THIS IS 23

THIS IS 23?

On August 23rd, 1998 while Kenya was still reeling from the wake of the nefarious, August 7th terrorist attacks on The United States Embassy. I was born somewhere in Nairobi’s Eastlands, just a couple of kilometers from the Central Business District, where just a little over two weeks prior was a medley of apocalypse. A blast rang through the air, a palpable cloud of smoke floated up the air, a cacophony erupted, and the city went belly up. So I’d say, maybe was born on foot of carnage and loss.

It is consequential, to iterate, that I was born in Eastlands. Put an asterisk on that, it’s an intrinsic part of my story. It gives me some context. Suffice to say, I have an inherent aura of ‘badassery’ by virtue of place of birth, no? Okay, you got me. I can’t play cards, I add sweeteners to my occasional drinks like a wuss, I can’t fight for shit, I enjoy poetry and sometimes – albeit rarely – I eat rice. So go ye, emasculate me and decimate my already precarious street credentials.

I recollect my childhood of being nothing but gracious. I had and still have amazing parents. Only, having to watch them thaw down and their now defunct austerity dissipate overtime seems so unfair to me. Who, as a firstborn, really bore the brunt of correctness and discipline. As the eldest child, I’m convicted you get the worst of your parents. The subsequent siblings get a more refined parent, but you, buddy. You’re like a guinea pig, and the parents – scientists – looking for ways to make it pan out. A marionette to parents grappling with the novelty of parenthood. That explains why folks so hard on firstborns. Then later, just bird box their way out of the miscreant siblings.

In those days – in the fledgling 2000s; when hope still hung in the air and the country hadn’t degenerated to acute amorality. We had playgrounds. We savored the treacherous unfinished buildings we could play ‘brikicho’ in. We played kati – even though it was deemed feminine. We played football at ‘maisa’ grounds, meek on the sidelines until the bigger boys allowed us some game time. I was the fastest in class then – still could be. We broke neighbor’s windows and earned hidings. We had birthdays and invited our mates. We lived. We laughed. We made mistakes. We were happy. Or maybe we were just kids.

Then the seemingly worst happened. Time got arthritis and we grew up and apart.

See, I’m generally averse to generic online quotes. They are too malleable and so prone to misattribution, Anyone can mold them to fit whatever narrative they want. Motivation quotes are the worst. People just use them to affirm things that just aren’t true.

Like you’ll probably pore through the social and find someone saying something like, ‘An arrow is first pulled back on the bow before being launched far’ and then proceeds to contrast it with, ‘So when life pulls you back, be resilient because it’s about to launch you to greater heights’!

Do you realize how perverse and bizarre that is? Although it seems to offer some blur of hope. It doesn’t allow us to think of some proactive solution. Someone facing a problem needs recourse, not some deluded bow and arrow analogy to give them some kind of hope. I contend, it’s time we stop glorifying suffering and looking for ways to rationalize affliction. That’s how we got here as a people.

Anyhow, I digress.

What I meant to say is, there are scattered soundbites that resonate with me. And two of them are from my favorite sitcom of all time, The Office. And they go, “I wish there was a way to know we are in the good old days before we actually leave them.” And the other posits, “Nostalgia is one of the greatest weakness of humankind” Let that simmer in your mind a tad. Do they pique something the slightest?

Sometimes, under the enchant of good music, I experience bouts of nostalgia with a wistful beam of good days gone and the experience nothing now but hazy and random memories. It’s beautiful what music can do. Maybe, like me, most of you also peg some memories on retro music. There’s something from the past that music evokes that no other medium seem to be able to bring out.

For instance, Craig David’s Unbelievable prompts the memories of 2012. Westlife’s songs remind me of lofty green eucalyptus trees and a small forest in South Nyanza. Backstreet Boys’ songs remind me of the years 2008/2009. Old School Kenyan music nudges my childhood and oddly reminds me of my mom, because of this one song by Big Pin and Amani that she used to like so much – Talk to you. Of course, she’s way older now. So she revels to Kenyan gospel music and her incoming calls are heralded by a noxious gospel skiza tune (read corporate robbery) like most of her peers.

I just wish we knew we were probably building those memories then before actually leaving them so that we could do better. And maybe savor those moments longer. The proverbial but very elusive good old days.

It’s been a minute since I wrote on my estranged blog. Hopefully, a rekindled relationship is afoot. That’s if – fingers crossed – she elects to take me back, the blog not an ex. The gist of all this is; in less than a week – on Monday, August 23rd – I’m turning 23. A whole 2+3 or more like 20+3. This is it, man. One week I’m too young and the next, I might be brandishing my national ID with aplomb and maybe a subtle shade of cockiness. And hopefully the security won’t size me up, look into my eyes and say those sad words ‘Your 23 is too young’. The vagaries of life, who knows what it holds.

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