Starting Over

Kissing and praying for my daughter at home, and kissing the mother good bye  afterwards at the airport got to be the toughest thing I have ever done in my life. I was still trying to understand what it means to be a father. The first few months for new fathers are usually overwhelming.

The kid stays awake the whole night, only to sleep at 6, when you have to wake up and go to those 8 O’clock meetings. So you drag yourself into a matatu, with babylag-a condition where you have puffed up eyes, red as pepper, an angry look, angry enough to scare buffalo back into the park caused by lack of sleep at night when you have a newborn. It affects men more than it affects women. By the way, anyone who sets up a meeting before 10 p.m is a sadist, sexually deprived maniac. I have seen some folks who even arrange meetings on Saturday mornings. Or Sundays. How bored must you be? Surely.

Anyway, the kid tests your nerve to the bone. You really get angry at each other, but really, it is no one’s fault. Being a modern man, it means you must accept the humanity of your wife unlike our fathers, who probably cared less about raising a child. So you take turns babysitting. The kid must be held in a certain way to burp, lest she chokes. The kid is fragile, innocent, sweet, small, annoying, amusing, interesting.

You look at her and feel like she actually thinks and just taking you for a ride. It is 2.07 a.m. The night is still. She is quiet. At times bubbly. Alert as the Swiss sentry at the Vatican. You wonder why she can’t just sleep. You doze off, she screams her lungs out. You ask yourself if you were ever in that stage of life at one point. It is the only secret kept from you to protect you. You ask yourself if becoming a father was the right thing. I mean, sleep is the best thing in life! Know why we hate alarms so bad…They go off, when you want to grab three more hours. It is like when you are about to kiss someone and get down, then someone walks in on you…But a child, totally disrupts your sleeping patterns. So it helps if you are two to give each other even 20 minutes to steal some two or three winks.

You will appreciate and respect women better if you live together, and have a baby and see what the first three years of raising a child are like. If you go to the labour ward, you will be more appreciative of what it takes to be woman and you will be more helpful and supportive. It changed my life and how I look at women permanently.

And now I was leaving the missus with the burden of raising her for a number of months. What can be more selfish?

It was emotional. The preparation for the journey had been draining. The last three weeks to departure had a surreal feel of a nightmare. Things moved so fast, I was overwhelmed. Nothing but the Hand of God was at play, when I look back. Nothing can explain it. Just nothing. Nothing. Getting funding, school documents for visa application, having your visa approved in three days and travelling to the United States in just under three weeks is not an easy thing.

At the airport, I was with the family and close friends. My wish was that I say bye to all of them and go to the airport on my own. I’m not a big fan of inconveniencing people. JKIA is terribly cold at night. Ever since they expanded and kicked that affordable restaurant from the premise, giving way to Java, it is no longer necessary. But love makes it impossible for guys not to see one of their own off. Personally, I have escorted no fewer than 50 people to JKIA. Back then we could buy tea for Sh 70 bob as we waited for the departure or arrival of friends. No more.

So there we were. With my closest people. There was Joe and Patrick, who in more ways than one are my brothers. There are my in laws. My sister. My uncles. Cousins. All of them can’t believe that I am leaving. I just called them a week ago and told them I am leaving. But it will be for a short while, they need not worry. Predictably,the KLM/KQ flight had a two hour delay. Suffice I had boutht the ticket  at the price of my kidney, liver and soul.. That means they had to wait longer. At 11.00 p.m we both agreed they needed to go so that I can going through the mundanely idiotic process of checking through an airport.

The airport was now deserted. There were a few workers sleepy and bored out of their pubes. I went through, having checked in earlier and climb a flight of stairs to the first floor. The airport looks big, clean and there is that pride your heart thumps to, when you know it is the best there’s in the region. There are two more checks. You just give in your hand luggage, undress until you remain with your innerwear. If it is a boxer,you remove it they have to checkup your urethra to see if you are not carrying a speck of cocaine. Or a gun. When fully satisfied, you move to the next stop, usually 20 metres away and repeat the whole thing. If they have to strip us, then at least they need trust each other, come on.

Finally, I am in the waiting lobby of the KLM flight. Early, some worker had seen my height and recommended that I buy a seat with more leg room. I asked him, how much?

“Just $65,” he says. I wonder if he had just dropped in Kenya from space and didn’t know that the dollar was killing the shilling. At the moment, it was trading at a suicidal Sh 104, and the airport rates were going to be something like Sh 108. That is Sh 7,020 to pay for my height, in order to get a seat with more legroom. Already, I had paid for a one-way flight more than Sh 159,000.

