Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Many Muses

This is for Tshila, who will never read this; Café Pap, Friday evening, impatient to get out of Kampala again; I was listening, when you were talking about him. Your eyes made me cancel my coffee order.

I love women more than I should ever confess. But not all my muses have been women. The women have lasted the longest though. This is no paean or maybe it is. I don’t know. The drink doesn’t help me sleep anymore. The black Suzuki I loved is off the road, I can’t park by the Nile anymore playing Beera Nange by Tshila trying to sleep, trying to decide if I want to drive on to Akok Riverside Hotel or into silent town to Juba-Raha, must stop at Queen of Sheba. Insomnia is romantic only on paper, take some dawn drinks with me, no city has haunted me like Juba haunts me. I’m certain my staked future is somewhere in your taciturn lazy sitting afternoon, dark brooding faces watching me drive by, after lunch when work ceases, waiting for the Muezzin’s 6pm call to prayer. Juba, your still innocence is like a five year old girl’s cheek kiss. No one will ever love you like I love you. Sleep sometimes still comes in your embrace. Beera Nange…sija kwerabira olunaku lwe wangamba nti oyalagala oku beera bwomu…ebigambo bimbuze…mukwano…all my prayers are for you…all my muses are gone.

I was in love with her because she was in love with me. I will own up now. I still listen to Michael Learns to Rock sometimes because we did some things to Breaking my Heart that many lone dawns have failed to banish from my mind. I still start awake some nights. For her. Her hold so strong, so long on me that when five years later she wrote me a letter, I left the school I was in midterm, left home, traveled two towns further than I had ever been to be with her for a weekend that became a fortnight. Getting drunk to Breaking My Heart I did not think I would ever love a girl again, learning why the gods say goddesses and men must never love. She was responsible for all my heartbreaking sins. Teaching me it was okay for a girl to ask me out. My near eternal Achilles heel. I still need to be drunk, after thinking of her, to sleep.

Perfect dimples belong to her. Before there was Poetic Justice, before there was Janet Jackson, there was her. Teaching me I could be a more effective rebel who wore my green tie and tucked in my white school uniform shirt, the girl for whom afternoon classes were skipped, I did not think of forever but I knew it would never end. I have been everywhere again where you took me. Since us. Muse before I knew what muses were, caught unprepared. Will this longing never end?

I used to be terrified of formidable women before she was my muse. Let me rephrase that. I used to be afraid of women preceded by their formidable reputation and she had more than one. Knowing her before I thought she would ever even bother to know me. I had never actually seen her, did not think I would like her, until the day I did see her, compelled into her presence. I will never see anyone lightly scratching the tip of their nose without thinking of her.

I never thought I would be worthy of her attention. Starting at the bottom in the scales of her eyes. The strange quiet one who never went for lunch not because he did not wish to mingle but because he could not. To this day I do not understand why she let me use her seat and her computer when no one else seemed to notice I was in the room when I was, a perspiring silent absence; I have heard of music collections but none moved me more than the one she had on her computer, the wails of those songs telling stories her severe black suits would never tell as well. Of all the muses I ever had, she was the muse I have needed the most. You were my courage belt.

She has by far been the best muse I have ever had and I’m afraid I’m losing her. I know I’m losing her and I cannot blame my being in Juba roaming for the distance that is growing between us. I have been in the passenger in the taxi backseat pulling away many times enough to know she is the one being lost to me. I’m the one with the wistful smile, my muse falling into what seems true love, she will never be mine alone again, she is no longer mine.

Last time I saw her, in Kampala briefly, I took a week to go see her because I knew she would leave me standing in the reception area where she works, the time would never be enough again, 5pm for others she still has meetings to go to. My many splintered muse had it together finally, not knowing whether to push my chest out with pride because there was she was, so in-charge, or no chest slouched shoulders leave the premises, she has forgotten me. I stood there, losing her. Not quite sad.

I stay up nights now thinking of another more than I ever thought of any other. I know it’s happening again, I’m laughing, it’s silly, really I should be beyond this, but it’s happening again. I make her laugh just to hear the chuckle in her laugh, I call her up when she does not expect me to be calling her to hear how she sounds before she realizes who is calling, I’m trying out new nicknames, thinking of places where we are going to go, talking to her by phone, by email, and yahoo! messenger, her favourite slangs’ entering my everyday speech, I want to know every thought she has ever had. I have never been able to talk to anyone for hours like I can talk to her, she is the muse I did not expect. The one Muse heart and head are willing to agree on but for circumstances; it’s like I have never gazed into a girl’s soul before her, I’m a kid and man before her. Not falling in love with her is harder everyday.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is This Why People Love Wrestling?

