You know how you walk past someone in the street and then a little ways further down you stop and think, “Hold on for a cotton-picking minute. I think I know that guy.”? That’s how it was when I first saw Simon King. He had a round innocent face and a grey T shirt and dark jeans, with a bag slung over his shoulders. That day, I was running late to God knows where and I really couldn’t afford to turn back and run after him and say, “Say, si you’re Simon?” At the time, he had just moved from WordPress and onto a self hosted site: thegaps.co.ke
So what I did was, I shot him a DM on Instagram to congratulate him because well, that’s the dream isn’t it? And then the other day I was caught between a deadline and hard place so I asked if he could come on as a guest. He did, and this is what he had to say…
Ever so gently, the sun would rise behind my room as a young boy and a warm sensation would caress my cheeks. With it, a beautiful bright lurid light would pour all over, waking me up to go to school. We lived on the first floor of a 5-storey building. This old long outspoken flat stood out because of two things: a) It had a unique cream colour that no other building had, and b) It was the last building in Zimmerman. Beyond it was Thika road.
I miss Zimmerman. I miss that flat. I miss the Luo neighbours that would cook omena every Wednesday. And I miss the simplicity of the life there.
Back then, we would play until we were dog-tired and went home because of it. No curfews. Curfews came when we started growing hair on our gonads, when we realized penises would do more than piss. And we hated them, both the curfews and the hair. But this post isn’t about hate or any pejorative connotations. This is a happy post.
I would wake up, prepare, my dear mother would have packed my snack, and I would leave for school. School was two minutes away. I would walk slowly glancing up at the grown-ups going to work. They were all in a hurry. All looking at their watches and panicking. They smelled good, though. Especially the women.
It was a short walk. So short that if I was late, I would hear the bell ring and speed off before the five- minutes-late allowance was over. Most of the times I was late, and it was never intentional, you see. The devil has been on my toes since I was a kid.
For instance, recently, perilous thoughts have been flocking my mind. The whispers in my mind persuading me to drop out of school are now too clear. I hear them in class. At the bus stop. And are even clearer when I write. At first, I used to shut them down, the voices. I’d plunge my earphones deep in my ear and drift off to a happy place; Of Monsters and Men’s From Finner, and I would sing along until the voices were drowned by the brittle voice of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir.
But slowly, the whispers have grown louder, more vehement, and not even the Icelandic band can chase them away. So I decided to listen to the voices, hear their grand plan for me. They’ve been telling me to rebel against society. Telling me that I should not subscribe to society’s unwritten bigoted rules. The ones that tie us down and lay down our lives for us in three simple digits: 8-4-4.
We have a plan for you, they say, and proceed to lay them down for me rather cogently. They tell me that I am wasting time in school, that I am pursuing a profession so far from what I want to do with my life. You see, the voices know my deepest secrets. And this terrifies me as I am not one to share secrets. They know I want to write. They know I want to write until my ink dries out and my fingertips bleed, and to even continue writing with the blood from my open wounds. They know these, and they whisper it to me every day.
I asked them this the other day, what if writing doesn’t do it? What if it doesn’t make rent and feed my unborn children? What if it’s an escape route from my gradually toughening course?
They had a good answer, they always do.
Like the system imposed on almost every Kenyan child at birth, it is a risk. A gamble. A Russian Roulette game that is unbiased to whoever plays it. Writing, like 8-4-4, does not guarantee you success or a ‘bright future’ like they put it on back to school ads. It is better to gamble on what you love than what you’re obliged to love. So don’t waste time with C++ codes and Calculus. Go on and do what you love. And be successful while at it. Or die trying! They said rather dramatically.
They have become so loud that I can’t sleep. They will not let me. I have recently been waking up at the darkest times of night, opening Word documents and typing away furiously, deeper, more intimate stuff. All for self-validation that I can do this (write) full time. But I am yet to make a decision.
Heaving and sweating, I would get to class and sit beside Joy, my first love, and fantasize about kissing her and holding her hand till the bell rung and it was time to go home. We would say a prayer while holding hands in a circle before we dispersed. In those moments, I would always struggle to be beside her, to hold her soft dirty (from plasticine) pudgy hands and say grace. There, eyes shut and heart pounding; I wished that grace was longer. And that my hands would stop sweating.