DEFCON (Defense Readiness Condition) is a term used by the United States Armed Forces to stipulate five graduated states of alert. DEFCON 1 is the most severe alert state implemented only when nuclear war is imminent.
I am seated in bed with my best friend on my lap. My fingers are caressing her entire body with what has been called an aggressive touch. My laptop. My best friend. If she feels the aggressiveness in my touch, she sure doesn’t complain.
I have this cigarette hanging loose on my lips that I only remember to smoke when the ash falls from the edge onto the keyboard. I take a short drag to avoid getting my lips burned, crash it out on the ashtray, light another and continue typing. I have no idea what the hell I am writing about. I have been trying to write about a guy whose son watches him hang himself, but I just ain’t hacking it.
See, the old school writers get on the “writers of nowadays” case because we don’t write unless we are inspired. Until something happens that gets us “in the zone”. Some people think that you can’t get in the zone unless you are high. Or really happy. Or really sad. Or really whatever the hell else inspires people to write.
I want to write about not being inspired to write. See, most of my stories aren’t inspired by anything. Some are, most aren’t. I just grab my best friend and tap those keys like I hate them. I tap them hard. I tap them rough. I tap them till the neighbors are disturbed in a major way. Then I go ahead and tap them some more. Fuck inspiration. Fuck being high. Fuck writers’ block and motherfuck the fucking horse it rode in on.
Jesus Christ, what the hell am I writing?
My second cigarette is half burnt by now. And I haven’t smoked it. So I put the laptop aside and decide to give it a nice long kiss. A kiss of death. See, I am literally sucking the life out of it. Sure I might get cancer in thirty or forty or fifty years, but fuck it. I’ll probably die of a broken heart in ten. So Mwah! Mwah! Mwah! Come here dear cigarette!
There is an old picture in my phone. It is a selfie I took with my mom when selfies were still a thing. I wanted to upload it on Facebook with a caption that read “Mama you’re my general” but I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t get around to it. Maybe we’ll chalk it up to my burgeoning “Why I’m a lousy son” list.
If I told you I am a terrible human being, would you believe me? Fuck, I don’t even know who “you” are. I guess you are that imaginary friend in my head that I hate so much. That friend in my head that keeps saying, “Davis, you are a lousy human being. And I fucking hate you for it you cocksucker!”
Yes. I have a friend in my head who calls me a cocksucker. Fucking idiot! Truth is, I hate myself.
Goddamn I don’t even know why I’m so angry. Must be because I have spent the day listening to Eminem. I mean, you can only hear “…if you try to leave again I’ll tie you to the bed and set the house on fire…” so long without thinking, “Hell yeah! I’m not the only angry person in the world!”
Six years ago, I had to take my mama to the hospital. Aga Khan Hospital. She was suffering from another one of her old people illnesses. She was so ill this time round that I had to make a friend ride a matatu to work that day so I could drive her to the hospital in his car.
I couldn’t drive for shit back then. Not that that has changed much since, but I am working on it. Anyway, so we get to Aga Khan, queue before seeing the doc and queue again for the meds, and finally it is our turn. And the overhead speakers go like, “Florenshia Tanga! Florenshia Tanga!”
And everyone is alert. Who the fuck could walk around bearing such a load of a name as “Florenshia?” And I give them the “What the hell are you looking at?” look. She’s my mom. I don’t care if her parents named her Florenshia or Dinosauria Diarrhea or whatever. She’s my mom!
We get to the counter and she doesn’t have enough money for her meds. Freaking meds go for about eight thousand and change and I am broke as those guys who donate their hard earned “mbegu ya 310” to the Pastor Kanyaris of the world and go home singing “Tenda wema nenda zako”.
But she turns to me and says, “Davis, you have a little cash to top me up?”
She’s my mom. She doesn’t even have to ask. In my pockets, I have one thousand, one hundred and three shillings left. I know because when I am on the edge of bankruptcy, I tend to make a mental note of all the monies in my life and where they are going.
I give it all to her. One of the shillings drops shamelessly and noisily on the floor and I can sense the eyes of everyone of those sick toads in the waiting lobby staring at Florenshia and her boy who resembles one of those fools in the movie “Three Idiots” and their shilling that rolls right up to the foot of this lady seated at the front bench. She is in a tiny skirt which exposes her brown thighs. She keeps pulling it to her knees but the damn thing just won’t hear it. I can almost hear it screaming, “Mommy I don’t want the knees! I want the thighs mommy!”
Well, so does my coin. It just lands between her legs with the Kenyatta face staring up. Lucky bastard! My money and my mom’s isn’t enough to cover her meds. And she has no insurance, poor bird. We’re five hundred shillings short. So I call Clinton. Clinton is my friend. Well, “Friend.”
Me: Yoh Clint! What’s up old dog!
Clinton: Davis! Motherfucker! God, it’s been a minute! How the hell are you?
Me: I’m good mate. I’m really good. So hey, I’m with my mom at Aga Khan and I was wondering…
Clinton: How much?
Me: Five hundred?
Clinton: Are you drinking again?
Me: What? No! It’s my mom. She is at the hospital and…
Clinton: Funny how you only call me when you need money. Lose my number dude. I’m serious.
Friends, huh? Always finding new places to stab you. So I call the girl I am dating.
Her: Hey Davis! How’s it going? How’s mom?
Me: I’m glad you asked. So we’re at the hospital and we’ve ran out of money and I was hoping…
Her: (Whining) Daviiiiiis?
Her: I am saving eight thousand bob for this really awesome weave I was telling you about. You know that.