“I use Citi Hoppas and KBS that are designed by midgets, with no sense of space, and have never heard of the word legroom,” I wanted to tell him. But I thought he would be too slow to know what I mean.

Anyway. At the waiting lounge, there are so many people. All bored out of their armpits. The flight delay, the jetlag and everything was just annoying. There is a young man, in his late 20s and a lover, possibly in her 20s or 30s too. They are massaging each other in turns. They are completely lost in each other to know what is going on. The man rubbed her back with practiced experience. And he turned, she rubbed him back. They sat, rubbed each other’s feet. They did this for more than an hour. I watched until I was bored.

There was this Kenyan lass. Great body. We were in the same queue earlier on. She was in her mid 20s. Very shapely. And wore one of those jeans that capture not just her body but the imagination of all men in the space of 100 yards. She has a great body. Great ass. Great long, artificial weave. But her face had cakes of makeup and had that annoying sheen that makes a woman cheap and desperate instantly. But she was confident. Probably, not a first time flier. We had exchanged looks for far too long and one of us had to make a move. I needed company. Not to seduce her. Just to get talking. Waiting at airports is as interesting as waiting for githeri to cook on a jiko.

But she seemed more into herself and didn’t really bother with me much. I said hi and complained about the delay.

“Yeah, I know, this is too much. They said two hours, it is now almost three hours…” she said. No hints that she wanted further discussion. I asked her where she was going.


End of the story. They opened the doors and we started filing. Since there is class everywhere, they always start with business class, then frequent flier blah blah…those who hold some other class of tickets next. Whatever blah blah. I was probably the last one to acquire the ticket. At Sh 159,000+, I was in that category of poor fliers. And went in the last and sat in the third row from the front, in the three seat column. I sat by the aisle, and two women sat on the inside. The legroom was barely sufficient. But I did not have a choice for the next 7 hours to Amsterdam. So, once inside, regardless of your ticket, we were going to leave at the same time, arrive at the same time, and in the event of a crush, I don’t if there are first class safety vests, floaters or parachutes.

The other woman to the window was covered to the eye, I never got to make out her face. The one in the middle was a 30-something, seemingly humble lady but bored too,  and tired. I wondered why. She had a look of painful concern. What might have happened? She probably was home for funeral or came to visit her husband and things did not work out. The husband has since married. Or when they went for a check up…

We don’t speak for the next 5 hours. Before the bathroom breaks begun. At Amsterdam there is another delay. As we disembark, I see the young woman take the escalator, and disappear into the crowd and that is probably the last time I am seeing her. Anyway.

I chat the woman-my seatmate- a bit. She asks me where I’m going.

“New York,” it like 2 to 3 hours,” I say.

“Lucky you. I have 8 hours to Chicago,” she says. I say bye. And that is probably the last time I see her.

I move around to my gate, and sit somewhere. I hate eating at airports. I am always too broke to afford anything. And stuff is always too overpriced, I always wonder what people mean when they say that there are duty free goods in airports. Luckily, there is unsecured internet at Schiphol Airport. It is 10.30 a.m. I take my laptop. I had not yet submitted my Retrosexual column and  I decide that in the intervening two hours coupled with the delay, I can file the column. I do just that. And the Delta flight arrives and we check in. As the train takes off, it hits me that I misread my ticket. It said I will arrive in New York at 2.45 pm. What I didn’t immediately establish is that it meant, 2.45, New York time.  I did not factor in that I’m travelling backwards in time and I’m about to lose 8 hours of my life. Just like that. You can imagine the sinking desparation that hits you when you were set that it is just a three hour crossover of the Atlantic to New York, then you realise you need five more hours.

Anyway. I take the time to reflect upon my life. I am constantly on the move. I have never settled in a place long enough to feel it and belong. Ever since I was born. Circumstances are always pushing me. Dad passed, we left Nairobi and went to Shags. Mum passed and we left home to another home. There was high school. There Kericho. There was Muhoroni. Two high schools actually. There was university. There was a small stint in Germany. There was Uganda. There South Sudan. There was Nairobi; first as young child, then as a young adult, a student at the university, then as a young unemployed graduate. Then as an employed graduate, then as a bachelor-shortly though, then as a married man, then as father. And I had barely settled down, and Columbia University came calling. I know many people are always on the move, but to me it is an existential thing. I have never settled anywhere. Physically or in mind. You may say, but none really settles, it is rat race for everyone. But it is different for me.

