“Boss valia mask kwanza” The security guard says in a manner to stop me from making entry into my favorite supermarket in Kakamega.
“Iza. Nimesahau leo” A lie!
“Siwezi ingia tu?”
Silence. He looks like he is thinking, “Sasa sijui tutafanya aje”
By this time, being a pretty small supermarket and a less busy day, I take my time surveying the people inside. The sons and daughters of the Most High, graciously born African and proud Kenyans have masks but I can assure you they are all hanging by their chins. They are still nice hearted people, my fellow countrymen, that I highly adore and respect. I wouldn’t wish to be born in any other country. But that wasn’t the peak of it. There is another league of countrymen who didn’t have masks at all! Like, wah, mjango. Seriously?
“Na wale hawajavaa?”
I laugh in the spirit. Offended in my heart, annoyed in my mind, angry on my face. This guy doesn’t bother to filter the irony in his own words. Mr. Security Guard surely! Even if you’re just doing your job. I understand your instructions are very clear, “Usiruhusu mtu aingie bila mask.’ And since you’re an expert in following orders, you didn’t t follow the orders that were not given that should have said,
“Hakikisha pia wakiwa ndani, wamevaa pia.”
But you know what, you guy my guy, I don’t blame you. There was no reason I should make your work any harder than it is. You shouldn’t have to deal with law breakers and rebels like me. Manager wa supermarket, pay the security guy please. Pay him well. I hope you do, because you do not have the guts to stand by the entrance of your own supermarket and face bold opinionated men like me who know when we are being fooled but don’t stop at that. We don’t keep quiet when we are being fooled and tossed to and fro ruthlessly, like green grams in a kayamba. Because I don’t blame him, I blame you and me. I blame us!
Welcome to my ranting space, Mjango. Proud, aren’t you? I know you’re used to a different tone in here, where we tell stories about life, how beachy and bitchy it gets on people. But since it’s still me, we can drop it for a moment, in fact, drop the act all together and just talk about the petty experiences that make up life. You’ll realise that they aren’t so petty after all. Have radical conversations tapped from what goes on in our minds on a normal day after some of our experiences. Draw tangible lessons from them with love but not without rebuke if need be.
Like today, that put me in the mood to just rebuke the devil out of us in the name of the truth! This devil is called pretence! Mbona tunajifanya?
When I set sail for the seas of blogging, quite a highly explored destination, yet only a few earn a passage to, it’s uncharted parts – I did so with just one objective, to narrate the reality. Just as long as it is real, it is worthy, worthy to be told either as a story or as a conversation. Not shying away from anything, however controversial that people experience. Ordinary people like you and me. Our differences are what make this world interesting although it’s just cruel. Funny we are the same ones who make it cruel.
So this is in effort to preach reality at the slightest sight of it, as long as it’s not political. The reality on our doorstep today is the height of pretence which is not just sitting but shitting in the living rooms of our houses. We go further to do it the courtesy of cleaning up quickly after it and bow saying,
Everyone wears a uniform, an invisible one to the naked eye yet so thick and brightly coloured in its fabric. We are so good at wearing uniforms mjango. The very moment we wake up in the morning, the opening of our eyes is the covering of our true naked selves with our self sewn uniforms.
Feel like I’m talking about someone else? Okay. Stop reading. Just stop. Breath in. Tuko serious hapa by the way. Breath in. I didn’t say you breath out. Come on, breath in. In. In. Out. Good. Now, clear your mind.
Trace back to this morning. I’m writing this on Sunday so let’s all go to last Sunday. You woke up. Probably went to church or something. Now slowly scan through your day and spot the times you have consciously and subconsciously guided your mouth, behaviour, attitude, attention and what not, to secure that one thing about you that only you know. When someone starts to talk about it, your system goes on alert probably with a warning alarm and ‘This is not a drill’ announcement to set you to just be cool through it until the conversation passes. Think about it. Something you have ever done that still lives on or something that you still do.
We are on Sunday presumably. If you did go to church, did you go because you had to or wanted to? Anyway, you still went. But why did you if you just had to and didn’t want to? Or you went because it’s a routine. You know what you’ve been up to. That which you guard highly with the mercenaries of your brutality on the front rank, Pakistan Mossad of your intelligence on the second rank, Russian Spetsnaz of your mercilessness on the third rank and the prowess of the American Seal Team One on the last rank. You know. You still went to church anyway.