Me: (Not wanting to explode right there on the phone) Oh. Yeah. I had forgotten about that really awesome weave. Well, I’ll look around. See if I can find a really awesome brain to go with the weave.
Her: What the hell does that mean?
Well, it means now she’s my ex.
Anyway, this girl Jackie just digs into her purse and takes out a five hundred shillings note. Right there at the waiting lobby, she hands it to my mom with a smile. Like she is a daughter to her. And my mom doesn’t say, “No thanks.” She takes the money with a smile and just says the “Thanks” in “No thanks.” Good old bird. No sense of pride in her. But she’s sick. The medicine will make her better. Taking a gift from a stranger is a small price to pay for health.
I don’t say “Thanks” to Jackie because I am too busy trying to figure out what kind of a person she is. She is, prima facie, the kind of woman I wouldn’t be caught dead having a conversation with. Loads of makeup on her face, an amount of lipstick on her lips that I make continuous fun of when I see it on other girls’, a weave on her head, seven earrings on each ear, a nose ring, long fake nails…
I don’t talk to girls like that. But a girl like that has just looked out for my mama’s health when I couldn’t and I am now standing in front of a question whose answer I lack. She is to me, your quintessential Nairobi girl. Complete without a heart for nothing but her looks. And the twang’ flowing from her tongue. What do I judge? The looks or the deed?
Jackie: Why are you staring at me? (Yes I am staring at her. Trying to read her.)
Me: Can you give me your number?
Jackie: Excuse me?
Me: Your number. Can I have it?
Me: Look, I don’t know what else to say to you. I could say I want to take you out for coffee and thank you for what you just did, but I don’t. I don’t want to take you out for coffee to thank you. I want to take you to a place where I can open you up and get to know everything I can about you.
Jackie: Like you are a scientist and I am the specimen?
Me: No. Like I am lost and you are the only light I have, shining in the distance, trying to show me the way.
She doesn’t give me her number. She asks me for mine. That she’ll call at some point in future. When she’s feeling up to it.
I want to write about Jackie, but there is more to me than heartsy feely touchy shit. But that’s what I did with her. I got all heartsy, touchy, feely shit with her.
I was in the house hanging out with Jack Daniels when Jackie called. That was about three months since I gave her my number. On top of enjoying Jack Daniels’ blessed company, some dude had just rolled up from the Carribean and right onto my lip. This was a dude of many names. Marion Asher called him Ganja. Richie Spice called him Marijuana. My high school biology teacher called him Cannabis Sativa. I hated that name. Cannabis Sativa. Made me think of saliva. I have no fucking idea why. Barrack Obama called him pot. I just called the dude weed.
I had just finished writing this crazy story about all these people who so much loved sex outside the confines of marriage that the church was sending crazy guys to kill them off in a purification crusade. This is where you ask, “What church?” and this is where I ask you nicely to fuck off.
Sorry about all the curse words. I haven’t used them in so long, I feel like now since I’m just dropping them right, left and center, I have just been reunited with friends I thought long dead.
Phone rings. I can’t recognize the number. And this story I have just finished writing, a whole freaking novel by the way, which was sad as a flaccid penis, has left me feeling a little depressed so now I am high as a kite.
Her: It’s Jackie.
Me: Who the fuck is Jackie?
Me: I don’t know any Jackies in my life so please fuck off, OK?
I can almost sense her anger as she hangs up the phone angrily. I don’t care. I take a hit of the weed, a swig of Mr. Daniels and sink lower on the couch. Shirtless. In boxers. I had a friend once. She told me that the better you become as a writer, the more miserable you get. She must have known what she was talking about. She was a pretty damn good writer. She was also pretty good at cutting her wrists and thighs open. Not to kill herself, but to release some sort of tension in her. Or to get “lost in it for a bit”. But one day she cut herself too deep and bled out.
I don’t want to write about her. Not tonight. I can’t think of razors tonight. I am not a cutter. Never could stand the blood. I have written stories with copious amounts of blood in them, but I could never stand the sight of blood. Or needles. Thank God, or I would be a heroin addict by now. Getting high in hotel room toilets like every other successful loser.
So I will just focus on Jackie. With her hoarse voice and a heart that could love every human being in the world and then some.
The phone rings again. Same number calling.
Me: Hello Jackie. I don’t know you. (My voice is very slurred. My eyes are barely open) I don’t want to know you. I am not horny at the moment, so no I don’t want you coming over. Please hang up the phone, before you (I begin yelling at this juncture) make me jump off MY MOTHERFUCKING BALCONY! FUCK!
Her: Jesus Christ, are you OK?
Me: What do you mean?
Her: You sound a little high.
Me: Who, me? (I laugh) No I am fine. Never been better. (I smoke up, release smoke rings in the air and take another swig of my whiskey)
Her: You don’t sound OK.
Me: What did you say your name was again?
Me: Have we met?
Her: Yeah. At Aga Khan Hospital. You had brought your grandma and you guys ran out of money so I…
Me: Did you just call my mother old? (I get a moment of clarity. Shit. Shit. Shit. I have been waiting for this call for months!) Holy Shit it’s you! (I sit up on the couch, rubbing my eyes. I crash the weed out on the ashtray and go looking for a cup of water) We never exchanged names. I’m Davis.
Her: Why did you tell me to call you if you were going to be a dick about it?
Me: Because if you ever call me again and we become friends, you’ll realize that I am an animal.
Her: You know, I thought calling you might be stupid. Thank you for proving me right.
And she hangs up. I feel bad. I want to call her back and apologize, but in my current state, I can barely talk. So I seek refuge in the bottle and the weed. And my loneliness.
