Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tell me your story

I’m a book addict, reading anyway and everywhere because books save me. Books have saved me. Again and again. And I know I will go the afternoon I don’t pick up a book. Because this has happened before. Books pulling me back. Always books. Books. Even as truant junior Casanovas going out to practice in skills that took us far, in odysseys that ended after ten minutes, docked, panting on mats on muddy floors in incomplete bungalows next to hostels with weeping, sighing ‘virgins’ that became only another form of a drug to be more feverishly sought. Heart snatchers, boasting, fatally, of being angel faced heart killers. Of the four, two dead, one dying and I still here to tell their story, saved on an afternoon by a book. This is our story, a part of it anyway. Beginning in the Aga Khan High School library, there for Nina, the librarian’s student assistant, unbeknownst to me then that afternoon, evening and night, after pizzas beers chips and chicken, singing with raised legs another man’s name in a room in Hotel Equatorial. Discovering...

The book: Reader’s Digest Family Treasure of Great Painters and Great Paintings, instead of Nina, getting more cynical about women, a long time before I could bring my heart to any, years, timidly before I could finally even bring it to one only. Witness how it went down for this child. Former poet at 15, a year sworn off rhymes, the writing finger twitches refusing to cease, Prefect, after the changes, where I hardly ever ventured, for Nina going back and never finding her. Never to. On that unmarked shelf standing before a revelation.

Often unsure about what I wanted in this life but definite in the silent afternoon rooms of my mind about what I did not want, I remember poring page over page, absorbed in awe in the intricacies of Vermeer’s craftsmanship, Caravaggio’s wild lusts connecting, empathizing with Cezanne’s wordless fury, frightened by glimpsed vistas of me in van Gogh’s trials, knowing for the first time I was in the presence of something close to what on 26-4-’80, 12:30am, I had, mewling, been pushed into this world for. Remembering the reasons why.

My hands shaking, like how Catherine Blake shook seeing William for the first time, in the furthest end of that library, the roar of the rain outside unable to dull the dawning realization of the terrible path I was setting my sandaless feet on, already cracked and bleeding from futile rebellion races. Set apart without my consent. The lives of Gauguin, Degas, Monet, Rembrandt offering not consolation but confirmation of the pain and living purgatory ahead every single breathing moment from now on that would not end until I was laid in my cheap wood coffin with a frowning caretaker counting the coins in the bereaved basket.

The heart weeps, I know, because mine did with joy as flicking breathlessly through the whole book disbelievingly. I remember reading, warm and fuzzy all inside me and outside me the way only wine in Sheraton Hotel on an Africa Big Brother launch night when I did not have taxi fare and I was going to walk all the way home after my work assignment and kwete in Kisenyi drinking with the owner has made me feel. I remember reading and getting lost in that book, forgetting myself as only one other book has made me feel. I remember hearing rain, rushing pouring windy rain I could not see because the library had no windows but rain only I could hear. I remember chuckling happily that my friends truancy was ruined, pleased with my wisdom, not a bit regretful at all. I remember the rain making me feel that everything else was closed off to me was pushing me towards this book and I remember being so happy about that.

My faith faltered by knocks that seemed like Everests’ before, I remember sitting on the edge of that chair knowing that no matter what, no matter how many sellouts I met and knew, I would be the one to hold out, refusing to barter this thing inside me for any price in the world, holding on as I was holding onto that book because my life depended on it. Finding my faith again Friday, 28 February 2000, six years away from hearing 2Pac sing my life, "I was born not to make it but I did, the tribulations of a ghetto kid. Still I rise." Alone but not frightened anymore.

For years till that afternoon, since I was a 13 year old Buganda Road Primary School kid filling two 48-paged Visa exercise books with scribblings in between bottle top football games and Scooby Doo cartoons on UTV that made my favourite English teacher take off his spects and look at me in wonder; I had been impersonating courage, a mirage in my own life. That afternoon after, like a long trekking 17th century Timbuktu pilgrim back from Mecca, becoming myself again.

Unafraid to hug Martin, the librarian and only man who for a few fleeting hours in pure mad joy I ever felt physically comfortable with, when in exuberance at my inchoate ravings and near tears, declared I could take the book and keep it forever because only someone who wanted that book as much as I desired it deserved to own it. He could get another to replace it.

I remember sleeping in my bed with this book for a week nearly, incredulous, unable to believe it was mine forever. A kid who had lost more than any kid that age should lose and battling unnamable demons, waking many times many nights my sweaty palm gripping tightly to reassure myself this book was not another dream from which in the cold air morning I would awake empty handed.

The first thing in years, I did not want to throw away. All these years later still owning that book which never leaves the table on which sits Betsey. Next to Betsey (hard earned baby), my most prized possession. Strange, after all these years, still unable to let it go.


All Night On: It Ain't Easy by 2Pac

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lately your posts inspire so many questions. For insance.....??????

