Growing Old

image credit: mutua matheka

I turned 27 last Friday. Birthdays to me are never occasions, they pass quietly like the fluttering of leaves in the wind. They are an ominous reminder that I’m adding another year to my age, that thirty is looming and soon forty will be here and what I want to be then hinges a lot on what I do now. I felt really gloomy over the weekend, in fact I didn’t want to write this piece. I was contemplating ghosting off, maybe for a month or even indefinitely. The plan was to sit with my laptop and give you guys excuses on why I wouldn’t be coming here to hang out with you anymore but I didn’t have any.

I wanted to blame fatigue. I wanted to tell you guys that I’m overwhelmed because I’m pitching magazines and newspapers. But the truth is, I was wondering why I even do this at all. My enthusiasm for the pen seemed to be reduced to ash by that feeling. James Baldwin says, “What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know that the effort is real.” And you guys have been there telling me that. If you’re unaware, know that I see your shares, your likes, comments and emails and I value your time and affections. Sometimes I read your messages and think for a minute that I have the best readers in the world. And so I write, if not for me, for the readers who come here every Wednesday expecting fresh content. I won’t raise your hopes, this feeling might surface again and I might disappear but it will be for a short while because nothing else gives me the satisfaction writing does, but it also takes away from me because it is me.

I’m twenty seven years old—thirty in three years. I am supposed to tell you how I see the world from atop the two seven, what I have learnt, how I take time to respond to things because the world expects you to react and a lot goes wrong when you do. How I give things my best shot but walk away when I realize they’re lost causes. How I give people the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason not to. I am supposed to get into hubris about milestones but all these things will just add to the gloom that lingers like a dark cloud on my head. Besides all those things have been exhausted so let’s do something different, something fun, something that makes it a bit easier to drink from this tall glass of two seven.

Here are a few of my encounters and embarrassing moments over the years:

WHEN I WAS IN FORM four, one of the teachers stopped me and asked me what a form one was doing heading to the library during class time. I remember telling him I was in form four and he looked at me with surprise and told me I have a baby face. I don’t look my age at all. Whenever I brandish my ID in clubs I can see the weary look bouncers throw me, as if they want to ask for my birth certificate. I don’t look at myself often. In fact, my house doesn’t have a single mirror, but I was at the barber’s the other day and I noticed that my shoulders are broadening and my beard has started growing. I must be the oldest adolescent in the world. I am just glad that the package didn’t come with pimples or have I spoken too soon?

I HAD A BEER WITH my old man the other day. Read the story here. He pulled me aside and told me that I was his only son, ‘We niwe githuke kia nyumba yakwa.’ So a lot is expected of me. I’m supposed to carry on the torch from where he leaves it off and that is a lot of pressure. If it was up to me I would pass the baton to one of my sisters. I felt burdened and I wished I had a brother who could take that pressure away from my shoulders. I know the old man meant well but trying to live up to an idea of what’s expected of me feels like chasing a boulder down a hill.

I WAS IN SECOND YEAR when I got my first job. An internship at Sarova Panafric. I had a friend called Mworia. We went to the restaurant’s buffet not knowing that refined individuals start their meals with bread and soup then work themselves up to salads, then the main course, fruits and finally dessert. Being the campus kids that we were, we took the soup plate and stuffed it with soup, bread, salads, chicken, pineapples and cake. People were staring at us open-mouthed, wondering who hired these cavemen, as we sat with a mountain of a plate. We laughed about it throughout the internship.

MY FIRST PAYING JOB WAS at an ad agency. There was a bar with a pool table and when I was not working (which was often) I would find myself there shooting pool. Pool is about chutzpah and loud talk more than it is about the game. It was end month and I was feeling pompous. I told my opponent if he made a certain shot I’d buy him a drink. I told him he wouldn’t make the shot if he had two pairs of hands and a ruler to measure the distance. Yes, you guessed right, he made the shot and I kept my word and bought him the drink only to realize that that was the last two hundred bob I had in my pocket. I remember running to the ATM only to find my salary had not checked in. I felt like the biggest idiot, calling my friend to bail me out.

I HAVE HAD THE BEST luck with women. A woman once asked me if girls ever say no to me and it took me aback because women have said no to me more times than I can count but generally I can’t say I have had a difficult time with the fairer sex. They often like me, they say I’m charming. I’m sometimes removed, most women take it as an invitation for a challenge. It rarely is. I haven’t had a bad date (yet) but I have gone on a date with this girl who was into reggae who kept referring to her mound of Venus as Punani and I thought it was odd because I was not with the reggae lingo. My biggest distress is taking a woman out and she tags along, not because of me but for the free meal. I’m sure it’s happened a few times even if my ego might want to deny it.

IN HIS BOOK FOOLS DIE, Mario Puzo has a paragraph that sings, “When I was young, some women told me they loved me for my long eyelashes. I accepted. Later it was for my wit. Then for my power and money. Then for my talent. Then for my mind—deep. OK, I can handle all of it. The only woman who scares me is the one who loves me for myself alone. I have plans for her. I have poisons and daggers and dark graves in caves to hide her head. She can’t be allowed to live. Especially if she is sexually faithful and never lies and always puts me ahead of everything and everyone.” Of course no such woman exists but what is a man if not his dreams?

I WEAR THESE BRIEFS THAT almost resemble booty shorts. Not my proudest piece of attire but they are comfortable. Its early morning, I want to take the trash out without getting into the trouble of wearing trousers. I peek from the second floor of my house and there isn’t a soul outside. After I have gotten the trash out the gate and I’m heading back I come across this woman. She looks at me, lowers her gaze and starts smiling and I find myself pulling down my t-shirt to cover up the lion of Judah (haha) the way women keep pulling down their skimpy skirts when walking. One thing is certain I’m not getting out of the house without trousers again. Mufasa will remain caged from here on out people.

THERE ARE A FEW PEOPLE I would pick the phone for at 3:00 in the night: my parents and my sisters. Not because I know they would do the same for me but because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if some misfortune befell them and there was something I could have done to stop it.

I DIDN’T GROW UP WANTING to be a doctor, a lawyer or even a writer. I had an artistic bone, at a very young age I used to scribble these drawings but I never thought much of them. I went to high school and found myself in music even though I would have preferred art class but all the slots were taken. Music was fun, we got to listen to songs during class and play the trombone and the clarinet but I dropped it in form three. I read my first Novel in high school. It was Sidney Sheldon’s Morning, Noon and Night. I couldn’t put it down, it felt like magic. I often think of it as my foundation for writing. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I knew what I didn’t want to do with it after I got my first paying job.

I’m glad I picked up the pen this week, I’m glad I chose this path. I know now that if I didn’t try my hand at it, I would always regret it. Here is to another year full of encounters and embarrassing moments.



Editor Credit: Shiku Ngigi

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