What Eye Saw – III

The kisses. Many and often. Passionate, in a plastic kind of way. Self-conscious smooches that ride on the back of the Queen’s English to spread a Latter Day Pax Britannica. Frail, in the end; yet effective. These scrounged lips and bared teeth mole their way into teenage minds in Nairobi. They are suave and chic, and in the peri-urban Ngong area, as provincially anxious as we were of our small town roots, we lapped these up. It helped, too, that the token black girl was cute. Long flowing hair, heat treated to decorum. An upper middle-class sheen dominates the arrangement of hair ties and pins. The front bob is uppity personified. We eat it all up.

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Not just the possibility, but the actuality of being anyone, anywhere. On the back of his white, middle class ancestry, he rode on to be a pilot, a surgeon, a fireman, an engineer, a college professor, sometimes even an actor. This genius, was, as I’d later come to appreciate, an apt manifestation of privilege, and the mobility that accompanies it.

Hence, given the politics, this was a vision of life that was wholly seductive. And also adaptive. We marveled, in our school boy yarns, at his use of mobile phones. Plus, at a deeper level, a more guttural, instinctual, eat-meat-raw-and-bloody moment, we understood him as men. His pursuer was a Jezebel –  a wickedly beautiful tormentor none of us could resist, even if we’d tried. And yet he attempted, always no more than a step ahead of her long grasping nails. Barely out of reach. And yet, getting captured by this modern day Delilah, would it really have been such an awful thing? That was how blinding her sex appeal.

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Majestic twin peaks in Arches National Park

I think it was mostly the flowing hair, perfectly fanned and billowed into a cinematographic sculpture. There was, too, the dark green truck. I don’t know why green, when my TV set was black and white. But dark leafy hues best suggest the wild and untamed look he projected, assisted by a faithful companion. These were two men bonded in nature and violence, and not broken by any mountains. The poise between expansive outdoors and close-quarter combat.

Modern day cowboys. American Indians who seemingly preferred to not stay dead. Bobby-Six-Killer never sounded more poetic. A private eye duo that cleansed crime from a land wholly condemned of the original sin. The settlers on the land quipped, ” we shall miscege-Nation our way to Americanness;” successfully burrowing into claims of autochthony that 30, 000 years of settlement decried. But who’s counting?

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It was a millisecond moment that promised a whole life of adventure. Just that exact moment as the soundtrack began, and the TV series title appeared. Before, as it were, the blonde, bronzed limbs of Brooks Shields and her uber-suburban community unfolded. Way in advance of, it turns out, the bedroom misdemeanors that had had the program relegated to 2130 hours: post-national news hour, when adult supervision could be counted on. And if absent, not Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s care.

The click from the shutter, opening, not closing, uncountable doors in the visual world. I birthed by dreams of dying a photographer midwifed by a Hollywood lens that peddled American sex, drugs, and violence. Could that I had belonged, even as an afterthought, in this pristinely white movie set. Scrubbed entirely of, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights. This was the Nineties, after all, and heaven forbid that the bitter aftertaste of history trouble our determined march towards the future of a new millennium. This is how it was, to be Bold & Beautiful.

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This is the monk who became a daddy. And the son flails in tight upper cuts and round houses, achieving a sense of release unrecoverable since that moment of birth. What weighs this family down, and together, is the impossible search for mother. Mother earth, and Wife earth, absent. This unholy crime-busting trinity is incomplete. The quest is incarnate, as spirit. And so we have before us, ladies and gentlemen, the father, the son, and the searching spirit. There may, too, have been whiffs of whiskey in that deep-pocketed shoulder bag slang on top of a trench coat above the old man’s shoulders. A rebellious spirit this. A spirit of color. A spirit with color.

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You Lost a Sock; You Deserve to be Angry

I don’t mind doing laundry. In fact, I rather enjoy laundry duty. I don’t get how, or when, masculinity became synonymous with unkempt, dirty, or smelly. In any case, that is not my brand of manliness. Period.

As much joy as I get from laundry, however, nothing irks me more than losing a pair of socks in between the washing, drying, and folding operations. Well, actually one thing does: losing A SOCK.

Losing a sock must have been invented by the gods to torment us poor mortals -especially those of the OCD variety. I swear that if socks and washing machines had been invented about 3 millennia ago, Buddha would still be chasing Nirvana – and his favorite red toed ankle length no-show socks. “I swear they were just here!” he’d say, muttering unholistic koans under his breath.

