It’s raining in heavy sheets and my 5:00 am alarm is going off somewhere in my blankets, in a muffled sound. I make for it and grab my leg instead. I listen to the sound intently, turning my ear to its direction. I pounce and come back with a fistful of sheets. I give up and rest my head on the pillow and as I do, something hard pokes my neck. I reach for it, it’s the pesky phone. I turn off the alarm and hold it right above my face, risking a broken nose if it falls.
I am tempted to scroll through social media but I restrain myself. It’s something new I’m trying: finishing my morning tasks before dithering around social media.‘Dithering’. That’s another new word I’m trying. My brain is adjusting poorly to this abstinence from social media. Last night I remember waking up, picking it up from the bedside stand, and scrolling fervently, my subconscious loving every moment of it. That’s how it ended up kissing on my neck—without even buying me a coffee first or shooting me a good morning text.
I put my thumb on the home button and my fingerprint unlocks it. I tap on the ‘Waking Up’ app. It’s a meditation app by Sam Harris that’s supposed to help me be in the moment. I only seem to be able to do this while writing, otherwise, I dither into thoughts and scrolling. I have been trying to meditate for a while in vain. I had initially set my timer for twenty minutes every evening but twenty minutes quickly started to feel like twenty years. People say time moves fast. They haven’t tried to sit still for twenty minutes thinking of nothing. It feels like an eternity. Sam Harris is here to change all that.
I cross my legs, sit up straight, and close my eyes. Sam Harris’s voice comes on: ‘The punchline of life is that we cannot become happy, we can only be happy. Happiness is not in your future, it is in this very moment. Meditation helps you be immersed in the present so you don’t have to be anxious about the future.’ I think for a moment how fantastic it would be to be immersed in everything I do. To be reading and not having wandering thoughts, to be with family, and not have the urge to check my phone. The statement ‘I love spending time with family’ might even ring true.
In this day and age where the algorithm and everything else is trying to get your attention, that would be a god-like power, I think in wonder.
Sam Harris’s session starts. Today we’re focusing on breathing. ‘Listen to your breathing, listen to where it emanates from.’ Sounds like hubris but I bite. If listening to my breathing will help me be in the present more, I will connect my headphones to my lungs. ‘Notice how your chest rises and falls; how your hands sit on your body. How the weight of you sits on the cushion.’ I notice the rain, I notice my breathing. The hands, the legs, the thoughts. They come and dissipate. It’s as if everything in our time is engineered to distract us or make us feel lacking. I realize now how important mental strength and mental wellness is. Ten minutes pass and Sam Harris is telling me to join him for his fifth lesson tomorrow morning. I will. I wonder what we will focus on. The hairs on our nostrils? The curve of our collarbones? I will leave it to Harris, he seems like he knows what he’s doing.
After I am done with Harris I finger Kindle and open another Harris. I turn the page on A.S.A Harrison’s ‘The Silent Wife’. The husband has just impregnated his friend’s daughter and the wife is going on with her days – buying her nyanayas, fixing meals, and attending her chamas as if everything is fine. ‘He breaks the connection and it dawns on him that this is typical of his and Jodi’s life together: the stubborn pretense, the chasms of silence, the blind forging ahead.’ Now that is proper dithering.
I finish a chapter and get out of bed. I piss in the toilet bowl in a strong golden stream. I shake twice and put my cock back in my pants, zip-up, and flush. I stand at the sink opposite the toilet to wash my hands. There’s a new hand wash, which smells of fresh kiwi and melon. Besides keeping my hands clean, it also makes me want to eat them half the time. I finish washing my hands while I still have them and towel off with the brown hand towel hanging from a hook next to the mirror.
I head to the kitchen and glance outside the window. It has stopped raining. I put the pan on the cooker and turn the heat to low. This is how you fry a perfect egg. I add two, maybe three raindrops of Fresh Fri. I put water into the water heater and as it boils I crack two Isinya eggs onto the pan and wait a minute before turning them over and turning off the cooker. I love my eggs between sunny-side-up and well done. It’s a delicate skill and you can’t hack it when your mind is dithering. You have to meditate to perfect it.
I put two slices of Festive Bread into the toaster and turn the knob to three. Three is the magic number for the right kind of brown. After three minutes the toasted bread pops out. I spread blue-band and Greenforest honey on them before making tea. I pour the Brookside less than a quarter way into my cup and fill the rest with hot water, then I drop a teabag. This is the modern way of making tea, without dithering around with sufurias and thermos flasks. One clean cup and my tea is ready.