I am going to write about my loneliness. It is the kind of loneliness that makes you believe that you are not lonely. You spend time with people yeah, but even in a hall crammed with familiar faces, you still feel alone. That’s me.
The only time I ever feel like I am not alone, is when I am hanging out with the characters I am creating. They become my friends. My family. Even when they are off killing each other badly, I love all of them equally and I miss them when they are gone.
I think I have created a million characters since I started writing. When I was in Form Two in high school, I wrote my first “short” story. It was seventeen (17) pages long on a small high exercise book.
Me, being the idiot that I have always been, wrote about this kid called Kinyanjui. Street name; Kinyanzu, after some dude I looked up to in the estate where I grew up. The real Kinyanzu was a decent enough guy. He wasn’t brave, but he was decent. By brave, I mean being able to conquer your fears and pursue what you love.
Kinyanzu loved being a barber. But his father felt that being a barber in a shitty estate in the shittiest part of Thika wasn’t something a son of his could be. So he forced him into a teaching college and Kinyanzu became one of those lousy drunkard public school teachers that everyone above the age of thirty who schooled in public schools has met or heard about.
Why did I look up to Kinyanzu? His sister Scholarstica was kind of hot. Well, she has a neck like an ostrich’s and I deemed that a little daunting, but later I realized, (after reading a book or two) that long necked African ladies have this queenly feel about them. I figured Kinyanzu could be the bridge between me and Scholarstica aka Scholaaaaaaar. (Yeah. The many “a’s” didn’t fall there by accident. I am not that drunk.)
Spoiler alert. Kinyanzu wasn’t the bridge to his sister but to alcoholism. A few years ago, they pulled his body out of Chania River where he had drowned in a drunken stupor.
My fictional Kinyanzu is the SONU chair at the University of Nairobi. In my teenage mind (I was fourteen years old when I wrote that story), Kinyanzu is this badass character who chases what he wants with the determination of a charging rhino. And right now, the university has been under what he is referring to as the tentacles of a malignant dictator. So the only thing he wants is a change in administration.
How will he achieve that? A strike. And so my short long story is about the strike. And the vicious police response thereafter. And the erratic student reaction to the vicious police response. And then the even more vicious police response to the erratic student reaction.
At the end of the story, the University’s main campus is lined with bodies. Kinyanzu has made it out, but barely. It ends with him being driven to the hospital with a bullet lodged in his tummy. Bleeding out on the floor of a police landrover.
I feel good when I put the final fullstop to that story. It is a great story. I can feel it in my balls. It is a fucking awesome story and I can already see my English teacher hailing me as the best English student she has.
A week after I take the story to her to mark and hopefully leave a comment or two, or just kiss my ass, he summons me to the staffroom.
Teacher: How long did it take you to write the story Davis?
Me: I don’t know. A day?
Teacher: It is a good story. You can certainly write. Let me ask, what point were you trying to put across? What themes were you seeking to explore?
Me: What do you mean themes?
Teacher: There is a lot of violence in the story. Why?
Me: Well, the students start with a peaceful demonstration. The police disperse them with teargas and batons. So the students start throwing stones at them. The police react now with rubber bullets and the angered students react to that with even more stones. Seeing that they are unrelenting, the police use live bullets. It is the same way in the society. Violence begets more violence.
Teacher: Yeah I can see that, but there is this character called Kerry. In your words, “The bullet from the policeman’s G3 Rifle enters her head through her left temple, drills her brain as it travels in super speed and exits through her right ear with a geyser of blood and thick red and grayish matter in speedy pursuit.” That’s quite the imagery there, don’t you think?
Me: Is that a problem?
Teacher: Well, (Flips the pages to another part of the story, finds what he is looking for and starts reading) “The day starts as everyday starts. With nothing happening. Just wind blowing leaves, students walking on campus and bored looking potbellied lecturers hurrying across the compound, trying to look important in their thick rimmed spectacles.” Feels to me like you use beautiful words to describe violence and sarcasm to describe normalcy and beauty.
Me: What does that mean?
Teacher: Do you relish violence?
Me: It is a story. It is not me.
Teacher: You use so many words to describe violence than you do to describe beauty or emotions like love. Things which are more admirable to the society. (Closing the book) I just don’t think that a fourteen year old should be writing things like this. You should dedicate your time to studying other things including biology which your teacher tells me you fail desperately at, and Math which you have never scored anything past an E. I will show this to the Guidance and Counseling teacher and I expect that he’ll be wanting to talk to you.
And so that is how I end up being treated like I am insane when I am fourteen. The guidance and counseling office in that school is pretty much dead. It only opens once a week and that’s when it is being cleaned by students on Saturday. But they open it every day for two hours from four to six in the evening just for me. For an entire year.
I don’t think it works. I mean, my stories still feature a healthy dosage of violence. Hell, my most violent story won me a shitload of awards.
Shit. I have been writing this thing for almost an hour now and I still don’t know what the hell I am writing about.
I’ll start with Jackie and see how things go from there. I guess most of my stories start and end with love. Kind of like the world. See, in my head. God creates the world out of love. I know it might have been out of boredom or the need to control something, but I just think love had something to do with it. He is a God that can see the future, right? So when He created Adam and Eve (and by the way, Eve wasn’t part of the plan. She was just put together because Adam was getting kind of bored just hanging out with plants and animals. Wait. Since God could see the future, I wonder why He let Adam go ahead and get bored when He could have just created him and Eve together. Hmm. Where was I? Uh, yes.) When He created Adam and Eve, He created them beautiful because they were His children and He loved them. But then they betrayed Him and He kinda got a little pissed. And He punished them. And He punished people during Noah’s time too but kept loving them so He spared a few for procreation purposes. Finally out of love, He sacrificed His son for us.
