Monday, September 26, 2016

A Poet and His Muse

“I want a romance so grand, so resplendent, they will write literature about us. I want poetry,” he said. 

“I want the everyday mundane,” I said calmly but with metaphorical heels dug in. 

“But that is what I am leaving behind; a wife, kids and in-laws. The honourable correct path whose joys we exaggerate to convince ourselves that it is worth the price we pay,” he said.

“Stiff price indeed; unified with the people we purport to love. Are you trying to sell me on your merits as a human being? If you are, slow down. You just shot past the mark.” I started to get my sarcastic warrior fully dressed for battle. 

He sighed. “Oh come on. You know what I mean. I have tried this thing. I did my best but flanked. Our kids even love her more and chose to stay with her. What’s going to save me is a shot at something I haven’t already failed at. A romantic, poetic love.” 

“Well, I am not how you reinvent yourself, Tom. I am merely the woman who fell in love with you long before I realised I was something of a vacation rental: a calm pretty resort away from real life. I am only a woman who loves you and wants what women want with men they love: your brood & the chaos of raising it. I want a son & I want to watch you teach him how to polish his shoes. I want you to stall the school van driver while I finish tying up our daughter’s braids. I have imagined it that far. And yes, it is mundane and lovely.” I put so much emphasis on the last word that it came out more like a bite rather than a sentimental thing. 

“But it could be so much better, Lydia. So much less ordinary. We will see the world. We will have all the time in the world for each other. You will write books and I will support you. I will wife you: fetch you tea and make you juice while you dazzle the world with brilliant mind of yours.” 

“Of course. Because the only people who have seen the world were childless. What if, what I want to do with this brilliant mind of mine is biologically clone it? You know Tom, these arguments have brought me to that point that I’m not sure I want all the time in the world for you.” 

“Okay. Time out before we say things we can’t take back.” 

“Fucking, patronising, arrogant pig,” I heard myself say. Surprised at my own anger, I immediately shot him a deeply apologetic look. But his face was expressionless. Apparently, I hadn’t actually voiced the words. I sighed with relief. He reached for my waist to pull me to him but I was too stiff with anger, the embrace was just awkward. We disentangled shortly. 

He moved to his TV unit to pick the movie we had earlier agreed on. I sat at the extreme end of the sofa, taking the popcorn bowl with me as minor punishment for him. He glanced at me curled up in a tantrum, nonchalantly pushed the movie in, hit play and returned to take the other extreme end of the sofa. But then, he changed his mind about the movie choice; changing to an old porn movie. You know the type. It starts with a long shot of a young girl sitting in a park. A creepy, overly muscular man joins her. The camera closes in on him working his hand entirely too energetically. But apparently, she loves it so much that in a matter of seconds, a real geyser of liquid shoots out of her. We always got a kick out of providing commentary to the proceedings: “Well I thought that was squirting but it clearly isn’t because it has left her strong spine-d enough for coitus with that phallus shaped industry grade pipe,” one of us might start it off. Then like kids who only recently discovered their favorite cartoon is an exaggerated tale, we would jostle for who had the best vocabulary for the absurdities therein. 
This time though, when he switched it on, I shot him a look that said, “you are out of luck, mate.”  He read it right and said, “it’s okay. I’m not trying to get laid. I have a headache anyway,” causing me to throw a popped corn at him. Soon enough it was a pop corn and throw pillows fight. Then we were settled in for our movie commentary. 

It, of course, concluded with him reaching into my pants to feign horror with, “do you realize how absurd it is that these terrible terrible movies turn you on.” “It’s never the movies. It’s knowing that at the end of it, you’ll reach into my knickers.”
“I’ll take it whichever way I get it.” 
So once again, he had screwed my mind away from the reservations I had about the relationship. Momentarily, anyway.  It’s the trouble with dating men who have years of sexual experience over you. They also have years of sexual manipulation over your pretty little head. 

When the sex was over, I went to the bathroom and actually cried. I really, really, wanted to let it go. I wanted my life options back. Although I was the side dish he had eventually left his wife for, the holy grail of the side dish life, this didn’t feel like a win. It didn’t feel like the life I wanted for myself was ahead of me. It felt like I had gone from side dish to a treasured trophy but I would never quite be a full partner. A muse? Oh, yes, I was that. A confidant? Yes, that too. An intellectual wrestling mate? That too, actually. 

So, you are going to ask me what more a woman could want. I will tell you what. A woman could want to be a real person. Not just something out of a romantic fantasy, even if she were effortlessly that. A woman could want to be the person you will make your mistakes with. A woman could want to be the one whose life’s regrets intersect with yours. A woman could want that even the unshared hours of your lives reflect on the record as hours that were yours together. A woman could want to be your wife.

