I know shit has hit the fan when I wake up sobbing because I have just dreamt that my mama died. It all starts with dreams about people I have long forgotten about. The earliest memory I have about these series of dreams is the one about Adele.
Adele was a nondescript girl I went to nursery school with. You see that kid who stands in the middle of other kids and somehow diffuses into the crowd? Becomes a part of it? Like she has nothing special going for her? Adele was one of those kids.
I never made fun of her. I never talked to her because she enjoyed her own company, I never played with her and I never asked her if she had an extra pencil when someone stole mine. She was just there. Adele. The inconspicuous girl I went to nursery school with. That was when I was four years old.
Flash forward to when I am twenty three years old. I have long forgotten about Adele then suddenly she appears in my dream. She is all grown now and bespectacled but she has the whitest well lined teeth I have ever seen in anyone’s mouth.
In my dream, it was a windy Sunday afternoon and we were walking down Uhuru Highway headed towards Lang’ata Road holding hands. The feel of her hand in mine was like stroking cotton. Soft. Silky. And her eyes were really bright. And her skin was alluringly dark and she had this long curly hair that she held to the back of her head with a tiny black rubber band.
And there were all these kids walking in the opposite direction with painted faces like they had just come from playing around in a bouncing castle.
“Look at all these kids Charlie. Where do you think their parents are?”
“I don’t know Adele. Maybe these are boarding school kids and their parents are all back home. Enjoying their lazy Sunday afternoon like we are.”
“But look at them. Really look. Can you see their faces?”
And suddenly all the kids were just standing there staring at me. I call it staring even though I couldn’t see their eyes because they were all abruptly faceless. Like someone had just slipped brown leggings over their faces covering everything up. A thousand faceless children standing in the middle of the highway just staring at me.
“What are they doing Adele?” I could detect a hint of terror in my voice. “Why are they just standing there staring at me?”
But Adele stayed silent. And I turned to her to find out why she wasn’t talking to me. And right before my eyes, she started reducing in size. Morphing into this crowd of faceless children.
“Adele?” She was suddenly like a character in the movie “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”. Her spectacles were gone and her facial features were vanishing. “Adele! Adele!! ADELE!!”
And I woke up mumbling her name with my vest sticking to my skin because I was having another one of my night sweats. I always get night sweats when I start getting these dreams. I kept wondering why I would dream of Adele. Someone that hadn’t even crossed my mind in nineteen years. What could it all mean? Why her? Why now? Why that dream? Why would I dream that I am in love with her when I wasn’t, only for her to morph into a crowd of faceless children who were all staring creepily at me?
When I dreamt of Adele, I was working with this Nongovernmental organization that provided civic education to people in matters pertaining to their rights under the Constitution. Specifically Consumer Protection rights under Article 46. It was a job that everyone else hated, but I loved it. Or maybe I loved the per diem that came with field trips. I was twenty three, it was my first job and it was the first time I was getting to work with white people. I was excited!
But then there was this Canadian lady, her name was “Kristen with K” and she was a massive bitch! I am one of those guys who love listening to music over their earphones as they sit in the office to work. So one day I am working as I listen to Bob Marley and Kristen comes over to my desk and pats me on the shoulder.
“Hi Charlie, how is it going?”
“Hi Christine. I am doing great. How are you?”
“My name is Kristen with a K. OK? I don’t understand why you people won’t get my name right.”
“OK Christine with a K. What can I do for you?” I am fighting off the severe itch to ask what she means by “you people”.
“What are you listening to?” She asks.
“Oh” I am excited. I never pass up on a chance to tell people that I am listening to Bob Marley because I think that he is simply the greatest artiste and the most humble to ever walk the earth. “I am listening to Bob Marley. This particular track is called Stir It Up. It’s amazing. Do you want to listen?”
Kristen is one of those people who look at you right in the eye as you talk to them. And she nods a lot. Like a whole fucking lot. She nods to everything you say to her and the more you talk to her, the more you find yourself turning into her. Such that the conversation turns into more nods than words.
