“But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem, the prettiest people do the ugliest things,” – Kanye West, All Falls Down
Seated in your Von Dutch Leatherette, the only prized furniture in your meek one bed-room apartment in Roysambu, gifted to you by your late Uncle. You treasured it like it was your only reason to live. Its leather seat slightly beat, the varnish on its red cedar arm rests faded by years of use. Yet, it was the only loyal and faithful thing in your life, waiting for you every time you came back from school, or from one of your many drinking sprees. It never betrayed you, nor did it kick you in the shin when you were at your lowest. It fed your solid belief in the unchangeable. An animated object of your insecurities. Your fetish for memorabilia was sickening. You clung to the past like a blood-sucking leech, feeding off dead fantasies.
The soft patter of raindrops hitting the bare floor of the balcony, an emptiness eerily ringing through the walls of your crib. The dim yellow lights like a wet blanket on your mood. Smothering you, suffocating your mind. Strangling you off the air you needed to think. The ethereal voice of Syleena Johnson floating through the air, Kanye’s hard truth driving you further into the abyss.
“I miss you,” you texted her.
“Uh-huh, what exactly do you miss?” Mia replied.
“It’s hard being specific when all I want is the whole of you,” you texted back.
“You sound scared, ” she replied, seeing through your veil of deceit.
In this little tete-a-tete, you could feel your world crumbling around you. Your joint halfway done, smoke lazily spiraling upwards, a fine ash on your tiled floor. Your ashtray as redundant as the façade you were keeping up. You badly needed a drink, fully knowing you didn’t need alcohol, you needed answers. You chuckled, a low laugh that was pit between a sad cry for help and a pitiful mourn. You remembered your own words, that drink was for the weak. And that is what you were then.
5PM on a Friday night, who knew those sad nigga hours, could come this early. Your head hurt, not from the endless wrangle between the demons in your head, but from the realization that you were stuck in this unending loop. The sun seemed to already have set, going down together with your hopes and dreams, ushering in a night darker than your soul.
You were a miserable artist with nothing to show for. A lot of sadness and unlived dreams was all you could write about and it only served to suckle the tiny ravaging monster in you. Caged and chained. Unlike Paul and Silas in their Philippian prison, your endless prayers couldn’t bring down the walls. Doors locked, clock going tick tock on your sanity.
You took a laborious breath, taking an inventory of your senses. Your eyes were in good working order, despite the squint you acquired from peering through dusty Contract Law books at the school library. You loathed them and they didn’t like you either. Your ears were in good shape too, in fact, they were too good at their job. At 2AM you could hear with crystal clarity, the marauding rats scurrying through the steaming piles of garbage downstairs, sometimes, when the landlord’s fat cat was kicked out of his abode for stealing the master’s piece of fried liver, you could hear him clumsily lumbering through the metallic disposers, trying to nab a little Jerry.
On other days you could hear a neighbor shagging his wife in the middle of a hot and sweaty afternoon, despite your Sony Walkman on full blast. You never understood why people had to perform their tail waggling dance in the middle of the January heat as though the economy wasn’t already bad. The rusty springs of their metal bed grating on your raw nerves.
Your olfactory organ was in perfect order too. Apart from being precisely tuned to the harsh smell of hashish, it too, was a little overzealous in its functions. You could smell a frying egg three blocks away, you could tell that the person making it had a weird relationship with cinnamon on eggs. In other occasions, it helped you find the stoner circle at a party, when your other senses were heavily dulled by liquor, your nose served as the most befitting compass, leading you to your quarry.
It was your legs and body that was failing you. You looked like a 21 year old but felt like a 60 year old geezer with arthritis. Your body, like the saying goes, had less meat than could fill a skewering pin, wasted away by days on end of figuring out case law and legal precedent.
In one swift movement, with no aforethought whatsoever, you walked to your closet, picked your Stone Island jacket, put on your sneakers and left. You didn’t know where you were going; all you knew is that you had to leave this depressing hole. Your JBL earphones jammed in your ears, Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.Ad city on play, you find your way to the bus station. The Friday evening traffic picking up its maddening weekend tempo. By 7PM, cars and trucks would be stretched out the whole Thika Superhighway, everyone in a rush to get home, bars or to their mistresses.
It was easy to catch the weekend fever in these parts; there are people everywhere you turn. Everything in conceivable sight moves. They move in all directions, at the same time and with no particular direction at all. Very much like you. Koja in downtown Nairobi was this massive orgy of fruit sellers and young men trying to sell their pedicure services to disinterested women. In one corner is a beggar; permanently fixated at his usual spot, with an expertly twisted limb, thrust a rusty and mangled bowl towards the unsympathetic crowd. It’s eyes fixed on the opposite side of the street, unmoving, cold. It was hard to tell its sex by its disfigured form. They could be a millionaire for all you knew, despite the two small coins that were always present in it’s tin. Touts were shouting over your head, screaming their fare prices to Kasarani and Githurai 44. Young and old couples alike having cheap dates at restaurants; whose owners seemed to have a higher regard for profit than hygiene. You pushed your way through to Sonford Chicken and Chips.
The place was half full. Good. You took your place on the line to buy your hundred bob chips and quarter chicken. Anna Wise’s voice sang through to your heart, Kendrick Lamar punctuating her singing with blissful rhymes.
“Next please,” The cashier said, her lipstick generously applied on her cracked lips, she looked underpaid and overworked, an exhausted look in her eyes.
Picking your tray of hot chips and chicken, you sat. You saw your reflection in the opposite mirror. A sad shadow of your former self. You hated it. You weren’t who used to be. You felt like you were losing your patience. You felt like you were losing your focus. You felt like you didn’t want to be bothered. You felt like you were the problem.
You had betrayed your first love, writing, and went ahead to chase headlessly after the wind, a deceiving mistress. Your blog was in severe disrepair, you hadn’t written for more than a year. And it was killing you.
You didn’t want to drag Mia into your world. She was so pure, so pristine. And she loved you with a passion you hadn’t experienced in your 21 years on this miserable earth.
“You sound scared, what are you afraid of?” her voice ringing through your head.
You were terrified of love, you had to confess.
But what does love got to do with it, when you don’t love yourself?
You had confessions to make, and this was the fourth one.