So, I picked my knick-knacks out of his bathroom and went to the room in the apartment that had somehow been assigned mine, even though we slept together in his bedroom every night. I threw them onto a shelf in the closet and when back to join him. When we made love again, you would have thought he knew I was leaving. It honestly was the most moving thing that I ever was a party to. How gently he loved. How slowly. How quickly he switched pace to catch up with me when the intensity shot to my brain. How he held me for so long afterwards. It could have been a wedding night. But it was the end. I haven’t seen him since. While he slept, I went back to ‘my room’, stuffed my clothes into his travel bag and sneaked out of that apartment, taking with me his favorite book. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t much fancy the book myself, but I guess I am just not large hearted enough to walk way without inflicting pain. In the dark of the 10th hour of that night, I walked down that fearsome Makindye Hill road until I came upon a bodaboda that sped me away from the insanity of love. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

What Would My Ancestors Think?

Sometimes, as a modern person, I do things that really make me wonder what my ancestors would think of me. Yesterday, for example. It was my birthday. By the way; the first in many years when I wasn’t bombarded by HBD’s from strangers on Facebook. I had my Facebook account deleted. The loudness there, and having so many social connections (exes and their exes!), was maddening. The post Facebook silence is soothing. Yesterday, only people who actually know and care about me wished me a happy birthday. 

One of those people, it turns out, is the receptionist at the spa I go to. She called to wish me a happy birthday. On the phone. As in the voice phone. In 2016. How quaint and sweet! Then, she invited me for a complimentary treatment and afterwards discreetly pinged the spa staff who came over to the reception and sang me “she’s a jolly good fellow,’ in those quiet voices that only people who work in spas have. I will not lie, I secretly hated the last part. I really don’t like people gathering around me and making me shyly fiddle with my phone googling for “how does the ground politely swallow a person?’ But I smiled through it . I get and appreciate the sweet capitalist intention behind it. I will most certainly be giving Soothing Spot, more of my business. 

What I didn’t hate at all, and the thought I had when I started writing this post, was the treatment prior to the singing. The part that had me wondering about my ancestors was this: 
So, I’m lying naked on a table. Stomach down. 
A light weight person climbs the table.  
She steps onto my back. (I am a small person myself. I didn’t even realise there is enough surface area on my back for an adult to stand on. I will apply this knowledge in other use cases, surely.) Anyhow, the light weight person reaches for my arms, pulls them backwards towards her. Then she leans back using my arms as if they were ropes in tug of war. She swings, a little to this side, a little to the other side. She leans further back giving me a sweetish pain in my lower back, embarrassing me with the realization that my breasts are swinging in full view of someone I have no sexual relationship with. To keep a straight face, I try to think straight thoughts like; “today is Thursday the 15th day of September 2016, in the year of our Lord.” 

I guess it’s the "year of our Lord" thought trail, that got me thinking about the years past. I thought of my grandmother and grandfather; farmers who died with calloused hands that worked my lineage out of poverty. What would they think if they saw me this way? Naked before a stranger, apparently getting my life's stresses dealt with. What would they think of the little pains, of my little life, that nonetheless tie me up in so many knots, that I have visited the spa enough times, to earn a special birthday treat? Would they regret all those back-breaking years if they saw that the easy life they earned their descendants is essentially a life of being tiny, whiny and full of self-pity? 

Ah, we are a curious lot, aren’t we? But we are who we have evolved to be. And that treatment was pretty good. Nearly as good as a full bikini wax, even though it didn’t include quite as much sweet pain in embarrassing places.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Now What?

This blog is still in identity crisis. This isn't part of the novel. If you are here for another installment of the serialized novel, keep waiting. One can't rush the creative process. 

Okay, Now What? 

Ten years ago, I used to spend a lot of time in an internet cafe that my friend Ishaq managed at the Faculty of Science, Makerere Universtity. I remember a particular occassion. He was listening to yet another of my feminist monologues; chuckling now and then, as if to punctuate the sentences for me.  Eventually, he looked up and said, “girlfriend; you will die a lonely old maid.” We both laughed. Hard, because we both knew there was a good chance I would.

Ten years now. I am a lonely maid. “Not old, yet,” I like to think. “Not exactly a maid,” I’m sure Ishaq would add. I have  another of my birthdays coming up and as is ritual around such occassions, I have to confront an existential question. This year’s is “Now What?” 