My Life as A Fake

Am I a compulsive joiner? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Nevertheless. I just joined another internet interaction group and I have no idea what this says about me. www.shelfari.com/madandcrazy that’s where I’m for the moment. You can go there too if you want to know what I’m currently reading or think is worth reading. I have no idea why I should even begin to think you would give a hoot about what I’m currently reading but there you go! Perhaps it’s this mood I refuse to acknowledge currently permeating all my life that makes me think this way? I would rather not think too much about it!

Dennis Matanda introduced me to
www.shelfari.com, great site! You could go there too if you want. I don’t know how am going to sound with this but since I have been in Kampala the last week, gorging myself on cheaply bought books on that pavement opposite Radio One in my lunchtime hour, I thought I might as well tell you which book am currently reading, halfway through it in fact. I’m reading My Life as A Fake by Peter Carey.

For the longest time I held off reading Peter Carey until this week when in Kampala, I bought me a copy of My Life as a Fake at a pavement stall. I now know why I secretly dreaded opening a Carey book. A few pages into My Life as a Fake, an absorbing disturbing novel about literary hoaxes and lives, a mounting fear is gripping me.

Carey has made me care for characters in a novel like I have not cared since I was a child reading Penguin classics from Robert Louis Stevenson to F. Scott Fitzgerald and I will remember reading Charles Dickens David Copperfield all my life. I had not cared for characters in a novel that much until I begun reading Carey’s My Life as a Fake in a minibus taxi on my way to work from Entebbe this morning.

I’m so afraid for Sarah Elizabeth Jane, the narrator of this novel, trapped between two old men and their memories and they seem bent to exploit her in some sort of twisted revenge bid. I don’t know if John Slater, pompous man of letters with miniscule talent is her protector or her ultimate betrayer like she thinks he led her mother to commit suicide and drove her father to drink and a death less than what one can talk about in civilized company. But then again it might be that the real danger to her sanity and what’s left of her innocence maybe destroyed by the strange relic from another poetic age called Chubb in a Kuala Lumpur side street, a white man living like a native with blisters and a strange disturbing sanctity.

I’m most disturbed though that I may find out I too have been deceived by Jane who I already care for more than this tale of smoke and mirrors warns me I should not be. I want to stop reading now but I know I will not!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Poetic Justice

Before I had ever heard Again by Janet Jackson, before I had ever listened to a Tupac single, fire in the belly!, before all this, there was Poetic Justice

I'm going back to movies that used to make stay up all night, gripped by a human story which when I groggy from all night watching, stars in my eyes, deep breathing, I talked to friends. In tumbling confessions from their lips, lives like reflections on broken glass in the grass, discovering the same stories were in their lives. I'm going back to movies...that moved me...about my life....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not Exactly Ear Worms...

Baz, Jackfruity, y’all are to blame for starting me thinking about my Desert Island collection of songs I cannot live without. Some I play every damn day and their magic never wanes. Music I listen to on days when my coffee cup is empty, Juba Sunday afternoons when I do not want to go to the Nile shore with the guys, when there is pending work and I’m trying to remember how Thomas Mann said he had to learn discipline, on mornings when I’m alone in the office the weight of my new responsibilities crouched in the corner, a year to the day when I last received an email that I wanted to read through again and lovely Ishta sent me one, I listen to these voices. Wafting me to worlds that exist in the many roomed mansions of my mind…remembering my own story behind each song…who first made me listen…compact discs to my laptop Media Player…

My Struggle songs

In constant rotation

1. Everyday Struggle by The Notorious B.I.G or Sky’s the Limit
2. Nobody Knows The Trouble I have Seen by Sam Cooke
3. Only God Can Judge Me by 2Pac
4. Rock Bottom by Eminem
5. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
6. Nkoye Okwegomba by Philly Bongoley Lutaya

Mack my word!

Songs that leave me still tingling…still figuring…

1. You’re Nobody (Till Somebody Kills You) by The Notorious B.I.G
2. Riders of the Storm by The Doors
3. Still I Rise by 2Pac
4. Bad Boy by Amani
5. Fire Anthem by The Bashment Crew
6. Maniac Monday by The Bangles
Honorary mention. 7. Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits

Now if you were the girl…

Love paeans I will never get enough of

1. Another One by The Notorious B.I.G
2. Kim by Eminem
3. Ghost Ship by Sting ****not having that one*** If He Loved You
4. Beera Nange by Tshila (new entrant)
5. Red, red Wine by UB 40
6. San Francisco by Vanessa Carlton
7. Driftin’ by Jimi Hendrix

Never been a fan, but I respected...

