Her name was Mercy. But at that age we weren’t too big on English, and names had to have nice playful rings to them, so we called her Masii. She had an amazing pair of legs, Masii, we all wanted to touch her legs. I suspect her elder brother Dan knew we obsessed over her but he wasn’t bothered because he was cool, he laughed a lot, we liked him as much as we did Masii’s legs. Masii was the only girl that could play with us in a time when touching a boy was taboo. She had guts, guts and a round face. Masii was beautiful I tell you, and she reminded me of Mary from Hello Children. You didn’t read Hello Children? Come on, Mr. Kamau and the blue bus?
Enter Miami Sands. The show that ruined all of us, mauled over our young minds. Made us think kissing was sex and vice versa. You remember Miami Sands? That soap opera? That kipindi was so full of dirt it was banned in the homestead, bed times were curved in line with its airing time.
Among a crowd of small boys I was the youngest, and the smallest. Boys got into fights every time, mostly to make an impression on Masii, who was always watching. It quickly became clear that I was never going to impress her in that way, and the small fact that I looked like a girl didn’t help things. I remember this one fight I had with a tall boy called Piita -Peter now- this guy punched my stomach so hard I fell, tears welled up my gut, and still he kept coming at me. I had to do something fast. See, hauling rocks in a fight was considered the highest level of cowardice but this boy was going to kill me. I had to save my life okay? A man has to do what he has to do. Plus I couldn’t possibly go lower in the pecking order of the wonder that was Masii. I’m alive today because of what I did. Let’s agree.
I was five, Masii was nine.
One time, along with the other neighborhood kids, when we were playing pretend on akina Masii’s front yard she lay across from me; her dress exposed her legs and a little dhigh. I stared for an eternity. Boy did my pants bulge! And then she saw me.
I swear this is what happened next . When no one was paying attention, she held my hand, pulled me upstairs to her bedroom and placed me on her lap. She puckered her lips and kissed mine, again and again until I got the hang of it. Her brother caught us and went and told the rest that I was in the hay with Masii. I denied the hoax of course but they laughed at me, and I cried out of shame. Then I figured I could skew this in my favour. I admitted to going the whole nine yards with Masii, and I was awarded with high fives. Masii killed two birds with one stone for me that day, I earned those kids’ respect and I knew the difference between sex and kissing. But she never talked to me again. We moved away from that house soon afterwards, and last I heard about Masii was that she eloped with a tout. True story.
I made a rule with myself that I wouldn’t write about writing simply because it usually comes out as whiny, you can’t write a story so you write about the misery. Or you give it an unwarranted romanticism. You try to make it seem like the hardest thing, not something a mere mortal can do.
But when Chelsea Laria- the mwandishi here– confided in me that a huge block had got to her, and that she had decided to put down her pen because of it, I decided to share this Masii story and how it helps me get through tough times.
It’s sad when a creative like Chelsea has to walk away from her thing. It fills me with dread that my time might come, perhaps sooner than I expect. But those days will always be there. The earth dims the minute you realize you can’t conjure up a couple hundred words. And if it’s something you’re going to put out there, you get scared, you feel like the whole world is peering over your shoulder even before you show it to them.
Here’s what I do though. I start my posts one week before the day of going to press, so that the fright has time to subside. What I’ve come up with -mostly the intro- also has time to morph into something else, allowing it to take other angles. The others are always better. Then I edit in and out until it sounds right in my head. It almost never does.
The point is, these blocks will keep coming at you; they’ll kick you when you’re down, like Piita up there, but if you wait patiently for your time, and if you keep trying again and again you’ll get it right. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last from Chelsea; you can never really go away once this kind of thing gets inside your head.
Chelsea Laria, here’s to you. The blogosphere will miss you and your good humor, and we wish you a speedy recovery.