After breakfast, I go to the water dispenser and fill my cup with Aquamist. I get both Keringet and Aquamist. I like Keringet because it tastes like tap water, I also don’t like that it tastes like tap water so I also get Aquamist just to know where my money went. I empty the cup and enter my office. It’s an empty bedroom with a dining table and a chair. The echo is noticeable. People are always asking whether I’m in a hole whenever I pick calls from here. This is where I do the writing and the signing and the invoicing. Big and small ideas have grown legs from this very hole.
The clock is dithering around 10:00 am by the time I clear my morning in-tray. I eat the second part of my breakfast. I fill a bowl with Alpen cereal and Brookside and kiss it with Greenforest honey. After I wipe the bowl clean I go back to the sink next to the toilet and brush my teeth. I put the toothbrush and the Sensodyne away and jump into the shower. I turn on the faucet and lather my body with Dettol. I rinse and towel off. I lotion with Nivea, put on Nivea deodorant and dress in blue chinos, a white polo shirt with blue sleeves and collar, brown loafers; comb my hair and goatee, wear a mask and jump into a matatu headed to town.
I have an appointment at Nuria Bookstore. Nuria wants to stock my book but I also want him to be a pick-up point for readers who buy the book through me. I wonder if he will bite. If he does, he will completely change the game for me. I will no longer have to deal with bodas telling me they can’t enter CBD or wait for readers in cafes. Readers, God bless their soul but some are usually late and the conversations never seem to end. It’s like everything unplanned – it dithers. Sam Harris would frown on the dithering.
I get to Moi Avenue and enter Nuria Bookstore. I meet a light-skinned Somali man. He looks older than he sounded on the phone. He is of average height and eager – to make a difference or a name for himself. He agrees to be a pick-up point and we nod on it since handshakes are out of the question. There’s also another gent there. I mistake him for his assistant but turns out he’s the author of The Campus Exile and he is trying to get it off the ground. I ask him how selling books is going, he hesitates before saying it’s going all right. That’s the problem with our craft. It crawls while the rest run. A musician could release a song in the morning and it’s a hit by noon but a book could take months, years even to get half the buzz. The pen is for the patient and strong-willed.
The clock reads 3:00 pm when I leave Nuria. I head to Westlands to check out fridges. I haven’t decided if I want to get an LG or a Mika. I enter Kenrail towers. I trip at the entrance of the Mika showroom. I squeeze the sanitizer and the liquid spills on my loafers instead of my hand. The commotion is palpable. The Customer Service gent at the door tries to reassure me by saying ‘It’s okay’. I want to tell him, I’m not always dithering and I’m doing this meditation by Sam Harris that is meant to center me, so he can be certain that I won’t trip next time I visit. He’s a cheerful guy and he takes me around the showroom and tells me about the fridges and the 10-Year-Warranty on the Compressor on one of them. I don’t catch his name – come on, I’m only day four into meditation.
I don’t stay more than two minutes at the LG showroom. Fridges for the most part are just boxes with compartments – not very interesting. I’m still a little bit on the fence when I step out of Kenrail towers. I have used Mika before and it was all right. If I go the LG route I know I will be paying for both the brand and the functionality. Maybe more for the brand. I’m not too keen on that. I put a pin in it and go to Ohcha Noodle Bar for supper.
I get to the house at some minutes past 5:00 pm. I change into my black Adidas running sweat-suit, grab my mask and headphones, and hit the tarmac. Naiboi & Nyashinski fill up my ear. “Sibadiliki, melanin juu chini hakuna bleaching. Black is beautiful, hiyo ndio teaching…”
The track drains all the energy from you. It’s about six kilometers long and there is a hill that stares you down like Goliath, not caring that you meditated to Sam Harris or had eggs and Alpen for breakfast. It breaks you to your elements, gravity, and the scanty oxygen in your lungs assisting it. By the time I’m done; I’m groaning. I like to think I sound like a scorned lion but I probably sound like a kitten or a dying horse. I’m also sweating profusely and I want my mom.
I do my pushups and sit-ups on the lush grass just after the hill. Going down is a breeze. Gyptian is in my ear. He wants to hold some girl who gives him the tightest hold he’s ever had in his life. I realize for the first time that that hold has nothing to do with hands.
I get to the house when it’s getting dark. I have built up a thirst. I fill my cup with mineral and finish the liter in one swig. I jump in the shower, open the faucet, lather my body with Dettol. Rinse. The usual. I sit in my hole and jump into a call. I’m writing a script for this brand and we’re touching base on how we will breathe life into it. The call takes a minute too long as they all do and by the time we’re done the hour hand is striking 9:00 pm. I brush my teeth and jump into bed. It’s lights out for me. My phone will wake me up again tomorrow at 5:00 am – hopefully not kissing my neck and Sam Harris will try to keep me from dithering.
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