Think of the petty things like wearing a mask. What petty thing have you consciously or unconsciously buried in the graveyard of your coat lately? As late as this morning. Dad called to check up on you and you didn’t say you were not alone in your house as early as it was that morning. Before you picked his call you made sure your common visitor was aware that you’re about to answer such a revered call and they ought to shut it and not as little as kick a sufuria in that bedsitter of yours. How’d you explain why you have someone visiting you at 7am in the morning? He knows you don’t even wake up that early while at home in Syokimau or Diani or Nyahururu or Kino or Ngumba, wherever your folks live.
Why did you carry a mask on your way out today but never wore it, until you approached the entrance of the supermarke? Like the guy in a nice light blue coat, a black pair of trousers underscored with a fine pair of black leather sharpshooters, who walked past me as I washed my hands in honour of the latest over-preached sanitation guidelines. Not that I was any better but he didn’t wash his hands and the same security guy let him in. Who are we fooling?
I didn’t forget my mask, I decided I’d never bother to carry it because I was never going to wear it in the first place. I should have told the security guard, “ Sikutaka kujifanya nimebeba,” and see the look on his face.
Earlier on, I stood way across the road opposite the supermarket contemplating over buying cooking oil that day or the following day. I had the option to buy it the day after or buy from an ordinary shop near home that has no fake conditions like having to wear a mask. I was also debating since I knew I didn’t have a mask. My daring spirits rose anyway. I decided I wanted to see what happens on this one. I was not sure what to expect from the petty stunt, but I was sure it’d give me some answers to subconscious questions.
Most of the time I’m out, I have a bag with me. I leave it at the luggage bay and proceed to wash my hands, faithfully. About the bag, I learnt never to fail to carry it because the day I do, something worth carrying back home like food or especially food from an impromptu lunch invite springs up. Let’s see you now pretend you wouldn’t take the opportunity to carry food home when you have been offered to do so at a party. Selee!
I present myself for the temperature test, which they don’t even bother to take because I don’t have a freaking mask on! I take a mental picture of everyone at the counters and how ‘hypocritical’ they don’t realize we all are.
It’s a shame that our highly esteemed leaders of this beautiful nation don’t give two shits about these masks and their very citizens who die hard to massively show up in their rallies barely wearing these supposedly life saving pieces of clothes. Even the same citizens, us, no one else but us – have the tiniest realisation about how naïve and hypocritical we are to wear these thingamabobs only at the entrance of a supermarket but not at a crowded place like these sheepish rallies we run to.
I undertsand however that we are forced to wear a mask to access places like supermarkets. We may not necessarily be pretending. But on a large scale as a nation, we can see that we are.
The pretence in our country is immense! Yet still amusing.
Because mjango, believe it or not, we enjoy it. Away from fabric masks, we enjoy wearing invisible masks. Pretending is what makes us human in a society that staunchly calls for standards made by our very own fellow pretenders. We cannot imagine life without pretending. We’d rather die than have the world know what lies behind our bunch of stage plays. We have acting careers and are professional actors in our lives without knowing. We have deserved oscars probably more than our very own Lupita because we act in our day to day lives more than she does. I say probably because well, si we have agreed we are all pretenders? If we haven’t my beautiful sister Lupita, her fellow female fraternity who are my mjango babes, my fellow brothers, my mjangos, team strong strong – let’s agree now that we all pretend in one way or another!
Because anyway, we are surely not going to also pretend we are not pretenders are we? For the record, dear Lupita, nobody deserved and will ever deserve that Oscar more than you anyway. None of these country men of yours. Do your research and you’ll see why she might be better than most of us who are still pretending not to pretend.
This is not to say that we should stop pretending. That we should throw hands in the air and take off these masks we wear in and out our days. I can’t tell you what to do. Only you can tell you what to do. I only wanted us to at least be aware of the reality. The reality that simply declares we are just pretending in an area of our lives. At least have the guts to admit that there is a part of you the world beyond your ears doesn’t know about. I or we don’t want to know what you are pretending not to be.
Again, you may not call it pretence. You may just be yourself that is white sometimes and black sometimes. Just grey. You’re white when at home and black when in school. You may not be rigidly guarding that part of you the rest of the world has the faintest idea about. You may have accepted that it’s just that you cannot show all your sides to everyone. That before your family for instance, you don’t drink. But in the company of particular friends, you don’t mind a shot or two. You are just being you. And it’s not bad. Again, it’s not.