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Losing a sock is the absolute definition of a lose-lose situation. Ok, so the darn thing has disappeared. You’ve pocked your head into the dryer, and the washer, 5 times and each time the missing bugger does not materialize. It’s like one of those days you’d play hide and seek with your elder siblings. They hide; you seek. Only today they plotted not to let you in on the trip they’ll be taking all afternoon: to the cinema. You count out loud, spin around thrice, and shout “ready or not here I come!” By then the suckers are choosing which brand of popcorn to munch on for the next 3 hours. You walk around an eerily quite house and finally realize, then slowly admit, that you’ve been had. Same thing with the sock. You finally have to tear yourself away from the laundry room. That sucker is gone, and it ain’t coming back!

Having accepted that reality, you now proceed to blaspheme against the universe for having pulled a fast one on you. You’re so busy cursing out the heavens, you don’t notice the babe beside you. It’s Conscience, and she’s totally in league with the absconding piece of your wardrobe. It’s like that neighbor whom your siblings asked to keep an eye on you, but who only agreed grudgingly. Now that you’ve come to her house asking after them, she figures she, too, can have some fun. “You say you’ve searched everywhere? Pause. And you still can’t see them?” Hmm, she pauses again, and adopts a wise muse. She has no more an idea of how wise muses look than chickens know how the whole using-toilet-paper-and-washing-your hands-after works. Nevertheless, she throws you something; “have you checked in Mr. Mwaura’s orchard? I think I saw a group of kids going in that direction earlier.” Mr. Mwaura’s farm is in the opposite direction to the cinema. She knows that. She also knows that it’s a 30 min walk. She doesn’t care. She’s here to make you more miserable.

So is Conscience. She waits till you’ve worked up a stomach ulcer in anger about that missing sock, then politely points out. At least you only lost one sock; you know there’re people out there who’ve lost one leg. Or even both.

Wham! Out of the blue, you’re no longer the victim of a Houdini act orchestrated by the dryer and washer. Conscience completely robs you of the self-pity status you’d began warming up to. The letter you were mentally drafting to the African Union to send a Search and Rescue team and help flash out Al Shabab operatives who are terrorizing your sanity, one sock at a time, evaporates. Now you’re just a jerk who has no sense of perspective. I mean, look at you, you’re perfectly healthy, have both upper and lower limbs, and you’re whining about losing a SOCK.

Her work done, Conscience lets you be. You start folding your laundry, contrite. You imagine all that TV footage you’ve seen about Kenyatta National Hospital after an accident. The Emergency ward is filled with screams, blood, and worried relatives. And you only lost a SOCK.

As you hang your last dress shirt, however, you remember that this whole Kenyatta National Hospital business is nonsense. You lost a sock; you deserve to be angry. As a matter of fact, you paid good money for that pair of socks. The unstated agreement was that the socks were to serve you till you deemed them eligible for pensionable retirement – scrubbing windows. How dare they renege on a gentleman’s agreement? Scoundrels! You’re happy. Once again, you have a legit reason why you should go all Taliban on the gods. They’ve been mocking you this whole time. And they even had the gall to make you feel guilty about your anger. You’re a man. You work hard for your money. You have to tolerate that nasty boss. The one who’s always making baby eyes at your fiancé during Christmas parties.

Oh, so you even have a job? At a company that can afford to throw holiday get-togethers? It’s Conscience; she’s back. What the devil? You ask, with a sinking feeling in your stomach. There’s no way this line of questioning will end up boosting your morale. Do you realize the unemployment rate in the country is over 15%. There are skilled workers with more degrees than you tarmacking day and night. She’s really laying it on you this time. You have a good jobo where you can afford to buy socks. And you even have two feet to put the socks on, but all you can do is complain after losing a miserable single sock …!

At this point her voice is almost ear-piercingly shrill. She’s having none of your but-I-work-hard-for-my-money excuses. You settle in for the msomo. No need fighting anymore on this one; let it come. But now you know. Next time a sock waves goodbye, use its mate to store your cameras. Turns out the darn things make great carrying cases for lenses. But whatever you do, don’t get angry. Lady Conscience doesn’t take it too kindly when you flaunt your privilege.