Do I go gently into lonely old maidenhood? Maybe also low-key get my promiscuous groove back? It’s been gone a while. I almost miss it. 

Do I quit being retarded, find a good man, marry him, have a few more kids, make small talk with his mum on Sunday afternoons? 

Do I bury myself in work, make more money than I have time to spend, make my mummy proud by getting that PhD?

Now What? First, let’s go over the options. 

Go gently into lonely old maidenhood
For this option, I don’t need to make any drastic changes. All I need to do it get a loan at 23% interest per annum and spend the next fifteen years of my life building some kind of half-mansion, outside town. I will entertain myself through the years complaining to my peers about the price of cement, thieving builders and corrupt officials in the Wakiso district urban planning department. Around the time my daughter will be entering university, the thing will be livable in. I will have my friends over for pilau and regal them with tall tales about the plumbing and fittings. “My dealer imported that bathtub from China just for me.” “The paint in the kitchen is made in Egypt. It lasts forever. No repainting.” I will lie in that oversized bedroom at night and listen to audiobooks while having low maintenance sex with the aid of my battery powered boyfriends. You are probably feeling a lot sadder about the picture than I am. I can see quite a bit of adventure in building a collection of battery powered boyfriends. If I’m lucky, my inappropriate openness about said boyfriends will reach Lokodo. He will raid my house. I will be on national TV as the face of this country’s sexual decadence. Adventure! I can see it. This is a valid option. 

Grow Up, Get Married
I do actually want a companion so I don’t take this option as lightly as you would think. I want to live with someone who will sleep on the door side of the bed and stop the bullet before it reaches me, in the event that an armed robber bursts in. And, on this front, things have been looking up for me. 
The other day, I was having lunch with a man who used to be what Bukedde would call my muninkini. We were just checking in on each other but he did say; “I want my life to take off. I want a wife. It’s not a big concern but I want it resolved.” That’s an opening, right? A proposal even, no? Similar things have been said to me by other parties in the recent past. I even love at least one of those vague speaking parties. 
I think that if we get me beyond that storybook fantasy, that someone who loves me will actually say as much and then present me with a ring asking for my hand in marriage, we can conclude that this second option is in the cards for me too.

Bury Myself in Work
Here is the thing about love and relationships: I suck at them. I want to be loved in all the ways my father didn’t love me. Of course I can’t say this to the people who date me, because that would be just gross, so I end up having relationships that are just to the left of what I want. What I want is for people to love me and just never leave even though they are not obliged to stay. So, I want to NOT marry these people but have them stay forever just because they love me. Like my father should have done. I also want these people to show me off just because they are proud to have me but be okay with the fact I, on the other hand, have a life that’s doesn’t revolve around them; I want to have my own friends; say their friends are weird and have them smile saying, “you are so cute.” Like the parent my father should have been, I want them to be unfailingly generous and kind in a thankless, lopsided relationship. In a sentence; I have issues. You would think that knowing the folly of my desires would empower me to overcome them. No. It doesn’t. But that government’s fault. It doesn't invest in mental health so I don’t have access to a trained shrink to help me to the other side. As a result, I suck at relationships. Do you see how bad governance has far reaching consequences on the us, the citizens? 

Here is the thing about work: I kick ass at it. I love it. I’m good at it. I take to it like fish to water. I can adjust to a whole new field of work in a matter of months and excel at it in a year or two. Seriously. I’m the person who was writing a newspaper column three weeks after I first met my first editor. See my twitter profile. I am all those things and pretty good at them too. Burying myself in work would be the most natural path and it makes financial sense. 

So, Now What? Please don’t tell me the three are not mutually exclusive. Of course, they are. 3 vs 2: You don’t bury yourself in work when your mother-in-law wants a cake recipe for next Sunday’s lunch. 2 vs 1: If you are going to build a half-mansion, you need a job that; allows you time to review architectural plans, quarrel with Wakiso district technocrats over their approval,  supervise the site and successfully sue your neighbor for blocking your access road.  3 vs 1: You don’t make love while listening to audiobooks if you are a grown up married person. I have to choose. But how? 

But there is Option 4: Wait for The One. The thing I love about option 4 is that it is both noble and a cop-out. Exactly what you need to get around all your decision making pain. If I say I am waiting for The One, I am a brave believer in true love. But I have seen enough of things that look like true love that I now believe that if I take this route, I will never actually have to make a permanent life decision. I will wait, and wait, and wait… A decision deferred forever. What’s to lose? 

Thanks for listening. You’ve been very helpful. I now know what to do.