Monday, April 28, 2008

Stranger Tag-a-thorns Were Never....The Gilbey's

This is for you my friend, my muse, the one reason why I still go across town when I’m in Kampala…because you asked. I’m no longer in the waiting room of life.

This was not going to be a blog post. This was not going to be even an ordinary newspaper article in a Ugandan newspaper. Or in any part of the world. This was going to be an apologia, an explanation on why I drink and have been drinking since I was in my teens and I’m not about to stop. Then my birthday happened and to my dismay threw me off course. Birthdays do that to you, I was warned, as you approach 30. It’s worse when you are approaching 40, and 50, everyone should forgive you whatever sins you commit.

I drink Gilbey’s Gin now in memory of one of my oldest friends, among the first to die who brought with him in his end a taste sharper than the whiplash of Gilbey’s on my tongue how short life is. I drink Gilbey’s sometimes when I want to be alone, when I want to remember him and to remember those moments, those seven years of friendship beginning in secondary school into our first year in university. Seven years that began in our senior two and in afternoon and evening parties at his father’s house where first he taught me to drink Gilbey’s.

Did not teach me, showed me a stash of four bottles he had in his cupboard and told me that he had managed to crib those from his father, who only drank Gilbey’s, so now he too drank this only. When he could drink. Or go against all the doctor’s warnings when we all seemed to be having so much fun he did not want to be left out, slum staggering from one kafunda to the next, when we were four friends and the world belonged to us.

Let me tell you about my friend Busingye Edward. I have lost friends twice who should have been my best friends but at the time I did not know they were so vital to me. Busingye Edward was the first and after him, though I had many friends afterwards, I was too much on the alert to enjoy all the friendships that came after him. It was not until another chapter of my life had begun and I did not think there was any possibility of a long life there that I met another friend who was supposed to be my best friend. Losing a friend is like losing a lover. It aches and throbs the same way and years later, you will hear a word spoken, walking down a street see the shape of the back of someone’s head, hear a song and they will come flooding back and no one will understand why you insist on buying Gilbey’s on a Saturday afternoon at Imatongas Mart and remaining home on a night when you would have been one of the honoured guests with The Obsessions in Juba in New York Discotheque, Juba’s first all night discotheque.

It is not that I’m obsessed with the past, held in thrall, and with every future stride, wonder what I’m leaving behind. It is not past adventures, past lovers, past accomplishments, astounding feats of physique and mind matter that hold me but fickle memory and what that robot in Blade Runner blurted, “All these memories will be lost, like tears in rain,” that draws me to reflect and like Be Silent try to hold onto these moments that define us without us defining them. I used to think Caesar of Rome floating down a barge with Cleopatra of Egypt feeding him peaches was different from Sarkozy of France on a beach cavorting with Carla Bruni but I learn now that the faces change, the centuries but never what this thing we breathe called life exposes our hearts too and teaches each of us in their individual life. A human life is a moment in the racetrack of history and I want my moments to live on when I do not.

I have been morbid since I returned to Juba in March this year when everything and everyone said I should not. I mean what do you say when your mother says she once had a dream that her son had died in Sudan, she could not identify which son, but her son had died in Sudan and you’re working in Sudan, have survived more than one death scare and death scare situations happen almost daily and only your caution forces you to walk away and there are things you will never tell anyone back home that you have seen here that you never thought you would ever see with your own eyes? There are a few things you must do but you can never tell the ones who worry if you have had lunch and should they speed express you money until you have done those things. The things that bring you closer to the final shutting of your eyes in dead eyed sleep than you have ever come. But if you survive them, you know you’re going to live forever!

Yeah, I think of my own end and how to postpone that end for as long as possible without discarding the life I lead. Because I know I could never live without an element of danger, I could never live knowing what each day 365 days of my year would be like for the rest of my scheduled life, unpredictability will always draw me but I also want to live long enough to die among my grandchildren like my grandfather did in the house of his only daughter but I do not want his life. I want my life and I want it to be long. I’m praying for it to be long, on my birthday.

Before all this though; teach me to love life more, teach me to relish moments on moments more greedily than I currently do, teach me to say YES more to life than NO.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

To My Unborn Daughters

In my silences read significant changes. I became an uncle again three days ago, 16th April, and though I have not seen Clayton Akampuiira I know I’m going to love him as much as I love my first newphew. The gene for boys seems too strong in my family and I have a suspicion everyone is looking my way for that first daughter.

My birthday is coming up soon, I say this, because Scotchie’s just past, I mistimed Darlyene’s and Shu’s, well, I could not be there because I was already here, it seems nearly all my favourite people’s birthdays are in April! Jasmine! Well except one, my beef with William Shakespeare remains unresolved and Baz knows how to rile me up still by throwing in quotes from King Lear and Hamlet and there was a time he recited a whole sonnet, my uplifted mug of beer never made it to my mouth that evening.

I want to talk to you but I cannot not because I don’t have to what to say but because some things have happened that I can never talk about. I wonder do all relationships become like this? You lie to protect somone’s feelings because you know them so well and the truths that crowd in a heart like a field of poppies in the sun would be devastating, so you say nothing?

I’m a man but I have known women more and there was a time when I used to follow the cliché that all women are liars, and her true heart is always away. I have changed since then, dashboard confessionals overwhelming me. I have listened to lies told for love till I was fervently wishing they could become truth and witnessed the wreckage truthtelling wrought, come since to a great respect for women who hoard truths they understand only they can live with.