Now, this is where I ask a question or two and pray that I don’t offend God for asking a question or two. So, God knows that His son will rise again after three days, right? Jesus knows that too. Considering it is called a very big sacrifice, wouldn’t it have been more deserving of the term sacrifice if Christ’s death was a little more permanent than three days? I mean, how is it said that He died for us when He didn’t die?
Yes He died for a weekend, during which he took a trip to fetch some keys I think (I need to read more on this) then resurrected on a very beautiful Sunday morning, hang around with the disciples for a bit for old time’s sakes, and ascended back home to His Father. Does that sound like death to you? But the Lord works in mysterious ways and I am a man of Faith. And in the words of Martin Luther, faith is taking a step forward, even when you can’t see the rest of the staircase.
Enough of this religion stuff before somebody calls me blasphemous.
In the end, the Day of Judgment will land and we will all be judged according to our sins. The good people will go to Heaven because they are loved and the bad people will burn forever in the eternal fires of hell with Satan, in spite of being loved.
So my love for my characters is like God’s love for us. It is a bit tough to understand. I kill them right, left and center and then some, I make them suffer and I ensure that they have fun while they last, because hey, I created them.
Anyway, Jackie. The next time she calls, I am sober. I ask her why she called even when I had been so bad to her. She said I owed her a cup of coffee. And she was nothing if not a woman with special talents when it came to claiming debts.
Next thing I know, Jackie is a part of my life. She is there when I wake up in the morning. She is there when I go to bed at night. I write stories based on who she is. She makes me better. Well, that’s a lie. I just fixed it there because every great love story has that “she makes me better” clause somewhere in there. But I hate clichés.
I have a significant memory about Jackie. So I have just written this story, right? It is a story about a man in hell. Like that prison called Hell where the devil is some sort of a warden. Anyway, this dude pesters the warden over and over again. He just wants to go to Heaven for a day and have a conversation with God. He wants to understand how God was practically expecting him to lead his life.
I mean, this dude lived in a world where you and I live, right? Temptations everywhere. But that’s not even it. He lived in an age of information. Consequently, he was widely read. Philosophy, the law…and he was an acute observer of the human psyche. He understood human beings.
And he wasn’t a bad guy either. It is not like he was Adolf motherfucking Hitler or something. He was just your regular dude. Widely travelled, open minded and liberal as shit. I don’t know what shit has to do with liberal, but keep reading.
Our dude has a wife who is somewhere in hell with him now. But Hell is kinda huge considering it hosts people who were around since the time of Esau. Billions and billions of people condemned to the eternal flames since the beginning of time. Y’all remember Esau, right? That dude in Bible who kills his brother? Or was that Cain? Yeah! Yeah! Shit, it was Cain. Had a brother called Abel. Any bells? Now I don’t even remember who the hell Esau was. But Professor Google will take care of that for me in a second. Anyway, our hero knows his wife is in Hell with him, but he can’t find her. And his son was a bit of a pothead too, so long story short, the dude’s entire family is in fucking Hell with him. And he can’t find them. For doing completely normal human shit. For living. Right?
So he is kind of pissed. He doesn’t get how he ended up here. Burning day in day out. So he calls a meeting with likeminded individuals. And he’s like;
Dude: Yoh guys, we need to meet God. Ask Him why we’re down here.
But Lucifer isn’t feeling this whole “My prisoners want to meet God” vibe, right? So he keeps them in Hell and some sort of a Spartacus Revolution commences. They are making Lucifer’s job really difficult down there, man. I mean, if your prison is always up in arms, what the fuck kind of a life are you leading as the warden?
And what’s Lucifer going to do? Crank up the heat? It’s Hell. It’s as hot as hot is ever going to get. But some of these guys have been here for thousands and thousands of years. They are kinda used to the heat. So Lucifer being Lucifer decides, ah fuck it.
And he allows our dude plus a few other guys to have that meeting with the Almighty. And the Almighty being a God of love; what’s he going to do? Refuse to talk to them? I mean, these are your usual mama mbogas, teenagers who died before they could understand this whole “Dedicate your life to Christ or you’ll burn forever” thing, priests who masturbated a little too often, drivers, singers…good people, you know? Not serial killers or rapists or those fuckers we see getting death sentences on TV.
So God grants them audience. And the article is about that conversation between God and this dude who doesn’t want to go to Heaven; he just wants to understand why he is in Hell. What wrong did he ever do? Just because he didn’t spend every waking moment praising and worshipping? Hardly seems fair.
The dude presents his case and God answers.
And my article, published on the internet, goes viral. Some people hate it. The church (again don’t ask what church) is on my case and writers like me. Others love it. But everyone reads it. Everyone. And just like that, I become a big fucking deal and my life as I knew it, changes.
On the day the article goes viral, my phone won’t stop ringing. And I am a guy who is used to his own little space. My name is everywhere and I really need to get drunk. I can’t even go to the bar without someone asking me, “Are you that guy who blasphemed his way to fame? Holy shit it is you!”
So I drink. And smoke. And when Jackie comes home in the evening after trying to reach me unsuccessfully all day, she finds me lying on the floor, half conscious, on a pool of vomit. As she carries me to the couch, I keep mumbling, “Baby I’m sorry. I’m so sorry baby…” but she keeps saying, “It’s OK Davis. It’s OK.”