And she says, “yeah” a lot. So a conversation with her might end with the both of you nodding at each other and saying,
It’s weird. And this is how she turns down my offer to listen to Bob Marley.
“No. I hate reggae. I think the whole reggae movement is like total horseshit, right? I mean, you have these dreadlocked black people just skipping around the stage like baboons and lifting up their index fingers talking about Rasta this, Rasta that; and there are all these people in the audience lifting up their fingers and smoking pot… (She nods on her own) it’s really pretentious, you know?”
“It’s Kristen (another nod) with a K, yeah?”
“Yeah?” I am nodding, more to piss her off than anything else
“Yeah.” And she’s is nodding too because she’s an ignorant, racist bitch.
“Have you ever heard of UB40?”
“No. Not really. Is he like Elvis Presley or something?”
“Nope. It’s a British reggae group composed of white people.”
“Yeah?” She just can’t stop nodding. “Well, I think that’s stupid. You know, to have white guys doing reggae? I mean, can’t you see how pretentious that is? Yeah?”
“So how do you feel about rap then?”
“Well, that’s another thing. It’s just a bunch of black guys jumping on stage with their caps worn sideways and their pants sagging halfway down their asses, right? And they are waving their hands in the air and yelling profanities and there is a huge crowd of pretentious people yelling along; not because they enjoy the music, if it can even be called that, but because they want to pretend like they do. Just so they can fit in. Yeah? You know, it is really hollow and stupid. I feel like all those people should just be arrested, like all of them, yeah? And be shipped off to an island where they can just live together as a bunch of pretentious profanity yelling people, yeah?”
“It’s Kristen, with a K. Yeah?”
“OK. Um, you have heard of Marshall Mathers, right?” I use that name deliberately to hook her.
“Most people call him Eminem…”
“Oh yeah! He’s awesome! Gosh! My favorite track by him is um” Snaps her fingers as if that will jog her memory a little faster, “Lose yourself! Do you have it? Can we listen to it?”
“No. Not really. Oh by the way, I think Eminem is albino.” I really hope she gets it.
“Yeah?” She doesn’t get it. Like, at all. It’s like she has never even seen the guy.
“Yeah. He is totally albino.”
“Yeah?” She’s nodding again. Dumb fuck. She’s the kind of people who call Kenya, Africa.
So the night after dreaming of Adele, I dream of Kristen with a K. And it is one steamy dream! We are on this huge bed and I am just nailing the brains out of that girl and she is moaning so loud that when I wake up I wonder how her noises didn’t wake me up. And she is really into it too. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! I am on her, she is on me, we are doing it sideways, she is on her knees… I swear it’s like we do it for hours!
When I wake up I find this huge stain on the front of my boxers and I hate myself. Like, why her? Of all people in the world, why her?? I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole and after she called Bob Marley pretentious, I swore I would never even have a conversation with her. So why would I have a wet dream with her?
So over these past few weeks I have been having these strange dreams, right? The first one I remember this time round, I was in prison. I have never been to prison in my whole life. Well, not as an inmate. I went once when I was doing my Judicial Attachment in the third year of pursuing my law degree and it was basically a kangaroo court where inmates come to the magistrate for the mentioning of their cases and setting hearing dates. Or future mention dates. Shit like that. And I was only there for like three hours.
But in my dream, my dad and I are prisoners. We are out in the yard playing basketball (I hate basketball) when he suddenly gets the urge to escape. So he makes this Usain Bolt dash across the yard and the guards are chasing him but he is too fast. So they get tired and release the dogs which fail to catch him either. He is pushing sixty five but that old dude is fast! And we are all cheering him on like, “Go! Go! Go! Run Doug! Run!” It is like he is Forrest Gump being chased by bullies and we are that chic cheerleading him on.
So where the men fail and the dogs fail, the guards figure the bullets will catch him. And they empty their AKs in his general direction but they keep missing. And now my dad is over at the wall scaling it really fast, then he gets a muscle pull. That’s what brings him down. Muscle pull. He is halfway up the wall when he suddenly freezes like he’s having an orgasm and comes tumbling down. The guards fail, the dogs fail, the bullets fail, but his own body doesn’t. Well, it does, but it doesn’t fail in keeping him in prison.