What do I remember about Lucky Dube?

That he was loved more devotedly by Ugandan music fans than they have ever loved another singer. That his songs were not just songs to his fans but a secret writing to create a better world. That the taxi I was in this morning from Entebbe fell into a deathly silence as the news crackled through the radio. That silence continued even as the presenter moved on to other news items, numb shock on all faces. That I did not have joy all day though I deserved it today, Lucky Dube on my mind. No singer has made me respect him without being a fan like Lucky did.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oh Michael, You Were So Right!

I want to wail “I’m a mess!” I want to cry she has left me and I’m in this room on the floor bawling my eyes out. I want to…but I cannot, there is no reason to. The shimmering tears in my eyes are from joy. Oh Michael, you were so right! I’m listening to Beera Nange (Be With Me) by TShila and I can no longer vow there is no Ugandan singer whose concert I will ever buy tickets to. I have found her! I will buy tickets to her show to hear her sing Beera Nange. I have not been this moved in so long. Oh Michael, you were so right! She is divine!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Friday Evening in Kampala

I have had too many of these.

This post is for the person in your life still standing next you when you have humiliated yourself to depths you did not think you had in you, to the person who still loves you, cleaning your vomit off a floor that is not of the house you built, the person who will wake you up in the morning just before lunch with a brunchfeast with a loving smile, or who on nights you think morning is too far, you call up after midnight and they are not annoyed you’re calling. (I have been blessed with several). From my friend, Jack Mataachi, this is especially for the one reader who read KIM +14, the last of that series.

“I'm sorry for the things that I did not say
Like how you are the best thing in my world
And how I'm so proud to call you my girl

I understand that there's some problems
And I'm not too blind to know
All the pain you kept inside you
Even though you might not show

If I can't apologize for being wrong
Then it's just a shame on me
I'll be the reason for your pain
And you can put the blame on me

You can put the blame on me
You can put the blame on me
You can put the blame on me
You can put the blame on me”

AKON, Sorry, Blame It On Me

I have not had so many evenings that I went back home at the end of the day and I wanted to flip open my laptop and record what I felt on the evening in the company I had kept. I have had too few evenings like that I can still count them on my fingers of one hand. For the longest time, two bloggers had contributed to two of those evenings that now number four in my memory. But I had expected them to be memorable and I was not disappointed when at the end of the evenings, many Guinness bottles later in Garden City The Venue on some of my first visits, those nights, those evenings still live in my memory like I’m relieving yesterday night’s events, and the blurry headachy line is not because I have a hangover but am trying to recall every detail.

The memories of evenings I will never forget given to me by bloggers are upto three now. The third memorable evening by a blogger was by Dennis Matanda and he did not know what he was doing. Did not intend a 30 minute meeting that ended with me jumping out of his car opposite Cairo International Bank on an evening when he was rushing to present his show at KFM Radio in Namuwongo and the mechanic was rushing on a boda Dennis had paid for to his garage to pick his tools and Dennis thought it was absolutely crucial I read a book by...oh I could never keep those South African author names in my head, on an evening I was going to meet her after a whole horrible week without her presence and a friend was dropping into bankruptcy crying out for help and I could not help though I passed by his business everyday to survey the wrecking of his youthful dreams, I did not expect an evening of hope when I had packed hope in a suitcase, launched that suitcase of dreams on a sea of dreams and never heard from it again, Dennis on that Friday evening provided the first scrambled signal that the suitcase had not drowned, 10 years since I last heard from it, and I was writing novels for adults when I was 14.

It would seem that my sweaty boda arrival did not matter, that I had got lost so many times and I had not had enough money to beep him on my phone bought on debts I would never be able to pay until I left the job I had then, to Dennis all these ceased in importance, strode-led into a world he admitted happily was Ivory-Towerish, my Kikuubo sensitivities not aroused and the secret communist did not cock his AK 47, Stalin has betrayed us so many times, I had wanted to see more, Dennis so large hearted, I was wondering how someone in his 30s in Uganda could still be so innocent in his suppositions, old before my time, becoming young again as I listened to him describing how he had acquired one book like it was the day he realized he could read and how thankful I was you switched on that Air conditioner and you did not move your nostrils to show me that that the Fa deodorant I had worn earlier that morning had worn off, a banker who did not talk like one to me, you had me wondering, walking down to the Old Taxi Park, past Radio One that broke my brother’s heart years’ of service after but never mine, I’m Iwaya! The one possible breaker of my heart broke it before she knew she had broken it, I’m Juba wandering now, staring inside pistol butts and there is no fear in my soul, Patrick know what I’m talking about, ready to die before I was born. You made me have faith on that evening, Dennis, the scents of Hotloaf bakery next to Tourist Hotel not yet wafting my way to remind me of morning table breakfast realities you have probably never had to in Buddha sobriety contemplate on brought me back before I shoved and pushed my way into a taxi to a destination that makes the existence of Iwaya continually possible longer than I thought he would last.

