Most of my lady friends belong to the age bracket of 20-22 years. It is the other day I realized that I have asked almost all of them a similar question. How does it feel like being 21? Being 26, I must have forgotten what it felt like when I was 21. And whenever I talk to these ladies, I am nudged to ask how it feels to be that young.
Lately, I tend to think that I was busy chasing vanity during my early 20s that I forgot to live my life fully. When I try to fish for memories from then, my bucket comes out empty. It is sad for anyone to remember life that way, in a blank manner. It is a sign that you lost so much during that period doing things that mattered less.
So at 26 I want to document how it feels like so that when I am 30 I can look back at this as a point of reference. This story will be a memory of my experiences as a 26 year old fellah. But I don’t know where to begin.
Many people don’t know my birthday because I don’t celebrate. I don’t blow candles and make wishes or even cut a cake. If anything, I never remember even the day. That is how bad it is, that my birthday can pass under my nose without my attention. And that day is 26th of May.
When I clocked 26, I was stowed away in my room, unaware of it. I was gazing at the screen of my pc, probably watching a movie or just typing an assignment for a client. I was seated on my bed because I don’t have chairs in my crib. My bed is my table, my chair, my man cave, my dining room, and my bed as well. It is the place where all the action takes place.
A week passed before I realized the happy birthday messages from Safaricom and KCB. It was on a slow, lazy-ass day- one of those when you do things of less value. You go through your WhatsApp contacts, messages, settings and even snoop around people’s profiles. Then I found the messages hidden in a pile of others, wishing me a happy 26. It occurred to me that none of my friends knows my birthday. It also occurred to me that I don’t have any real friends.
So I grabbed my jacket, draped it around my neck, bolted the door and went for a walk. There was no work to be done that day. There was no one breathing in my voicemail over a passed deadline, or someone calling in with an urgent assignment. Even the random editors who need fillers for their papers didn’t buzz that day. It seemed that the world had colluded with other natural forces to give me a break from my freelance work.
I walk along abandoned paths that cut through forests and thickets. I love the quiet atmosphere, the fresh air and the cool breeze. With earphones stuck into my ears, I forget the cruel world around me and walk in silence, lost in a world of my own. Other times I walk through crowded streets past hasty people. I let my mind leave my body, switching the commotion off, and letting me wander the streets to my fill. But on that day my walk took me to a newly brought up Somali eatery in Kawangware, just adjacent to the newly built Luqman petrol station. The restaurant and the petrol station are owned by the same person.
It is pristine, a decent development with well spaced tables. On the right full length glass walls offer panoramic view of the encompassing area. They also light the restaurant naturally. On the far left there is a joint where you can conduct a meeting, a well lit setting. The ceiling has very nice decorations of white and red, with ambient lights of various hues emitting thin, blurred light like that of a bar. Outside there is a balcony for those who like the joy of an outdoor setting.
I took a seat near the door. I ordered white rice and chicken wings which come with very delicious soup on the side, plus apple juice. I took my meal in silence while contemplating on what I really wanted to do in life because I had kept shifting goal posts each year. One year it would be selling land, shipping electronics from China and Dubai, the next year would be going to Victoria Falls to squander my time admiring the beauty of nature, or just dancing to the tune of fate.
Not having something definite to do with my life burdened me. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up ten years ago, I would have said a pilot without a second thought. But now at 26 I didn’t know what I wanted to be in life after that dream of being a pilot got washed away by the floods of failure. All I was is a guy who stayed indoors cleaning other people’s mess by punching myself out on the keyboard. Sometimes I would be moving around the country and other parts of the world chasing down stories that someone thought were meaningful, stories that didn’t excite me. But because I needed food on my table, I was dancing to the tune. Just dance! Just dance! Dance for the bills! That is the tune that kept ringing in my mind.
By the time I was finishing my meal, I still had no clue what I wanted to do. But that day was the day I started living my 26th year. After that day, things went down the drain very fast. I encountered sudden and major emotional and physical breakdowns. And since that day, until now, nothing has changed.
I live like a lucky slob, wasted and zonked out most of the time. I wake up late, stay in bed checking social media and snickering at memes and the bullcrap that goes on in Kilimani mums and dads, which is fundamentally about Nairobi ladies who love mjuluos (10 inch), sponsors to bankroll their lavish lives and gossip about Otile Brown and Vera Sidika and anything that comes along that can knock off my appetite. It is around ten when I get out of bed to prepare breakfast, warming yesterday’s leftovers.
After that I’ll pay a courtesy call to the toilet for serious business, then brush my teeth and sit behind the screen to watch a movie. I stopped taking calls from clients. My voicemail flooded day after day. I dialed and listened to the messages when I wanted to- nothing life threatening. Someone wanted an interview conducted, another wanted a feature story about food, another wanted an article polished- I mean things along that line. The usual client required a feature story about a certain plant. The one that made me laugh most was a proposal to interview the president.
Interview the president…. I would say that and laugh off. I stopped listening to the voicemails at a point. I picked my pager and threw it into the bin. I didn’t want any more messages. I switched my phone off. But I kept wondering what it would be to interview the president. That would be a life changing moment. Good money would come from it. But it would also take me an arm and a leg to get hold of him, running down a chain of command to get the right contact or even being whisked off. So I gave up.
