They forgot

They forgot:
The people that told me of life
They forgot:
It skipped their wise minds
When they sat me down
When they took my hand
To give me their insight about this earthly life

The self-help books forgot: they talked of high tides and waves
Of moments of joy and tremendous gain
Of determination and of strength
Of not giving up through the stormy gale
Also, of life’s hard times and pain
Of traps: “Beware of life’s many traps!” they said
That life is one great crazy jungle
In which the hunters set traps, and watch, and wait.

They forgot:
I could set my own.

They forgot:
The hunter can hunt themselves
The hunter can be me
Hunting
Me.

Don’t warn me of the outside thief
Of the kidnapper that prowls dark streets
Don’t warn me of lions with bared teeth
Or of cheetahs that run at a million miles speed
Of snakes that aim and bite for the kill:
Because those, I can see
Those, we have learnt to spot
Warn me instead of the most lethal being
Warn me of
Me

Warn me that some days I will be the tsunami
That some days I will quake and bring down buildings
Warn me that I will steal from myself
Warn me that I will hit myself
That I will sit down,
Design the trap
Carefully set it
And carefully fall in it
And it will bite into my own ankles
And it will hurt
And the pain will be my lesson
And I will burn with emotion
And my cries for help will be mere curses
Me cursing
Myself.

Teach me how to get through that.

An extra table

Sometime back I happened, within the space of a few days from each other, to eat at a “kafunda” and then at a classy restaurant. It’s not like I’d never been to any of those two kinds of places, but for the first time I noticed the stark contrast between them. It’s amazing the things we don’t notice, or that we notice everyday but gradually close our eyes, ears and hearts to. I was left confused anew by how different life is for people on different sides of this Kampala city of ours.

We went to the kafunda as a large group and there was barely anywhere to sit. We ended up having to pile up on two benches so tiny and shaky I was afraid they’d fall apart before we got a chance to get something into our stomachs. The carpenter who’d made the table we were to eat at must have had zero training; the thing looked resigned. And the food…..oh the food! It was dug out of grimy saucepans right in front of our eyes with hands that kept touching everything from stained kitenge wrappers to sweaty foreheads and leaky noses. I don’t even want to start on the cutlery. You should be able to picture its state from what you’ve read so far. And yet I’ve never enjoyed a meal so much in my life. One of these days I’m going to start believing that filthy conditions are a necessary ingredient for delicious food. Never mind how ridiculously cheap it all was.

Now on the EXTREME other hand, the classy restaurant. Dear Lord. The waiters warmly greeted us (only two this time; you don’t really go to cool restaurants in large numbers) with the warmest words and smiles, and a bow. Yes. They did a little curtsy for us! The person I was with had a big laptop and was checking emails, so the waiters felt the need to carry another table over to us so that we’d dine together and I’d still have enough space to eat comfortably without the laptop all up in my face. Before that I’d been amused by the sheer excess of serviettes they gave us, plus pretty little bottles of salad oils that looked like bottles of expensive perfume. But an extra table? Just for me? That left me nodding in amused approval! I asked for a sandwich and guess what; sandwiches come with an entire (huge!) plate of free fries (if they’re really free at all, considering the price of the meal). The sandwich was large, too. And superb! Not to mention the cinnamon flavored tea that I guzzled down with no mercy. Everything was on point.

Be not fooled though, people, we paid for all this luxury. A small fortune. And an arm and a leg. As we left I was almost saddened by how much we’d had to spend on a meal we could have gotten for a quarter of the price. Almost saddened. Because you can’t really be sad when a hot waiter in a hot outfit is smiling at you as he escorts you out of the restaurant, heartily thanking you and sweetly talking you into coming back again. Well, I guess we paid for that too. Such a charming side-smile can’t just be handed for free…… Oh, plus those luxurious serviettes. And the salad dressing that we didn’t even use.

 

 

 

 

The race to outrun life; we’re defeated

The start of the race

Anticipation still shone on our face

We could still dreamily gaze

Into the early morning fog haze

Happily, excitedly,

Looking forward only,

We couldn’t wait to start.

.

And start we did, with such energy,

Run we did, such agility.

You couldn’t stop us if you dared.

But you tried, life, you did

You were always trying to get in our path

And trip us so we’d fall over.

.

But we trudged on, life, we trudged on

When we fell down we crawled

And soon we’d be back on our two feet

Running again, flying!

.

In that moment you began to understand

That you couldn’t outdo us with simple stunts

You came up with a most lethal trick

You’d tire us out and leave us sick.

Employing confusion, you made us run in circles

Go here, go there, go everywhere

So we’d end up running but never going anywhere.

.

You made our legs tired.

Tired legs.

Slow, numb legs

Leg-freeze.

.

But we learnt to deal with our bodies

If our legs hurt, there were remedies

Headache now couldn’t kill us

Exhausted bodies now couldn’t stop us

We’d go on and we’d not pause.

We’d accept no tricks, especially not yours.

.

Life, though, you just don’t give up

You came at us, nuclear options in hand

If the bodies were strong,

Then you’d fire at the mind.

Curve it around your wicked finger.

.

The result?

Tired brains.

Weak, rigid brains.

 Brain-freeze.

.

And that was it.

The straw that broke the camel’s back

You won; we’ve never finished the race

Yet we still try, more slowly, more softly

No destination, no end in sight

No light the end of our tunnel.

.

We tried to rise and take back what’s ours

But as we began, you pulled out the guns

Machine guns aimed straight at our hearts.

And you proceeded to do your final work

.

You took our souls.

And with that you took all our power

You’ve thrown us off the race tracks.

.

And now;

Tired souls

Hard, un-loving souls

Soul-freeze.

.

Greatest treasure gone.

I weep for us; no more souls

We have no more souls.