Some people wake up and reach for The Holy Bible, you wake up and reach for your phone. Because that’s what you have always done. That’s what you know. Your phone is the umbilical cord that tethers you to the outer world, a world of curiosity and superficiality and mayhem for the most part.
You first check your Whatsapp messages. There is the usual prater in a few Whatsapp Groups that you silenced. There is a funeral contribution group. A relative died. They were bitten by a rattlesnake in the village. The rattlesnake also died after being bludgeoned. Two deaths, one from instant justice. Your aunt posted a prayer in the group at dawn; Psalm 51:10. “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me so that I can have a fresh start and a new hope within me.” A few souls who were awake at that time [4:06am] said Amen to that. There is another message from your uncle asking about the progress of the CV he sent for his daughter. You scroll through the chatter of your high school alumni; unfettered longing and a flagging nostalgia lives there, a testimony that we may change as people but we remain the same. We are all still in high school.
The group of entrepreneurs has 230 unread messages, which you ignore because you can’t stand the pseudo-intellectualism going on there; mostly smarty folk comparing their penis sizes. You pop your head in the Apartment Group you live in where Irate Mary sent a very angry message of a picture of a car with the caption, “Who the f**k parked in my parking? Can’t you read??????? MOVE YOUR CAR!” You count the question marks. Someone replied, “I understand the frustration here but could we all use respectful language while addressing each other?” Irate Mary replied to his message, “WE? Are you addressing ME? If you are addressing me then address me, don’t use WE!” Sadly, nothing happens again after that. The group falls silent, silenced by the wintry storm of Mary that occasionally blows through it. People fear her. You fear her. She lives above you, in apartment D9 with her dog that has the face of an accident. She drives – like everybody else these days – a silver Mazda CX5 and her parking is hallowed ground. During the security meetings held once a quarter in the gym she shows up with the dog on a leash and the dog stretches at her feet, nodding its head whenever she makes a point.
Your dad sent a meme to the family group. Your dad does nothing but send memes, which he pronounces the way it reads, meh-meh. It irritates your mom; these meh-mehs. She finds that act childish. And lazy.
Your pal, Jimmy sent you a nude…not of his but of an insanely voluptuous Latino girl. All Jimmy does is send you nudes. You never discourage it. Actually, you encourage it. You linger there for a little longer than you should before you check out Instagram stories. You look at shoes. You look at photos of happy people on holiday, in fancy restaurants, in fancy hotels, in snowy streets, people with perfect bodies and perfect smiles and perfect relationships and perfect happiness. You double-tap a picture of a guy who taught his cat how to nod to a Kanye West song. It has 133K Likes. Cats are the new sliced bread. You scroll through Twitter; politics, war, a reveal about mushrooms as a secret medicine pharmas don’t want you to know about, a tweet of someone asking if pornstars have children, someone tweeting, if you have my number, send me 31 bob. A carpenter posted a picture of a bookshelf but it looks like a coffin, asking for RTs, two white men fighting, men taunting each other about football, Piers Morgan making a ruckus.
You get out of bed and haul your suitcase out of the top shelf of the drawer and pack; jeans, tops, socks, underwear, tights, trainers, gym clothes, a hat, a vanity bag. As you pack you wonder if anyone ever saw the furniture Jesus made. You tell your spouse that you are off. [Yes, of course you showered]. Your children cling to your feet and cry, “Don’t go! Don’t go!” You shake them off like you would a bunch of ants on your pants and say, “oh don’t be so needy you manipulative punks! I have to live my life!” One starts crying. You slam the door in their face. Downstairs you take a deep breath and come back up and kiss the one who was crying on the cheeks tenderly, cup his small sweet face in your hands. “I love you honey bun, but I have to do this because I have always wanted to do this and you can’t be a little selfish manipulative prick about it. OK, baba?” They sniffle and nod. “I want you to be a good boy, OK?” His lower lip trembles. “And no smoking my cigarettes again, OK?” You leave the house like a bat from hell.
If you are unmarried you just leave the house without having to drag someone clinging on your leg across the floor.
You will either drive there in your personal car or you will get to a designated place— maybe ABC Place—where you will meet others. You hate others. You hate meeting new people because then you have to talk to them. You have to break the ice. You are socially awkward. Of course, you are. You prefer to stay in your corner and dream your dreams and think your thoughts. The whole ‘working the room’ isn’t for you. The whole socialising and smiling and telling new people, “Oh so what do you do?” Isn’t for you. You don’t care to know if someone has kids. Or if agribusiness is lucrative. You don’t want to wear a smile constantly. You love long bouts of silence between you and the next person. You are most comfortable in silence. You lean on it.
The email said there would be a van outside the supermarket. You grab a coffee-to-go at Java and drag your suitcase towards the van. A lady is smoking next to it. She’s dressed like a broke and disgraced Japanese countess. Her dreadlocks tied in a bunch over her head. She wears a hard look, a withering look, of someone who has been to jail twice. Possibly for assault. Or kidnapping. Perhaps even robbery with gross violence. Ironically, she has on very white sneakers. Maybe a mockery of the debauched life she once led. If you want to really set her off, step on her sneakers. That makes her lose her shit. Speaking of; the same mouth she pulls her cigarette with? It’s a potty mouth. She’s chatting with another lady, a friendlier-looking lady. They turn to look at you as you approach.
“Hey! I’m Ivory,” says the ex-convict in white sneakers then points with her cigarette. “And this is Boobs.”
“Boobs?” You chuckle uncomfortably.
“Well, it’s Joy, but guys just call me Boobs.” Boobs says. “Welcome to Campfire Storytellers. I’m the admin you have been talking to on email.”
“Ahh right..right.” You introduce yourself, then to Ivory. “And you are?”
