It is 2 a.m. I sit here staring at my muddied shoes. Staring at my shoes and listening to the rain mark a sonorous tattoo on my creaky door; my boarded up window; on that concavity that I call a roof over my head.
Muddy shoes. Shoes that tell of a young man’s journey through this urban space, that I have finally returned to. Stories of long walks and of travels here and there sans busfare. Walks along the railway line into Inda; into some muhindi sweat shop; into publishing houses that wouldn’t touch my work possibly because of demographic this, demographic that. (What, I cannot write for their A band clientele; their ‘aspirational’ readership?)
I stare harder at my shoes. Hundreds of stories jump at me in languorous prose. But I still don’t have that one story- The One. Yet I smile when my mind in a jaunt of total recall takes me to last week. Last week; driving down to the GoDown to meet Wole Soyinka. Riding in the car with Kenya’s two Caine Prize winners; and one of them saying: ‘Potash we need to workshop your story.’ Workshop? But I still haven’t even learnt to rewrite, Mr. Binyavanga Wainaina!
After the session with Wole Soyinka I remembered that Fat Boy the Yuppie worked somewhere in Inda. I simu ya jamiid the fellow and he lengad to take my call. So I swang by his office. 'What do you want?' he asked. Well, what I really wanted was a cold Tusker and a UN job but I was willing to settle for a can of Napshizzle. He gave me a fifty bob. Mhhh.. should I buy new laces for my shoes or pay bus fare..? Opportunity cost is a bitch!
These shoes that are torn all over. My new publicist said that I need to get new shoes. I just stared at her and inwardly groaned at her yuppie incredulity. How could I make her understand that I do not have access to a Kila Kitu loan facility like she does? But in a way I was reminded of a quote from Dr. King that I read in my high school days: they tell us to pull ourselves up, by our bootstraps, but we have no boots. Well, at least now I have me some boots, somewhat- my ten bob kalamu and a sheaf of foolscaps.
Such a long journey. Yes a long one from my caveman like wall scribbles that were filled with simplistic angst: Potash was here!
So I write some. Well, at least I try to…
Shoes. Shoes that flip flop- ‘cause their soles is torn- my way into strange spaces these days. The other day at the lobby of the Hilton. I tracked their carpet and left a huge clod of mud. A piece of me. Yes, no matter where I go now the cave man in me still wants to leave something- a footprint- for future generations. So what was it I left at the Hilton, a clod of mud? That there being the sum total of my worth? Or was it my proletarian heritage reaching out at me, turning my surprisingly sober eyes into the depths of my soul and screaming: look, see Potash. You sold out!
I sold out? Maybe I did. I have lost touch with the Nairobi I knew. The Nairobi I set out to chronicle. I haven’t touched napshizzle in days and these days I can say ‘Tusker Baridi’ without getting my tongue into a twist. I have even how to order cocktails and eat Chinese. But if it will give any redemption I will say it to you that in all these places and spaces I have had an average of twenty seven shillings and a nyongi in my pocket. So I always cling to the cocktail glass- yeah, alcohol is still my crutch- with false urbaneness. All the while worrying, fearful that I will break someone’s Kitengela Glass flute… Ukivunja nyanya utalipa?
Shoes. I smile. These shoes they betray me. At face level you see that smug smile and a mouth that spews aspirational garbage about NGO consultancies that exist only in my mind. Then there is the crisp blue shirt- now seasoned metrosexuals tell me that pink is the new man, and I just cannot keep up with all that bull- and a gleam of cufflinks. But below all that; below all that are the shoes. Here I stand before thee like a bronze god. A bronze god with feet of clay!
I wonder what the shoes say to those that care to look. Do they remind them of what they are running away from? Running away in their Tiptronic Gallants and souped up AE 110s that they will still be paying for long past their sell by dates. See. I don’t worry about paychecks because I still don’t have one- much as I been acting like I do; it is all about image to break into the upward mobility industry- but I worry about ransoming it to conspicuous consumption and ostentation, if ever I have it.
In the meantime, I need new shoes. ‘New’ shoes, I mean. But I cannot afford that. And if I had the money, I still wouldn’t be able to buy some because my ‘camera’ guy at Gikomba has found a better job fighting the Taliban. At least he is smart enough to know that the battle out there has nothing to do with ‘changaa taxes’ and tribal loyalties. But that is the bull crap the paymasters want you to believe. They know that all you know about skid row you learnt from a journalist who thought research was a form of wild vegetable.
My pen has gone dry now so I will just step outside and smoke this Supermatch. Smoke and mull over this return to the metropolis. Yes, I am back sleeping on whatever couch I can or hanging out in pubs till daybreak. This weekend I will return to the old neighbourhood; to the Stone Zone- juu ya mawe- half lifes and a and a life without the benefit of the future tense.
But at least like Dr. King, I have been to the mountain top and I have seen the Promised Land. To my old crew and partners on the hustle, see you at the Third Caucus of the Nairobi Street Supremos. I will be honoured to keep minutes but some fucker whispered that I will be lucky to keep my life...