How many times do you think I have heard it said that an intelligence like I reflected for you is rare? Anywhere in the world? I was 9 years old when I first heard that from a teacher who I sensed had more than maternal attraction to me and I was not wrong, stone seat sliding, Saturday afternoon, coaching day, she had nothing new to teach me. Except that. My Christian Lady of Regrets, I understand Catholic guilt better than you will ever fathom. You had me asking questions no one would ever answer looking me in the eye. I remember the Thursday evening I took shelter under Teacher’s House on Bombo House, certain of my canes from my father because I had not been the first in my class when we both knew it was not my fault, I never hated you like you though, the world cleared in the rain. Dennis, I have known facts you will never know, my last real evening in Kampala before I left, you gave me a reason to come back.

I have said this before.

How does one survive Uganda? You drink a lot. You need that facility-ability. The drink is not because you’re an alcoholic or because you’re looking for an excuse. The drink is not because you want to prove how much you can take and still function much better than most of your colleagues. The drink is to dull your reactions your country. To the waste abundant you have to confront everyday. A waste that begins with you because no matter how much praise you get, in the nights after midnight when all the rest are asleep and your restlessness keeps you awake, only you know how much your abilities and talents are not being utilized by a country and an environment that would most benefit from your services. And it is not vanity speaking but a dire need to be used for the functions for which you were created and everything in your being reminds you are supposed to be doing.

What drives you to drink is not because of your current unemployment where you know you are most needed. What drives to you drink, early morning tippling before you brush your teeth, when she is still in bed, and you bade the children a good day at school, is because you know you will never be needed. You will never be called upon by your own country to help build her. All your life she will not need you, she who you were built to serve at your best because for various reasons you are sure you were not born at the right time. It is what makes 11am come around and though many people would think you’re drunk, you can’t walk in a straight breathalyzer police line, you are more aware of your fall than you would ever be if you were completely sober. The sinner without original sins of his own except against his talents. What drives you to drink is the realization that begins around 3pm every night that not only will you never be called to serve your country, but that you will never be needed enough for your country to search you out.

I dream of death more than anyone I know. False visions of my demise, I have become an expert in spotting; I have been having these dreams since I was a child. Death does not stop me anymore, spurs me more.

Know this.

Iwaya cares. More than Iwaya cares, Iwaya is on your side.

“Enemies give me reason to be the last motherfucker breathing.”
2Pac, Breathin’

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

When I Could Write Happiness...

This is for Scotchbiscuits who wants me to write happiness and Countryboyi, seconded by Haji Zack who onced wondered if I could ever write about anything but love. I used to. This is from five years ago, when I could write happiness and about everything but love!

"It was a hot December afternoon, the last day of school before the holiday break. The science class in its dying minutes was the last of the term. Seated in the fourth row on a desk for two between two girls, Janis Ntindo could hardly contain himself. With every pause the teacher now made his and the class’s hopes soared that he was finishing only to be crushed a new as he resumed. With the rest of the class still awake, he was damn impatient to get out and though he loved the science lessons, with the many dozing, was bored.

Christmas was not more than three weeks away and there were m any preparations still to be made! He wanted to get home and join in the fray and confusion! He could hardly wait and from the conversations he had had with many of his friends, overheard and the look on many faces now he could tell he was not the only one.

It did not matter that they now lived in a dilapidated flat in a not so reputable part of town. He had always wanted to live in a flat! Have lots of neighbours and friends his age! Whatever was happening, Christmas had always been special! Memorable, rising like a colossus above the irritating sameness of live as usual to abundantly colour and transmute with immeasurable possibilities not only the vast opportunities the two month holiday could bring and the new year but also crowning gloriously the end of a year, a school term, another class. The promises of this wondrous future embodied by all the beautifully wrapped presents and gifts, decorations, the Christmas tree! There was the food too! The best part of it, for him however, was the anticipation, the preparations, the waiting!

To think that they had to continue coming to school so far in December when all this was happening infuriated him!