In the choked silences of her lifestory I divined were brusing encounters, head on cushion in the dark unable to sleep she will never get over, will never tell fully to anyone, living through them once was enough. Silence serves now when she is remembering, and her eyes are dry while yours are not so I made a life and saw her in it: 20 years from now, no longer in this country, back home, children surrounded, uncles and aunts visiting, husband with the men, I was the fly on the wall and I wondered who I felt sorrier for; him, who will never truly know her because she will never be able to tell him what happened here or her, because his embraces for intimacy will remind her of nights when she was shoved out of the car whose engine never stopped running, with no skirt on that terrible morning for the dawn stragglers to ask her why there was blood on her thighs and she lay wimpering in the dust. I hold on and hold off for so long and then I meet a story like this. Story? A life truncated.

All the abuses I have listened to do not compare to the “cousin-brother” who was found wrestling with her, she screamed, and he said he had been trying to adjust her mosquito net, though he was aroused, erect, and she had nail scratches all over all her body. He also said she was a big girl now with breasts and she should not sleep naked, it was not right, he was a man.

My mind goes wandering, from this town full of beauty and tragedy, chance and disaster, and I look at her, the woman I love and the daughters I want her to give me and these life experiences narrated to me tug horrendously at me and I wonder will they be ok? Will I always be able to protect them from my kind? I have a “friend” who a few days ago fucked a girl atop a restaurant table when the rest of us had gone to sit outside, electricity off again, without a condom, he said she had liked it though she was very drunk and before had consistently refused to hug him, kiss him or anything, he laughs that she is sweet. She has not come out of her room for four days.

These are men’s stories of women sitting on the edge of my bed in my tent with my Smirnoff I keep trying to forget. I want to look in your eyes one day and have no fear you will ever be to the places I have been too, my unborn daughter, this is why I’m here when everything says I should not be, missing the birth of Clayton, missing my own birthday, missing her when I should be with her in her vacation, our house changing the way we used to dream. If I’m not ever there right now, forgive me. I’m thinking of you, I’m thinking of her, I’m thinking of you who turns around and asks where I’m. The laugh in your eyes in my mind, my unborn daughters, keeps me going. Take this offering from me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dreams-The Game

Standing on the verge of the fulfillment of my dreams, I gaze in muted wonder at who I was, am becoming and will become, these long held dreams in dawn colours unveiling new horizons. Soon I will no longer be the watcher but the actor on a stage, levers in hand, creating, watched: it takes my breath still to contemplate.

Not all farewells are sad for I have been in processions that were filled with merriment and laughter, trousers folded around the ankles to not pick up the dust of returning from sojourns, men, women and children, a walking hymn of happiness at the completed tribute, going home for lunch, languor, love, contented solitude till they would one day again do this all over. I have paid my respects and worshippers now come to me, and I sit often in silence, divining their needs. Life will never be what it used to be. Saying goodbye to all that I knew, I have decided to reach for an inheritance I shied and ducked and bobbed away from.

She did not make me want this, turn back from the dirt road with one headlamp working, to use the more traveled road. She made me realise the more traveled roads end in undiscovered diversions never explored because the more traveled road was reluctantly set upon. To get where you’re going you need not drive your Rav 4 until the wheels are yelping from dead shock absorber pain, you simply need to know where you going before you begin the journey. I have known where I was going since I was 12; I needed her lent courage to turn the key in the ignition. I have learned not to look back in anger because of her; passion and calm becoming one.

Disconcerting is when you do not have to fight anymore, consulted and asked for the way forward now. Disconcerting is when your habitual silences freeze a room, terror in the air; your brow’s frowns studied in anticipation. Disconcerting is people making the realization of your momentary whim their day’s main goal. Disconcerting is seeing your mannerism of standing legs apart, arms locked behind your back in thought aped. Disconcerting is finding the revolving chair you sit in revered. Disconcerting is your father calling you Sir.

I have no more terrors. I have no more fears. I have no more doubts. Your future is in your everyday, coming not tomorrow but in the time you decide to wake up, the stranger you paused to speak to longer on the day when you had deadlines pending and he did not know where the photocopier was or how to use it. The future was in a sitting room in the evening in Bweyogerere, the road blocked for the bypass construction, daring you to do that which you were most afraid of by a muse who reserved the right to never follow her advice despite giving plenty of it, cake from Hotloaf half consumed. The future was in not switching off the phone as you used to do everyday that day, the call coming in. The future was in standing in a Ntinda ATM booth, eyes blurry at the money there far from enough to get her out of hospital, gritting teeth, promising she would never want for anything again as long as there was breath in your body and your fingers could glide over a keyboard as well, life not postponed ever again. I never loved you more than when you were with a happy smile eating that goo of spaghetti because that is what I could afford, months on end.

“You’re a leader when you can get leaders to follow you.”
Pac’s Life

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pause For Thought. Then Anger.

A white woman said to me, "Africa is a hell hole. It is the most fucked up continent. The things that happen here are beyond belief. The waste. The pointless extravagance. If there were mental institutions, you would all be in them. I can't wait to get out of here."

This woman was my friend.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

+6666

So he got the call +6666 and he got ready to crawl through chambers that never were, tunnel-visioned, terrified, he had to go. Because, “You can never call back, you only take the call.”

In the strange summaries of the heart, no tale of incomprehensible quests puzzled more than his. Distant travels brought no succuor, unexpected terminations any moment expected anticipated.

This is fear.