You may have changed to a different faith from that of your people without their knowledge, or you’re an addict, offender or done what the people in your formal world would probably burn you alive for. You may have been or are in an unpopular and unapproved relationship. Have a different sexuality, have a weird fetish (Mine’s beautiful neat feminine feet and nails.) I’ve said mine, what’s yours? It’s the least we cannot pretend over right now.)
Or you have a secret bank account, a friend with benefit, an entanglement, an affair or both. Or an affair with your gynae. Or a secret second wife/husband, a child never really brought to light because he/she came through the other door. A cabin in the woods. A deal with the devil. You’re a Covid millionaire or you sleep with one. A past you don’t talk about. You own a gun. You’re not happy in your marriage, you have been planning suicide. You’re wild and free spirited but you’re a P.K.; pastor’ kid. Have a mental condition, or HIV, or any other virus, like Corona. You have HIV but still allow them to go raw. You’re a call girl or hooker. Have an Only Fans account, or a premium membership at a porn site. You have a sponsor, or love older women or men. You have a ben 10 or sponsor a chic in campus.
Or you’re the one being sponsored. Or fancy about having a sugar mummy. You pay for sex. You have a body count that’s more than your fingers and one feet maybe. You have a shrewd business, like money laundering or managing escorts. You’ve hacked someone’s phone or laptop, are in a freaky WhatsApp group with a number nobody knows, or telegram group with freaky Indians or naughty Kenyans. You’ve saved all of Huddah’s pics, or Queen Yulah or Chebet Pinkie; in a secret gallery. You strip danced in club covid with a masquerade. Or you were a loyal member never missed a show and sent love hearts and waves when the show got lit.
You have secret vacations alone. You go to a strip club in Kileleshwa with Ethiopian dancers, or still have an all expenses paid invitation to one like I once did and laughed my way out of that conversation and offer. You go to a massage parlour with guaranteed happy endings. Or steam bathing where of course you cannot steam bath with clothes on, you’ll roast and your skin will peel like a banana.
You gamble and have accounts at multiple betting sites, even foreign ones. You bet on horses. Nobody you know does that.
You have a vibrator or cucumber or dildo or all of them. Have feelings for someone but you don’t say or show it. Or you STILL have feelings for someone, an ex? Yet now you’re in another serious relationship or you’re married. Have a long time crush on him or her or me (hehe), or your cousin. Or you have a fake passport or ID or your visa expired dog years ago. You have a sexually transmitted degree.
You mistreat your house help, or sibling, or girlfriend, or henpeck your boyfriend, your husband or wife. You are in a relationship with someone you’ve never met. Or have a virtual friend with benefit. You drink or smoke or inject or sniff. You gave up on your faith years ago, but still go to church or mosque. You don’t believe in God, or heaven or hell. But you still go to church. You want to change your religion, but this is the umpteenth month or year and you still haven’t.
You sneak home at night and go back before dawn without anyone knowing. You’ve gone on a rail of sleepovers and your parents and church buddies have the faintest idea. You hate your job. Or your course.
You lost your job as soon as Mutahi Kagwe said, “This disease is not a joke! If we continueto behave normally, this disease will treat us abnormally.” And your fiancée still doesn’t know. You’re not qualified for your job but you cheated destiny with your seduction and charms. Or gave in to seduction to get the job.
You have a tattoo. Maybe on your back or thigh or boob. You have multiple piercings and one or two on your nipple or vulva or both. You wear a thong but only when on campus. You don’t carry your thongs home and your mum doesn’t know you own that type of string. I bet you’ve missed them by now. I hear they’re real loose, real good and feel good. Or that super sexy body con dress that has never seen the gate of your parents’ compound. Or you only wear skirts, dresses or hijabs when at home. No trouser and croptops. But only you know how you rock those tight pants on campus.
You’ve ever played truth or dare in a party and it didn’t end with anyone having clothes on. Or you have a ‘this never happened’ season in your life.
You hate your father, mother, brother or sister but don’t say.