“I’m the circus wrangler,” she blows away a stream of smoke.
The van has nine other people already waiting. It smells of jasmine, coconut oil and leather that’s been left in the sun too long. The energy in the van is the kind that arises when strangers suddenly find themselves in an enclosed space and pretend not to look too awkward. You smile and avoid eye contact as you make your way where you belong; at the back. You settle next to a guy wearing a mask. He’s speaking on the phone, his head turned away. “That’s the thing with pigs,” he says “you just have to be there, otherwise nothing will happen….yes, exactly…kwanza Muchiri tried it, boss, it just went tits up in a flash. Don’t play with pig farming….yeah, they are always eating….yeah, I know…”
Boobs and Ivory stand at the front. Boobs says, “Guys, we are going to depart now. Unfortunately, my job ends here. I will leave you in the able hands of Ivory who will be going down with you and will handle any arising issues for the next three days. Have a safe trip.” She holds her dress and steps out. The door shuts and the car inches into Waiyaki Way and leaves town.
You read a book. Or you stare out the window. The pig guy eventually finishes his phone call and introduces himself. He’s called Don or Ron. [All the same, really] You never catch anybody’s name the first time. You learn that he grew up on a farm in Meru. Parents were farmers. He runs a small restaurant out in Narok. “I’m passionate about pigs,” he says with a piggish grin. “And of course writing…that’s why I’m in this van.” At the Rift Valley Viewpoint someone asks if the van will stop for a second and Ivory turns in her seat and growls at him, “Oh, you forgot to wee-wee? What are you, 12?” The guy shrinks in his chair and looks outside. His lower lip trembles. The pig guy turns to look at you like, “Are we going for a campfire writing masterclass or are we going to the gulag?” Anyway, the van stops at the Viewpoint and the guy steps out to go take his pictures. Ivory stands outside with her back to the view and lights a cigarette.
An hour later, the car pulls into Enashipai Resort and Spa. The receptionist looks so much like your cousin Bella, you text her, “The receptionist here looks exactly like you! It’s creepy!” There is the choice of staying in the Fountain Executive Rooms or the Garden Executive Rooms or the Villa Executive rooms. All great rooms that have balconies either overlooking the chortling fountain or the garden. The landscaping at Enashipai is something out of a postcard, all the gardeners there will end up in heaven. Their work will erase all the sins of this earth. As a porter walks you to your room, you remember Biko writing about the Honeymoon suite and how he stayed there alone and how miserable he felt with its grand opulence.
You got the Garden Executive room. Of course, you walk outside and lean on the balcony and just admire the picturesque scenery. You can hear the foundation even though you can’t see it, so win;win for you. You unpack. You stare at your reflection in the bathroom mirror. You flop on the Kingsize bed, your feet on the ground, and wonder if you are happy. Sometimes you do that for no reason at all. You wonder if you are happy and you wonder if you are spending too much time processing happiness when you actually should pursue it. This feeling reminds you of the word you learnt in high school physics; Inertia. The property of matter by which it continues its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless that state is changed by any external force.
You wonder if dusting up this passion for writing is what you need. This creative writing class by Biko that you just signed up for is the external force that will alter the course of your life in a little way; this creative pursuit of writing. You change your top, wear a hat and carry your laptop to the class that the email said begins at 11am.
For the next two nights and three days you will be part of Bikozulu Creative Writing Masterclass dubbed [dramatically] the Campfire Creative Writing Masterclass. Yes, there will be a campfire going in the evening after a day of him yapping about the art of description and dialogue writing. Together with the chaps, you came within the van you will gather around a roaring fire under a long-limbed acacia tree and continue the discussion about life because writing feeds off life. It will be cold in Naivasha so you will have to carry something warm, maybe a hoodie. How cool would it be for all of us to sit around a fire, our hoodies on, like we are a part of a cult. You can even hum under your breath like Maasais do until you freak out other guests going to dinner. Until security comes and says, “Mr Biko, you have to stop this theatre of absurdity.”
Some classes will be held outdoors, under the grassy carpet of an acacia tree, especially in the afternoons when it’s a bit warm and the buffet has done a number on you and nobody cares anymore about the art of interviewing. You will get onto a boat and go across to the Crescent island with the giraffes and all; there you might have another class. Maybe to do an assignment.
It will be a very small class of only ten people. Small enough to be intimate but not big enough to be raucous. You like the idea of it being away in a place that calls itself a resort and actually is one. You would have left your woes back at home. There will be no distractions with family or your work life, no excuses for not having done your assignment because the baby was sick, your spouse was lost, the neighbours were fighting again, there was no power or the dog ate your homework. There are boat rides if you seek inspiration. You could lie under a tree, go for a swim, go for a bike ride or just go back to your room and lie down with a book. Oh, and there is a bar. Only we aren’t buying your booze. However, on the last evening, our other sponsor, EABL, will be on hand for a whisky experience with Singleton. A few bottles of Singleton will be cracked to close the session on the last day. This will probably happen by the campfire. Someone from EABL will come and host a session on whisky. There will be tasting where we will close our eyes and say pretentious things like, “I detect a hint of thyme…” It’s okay if you can taste guava. Who is to question your taste? You can light a cigar if you want. After, there is a club at the resort called The Wave nightclub, where if it’s not past your bedtime, you will retire for a jiggy. This will all happen between May 6-8.
At the end of the first night, after you have had a hot shower and settled in bed with a book, the sound of the fountain distinct and soothing, your phone will ping with a message. It will be your cousin Bella responding after ten years. “Oh my God, where are you? Take a picture of her!” You will roll your eyes and type, “It’s not a her, it’s a him.”Then you will put away your phone and go back to your book.
Reserve a slot in the creative writing masterclass HERE.