There was some money left in my account, around 85k. If I paid all the debts, I would remain with 40k. So I didn’t pay any. I couldn’t bring myself to it. I packed my clothes the following week and went to visit a girl in Maralal. When you are in the writing business, you get to make friends from all walks of life. That also comes with making friends who come from wealthy families so that when you’re worn out, they take you to places where your mind can relax. They ensure you’re comfortable and rested.
I spent three weeks in Maralal eating, sleeping, shooting golf balls with bullets, watching movies lying by the pool naked (I don’t know how to swim), having sex and getting my back gently rubbed. Then that got boring. My wanderlust kicked in and it led me to Isiolo to another good friend of mine. She is the most hospitable person I know in the whole world.
There was nothing different from Maralal at Isiolo. We wasted time playing billiards, checkers and cards, snuggling while watching movies, sleeping and eating. She took me for a road trip to Marsabit in the slowest of the cars in her yard. The engine overheated thrice due to the leaking radiator. We got rescued thrice when we ran out of water. And we loitered in Marsabit town for three days. It was one of my best times in my 26.
The stay in Isiolo lasted almost a month. My host was travelling to Paris so I had to leave. We travelled together to Nairobi. I headed back to my one-roomed shack, back to my exhausting life. There were messages from work still when I switched my phone on. Some were from extremely furious people, frustrated people. Others wanted to know where the heck I was at. Others were asking if they can squeeze in more assignments. And others were mad that I had not submitted their work.
There was no inspiration in me. I texted the ones I owed assignments, saying I was sorry and that I was in a tight spot. These were mostly editors. If you’re a writer you must ensure you keep good ties with editors. The world of editing is small, and you can find one editor working at multiple places. They are few and it is like they all know each other. So if you piss one at a particular editorial agency, you might find him in the next one. Also, he might be a friend to your new editor, and if he talks you’re out of business. They’re the only people you have to lick by the ass.
Days went, days came. Calls lessened, emails ceased, voicemail became empty. This was around August. Having nothing to do, and with a less than 20k in my account, I sat down and made a small paradise for myself. Eating, sleeping and movies. I read a book here and there to transport me to another world. I became a nobody. The phone was silent.
I only got out to take a shit or a piss or to buy food. I spent most of the time hidden inside. I even became yellower, until some kids started calling me Mzungu. My hair and beard grew fast and I didn’t shave for weeks. But to everything there is boredom at the end. You become exhausted. That time came for me, and I felt empty.
A girl came over once in a while to extinguish the thirst of my groins. My love life sucked. My girlfriend was having rough times of her own so nothing beneficial was going on between us. I visited her once in a while.
My days became longer. I developed yearnings to get out. My mind became clogged. I nursed thoughts. I cussed. I cried. Sometimes I just spent my days in regrets. I became lonely and depressed. I was lost. Then I went back to social media, stalking people and hunting down girls on dating sites. My cravings for sex returned and I looked for it badly. Nothing was enough. I spent money on things I didn’t understand. I just became reckless, minding less on my spending and living to fight for another day.
So I signed up for the trip to Hell’s Gate at the end of September. I thought it would be a break for me, a getaway to gather my thoughts. I thought by interacting with people my mood would improve and that I would catch tide back to my sane self. There was nothing of the sort. It was a sunscreen of smoke that smothered into air immediately. I interacted less, talked less and thought a lot.
Then I realized that after all the fun everyone goes back to their holes to nurture their damned contemplations. I don’t remember getting close to anyone. I fabricated a wall, no one jumped over it. Soon as we parted ways, all that remained were photos of memories sent over the WhatsApp group formed for the trip, of which I only appeared in four. Those were the only things that reminded us of the times. Conversations rent the air for a while, and then the excitement died. People got back to their lives, moved on with new friends and made new memories.
I was back in my distress. Still figuring what to do. My money was running out and I was barely surviving. But still I could not get up to do anything. Once in a while I could go to town to meet Benz. He’s the only person who I get energy for. He pushes the right buttons in me. We could talk as we eat. At the end of the day we would have broken the seals of the depressing feelings inside me. Some would escape, and I could feel great for a week, then the void would be replaced again.
Until this moment, I am in this corner, staring at the walls of this conundrum I am housed in. There are several queries in my head, and innumerable musings running a cross country in my mind. The answer to what I amount to has not shown its face yet. And, I am frightened that I am getting gulped further into this cloudy murkiness of mine.
Right now, I stay indoors. All I do is chat, stalk people on social media, eat, and sleep. And thinking of course. I have so many ideas. Each day I wake up with a new one. I am broke. I am broken. I am tired. I am pitiful. Sometimes happy, but it doesn’t last. I have lost my damn mind. I think pervasively most of the time and I hope of turning on a new leaf.
It is what my 26 feels like. I am trusting that some supernatural hand will haul me out of this bad dream. I am sitting tight for wonders. I am trapped.
I am taking a shot at a book. Is there anybody in here who has a peaceful place, far from the city’s jumble where I can cover up for a two to three weeks to complete this undertaking? A place you would have a companion for some time… I don’t have cash to pay you yet, I without a doubt will restore some help later on. Besides, I can tell you stories in the evenings. I have many of them. 26 different stories from 26 different countries.
If you are one, reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org/ 0736015845. I’ll truly appreciate.
(The supreme hunter in captivity)
Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?
Photo Credit: 26