You desire to pursue a different dream but you fear what people will say or do. How your parents will react after they’ve spent a shit tonne of money on your fees in medical school. Or law school. Or some decorated course. Or you don’t want to do your masters. You want to pursue that dream. It could be a business or international charity. It could be an inglorious career like a full time blogger and writer. Or a chef. Pastry chef.
Feeling tagged by now huh? Maybe. And it’s not all bad. Thing is, the fact that you either do it in secret or don’t have everyone know about it is what we can admit saying, “Everyone is pretending over something if not storing something under the covers.” For reasons only know and should keep.
Why do you keep it under the shadows anyway? Why is it unannounced? Well, apparently our small worlds we were born into probably doesn’t allow us to be loud about the things buried within us. Both sides, white and black that most if not all of us have – may not be universally accepted. We are to be either white or white. Some of our upbringings had an invisible knife held by our throats. I have this theory about kids brought up in very strict homes, locked indoors and only leaving under strict supervision, never allowing so much room for them to discover themselves and breath for a minute or two in the world outside. Chances are, these kids grow into teens who are so gassed up to be explorative. Ever unconsciously waiting for that opportunity to burst into their free selves that have been suppressed for God knows how long. When they get an opportunity away from home, it could be an hour or two, they are under their own pressure to radically explore what they’ve always wanted to explore. What they think they have been missing. It’s mostly a wild and naughty spree.
We know of how we live with our boyfriends and girlfriends in uni and are celibate more than saints when at home. In both scenerios, when or if our folks find out, why do you think they get shocked to the point of fainting and despairing? I’ll answer that for you. Because they realised they didn’t really know us after all.
With sniper guns held by our ribs under a coat to behave like holy angels, we can only do so much about who we really are. So no one is saying you ought to turn against the gun. Best believe, you’ll have a bullet swimming in your liver.
Funny enough, let’s also admit we seem to enjoy walking in the shadows. Being vigilantes of our own personalities. We enjoy the pretence. Or being grey, for those who want to call an ostrich a big chicken.
But what we can say is there are some things we can classify as worth pretending over to avoid crucifixion in the society we are in. Standards set by a society made up of our very own fellow pretenders. It’s you to choose how long you’re willing to pretend over things like your faith, sexuality or mental condition and all those levels of things that share a Zoom meeting.
And there are some things we pretend over that share an inhumane and absurd WhatsApp group. I wonder why we crucify one another about faith, sexuality and the likes and pardon hating and mistreating one another. You mistreat your house help for Chrissake. Just let her or him go. And you’d faithfully attend all Wamama wa Kanisa meetings. Surely, you can afford to quit pretending about your attitude towards people. Yes, it can be a work in progress to love your father or mother again if they gravelly betrayed you. But at least tell yourself you’ll quit pretending everything is fine with them if you really are. Cut ties with that friend that you don’t like. Set your dog free if you cannot feed it instead of kicking it every time it’s trying to be friendly.
You have an unannounced character and you still go to church or the mosque? Hear this, don’t stop going. That’s the hospital for your soul and mine too. And if you’ll go, you can keep ‘pretending’ before us, that you go to church and we are one in spirit. But at least don’t pretend to yourself and God. Tell Him and yourself that you’ll keep going to that hospital until you’re healed. When you get there, He’s the doctor. Tell Him that you’re in His hospital for the hundredth time with the same imperfection but you’ll still keep going until you are well.
Or let’s not pretend that you want to be well. Let’s not pretend that you don’t enjoy having that imperfection. Some of these imperfections like addictions keep us sane. Maybe you’re okay and don’t think you need to change for anything. Good. Well then, tell Him that you’ll still visit His hospital a million more times even if you’re not looking for treatment. At least have the guts to admit it.
And don’t let anyone get into your head saying things like, don’t go to church if you’ll still dress in trousers. If they think you cannot worship in trousers, you can as well go to another church with saints that understand that we are all some type of way but we still need God.
I had a very sharp tussle with my editor on this one. She has a problem with calling everyone a pretender. To me, it’s a potato – potAto situation. The fact that you cannot announce everything that you do to everyone, proudly introduce some of your associates to everyone and show every side of you in every environment – does mean that at least, you have a mask. A mask for different parties. And that’s okay. We like it. Some of us like to meet and meat where and when we take our masks off.
Anyway, the sarcasm of life is real. That you may not be a son of a bitch. But you, just like all of us, sure as hell are a son of the mask.
If not pretense. Mjango.