Friday night. Around 9 p.m. Nakumatt Karen. The parking lot. It’s cold and quiet, smells like downpour. There’s a line of cabs across the road, and the drivers are in small crowds, tossed in banter and laughing that hangs in the air. The guard at the gate has stopped a slightly intoxicated chap that has wandered in, phone in hand. The wochi wants to know why this guy is taking pictures at this hour, but this isn’t your usual getting of a story, no, it’s the turning point, it has something to do with why I have popped up here after a while.
Let’s go back a bit.
So you have just settled the bill on a couple of cold ones, you’re headed home with a light head, it’s getting dark and you know by the time you get to Isinya you will meet a locked door, you will sleep outside with the distant sounds of hyenas and the cold biting into your skin. So you dial a certain bird’s number and ask if you can crash at her place, she says sure, that she’s eagerly waiting for you. And in that drunken state, you misread the sarcasm, you walk to Kencom and panda a mat for Karen, you send an SMS to her, to give you directions. When you get to Nakumatt call me, I’ll pick you up. You’re a happy chap now, you start to get funny ideas about how the night will unfold, even your friend (with whom you happen to share a name with) joins in the celebration, and he suggests you buy a rubber on your way. (Do people still say rubber, or sheath?)
You get to the agreed location and call her, she’s laughing at how serious you sound, that you have joked before but this one really got to her. You start to think maybe she wasn’t even home in the first place, because she’s the type to go on road trips as soon as the weekend knocks. You start to think of the possibility of rain, and how you’ll have to find shelter and spend the night there, you’re mad at her, you want a shower and a blanket around your ass. “Ebu beat a picha,” she says giggling.
Long story short, she never showed. She said she would call back in a few, but she never did. I didn’t spend the night outside, fortunately, but I was scared, scenarios play in your head when you’re walking alone at night, a group of boys might walk up to you and start to admire your shoes. But it’s situations like this that make for good stories, about life, and its crafty ways of screwing you proper.
I have been away for some time now, and it wasn’t a voluntary move friends, it was a dry spell of words, of stories. If I was to sum up my life it would be the stretch of Mombasa Road, Mbagathi Road, and Argwings Kodhek, so somewhere between all that tarmac I may have lost my story finding, I’d lie and say that it was a morbid period but it wasn’t really. When you’re not looking for stories, and when you don’t beat yourself up because of not finding one, you start to live a little, you enjoy life a bit more, and you do more things, and absorb different colors. (A lady friend sat me down and told me to have many colors, to stop harboring sad monotony, fancy words for boring basically) And that’s how stories are found, by living. Those people who say writers don’t need to go out to write about the outside I think, are a lazy bunch, and their mantra is hogwash.
You have to be kidogo gutsy to stand at the edge of the earth and watch the story come out, you have to have found yourself in the middle of a hailstorm, beaten down by life, so that you can get back up and fight with words, because it’s the only thing you have, and as such you have to be brutal. You have to have picked up stories and filled your pockets with them, you have to have them stuck in your head and plastered on your skin so that you can peel them off and share with others, one word at a time. But first, you have to have a story, you have to have lived.