By Wr. Dismas Okombo
#Day6: 6th March 2020.
Until Twinomugisha pointed it out in one of her provocative writing, I had never noticed ‘the shy sun’; how she makes her naïve appearance around one pm, only to disappear again after thirty minutes. But now that today I have observed her, the sun has decided to linger around for several hours. After three consecutive days indoors, I am outside, seated on the raised column that separates the pavement and the grass; my head bowed into my lap, feeling low in spirit. The rays warm my back, my arms, my toes and every inch of my skin; except the heavy stubbornness in my heart.
Attempts at pinpointing the cause of this restlessness only result in further restlessness. I am feeling nothing and everything. Now I am impatient for not being able to single out the exact cause of this listless feeling. Irritation and anxiety wells in me; my chest cavity tightens. And when it feels like my chest is about to explode, disgust stirs in my heart. I hate this feeling and my helplessness. I hold my breath, force the chaos out of my head. For a moment, I feel blank; like I don’t exist and never have. I am nothing, and the things I have held in magnificent regard are in fact inelegance. In this manner, diverse emotions take turns to tease my heart.
Edith sits beside me and sensing my dejected disposition, she opts to join me in the solitude. At first, the silence is comfortable; I even appreciate her company. But a moment later, I become aware of the confusion and vulnerability wrinkled on my features. ‘She must be seeing right through me.’ I think to myself. I don’t want to care; I don’t want to hide the madness in me. Perhaps if I talk to her she will understand, but how can I talk to her about a feeling I myself don’t understand? I measure my thoughts and, forcing my mouth open, utter words far from my intended: “Today’s class was provocatively interesting.”
Our conversation takes the line of writing, focusing on the points she took us through in class. Still caught up in the chaos, I feel aloof. And so, now and then, I mechanically nod. She mentions a concept she had emphasized in class, of writers distancing themselves from their writing to enable them to critique their characters. Mild interest warms in me; during the class hour, I had had reservations on this particular point. Without hesitation, I say: “Although I agree with the underlying principle is the concept of distancing oneself from the story, I fell you shouldn’t have used the term ‘distancing.’ Instead, perhaps, you should have used ‘adopting a conscious, critical perspective.’ Distancing portrays writing as a mechanical process, which it is not. Since emotions are involved, and these emotions are best conveyed to the reader if the writer experiences them.”
We go back and forth. Only after establishing the critical point is for writers to ‘critique their characters’ do we finally abandon the discussion. It is an irrefutable fact that different approaches to writing to different writers.
My troubled thoughts didn’t allow me to conclude this entry.
#Day7: 7th March 2020.
Up to five am I lie in bed, restless and with no desire for sleep. When sleep eventually forced itself on me, I slept for two hours. During which I dreamt that I was walking up a staircase with no visible beginning or end. Several times I would miss a step, shutter with terror, tumbledown towards an abyss, and just when I neared the gaping mouth of the dark void, I would wake up with a start. My heart beating; my body covered in sweat. I would then stay awake for about thirty minutes, go back to sleep and the nightmare would begin again.
Now I am sited in the balcony. The Rubik’s cubes on the table are solved and the pieces on the chessboard are in a checkmate position. Often, these puzzle games calm my restless heart. Not today, the gloom grows heavy by the hour. Perhaps cycling would help. But it’s eight am and I don’t have a bicycle. What about music?
#Day 8: 8th March 2020
I am scheduled to be in the kitchen for the day’s meal; breakfast, lunch, and supper. I overslept and missed breakfast, but Muss covered for me. Since each day every resident is to prepare his or her native dish, I strike a deal with Muss to help with breakfast during her turn. Lunch is approaching and I have already begun the preparations. Omena and Ugali, with vegetables on the sides. From my phone on the microwave, Oliver Mtukudzi’s songs are playing. Consciously I synchronize my heartbeat with every activity I am involved in. The rhythmic pounding of ginger. The clunk, as the knife hit the chopping board. The searing. The boiling. The bubbling. The aroma. Lunch is served. And just like the shy sun around here, the stubbornness in my heart fade. Perhaps, sometimes all it takes is the therapy of cooking to diffuse the chaos.
Wr. Dismas Okombo is an Incubate of Writers Guild Kenya. He is currently attending the PenPen Writers Residency. Emailemail@example.com