It’s not. I can see it in her eyes as she washes the vomit off my face and cleans up the floor. As she carries what’s left of the liquor in my bottle to the sink and pours it out, I can see her pain. I want to change. I want to be better. And I swear to God I feel like shit. Putting her through all that. But all I can say is, “Baby I’m sorry.”
And I mean it. I am sorry. And I will never do that again. But a week later she finds me on the floor again with the vomit under me, the bottle in hand and blood on the floor. I hit my nose on the table on my way down and now it is broken.
And as she drives me to the hospital, I keep mumbling that thing again. “Baby I’m sorry. Baby it’ll never happen again. Baby I swear I’ll change.”
See Jackie’s story starts the way it ends. With love. One day she packs and says, “I have to leave you baby. I love you and that is why I cannot stand with you and watch as you do this to yourself.”
I am sober when she leaves. It kills me inside to see her go. I want to beg. I want to crawl on my knees and beg her to stay. That I will change. But I have said that a million times before. It even shames me to try and utter those words one more time. Baby I am sorry.
Once upon a time, Jackie told me that she loves me. I asked her what she meant by that. And she told me that when you love somebody as much as she loved me, you are absolutely vulnerable to them. You open yourself up to be hurt by them. You are like a patient with full blown AIDS. Your immune system is shit. Even little attacks by shitty little diseases will kill you.
That’s how Jackie loves me. So little mistakes by me hurt her in ways so deep she lacks the words to express it. And when I do something good, she is so happy that only the tears trickling down her cheeks tell me just how happy she is.
Jackie: Love is supposed to make you a better person Davis. It is supposed to make you want to be a better person for me but you haven’t changed. You are as reckless as you were when we first met. I have absolutely zero impact in your life. And you keep saying you love me baby, but I don’t see it. I have to leave you. Should you ever find yourself, come and find me. Have faith that I will wait for you. Trust that my love for you is patient.
That was three years ago.
I have tried rehab three times. Twice when we were together and once after she left. But I guess one of my strongest suits is admitting to myself that I am a weak man. I have fallen off the wagon three times. I have given up on myself.
When I started writing this article, it was to be the rumblings of a lunatic at midnight when the demons in his head are at their loudest. I was going to name those demons one by one. I was going to give them form. Words. I was going to open my closet and look in there. I was going to find the monsters. I was going to look them in the eye. And I was going to tell them to fuck the fuck off.
See, Jackie called an hour ago. I was drunk an hour ago. I am drunker now.
Jackie: Hello Davis.
Me: Hi babe, how’s it going?
Jackie: It’s going good.
Me: Are you sure? Because by my watch, it is going on midnight.
Jackie: Well, I have been debating about calling you for three months now.
Me: I get that. Lost souls like mine deserve a three month debate before they are called.
Jackie: Some lost souls are lost because they choose to be lost, don’t you think?
Jackie: Where does your lie?
Me: In the characters I create. There is a little bit of me in all of them.
Jackie: Must be why they’re so special. Must also be why you hate them so much.
Me: Sometimes in hate there is a feeling.
Jackie: Is that why you hate yourself? Because at least then you can still feel?
Me: I don’t hate myself.
Jackie: Then why do you do this to yourself Davis?
Me: Do what?
Jackie: I know your drunken voice better than anybody in the world. You were drunk the first time I called, remember?
Me: So I drink. What’s that got to do with self loathing?
Jackie: Because you are alone Dave. You feel alone and you want to numb that feeling. I know that; which is why you doing this to yourself hurts me even more.
Me: Look, I do get why you left. I’d have left too.
Jackie: But you felt alone even when we were together. I feel sad every time I remember that I loved you and you couldn’t even give me a little bit of yourself.
Me: You always wanted more and I couldn’t give it.
Jackie: So you gave it to your bottles? And your one night stands?
Me: Look, you left! It’s been three years. What do you want from me?
Jackie: I’m getting married next weekend.
Voldermort is alive. He is invisible and he’s wielding Thor’s Hammer. Right now, he is using it to smash my chest to pieces.
Me: (Swallowing) Oh. Cool.
Jackie: Yeah. That’s what I thought. You’d just say something cool and act like it doesn’t matter to you.
Me: Yeah well, it’d be naïve of me to expect you to wait for me forever.
Jackie: No. It’d be naïve of you to expect that I wouldn’t wait for you forever.
Me: You’re the one who said you’d wait! Look, I don’t even know why we’re talking right now. Just fuck off to your happily ever after. Leave me the fuck alone.
Jackie: Say it just one time Davis.
Me: Say what?
Jackie: Tell me that you love me. Tell me that you’d be willing to fight for you and me and I swear to God I will walk into the next room and dump my fiancé.
That is exactly what I want to tell her. That I will fight. That I will never have another drink if it kills me. That I will never again pick up some random chic in the club and fuck her brains out. But I have made those promises before. I trust that she’d fight for me forever. But I don’t trust myself to join her in that fight. I am not ready.
Maybe I am not the type to be happy. Love is supposed to make you want to be better for the person you love. It makes me want to better for Jackie but I keep failing. I would rather she just moved on than failing her again.
A long time ago I was very much interested in joining the military. So much so that I exercised often, ate well and studied hard. I applied every time the armed forces asked people to apply and did all the research I could so that when they finally hired me, I’d be the fittest, most knowledgeable cadet they ever had.
