You could say that he just lacked the psyche to tell stories. You could say that he became an alcoholic and the bottle drank him away from his craft. You could say that he saw a woman, fell in love with her and decided to do her instead. You could go on to say that it finally dawned on him, that they don’t pay enough for this shit and that he chose to look for a career someplace else, somewhere greener. Or you could even say that his catholic dad had a problem with him writing about masturbating women.
I have a confession. But first, Tamasha.
Last weekend I went to a wedding thing in Nakuru. And as you might have guessed, I was bored stiff. There was a large crowd and massive tents and it was all jolly, up until the MC came on and ruined the whole thing. The weather was chilly, I ached for a drink and when I couldn’t find one I went looking for some girls to talk to instead.
Anyway, that night I found my way inside Merica Hotel. The building is right at the centre of town, and as I walked through the door, I didn’t quite notice a sign that said, Tamasha Band playing live.
I headed straight for the bar and ordered something cold. The screen in front of me was on mute, showing a football match that I wasn’t very interested in. Instead, I was pre-occupied with the music that was going on behind me, on the stage there.
My eyes first caught Faith, the lead. She had these white shoes that, as the hours crawled by, seemed to get lighter. Hell, everyone’s feet got lighter as they played on. Even I got off my seat and did a little jig.
I interviewed them after the show. Here’s how it went.
So what’s the confession?
Once in high school a pal whispered to me about something called a photoshop. He told me what it was, and the things I could do with it. He said if I could get my hands on it I could really get ahead with graphic design.
“Walai?” I asked.
“Eeh,” he said.
I became attentive. When I went home the following holiday I made myself familiar with the software. I watched internet tutorials and spent hours trying to replace Lil Wayne’s head with mine. They were terribly edited pictures and I did it just to get a kick out of it. And then I’d post those dirty jobs on Facebook and friends would get a kick out of it too. It was fun.
And then, when I felt I had perfected the software, someone else said that it was now time to make this thing pay. It seemed lucrative; it really did, because at the time only a paltry few of us could apply filters.
So what I did was, I got a guy. He would find his way into events and take pictures and I would go on to enhance these pictures then sell them back. It was a laborious slog. My work was to sit at the computer and pore through a couple hundred images. I would enhance colors put some effects that I was convinced made the pictures look better.
At the end of it all my system was shutting down and my body was numb. Fortunately I was getting a little something for my troubles. But to tell you the truth, I deeply hated that job. But I was pocket-hungry. I wouldn’t accept that it just wasn’t worth it.
So this one time, I was standing outside Nation Center. I was waiting to collect my pay for the lousy job when, at the corner of my eye I saw a bunch of journalists rush out of the building carrying cameras and bags and things. Then they loaded the equipment onto a waiting 4 by 4 and sped off. At that moment I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to tell stories. When I saw those guys I thought, “Now there, there’s something that would make me happy.”
And then I picked up a camera.
The second time I was standing outside that same building, it was late December. I was about to meet an editor who I had pestered for a job as a mwandishi. Water trickled down my armpits and I was leaning against some car’s bonnet. I remembered the day she had finally replied to my Emails, she had asked me to come over and discuss a few things. It caught me off guard, and I thought,
Now see what you’ve gone and done, Michael.
So, as I stood there taking some deep breaths and composing myself –wishing I hadn’t quit the fags- I saw some more faces I see on the news exiting the building. They looked pleasantly tired, lanyards swinging around their necks and chewing some happy fat. They looked like they had done their bit and you wanted to buy them a drink, you really did.
I went inside the building soon after that and found the editor seated at her desk. She had a red dress and a piercing stare and you couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated. She had a peaceful face though, her braids were tied at the top and she reminded me a little of Chimamanda. She instructed me to pull a chair and, after the ice was broken, she took me through the workings of the paper. I could already see my name in print.
As I made my way back into the street with a smile on my face, feeling like I had walked into a tornado and right out the other side, I was sure I had one foot in the door. The editor had said that, if I could get a good story for the paper, we would talk about publishing. That evening I helped myself to a beer and toasted to new beginnings.
Bett came through and gave me a lead on a story a few days later. She texted and said I might want to check it out. And then I thought, “Hold on a minute.”
I thought, am I ready for this?
Anyway, I went ahead and pitched the story to the editor and she Emailed back to confirm a few more things before she could give me the green light to do the story.
As I read that Email I thought, this is moving mighty fast.
It was a jumble of excitement and anxiety really, and they filled my gut like something I couldn’t digest. I was about as jumpy as a skittish mule, although all I had to do now was make a few other calls and this cat would have been in the bag. But instead what did I do? I held back. I blinked, and the ember of self-doubt smoldering inside me was suddenly whipped into a flame.
So what I did was, I decided to wait it out until the end of the year. Nothing would symbolize a new beginning better than a new year, right? Can you believe how stupid I was being? Like I was taking some time to decide if I wanted to be a writer or not, a writer who doesn’t sleep hungry, that is.
Long story short, I never got that opportunity. At the end of my silly sabbatical the editor had decided I wasn’t worth the time anymore. I mean, who did I think I was, not replying to an Email? Since then, every half-hearted attempt to hawk my words has hit the wall and, to tell you the truth, I’ve never really forgiven myself. I mean, maybe by now I’d have my own little desk and a lanyard hanging around my neck. Instead, I’m still in the trenches.
And you know what? It’s not too bad down here. Because I still have some room for more mistakes.