I am writing this on a Monday afternoon. The sky is a clear blue and the sun is high up burning a hole into the sea of blue. Below my floor, there are new tenants moving in and I can hear them moving furniture and hammering. Transitions are always beautiful. A new house. New neighbors. New beginnings. On the ground floor, there are two maids braiding each other’s hair and giggling like teenage girls. I’m not the sentinel. I saw them earlier while entering the house from my afternoon run.
I just opened my emails. My emails always scare me a little. I never know what I will find there. Neo Wang from Suzhou, China wants to sell me facemasks. I throw him in spam. Doris has a story she wants me to consider for this blog; it’s about a guy who is a known womanizer who she has the hots for. She ends up stalking him at his workplace and gets an internship there. Despite warnings from her colleagues, she wants to be his whore. Her words. They end up in bed together and in the midst of passionate sex, Doris kills him, apparently as payback for all the women he has used and dumped. I raise a brow. Doris scares me.
There’s Esther. A while back, in passing, I wrote about a girl I saw while taking one of my walks whom I liked and who was wearing a mustard sweater and ripped jeans. It was in jest because if I really liked her I would have said hello. Esther says she’s the girl. She’s even shared photos to prove it. She looks great but she’s not the one. I crease my forehead and stare past my Macintosh. Do I even remember what the mustard sweater girl looked like? Rehom from New Delhi wants to sell me recycled plastics. I send him to spam to keep Neo Wang company. Joe wants a signed copy of my book. Cabral is writing the great African novel and he wants me to share his blog on my social platform.
I close my email. If I spend another minute here this piece won’t be done. I think about Cabral. The great African novel, huh? If you asked me I would say it’s Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. But what do I know? All I know is, I wouldn’t want the burden of writing the great African novel. I would never start. I would just stare at the blinking cursor on that sea of white. I would second-guess myself every step of the way. How do you start the great African novel? Do you start with a noun, a verb or with glitter? But what is a writer if he doesn’t have a bit of hubris. Someone somewhere wants to be the African Shakespeare.
I think about Cabral’s email some more. I think back to those days when I was starting and I used to email writers I admired and they wouldn’t give me the time of day. They probably threw me in spam together with Neo Wang and Rehom. Well, we’ve got all the facemasks and recycled plastics down here in the junk mail so who’s laughing now? I used to hate these big-shots. I used to curse them in my sleep. “I’ll get big enough and ignore your emails someday,” I would yell my frustrations into my pillow. But as I grew older I realized they owed me nothing and I owed myself everything.
I realized that the reason I became a writer was because there are no gatekeepers in this craft. I loved the idea that my success or lack thereof lay solely on my shoulders. There was no higher up in a boardroom or any army of Twitter trolls that could cancel me. Not when I could sit at my desk and write. If Cabral happens to read this: Don’t wait for someone you admire to pick you. Pick your pen and pick yourself. The only sure way to get ahead is to read exhaustively so you know what’s out there and to write consistently so you can build your voice. Good luck with the great African novel.
The afternoon has now turned to evening. I can hear the sound of crickets. I run my hand on my scalp. The hair that has been sitting on my head for three months is now gone. I visited my barber in the morning and had it shaved. “Hii ungeenda salon wangekushuka lines,” were her sentiments.
I always find it funny the kind of girls that smile at me when I haven’t shaved in a while. Party girls with loud personalities. The ones who always want to be around people, alcohol and blaring music. People empty my soul. There are interesting and dull people. Interesting people are few and far between and you’re always pouring into the dull ones who seem to be everywhere. Sometimes you’re the dull one. Alcohol gives me a headache. And the blaring music in clubs is always so lustful and thirsty. I prefer the girls that smile at me when I shave. Good girls who read in cafes. Do yoga and spend the weekend baking. I like this group better so I try to shave frequently even though they are probably worse than the party girls because looks deceive.
I move my legs to get comfortable. My muscles ache. I went for an afternoon run after coming from the barber and tried to outrun this gent in black Adidas pants. I learned my lesson. Never try to outrun someone who makes running seem like walking. Now my muscles burn. I run about eight kilometers three to four times a week. Besides keeping fit, it gives me clarity. I got half the idea for this piece while on the tarmac. When I don’t run, that’s a bad day. When I do run, well, that’s just another day. That’s Casey Neistat.
My phone is buzzing. That’s my bedtime alarm. It’s telling me it’s time to sleep. I know it’s my bedtime alarm because most of my notifications are switched off, from texts to WhatsApp. I address them when I’m ready, not when they are. I pick up my phone and check Twitter; it’s awash with George Floyd and police brutality. I get upset. Every bit of news is upsetting nowadays. I jump on Instagram. I scroll around for a bit before opening WhatsApp. We have a writers group, thirteen of us working on a project that is coming soon. I look at it and I am filled with a sense of pride for being a part of the quorum.
My phone buzzes again. It’s reminding me to turn in. I look at the clock and a yawn escapes me. It reads 22:15. Less than two hours from now, it will be midnight and I will no longer be in my twenties.
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