hopeful.

“I noticed her eyes first and the way that, even in the dark atmosphere, they cast a bright jungle green light from them, piercing right through the despair in me. They were filled with emotion and worry, but also full of hope. Blood covered her pretty, dainty nose and her lower, fuller lip was cut and swollen. Her left cheek was bruised and bleeding. Rich but messy, chestnut-colored, frizzy hair fell over her other cheek as she leaned down towards me. Despite all of the injuries, she had flushed cheeks and her face gave off a strange, soothing glow.

“‘I’ve got you, Zen,’ she said as she exerted all her remaining strength in pulling me up. She had succeeded in getting me to put a knee onto the tarmac when, unfortunately, the bridge groaned and swayed once more, making me lose my balance. I slipped. Going down hard, I hit my temple on the pavement and dragged the girl with me. Somehow, we stopped sliding off the bridge but this time at a more precarious position than before. No part of me was on the pavement anymore and half of the girl’s torso hung off the bridge. I only held on to her hands, from which I was slowly slipping.

“I remember crying out loud saying ‘Maia’ over and over again. I had never been more scared in my life and it was this fear that was impeding my senses and thought pattern. My heart was in my throat threatening to jump right out my mouth. I remember looking up at the girl again and begging her not to let me go. She promised me that she would not.

“She should not have made that promise.

“Someone, suddenly appearing beside us, spoke saying: ‘After all that, I’m surprised you are still alive!’ I could not see who it was from the level at which I was hanging, and neither could I tell to whom she was referring to. I knew she was a girl and I could all but sense the evil aura that flowed from her. Her presence was surprisingly agile yet threatening, like a feline, only that this was probably a panther and not a cat.

“‘Tsk! Tsk! We can’t have that, can we?’ She went on, and then just as suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone.

“An eerie calmness came as soon as she had disappeared and I knew that the end had come. The rain had suddenly stopped pouring and the wind had ceased blowing. There was not a single sound heard for miles, not even the honking of vehicle horns on the road closest to the bridge. The darkness of the skies still lurked filling the atmosphere with dread. Just like I had felt the evil presence earlier, I felt fear so great coming off three souls. One was from the girl who I still held on to; the second was from a familiar presence a slight distance away and the third, my own.

“‘Maia?’ I remember calling out again, conforming to my fate. The girl looked down at me. ‘You need to go. It’s not safe here…’ I said, letting the words trail off.

“I expected her to get what I was really saying. I knew she was a clever young lady so after about five seconds or so, her eyes grew large with fearful surprise then shrunk with anger and despair. I sighed knowing the reproach that would follow after.

“‘No,’ she simply said and suddenly erupted into a volley of more sincere and determined refusals: ‘NO! No-no-no… NO!’

“I tried to explain but she cut me off as soon as I had opened my mouth. ‘I am not going to just let you fall!’ she said. ‘I can’t do that! You’re my brother! I need you! We have a task – you and me – and we need to –!’ She did not get to finish.

“A mighty thunderclap tore through the silence just after bright lightening filled the skies, taking her voice with it. The bridge swayed again as everything went back to how it was, disastrous and depressing …everything except for the girl – Maia.

“Her bright green eyes dulled, gradually losing their brilliant look. The color in her cheeks slowly faded and she looked down at me with an expression I do not remember ever seeing on her: defeat. She parted her lips, straining to say something but first, out came blood, which landed smack on my forehead. I involuntarily closed my eyes and heard her say, ‘I’m sorry…’ in a tiny, pain-filled voice.

“Her hold on me broke. I fell, as if in slow-motion, letting the darkness of what might have possibly been death consume me even before I plunged into the water.”