When I am above the sky, feeling vulnerable and powerless as clouds swing and swirl below, I become too introspective. Watching the clouds from the sky, as they change from the shallow whites one, to the thick white and dark cottons, I always ask, “What is life?” Why me? And then I become saddened. I’m the wettest blanket even to anyone and myself. I’m going to US, to New York,  the world’s biggest city, but I have no excitement. May be it is because I had been betrayed shortly before I left Kenya-lesson learnt; never trust anyone who sounds too good to be true and comes off with a clean heart. But really, it is sort of an anti-climax. For heaven-sake, I am going to an Ivy League institution. One of the best universities in the world, in New York, no less.

But I’m depressed. It could be the young family I’m leaving behind. It could be something else. But every day, I keep asking what will ever make me really happy in life. Compared to many people, I have had a life of reasonable privilege and great favours cooked straight from God’s kitchen, but I need someone to help me figure out, what keeps me unhappy. A psychologist. An elderly person. A pastor. Who can help me reconcile the two parts of me that are constantly fighting. One part that makes me wake up every day and chase the lifetime dream, of education, marriage, kids, employment, business etc. And one part that tells me, just give up on life, go to Kilgoris, become a farmer and just write your stuff from the village.

To make you understand how difficult it is to please even myself, if today you gave me Sh 1 billion, I still will not be happy. Nothing seems to make me happy. My daughter does. My wife does. But that is, just the normal self. There is the other animal that even baffles me, altogether. The other self that has no ambition, no drive, no discipline, no hope, no desire to do anything. The part that nudges me to just go back to a village in Rift Valley, become a modest farmer who goes back to Nairobi monthly to restock my books. And goes back to the farm. I could be bipolar. Or I am just having those low moments in life. But it has always been there. Often, I wish for something so bad. The wish is granted. And that depressing feeling creeps in. A certain cloud of insecurity. When I was younger, I would be number 1 in class, but I hated it. I even hated even awards. I was comfortable being out of the top 3 that other kids clapped for. As an older person, there have been moments I was proud of myself, my achievements, small and great, but there is a certain lack of fulfillment that checks in almost immediately.

I don’t care about astrology. My religion, forbids it. But I recently I saw a certain concept that caught my eye. It is called Saturn Return.

According to the website  this is when the planet Saturn comes back to meet your natal Saturn. It takes about 29.5 years for this slow-mover to return to where it was when you were born. The Saturn return hits in the late twenties, and its impact is felt into the early thirties. It is a time of sobering reality about life. And it troubles many men and women. Your life lays in front of you. You have to majke tough choices that will determine how your life will pan out. Finally your life is your hands. Every move and decision you make can potentially ruin you.  But for me, those demons have always been there. Sometimes I even doubt if I exist at all.

At school, I had the most difficult starts of all. For the first time in my life (except that time I went back to school and started with a Maths test that I scored 15%), I have started at the bottom of a barrel. At first it was too fast. What is taught in three days here is what would take a whole semester to teach back in Kenya. And I am not exaggerating. At times it felt like a joke. But how else do you know that you are in an Ivy League institution. There is a reason, the New Yorks and Londons of this world are the way they are and the Nairobis and Kampalas are the way they are. Here, Excellency is an habit. If you come from a culture where mediocrity is tolerated, you will have the biggest culture shock of your life.

Consider this for size. You want to go to a driving school and you are prepared to take three weeks for the driving class and all you want to do is learn how to drive an automatic car. You get to the school, you find your instructor, friendly chap. He is standing next to a track, 28-wheel and manual, not hydraulic (my engineering and vehicle skills are as good as our politicians’ manners, never mind, but you get the drift). He teaches you in 20 minutes and shows you how it is done and the next thing he wants you to do is to drive to Mahi Mahiu and come back. All in a half a day. In the afternoon, he wants to teach you the mechanics and the physics. And by the end of the day, you are done.

Hardly the best example. But they are thorough, meticulous. It changes the way you think. Since it will be hectic, this is probably the last blog I am writing in a long time. The schedule here is maddening, I can’t even breathe. So for the next one year, I might have to suspend the blogging to concentrate. Try and kill the demons in me.

Unless something really compelling necessitates a blog. It is gonna be dusty and full of cobwebs.

But my first novel and books are almost ready and will be released at the earliest convenient time.