Just Rich said...

I swear, Mr Madandcrazy, can you honestly say to me that there are 3 other people on this planet who get what you're talking about? And if so, does any of them have a link to this blog?
What the hell comic books were you reading, man? i felt sophisticated with my Hans Christian Andersen tales but you were on some deep literary scholar shit at 12!

eddiie said...

when you mention books, save from the ones i read in class,..am poor at reading..

i have the typical African way of takin things first started by the colonialists...

Read to pass not to understand!!!

Darlkom said...

What is the other book?

Carlo said...

so, was it the art that took your fancy or the words in between? has inktus read this yet? i'm sure she'd relate with a book of her own. and yeah, what is the other book? and i thought I was crazy!

Stwap said...

Good!The otha book plz sir??

minty said...

I'll confess: I read this piece from down up, and that is how it made a lot of sense. Otherwise, you're lsot in those books, huh?

minty said...

erm, lost. Lost, lost lost.

Cherie said...

Iwaya....pls find me! am so lost.

Degstar said...

yes, i was just taking a toke on d bong pipe and thinking that very same thing too.

i started by reading Alan Quartermain in P.3 and boy was i hooked on the reading bug! so badly i will choose a book over ...food, sex, shelter... anyday.

Jadekitten said...

Books....pulling you back from the edge, from melancholy (your posts lately, have more than just a touch of that...or it could be my imagination).....Anyhew...I can relate...

Books for me, have always been solace, the easiest way to transport oneself into another place and time...right from my first books : the Enid Blytons that graced my bookshelf at 5, onto the more sophisticated (LOL) Drews, and Hardys...And it never stopped.

Enjoyed reading this....immensely. Poignant, touching...

Cherie said...

Kati, where u so serious abt takin up the other job?? the one u talked abt on LA's blog?

minty said...

And those odysseys in incomplete bungalows, eh??

Mr. Magoo. said...

People are always going on and on,like the energizer bunny, about the books they are reading/have read and then it just hits me that I have read no more than 10 novels my entire life.

Don't get me wrong, I read a lot. I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the bookstore. I am more into non-fiction.

no longer in use said...

im ok. just been busy. ive updatd :)

scotchbiscuits said...

it's comforting to know;that even though I run and hide. between pages and within stories. there's a whole bunch of you all hiding right along with me.
lets hide on hiders!! LOL!

Iwaya said...

@ mehleyza: I'm still glowing from your comeback!

@Savage: what do you want to know? (yeah, i dared you!)

@Cherie/Minty: surely you are not lost anymore, are you dears?

@Just Rich/Eddiie/Dee/Stwap(I like!)/Carlo/Jadekitten/Sctochbiscuits/Degstar: About the other book, ask Baz, he knows the book.

minty said...

@Iwaya, I was saying, you the one that's lost in them books.
But I am certainly lost on the unfinished-bungalow-visiting iwaya.

baz said...

(hoping my true muthafuckas know...)

They will get you eventually. You will sell out. Why do you think they are not scared when they see you free? Why do you think they are not panicked? Because they know it is just a matter of time until they get you. You will sell out. You will become one of them. The changes will come in a small series, insidious little steps. You already traded in your phone; next thing you will be seriously unable to leave the house for work because you can’t find a pair of socks that goes with your fucking tie.
You will sell out. You will think you are making compromises, but you are actually making sacrifices. You are selling out. Cheaply. You will trade in ideals, your chosen purpose for life for what you think is security, or convenience, or just money. You will think that think that inside, beneath the tie, you are the same person, but no, you are not. That person is gone. Has been taken away. You don’t know where or by whom, but one day you look back at this post and at your past and it will all look so different. It will not look like truth, it will look like some stuff some other guy wrote. It will look foreign, and distant.

Because your eyes will have been replaced with TV screens. Your mind will have been replaced by a rote-sheet of approved ideas, a programme of preconceptions and prejudices, unanimous biases, consensus ambitions. Minds are outlawed, man.

You will see the books and plan to buy them, or at least plan to read them, but you won’t have the time. You will have the time for cappuccinos and meeting the boys to watch Man U at Steak Out, though.

So what are you going to do then? You may like to think you will fight back, but they know. They are not scared.

You will proceed to do what they programmed every one to do. Necktie, car, masters, wife, kids, house...

You have just inspired the new tumbavu.blogspot post, by the way. Please visit.

sokari said...

books are life - and life are books - the written word is powerful and as for comic books - try my friend lancetooks.com for the new graphic novel - read on

Goddess of Sorts said...

u kno wat Truman Capote said about that killer from Kansas? He said "It's like me and him grew up in the same house. And then one day, he went out the front door and I went out the back." my sentiments exactly while reading this, i'm Capote and u're the other guy.

and you know what else? i wanna meet Betsey (your muse, i reckon). that's what!