Christmas Tale Part V


It started when she was eighteen and he was seventeen. So he told her he was nineteen. It started with him lying and proceeded with her letting him lie and it went on the way that type of adolescent romance does. Fumbling along through uncertain awkward, clumsy moments. Lost footholds, accidental brushes, misplaced hands and glances caught in the wrong place, lingering looks, laughter held too long. Anxiety adds weight to trifles and gestures and words made and said and maybe not so well understood. Love is a foreign language to everyone who speaks it. It is never properly understood. So that is how it started. Maybe it started later. Maybe it started to end there.

I want to tell you how they would meet. I have been carrying this notebook around for two months trying to write it. I wanted to show you the whole thing: the sloping path down to her home, which he would walk down in the evening after school. How the sun would fall while they were talking, then he would point at stars and tell her their names and she would repeat them, and he didn’t feel dorky about it because she would not let him, and then the hour would turn again and the nightflowers from the hedge around her neighbour’s house would explode and the air would be fragrant… I wanted to show you all that, step by step, word by word, how everything … but I have failed to. I don’t know why. I know the story so well, but I can’t tell it. Maybe because I have already seen the end. I know there is hatred in the end so I cannot tell you about love.
Maria doesn’t believe in love. He is why.
I can’t tell you but I can tell you what they said. Not what words they spoke, but what they said.

Jacob: This sucks. Why is everything so empty? Why does the air feel empty? The air. It feels empty. As if something isn’t in the air that should be there. I hate this, this feeling that you are not there. You make things empty even when they shouldn’t be. It is just being without you and it is being without anything. I hate this. Leave me alone. Let me walk streets the way other men walk streets, without the streets feeling endless and the walking in vain because it is not to you or from you. Leave me alone. Can’t I just walk a fucking street?

Or don’t leave me. Come to me. Come to me. Fill these spaces.
Maria: You know what I need? Just one thing. A single, polar, absolute. An axis. Just there to mark the centre. Everything will revolve around it, everything will emanate from it, and it will always be there, like the certain unchangeable meaning, the answer, that thing. I need that.

There has been too much chaos, too much, even now, so little of what I am or what the world is blurs and whizzes around me and I can’t hold onto it.

I dreamt once, maybe more than once, maybe I keep having this dream then forgetting it when I wake up because I cannot remember when I dreamt it, but I remember it vividly. In this dream I was in a pitch black place. Pitch black. Total darkness. But I was moving. Really fast. I think that dream lasted for like just a few seconds, but I remember it often. Pitch black, not even knowing whether I am falling or flying.

That’s what you were to me. You came in like this light. You were so sure of the things you said to me that I believed you. I believe them still. I believe them about me, and I believe them about you. You will be my pole star. you will be my anchor. You will be the light I fly up to, or fall down to. I will believe you.

From The Wreckage


African cities move so fast. But they would have to—to have all the shit of western urbanization with hardly enough money, with hardly enough space, in hardly enough time, it squeezes everything and makes it so tense. African cities are tense. People talk rapidly, eyes dart, fingers are nimble and agile and clay and cement piles upon ground casting shadows that slide from one side of a highway all the way to another in just one sudden rapid day. So fast, gone so soon, hardly enough to remember.

But nights are different. Nights are eternal. You can sit down and stare in silence at night. You can believe that night is the same way it has been under these hills for hundreds of years, wild, full, completely itself, giving a fuck about you.

You can sit in a small, cheap, bedsit, alone at midnight and fuck yourself up. No one would care about you.

So Duncan Mugalu, as midnight gathers, in turn, gathers his equipment before him. Continue reading



You can’t go home again. You never can. Because every day you are away, home moves further back from where you left it.

You can have your small cargo of Samsonite bags wound tight and tagged at Heathrow. You can watch them with an abrasive hint of suspicion as the broad-shouldered man in the uniform grabs first one, then another and then whisks them off into the secret airport cargo hold. You may not trust their secrets, but there is nothing you can do to stop the bags vanishing. You will turn the suspicion of your gaze to the woman at the ticket counter who shall parry it away expertly by smiling a very pretty smile, the kind of smile that makes you want to love aunts, and observing that you have very little luggage for a person with a British passport and a one-way ticket to Africa.