After that dream is over, another one starts. This time I am chilling with Denzel Washington somewhere in Meru; really close to Mt. Kenya. The hills here are hilly and the slopes are worth writing home about. They are the kind of slopes that you would sky dive out of.
But now Denzel is like eighty. He is really old and frail and wrinkled and his hands are dry as fuck! And his nails are all chipped and shit. It is like he has been working on a tobacco farm his entire life. He is wearing this old and baggy suit that appears to hug his skeletal body in a frail bid to hold it all together before it crumbles into dust and get blown off by the wind. Like in my dream, I take Denzel and turn him into a scarecrow. Reminds me of that time during one of Nairobi’s many demonstrations, when someone ripped apart a copy of the Constitution and dumped it in the streets. And Eugene Wamalwa was in the evening news holding that copy in his hands like it’s a dead baby and lamenting with fake emotions like, “Look! Look what they did to our Constitution!” But I digress.
We are seated around a table outside this house on a hill and down at the foot of the land on which the house is built, is my camera holding, pictures taking brother. And the view is to die for! There are palm trees (In Meru!!!!), elephants walking around and trumpeting the very comfort out of the air and there are chics in bikinis all over the place. It is surreal.
I really want to join my brother and the ladies he is hanging out with down at the river below but I can’t. It’s like I really want to, but I don’t want to. I just want to hang around this Denzel Washington fossil for as long as possible. My grandmother serves us tea from an old kettle and I don’t stop to ask how she is standing there smiling at me.
Grandma died in 2004 and I remember that even in my dream. I remember going to her funeral. I feel it in my bones that she shouldn’t be standing here smiling at us and serving us tea. She is dead! She should be somewhere chilling with the angels. But her being here doesn’t strike me as odd. Old Denzel and I just chill and sip our tea like everything is right where it is supposed to be.
Three weeks ago I was hanging out at the Alchemist in Westlands and there was this dude chilling at a table alone chain smoking. Everyone was talking to everyone. There were groups of people hanging out, drinking, dancing, talking, smoking, hugging, kissing occasionally, checking each other out… but not him. He was just chilling there chain smoking his Dunhills and sipping occasionally at this cold looking glass of white wine in front of him.
And he sat there the whole night. From 22:00h to 05:56h when me and my friends staggered out. He was like the oasis of calm in this vibrant place. Three weeks ago, I just saw him, noticed him then pushed him out of my mind. And I didn’t think of him again. He was just a dude, chilling at The Alchemist, enjoying his own company and entertaining his own thoughts. Then he shows up in my dream last night. Like after my dad has failed in his attempt to escape jail and after I have enjoyed chilling with Old Denzel, I find myself walking down Valley Road heading into the City alone on a rainy evening. The tarmac is wet, and car tires make this “pheeeewsh” sound they make when one is driving on wet tarmac as cars pass by.
I feel good about my life. I feel happy. Like I have just left a place of total tranquility and a girl that I am in love with has just said that she loves me too. Everyone must know that feeling. That feeling of absolute happiness that overcomes you when nothing; absolutely nothing can go wrong in your life.
Then about a few meters ahead, I see him crossing the road. He was walking towards town too but on the Basilica side while I was on the Serena Hotel side. It starts drizzling and he pulls the collar of his grey trench coat up as he jogs across the street onto my side. This dude who in real life I saw smoking at The Alchemist almost a month ago. In my dream I feel like I have known him my whole life. Like he is my brother. No. The connection is tighter than that. I feel like he is me.
“Hey Charlie” he says. “I have some bad news.”
“Why? What’s going on mate?”
“Well, dad let mom drive again. This time it was a stick shift. They didn’t make it.”
“Who didn’t make it out of what? What the fuck is going on?” There is a searing sense of terror creeping into my happy space. Like the bubble I was in is going up in a cloud of smoke.