Seeing as how I am currently naked in bed, drunk out of my fucking mind, high as a motherfucking star, typing this piece of shit article which by the way I still don’t know what the fuck it is about, I feel like I don’t need to mention it. They didn’t hire me. And I even studied The Art of War for them! I didn’t read it mind you. I studied it. I went ahead and studied Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power. At twenty-three, I had the sharpest mind a cadet would ever hope to have. Couple that up with a degree in law and goddamn I would have made Colonel by thirty!
After some time, I gave up on the dream to be a soldier. I wrote about it a million times but after a while, it started feeling like I was whining about a girl who had rejected me. So I stopped. I was after all, the one who stopped applying. I turned my back on the whole military thing and decided to be a lawyer who could pen a story or two.
Ah yes. That law thing. I am good at it. I am one of the best there is. Because I have always been able to keep my mind open and remember how I told you I could look at people and read them?
You can tell a lot about a man by how they eat. When I was a kid, I used to watch Kinyanzu eat and he was one fast eater. He could down an entire plate of githeri in four freaking minutes. And I admired the hell out of that. So I started eating like him. The faster I could clear a plate, the happier I’d be.
As I grew older though, I realized that the faster you eat, the less you enjoy the meal. You only eat to fill your stomach and head on out to other pressing matters. Even though you have zero pressing matters. You just munch munch munch real fast because that’s how you live your life. You pretty much eat to stay alive long enough to shit just so you can eat again. You shit and eat and eat and shit. Period. No fun in between the eating and the shitting. What the fuck kind of a life is that?
You don’t take your time to taste it. You don’t look around to see the smile on people’s faces when they hug. You don’t take the time to listen to the children’s laughter in the estate when they chase one another. It just irritates you that they are chasing each other close to where you’re standing, waiting for mama mboga to finishing chopping up your vegetables. If you are a fast eater, chances are you never take the time to shut your eyes and listen to music. And you never take time to make love. You just fuck to cum.
Food, as much as it is meant to nourish you, is also meant to be tasted. And if you appreciate a good meal, you appreciate the process of fixing it good. You appreciate the patience that comes with making a beautiful hot plate. Imagine the shame of being served a good meal which you then go ahead and wrap up in four minutes. What the fuck?
And that’s how life is. A good life is built. Patiently. With caution. Everything has to be done just right. And when it is served, you have to enjoy it. Slowly. Patiently. I watched this 1980s movie directed by John Hughes called “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and one thing from that awesome movie stuck with me. “Life moves fast. If you don’t take the time to stop and enjoy it, you just might miss it.”
But then my writing got better than my law and at some point, it just felt like I gave up on the law. And I feel like that is what I do. I see something, I love it, but after a while, I see something which I deem better, forget all about what I used to love and love something new. And now here is Jackie, asking me to tell her that I love her so she can dismantle her life and come running back to me. What if I wake up tomorrow and don’t love her anymore? What if something else comes along and I dump Jackie for it?
There is a bottle of vodka in the fridge and at this point, I don’t even care about diluting it. I just open it and take it straight from the bottle. When you are as high as I am right now, when you get to that fuck it point, you feel like you can handle anything. Including guzzling down large quantities of undiluted vodka whose alcohol content is in its 40%s.
Jackie: Are you there Dave?
Me: I have my exam coming up.
Jackie: What exam?
Me: I’m at the Kenya School of Law. Didn’t I tell you about that?
Jackie: No you didn’t.
Me: Well, (My voice is so slurred, I am surprised she can still hear me) I am telling you now.
Jackie: That’s good, right?
Me: No! No! It’s fucking bad! I am sitting here and I am wondering why the fuck I work so hard to be a lawyer when obviously God put me in this world to be a writer.
Jackie: Then why are you working so hard to be a lawyer?
Me: Because I am scared, OK? I am scared of failing as a writer. What if one day I can’t write anymore? What if I start releasing shitty stories? What if my fans don’t like me so much anymore? What the fuck am I going to do then?
Jackie: You’ll just drop your pen and pick up a file and go to court? Is that your plan?
Me: Sure does seem like a reasonable plan.
Jackie: If it is so reasonable, why is it eating you up inside?
Me: You know, right now I am not the best writer I can be, because I am dedicating a part of me to being a lawyer too. So I am like three quarters a writer and one quarters a lawyer. And that is affecting both law and writing. And I know that but I keep saying, “Just one more year of this law shit and I’ll be done. Just one more year and then I can be a writer 100%.”
Jackie: There is a chance you’ll be dead in a year. You know you can get really deep sometimes, right?
Me: It’s been mentioned.
Jackie: One day you told me it is better to chase depth than breadth in life. What are you doing right now Davis? Chasing what you really care about or chasing a little bit of everything so that if one fails you will still have another?
Me: That’s a rhetorical question, right?
Jackie: Well, thing about chasing a little bit of everything like you said, is that you don’t get to do anything. Not really. And none of it means anything at all. Because if you invest a little bit of yourself here and a little bit of yourself there and another little bit over there, there will be pieces of you scattered all over the place meaning you will hold no special attachment to anything at all. But if you invest yourself in that one thing you truly care about, sure there will be challenges, but you will truly care about that thing. You will care about it so much that you will stand any amount of shit that comes with loving and investing in that thing. It will mean the world to you. You will have found your purpose in the world and trust me babe there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a man who has found his purpose.
Me: If I quit on the law, it’ll just be another thing that I’ll be quitting on.
Jackie: You quit on it a long time ago. You just lack the balls to admit it to yourself.
Me: Same way you have already quit on your marriage even before the ring is on your finger?
Jackie: Don’t even go there!
Me: You should go back inside, kiss him goodnight and try to love him more. I have nothing for you.