Yet in its own way too, it increased the excitement especially the part when he left home everyday reluctantly and then spent the whole day impatiently wondering whether when he returned he would find the flat a shimmering oasis of Christmas season particulars as if by magic waiting for him to open the festivities; the guest of honour. It was a drug all of its own intoxicating more and more everyday and today was the final day! All the pretence he now fathomed in the agitatedness in the air as time unhesitatingly ticked to 3:30 p.m.

Books were disappearing from desks, bags sharply zipping shut and all eyes restlessly drifting to the windows and some beyond to the road outside the barbed wire fence where cars with parents eager to pick up their sons and daughters were increasing. Sighs, mutterings were becoming audible though the disciplining bamboo cane lay in full view atop the teacher’s table. The teacher had no choice...

“I wan all this work on the first day of next term, you hear?” Sternness in the voice. No one was paying attention anymore except Miriam, the class monitoress, gathering up into a neat pile the textbooks the teacher had entrusted her with on her desk. Grins and smirks met the teacher’s last statement, shoes now freely loudly scrapping against the dusty cement floor.

As the teacher departed,

“Be careful and have a nice holiday and a merry Christmas.”

The reaction was explosive! Janis found himself with other boys scrambling over their wooden desk for the door, the girls were shrieking in indignation, some screaming as unsteady figures striding over them threatened to lose balance and at the door, all sexes pushing and shoving and pressed against each other like a pack of rugby players in a scramble, gusts of hot air escaping from open mouths into other grimacing mouths, the heart pounding in each chest whose possessor was in the thick of the fray.

The door spat them into the long cement corridors and the long cement corridors into the dazzling sunshine where many white shirts with brown shorts or pinafores transversed the graveled centre of the school, each fleeing from one source to a more attractive destination; the class of a friend perhaps with temptations to come out and play, with plans for holidays’ engagements to be finalized at last, the tall yellow and maroon buildings sometimes loved, many times loathed during the dying term seeming to kindly look down upon these small, buy creatures that no longer needed their shelter.

He was among them! He moved from one activity to the next in a ferocious whirl sweat dripping from his flushed face, determined not to lose contact with the throbbing, rushing current.

To leave the school at the peak of this gaiety, to walk away out of its rickety copper gates, down the dusty cracked stairs and onto the road leading home, maneuvering his way through the endless stream of cars on Buganda road picking schoolmates he knew and did not, was the supreme moment of living and he felt himself overflowing with joy!"

From yet-another-unpublished novel, mine-- Last Christmas

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Play A Sad Song We Know

(For Cavalier & the many semi-returns)

I could not be there for the magic and the wonder.

Play a sad song we know. The truths of the heart are too sad to reveal here. Oh play a sad song we know. I leave for work and I come back home everyday and I’m not sure in which hours I’m alive, only if they could play a sad song we know.

I have stopped searching for magic anymore in surprise restaurant dinners, Friday night, waiting like a hopeful waiter for his tip for your reaction to the seats with a view of the street I have been trying to get. The magic is not anymore in a Tuesday afternoon Old Taxi Park sidewalk purchase, the sandals you used to have as a child and have not had for years.

It’s not in the taxi trips to see you, the tense moments before I leave my room, looking around one more time at the jumbled unmade bed, the jackets I meant to wear and did not this week, the blog posts on white paper of so many I printed out scattered on my floor, wondering, frowning, what have I forgotten and knowing I will never remember because I can hardly wait any longer to walk out of the gate on quick feet, shoes crunching gravel, to get to a taxi that will bring me to you. The magic is no longer there.

My heart still jolts when my phone screen lights green with the nickname only you and I know I gave you one night we will never forget but that magic is not the magic it was, and I do not count anymore how many times you call me in a day, SMS me or send me an email. The magic is not there. I still look up when a girl with your name is called, my heart on wing, but no, the magic is no longer there too much.

It’s in Saturday afternoons, after the swim, watching you sleep on my towel, palms under your cheeks, under our tree, strange smile hovering over your lips, dimple in one cheek, one stretched out to hold mine under yours. Oh play a sad song we know.

My spirit is calm in this still bottled panic. I have found the silence in the bedlam whirl of my life, I’m the unbreakable lever, a fulcrum of many worlds, waiting to play a sad song we know. Street corner prowler, I’m still singing my song, trying to sing before there were the bright lights, the monthly planned days, fan tours behind tinted car windows, ties I still find hard to knot, one name recognition, I’m still searching for a stage to play a sad song we know. Oh play a sad song we know.

Oh play a sad song we know. I still know where I kept that guitar.