“Mom was driving and she didn’t stop at the light. So a bus sped fast into the side of the car and…” His voice trails off and he finishes that sentence with an emotional crash of his face and a helpless shrug of his shoulders. “I am so sorry Charlie. I am so fucking sorry mate…”
I am walking away from him. Pacing fast away from him. I don’t care that my dad is gone. Well, I do but that isn’t so weighty. There was my brother in the car too with them. The picture taking brother from my time with my dead grandma and Old Denzel. I am sad that he is gone too but that’s OK. I’ll be fine. But mom? What am I going to do without her? What will the world be like for me without her in it? It’s like I have just been hit by a sudden realization that I am now alone. Truly alone. Like I will never be happy again. Like my life will forever be one heavy dark cloud after another. Like I will forever live in a shroud of darkness without there ever being hope of a crack of light penetrating into the misery that will from now henceforth be my existence. Oh God, what am I going to do? I find myself on my knees on the wet tarmac of Valley Road with my heart in my hands and a light drizzle showering down.
And when I wake up in the morning, I am shivering. It is hot and it is cold. My pillow is wet and my heart is heavy. What does it all mean? All of it. Why would I dream of a chain smoking stranger who is so close to me in my dream that he calls my parents “mom” and “dad”? Why would he be the one delivering news of their deaths to me?
I know there is a problem when I dream of my mother dying. This is not the first time it is happening. It always starts with a series of weird dreams that all end with my mom dying. Last time she drowned in a swimming pool. My mother would never get inside a swimming pool to save her own life. She can’t swim for shit. But she is there, real as the nose on my face, floating on the water with her dead glassy eyes staring up at the morning blue sky.
Most people I talk to about my dreams ask me to pray. To read the Bible. It is like my dreams are sent to me by the Devil or something, but I know there is a logical explanation. Something that someone can say to me that actually make some sort of sense. I just can’t pray dreams away. They are figments of my sub conscious. They are not some bottled genies in the Devil’s kitchen which he puts in my mind every now and then just to fuck with me.
When I was seven years old, an uncle I didn’t like died. Well, I didn’t dislike him either. He was just one among like eight hundred of all the people I call “uncle”, so I guess I really didn’t have an opinion about the guy. He was just there. An uncle. Three or four years after he died, I dreamt of him. He was right there in my dream looking like a mobster in “The Godfather” in his dark suit and a matching hat. And spectacles. I was still short and he was still tall. I was standing outside a church upcountry and he was on his way in for Mass. Then he saw me, excused himself from a group of his fellow mobster resembling pals, squatted in front of me and said,
“Charles, let me tell you something about happiness and sadness. When you are happy about everything, your happiness tends to erode everything else from your life. You don’t notice that sunflowers smile in the morning when the sun comes up. You don’t enjoy the trickle of light showers down your neck as you walk home in the rain; you don’t notice the white in some random woman’s teeth when she smiles as she talks to someone over the phone because you don’t care about her. She is nothing to you. You are happy. Everything is OK in your life. So flowers are flowers, women are women, rain is rain and you are you. A happy man.
But when you are sad, you feel everything. When you are in love, you are sad when your feelings are mostly unrequited. Let me tell you something kid, there is nothing as beautiful as unrequited love. It makes you walk around noticing the little details in the world around you. You notice the color of the tiny grasshopper’s belly on a tiny blade of green grass. You notice a thin strip of white across a green leaf where a spider left a thin strand of its cobwebs as it walked across last night. You not only notice the people who walk around town holding hands, you stop and you gaze. You let yourself be washed over by the positive energy that they are exuding through the pores of their skins. Because they are in love with each other. But because they are happy, they no longer notice the beauty in the sadness that you exude. They no longer notice anything else or anyone else but themselves. They are in a prison of their own romance.
Requited love is a beautiful thing. But that beauty is only temporary. People settle in that happiness. They get comfortable in it. They stop feeling. They forget their sense of adventure and they become lazy. They stop searching because they think they found what they were looking for. Son, you have a choice. You can choose to be happy, or you can choose to be sad. In my sadness, I found eternal happiness.”