Jackie: Yet here you are. On the phone with me for hours. See, I can’t put up with your addiction whether we are together or not. I have tried getting over you since I walked out the door, and three years later I’m still trying. If I haven’t yet, you think I’ll marry him free of you?
Me: I love you. But not enough to want to stay sober for you. And not for lack of trying.
Jackie: But that’s all it takes baby. The will to try. You already tried thrice.
Me: And failed thrice!
Jackie: Well try a fucking fourth time bitch! What choice do you have? Drink yourself to death?
Me: Why the fuck do you care? You’re getting married! Isn’t that why you called? To shove in my face the fact that you’re happy without me and I am miserable without you? Well congratulations! Your point is home.
Jackie: I swear to God Davis, you are the most intelligent, most stupid cunt I know!
Me: Thank you and fuck you.
Jackie: Look, he’s a good guy. A great guy. But I am on the phone with you at 1 am. And I am to be wed in two weeks. Have we not wasted enough time?
Me: I am trying babe, I am. (I take another swig of the vodka and my head is spinning. But for some reason that seems to be a cue for me to light a joint of weed) You think I want to keep failing you?
Jackie: Whether we are together or not, you are already failing me.
Jackie: This thing called love. Such a bitch, huh?
Me: I am high Jackie. (As if to stress on that point, I pull on the joint so hard that it crackles. Then I release the smoke so comfortably it hurts me to let it go) I’m always going to be high. You have a guy who loves you to the moon and back. Just fucking make it work and leave me the fuck alone.
Jackie: Are you on DEFCON 1?
DEFCON 1. It is the highest military state of alert. For me, it is when I say fuck loving with your heart and take to loving with your head. Being reasonable. Weighing options and seeing what works and what doesn’t. See, like Jackie said, love is like full blown AIDS. You expose yourself to being hurt by that person you love’s bullshit.
When you are on DEFCON 1, you are on “I am done putting up with shit” mode. You block everyone and everything out and you do what people call “putting up walls”.
Me: Yeah. I have been on DEFCON 1 since you left.
Jackie: Slept with a myriad of women I imagine?
Jackie: Drunk enough to burn your liver to shit?
Me: It helps.
Jackie: Broken hearts?
Me: Comes with the “sleeping with a myriad of women” part I figure.
Jackie: So is DEFCON 1 helping you or destroying you?
Me: What else is there? Bringing you back into my life only to keep disappointing you?
Jackie: You’re disappointing me whether we’re together or not. You think I do this with everyone? Call guys in the middle of the night two weeks to my wedding, telling them I love them and begging them to let me be in their life? You just might be the luckiest man alive. And unluckiest because you are too dependent on drugs to let yourself be vulnerable. But see, you are vulnerable to your alcohol. So vulnerable that it has enslaved you.
I finish up the bottle and dump it aside. There is another untouched bottle in the fridge. All I have to do is get up, walk there, grab it and work on it. Tomorrow I will have a major headache. But tonight I have pain that needs dulling.
So I stand up and suddenly the floor is rising up to my face. Or is it my face going down to the floor? I can hear Jackie asking over the phone;
Jackie: Oh my God! Davis what was that?
That was me. Getting in position. Naked on the floor. Puking. Bleeding from the latest cuts. There is a bottle in the fridge. I have to get there.
Me: Leave me alone! Leave me alone! LEAVE ME ALONE!
It is three years ago. Jackie and I are having sex. And my hand keeps finding its way to her throat. It is meant to be a gentle squeeze. I get lost. Next thing I know, she is slapping me and screaming at me. “YOU WERE HURTING ME!”
Why does she want that again?
I crawl on the floor, heading for that bottle. I am supposed to be cold. I am supposed to be thinking. But all I can do is crawl. “Crawl on baby, crawl.”
I am supposed to be studying for my bar exam. I am supposed to be replying messages that get sent to me by hundreds of fans.
You are the man!
Maximum respect to you sir!
You are the best at what you do!
I love you!
I am supposed to say thank you to all of them. Just that. Thank you. But I got high.
There is a mantle in the living room full of trophies. The world’s way of saying, “Congratulations for being a kickass writer”. They are more than they were a couple of hours ago. Maybe it is my vision playing games with me.
None of it matters. I crawl. And crawl. Take me home dear knees and elbows. Sweet vodka I come to thee. If I put this much effort in my relationship with Jackie, heck, she would be the most loved woman in the world.
DEFCON 1. This is the price I pay to keep my heart free of hurt.
I finally manage to get to the fridge and retrieve the bottle. I crawl back to bed and start writing this piece. I don’t know what it is about. Maybe this is me telling the world that I am just a big failure. A big fraud who doesn’t deserve their accolades.
Just because I put beautiful words together doesn’t mean I deserve to be where I am. I am just a guy who duped the world into believing that I am good. But I am not. I am just a guy struggling to stay alive. I quit at everything I try. I quit on my dream to be a soldier and by God I might have made a good one. I quit on my dream to love a woman completely. I am in the process of quitting on my dream to be a lawyer. I don’t even know if I am quitting that to focus on writing or if I am quitting that because I’m a quitter by nature.
But fuck it. I tap my keys hard. And write about my failures. The vodka is keeping me warm, so fuck clothes. I am all out of weed and I can’t find my phone. Fuck the phone. I have a peddler on speed dial but that ain’t much good if I can’t find my phone. Fuck the peddler. Fuck the phone. Has anyone seen my fucking phone? FUCK! I can‘t seem to do anything right.
