“For we know in part, and prophesy in part.” – 1 Cor, 13:19
“What do you want, Timi?”
Timi looks at me. He smiles. It must be the smile. I always thought it was something more sublime…
“Potash, what I really want is a cold Tusker and a UN job…” Timi says.
… yeah something like the way Timi got dreams. How Timi wants to get out of this murk.
“But right now…” Timi continues, “…right now I will settle for another can of Napshizzle!”
Oh no good people! This kid gave up… come on now. What happened to the writing; the trying?
See, I am back in the hood now… but when I leave this place next, there will be no coming back. That is what I want for me; what I will do for me. But what about Timi; Abdou; Njane… the little Shakespeares from down the street…on and on ad infinitum?
Who knows, man, who knows? What I know is; I want out…
Some people call me a doomsayer; a later day prophet Jeremiah. A teller of woe- begotten tales. And indeed I am granted you cannot view life through rose coloured glasses while sitting in a ten by ten shack listening to the animal grants of your neighbour as he lies with his five year old daughter… again! It is not that I have a gloomy mind; it is just that I am a hapless youth caught up in the gloom of my lowly circumstances.
My torment is the ink that stains this paper. Everyday I write hoping that someday I will write, sign and seal my edict to a better life. Maybe these tales will never see the light of day or even the ‘rejected’ mark of any editor; but to be published was never the sole purpose of my writing. I write to escape the ennui that characterises this life bereft of gainful employment.
These tales mirror my reality. I have recently embraced Plato’s school of thought which holds that art must mirror reality. And this here is my reality which to you might sound too far fetched to be true and yet there are people who will find me to be the epitome of privilege. It is the reason then that I apologise to you whose reality is like mine and, thus in my tales find yourself exposed- your dirty linen laundered in public!
As for you who find my tales too woeful to believe, take a deep breath and count your blessings.
If I were to bastardise the words of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Meditations, “Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath and the [writing] part.” Writing is a part of who I am; a seed sown in those English Composition classes of lower primary but stunted in later years by the reckless abandon of street life.
And yet grim realities of that street life are what have catalysed my movement away from the Nietzsche school where art offers an alternative view of mankind. The writings of my early years were filled with phantoms and bogey-men creeping in shadows. Now I write about the shadows of my unemployment and vagrancy and the bogey-men of Poverty, Ignorance and Disease that lurk therein.
I see myself as a Josephine March in Little Women. I want to write and need to write hoping that someday I can change the circumstances of my kind. To achieve that, I have put my swashbuckling tales behind me to write about real experiences to tell tales in which my lack of literally skills can be compensated by an abundance of knowledge.
Maybe, with the goodness of time, these tales will be my redemption. They hopefully, will elevate me from being a mere statistic; another jobless youth. Through them I might survive the curse of these streets and not end up as another youth with a bullet in his head. And upon my redemption, and this I promise you, I shall write such sweet stories as only denizens of ivory towers can.
Each passing day, no matter what side of the breadline I am on, nothing will ever be too complex to crystallize in the written word. Besides, it is in writing that we immortalise thought. It is no wonder then that I believe that someday, in a brighter future, I will look back at these tales and say: “I have come a long way!” That is why I see this as merely a page in the journal of a valiant man’s journey through life. When the good times finally roll my way, all these tales will be but a chapter in a much sought after memoirs, aptly titled: Potash: The Dark Ages.
When I make it to a better life, which is my earnest desire, others will come to take my place. These stones will never lack quorum. It is in the interest of our leaders to keep us here; a standby kamjesh ready to kill or maim other pawns like us in the service of our Tribal Chief. And all that for a few drops of I Don’t Know. Besides, for an extra drop, we are ever willing to disenfranchise ourselves- sell our vote- so fast we cannot even hold our empty tummies long enough to await the highest bidder.
If I ever get out here, I will not take The Stone Zone with me. I do not see myself as a Messiah. At best I am a later day John the Baptist; vox clamantis in this concrete jungle. My story might be woeful but I tell you that there will be others, even after me. Others whose pain I am not worthy to neither bear nor chronicle; children born with HIV and living only to die in their teenage; sexually molested infants ‘blossoming’ into irretrievable sociopaths.
And if ever I want to take The Stone Zone with me, I cannot. I can only take my shit out of The Stone Zone; I cannot take The Stone Zone out of the shit. Redemption can only come to each individual by their own industry at their own time and pace but never to The Stone Zone as a collective. So when my freedom train comes I will gladly say my adieus; maybe shed a little tear or two and hug the ‘little homies’, then bid the engineer ‘full speed ahead!’
At the dawn of my new life, another child will be born to die the next day. Another mother will die giving birth outside a nursing home while another will be wailing over her still born baby. This Nation will get another 750 infections closer to our quota of the 90 Million of the U.N prophesy and yet, in this underprivileged neighbourhood, Anti Retroviral Therapy will still be no more than a catch word in Grant Proposals.
When I am gone these alleys will not smell any better and human waste will not stop flying through doorways and find hygienic sewers.
Nothing will change down here even as I begin a life of toasting with fellow policy makers in mock poverty reduction workshops. Workshops whose budgets can buy enough mosquito nets for this settlement. My neighbours will still be here; their impoverished families getting larger for lack of access to family planning resources and wholesome leisure. They will still be here trying to turn forty eight shillings into a meal for six.
When I am presiding over corruption and lavish ‘Development Partners’ diners, the majority of my lot, now, will still be here; stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty. That beastly molester who at present groans in illicit consummation will probably be in jail for killing his mistress in a chang’aa den; the deflowered two year old girl ,whose current physical pain must blossom into mental anguish in a few years, will probably die at fifteen trying to abort her second pregnancy. Her older brother will be in their shack ‘taking care’ of her one year old daughter: in the only way he learnt from his father! As for their mother- who is now a tolerant wife on her umpteenth pregnancy, and whose sexual health is beyond her control and understanding – cholera, typhoid, AIDS; one or all together is sure to seal her fate.
And I don’t say these things because I do not wish my neighbours well. I do. I want everything for them that I want for myself, yet I cannot give that to them. (The least I can do is telling their story, a thing that I fail in every passing day.) Their cruel destiny- wallowing in poverty, even in generations to come- is the tragedy of life below the poverty line. That is the destiny I desire to change. The vicious cycle I have to break. Break it at least for me!
I have to, by all means, get away and head up west where birds sing and the government works for you and not against you. Where the police smile and swear to protect you from swine like me.
If I do not get away from here, the Gorgon Sisters of Poverty; Ignorance and Disease will petrify me into the hard stone of despondency and abuse. This then is why you must see my dark tales as my redemption- both literally and literary.