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This Christmas


What do you want for Christmas was being discussed at the back of the pickup. A hilux doluble cabin that had been specially customized for this journey. This was their feat of engineering: a set of old tyres had been placed on the pickup’s bed and a sofa had been placed on top of these. The tyres absorbed the shakes from the road. On the sofa two men sat, smug and proud of their ingenuity. They were not worried about rain on the journey because it never rained on Christmas. On the topic at hand, that is, what each would want for Christmas, the leaner one replied, “Maria.” He said it again after a pause.” I think I will get Maria back.”

“Why?” asked his paunchier friend in the attitude of one who did not believe a satisfactory ansnwer to the question was even possible. “Because she’s an idiot?”

“She will take me back because she is an idiot. But I want her back…I want her back, because, in spite of everything, she is better than this, this hole of wind, this what is left without her. Maybe I hate her, but maybe that is what love is. Someone you can’t live without because life without them is so much worse.”

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The Home Of My Rival


Does he have blood in him?” asked the first one.

“They all do,” said the second one. He did not wait for me to answer. He spoke for me.

“Then we shall bleed him,” said the first one. His face was made of a hard flesh that looked like wood. It was a face set in that shape. That mouth, that brow, those lines running down from temple to cheek, knowing none of the things that soften other men’s faces, that make other men’s skins ripple and shake. “Then we shall bleed him.”

After I gave them their money I returned to my home. I left them in that part of life where such dark things writhe and smoulder and I stood once again in light and saw colour. My television set was on and my family was watching it. The children were eating from plates on the carpet before them. They sat cross legged and their knees formed a triangle of space for the plates. They carried spoonfuls from the plates to their mouths without looking down. They watched only they screen. The perfection of television’s white men and women. They laughed in unison with the crackle and rush sound from the TV. They did not know what I had done.

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Blue Light


On Saturday night, when the rest of our clan leave their homes to hunt down the yellow and red lights of a young city on a weekend night, the four of us, Kaijenga, Awana, Rom and myself turned down another direction. Wa had said that he knew where we should find another light. A pale blue light. And we followed him. There are people like that: when you put people like us next to people like that, we slip from ranks adjacent to them into files behind them.  We spilled out of a taxi on the edge of the fine blacktop and let the van curve back towards the towers of the city, and we dove after him into the narrow, crooked, cracked mudroads into the slums. Ragged walls and rusty tin and rotting planks, deeper and deeper into the slums.

It was darker here at this hour than it would be uptown, and the flashes that were caught in the slimy puddles beneath our sneakers were fugitive; they darted away from our eyes as we approached. We padded through with our puffy sneakers firmer than the ground and Kai laughed. Tuli mu ghetto! he proclaimed.

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A Guy Gets A Call From His Best Friend’s Girlfriend. She Asks Him To Do Her A Favour


It was a weak morning, it was the reason I hate waking up before eight. The sun climbing with weary effort up the black hills of Mengo, nudging into a grey sky streaked with long, thin clouds. It made me think of lines of vomit in a puddle outside a bar after a storm. I hate waking up before eight. I don’t want to see this crap.

The Caldina hummed sedately, switching to a calm purr on corners as we rolled down empty roads into the curves and valleys of Nateete. We had given up on small talk, Desire and I. I had tried, but my early
morning sullenness was too heavy to lift off with just a couple of flippant remarks and that perkiness of hers that I had come to expect was completely absent.
There had been a trace of it when I arrived at The Agency (forgive me; I didn’t bother to get its name) hugging my shoulders and frowning.
The cab driver who brought me, totally insensitive to my irritable state, had turned on that station I hate, and I had been buffeted by Country music all the way from Nateete. She was already seated in the passenger seat of her car. She leaned
out and waved me over.

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