I can’t love right. I can’t dream right. I can’t study right. I can’t live right. I can’t even push Jackie away right. I love her but I can’t even trust my heart to love her forever.
One day I wrote a stupid story for my blog. “Please God Don’t Take my Mom” I called it. It was based on that time when my mom was really sick and I wrote about the good old days before her body was plagued by illness after illness.
Funny thing was that God didn’t take my mom. God kept her around. Long enough for me to break her heart over and over and over again. I was the son she always wanted. Until I couldn’t do anything but drink. I couldn’t even drive her to the hospital anymore because I had passed out in the stupid trench. Or I was in court pleading guilty to being drunk and disorderly charges. So Jackie took up the responsibility.
When my mama finally died, it wasn’t because she was sick. It was because her heart couldn’t hold out anymore. There wasn’t much of it left to love me and continue living. She couldn’t love me and live at the same time. It was either cut me off and live or love me and die. She chose the latter. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know why I did it. I keep telling myself that I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean take so many drugs. I just wanted enough to put me to bed. But thing is, I wanted for the pain to end. Permanently. So I died long before I tried killing myself.
And that was it. It broke my mother so bad; her heart gave out a couple of weeks after that. So I wrote another story. “God Didn’t Take my Mom. I Did.” And Jackie stuck with me through it all. Through my tumultuous life and the award winning stories I wrote based on it.
And now she is getting married in two weeks and I don’t even have the balls to tell her not to do it. Not to subject herself to a life of trying to love somebody just because he is good to her. I am a broken man, madly in love with her. She is a woman madly in love with a broken man. DEFCON 1 dictates that I push her away into the arms of someone who will treat her like a queen. Like the special woman she is.
I light up another cigarette. I think it is the tenth one tonight. Fuck cancer. I will probably die of a broken heart anyway. Or of liver cirrhosis. Or at this rate, of fucking AIDS. Fuck all of it.
Fuck life and trying to please everybody. Fuck the law and fuck the bar exam. Fuck Jackie, fuck love and fuck hearts for loving. Fuck the vulnerability that comes with love. Fuck the pain and the fact that it will never leave. Fuck the head for fighting the heart. Fuck the heart for fighting the head. Fuck the fact that Adam was lonely without Eve. Fuck loneliness. Fuck the mud I was created out of.
Fuck this computer and motherfuck this totally useless fucking article that I have no idea what the fuck it is about. Fuck Jackie and fuck the fucks I give about her. Fuck her fucking heart for giving fucks about me. Fuck that I am out of weed. Fuck that this is my last Vodka bottle. Fuck that I am killing myself slowly each passing day. Fuck that I have relapsed to drug use thrice. Fuck that I am afraid of trying the fourth fucking time lest I fail again. Fuck the fucking snort in my motherfucking nose. Fuck the tears in my eyes. Fuck my spinning head. Fuck the pain in my chest. Fuck DEFCON 1. Fuck it all! Just, FUCK IT I’M DONE! FUUUUUUUUUCK!
I don’t hear the door open, but I see something, someone walk in. I see three, or is four, of her. Jackie. She is running, screaming.
The broken bottle is in my head, the jagged edges still stuck in my wrist. I don’t know whether I am drunk or high or just bleeding out. But I can feel her trying to lift me up. There is pressure on my wrists where she has tied pieces of cloth around them. My bed is wet. I don’t know whether it is the blood, or the spilled vodka or the vomit. All I know is that my head spins and it feels like I am at a good place.
I am in a car. It is moving fast. Jackie is driving. I don’t know what street we are on. I try to squint. Maybe I will catch a glimpse of a familiar building and I’ll know where I am. I don’t.
Jackie: (Screaming) Open your eyes baby! Don’t go to sleep!
I must have shut my eyes thinking I was squinting. That would explain why I can’t see shit.
Jackie: (She is crying now. I can see three speedometers when I look hard enough) Stay awake baby! Stay awake! Oh my God I am so sorry I gave up on you. (I think the needle is about to hit 140km/h)
Me: (Croaking weakly) You didn’t.
Jackie: Please try a fourth time, OK?
Jackie: Keep trying and if you fail, you try again and again! I can’t lose you!
I am cold. I am scared. The tears in her eyes, she is crying so hard I wonder how she can see the road. I am scared by the headlines. “Writer Davis Tanga Commits Suicide.” Ernest Hemingway finally got tired of it all and ended it. I won’t be the first, but I don’t want it to be me.
Me: (I don’t know if I manage to say this loud enough or if I just breathe it) Faster
Me: Faster… drive, faster.
Jackie: (Her foot presses the fuel pedal to the floor. The car feels like its flying. Or maybe I’m just the one that’s flying) I’m trying!
Me: I’m scared.
Jackie: Don’t be! OK! You never have to be scared again. I’ll always be with you, I swear! Just, keep your fucking eyes open. (They are open. I just can’t see.) OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES DAVIS! (Well, maybe they are not open)
Me: I love you…
Jackie: DAVIS OPEN YOUR EYES FOR ME BABY! COME ON! DAVIS! BABY!
I open them. But only because somebody has put something on my chest and electrocuted the shit out of me. I am on a gurney, being wheeled fast into a world of white. Bright lights. Bright walls. And Jackie screaming down at me;
Jackie: I’ll be here when you come out!
She’ll be there when I come out. I don’t know what keeps me warm the rest of the night. The blanket or the fact that I’m not alone? I’ll try rehab a fourth time. It won’t be for me but for her. Because she’ll be there when I come out. She’ll always be there. So for her, I say fuck DEFCON 1. The world revolves around people who love with their hearts.