Unless you have been slaving in a mine I suspect you already know how my day was yesterday. Still, I can’t resist rehashing a rich story, can I? It’s funny, there are people who went home yesterday at the end of the day, kicked off their shoes and flopped on the sofa saying, “Oh Lord, did I have the ass end of this day or what!”
Uhm, you didn’t.
So yesterday, for some ironic reason I wore happy socks; striped blue and grey, nothing too crazy. Nothing you see on The Trend. I went to the gym at 6.30am and joined the aerobics class. We were only two men. (How is this relevant? It’s not). My body wasn’t just right. I suffered through the class, breathing through my mouth the whole time. That should have been the first sign that saitan was onto me. But did Chocolate Man take heed? Naah. I went to Java after, bought take away: granola with strawberries, hot lemon and ginger and mocha for Jen, our lovely and efficient office accountant. On my way to the office I listened to this guy called Ferre Gola (I highly doubt you know him), humming under my breath to a song I just discovered called “Andy Mputa.” My next life I might come back as a bleached out Congolese migrant who plays drums.
When I got to the office I was suddenly so lethargic and listless that I couldn’t bring myself to open a Word document. I chatted with Fred a bit while I chowed. I made calls standing at the balcony. I had a meeting with Alex from Moran Capital in the boardroom, went back to my desk, put on my headphones (to avoid Fred) and watched #MeanTweets by Obama on YouTube. (Another sign!). My body felt tired and worn and I wanted nothing but to curl under a duvet and suck my thumb to sleep. I edited the infamous post that was about to blow my day to Mogadishu, Whatsapped it to my social media guy, Fred (the world is full of Freds) and instructed him to upload it in an hour. (I used a smiley at the end of the message so that I don’t look bossy and insufferable).
Then I sat there and read Esquire magazine online. You know, killing time.
The post went up. There was calm. You know that deceptive calm before a storm? Ja! I started feeling kind of chilly so I went downstairs to the car to fetch my jacket but realised I had left the keys on my desk so I opted instead to sit and bask in the sun, my forehead absorbing copious amount of sunlight. All this while, unbeknownst to me, saitan had started a fire on Facebook and it had started burning and making its way towards where I was perched innocently in the sun like a tropical lizard, completely oblivious of the shit-storm coming my way.
And now it makes sense, why our mothers always told us to start our day with a prayer, because sometimes the devil comes in the form of a swarm of birds. Angry birds. Angry Larry birds.
Then I got a call from, Dan, the chap who sells the blog. He said, “Boss, have you been on Facebook?”
I said, “No, why?”
“It’s going nuts”, he said. I thought, nuts is a good because I assumed it’s good nuts. Kumbe, it was bad nuts. Rotten nuts. Shit nuts.
I went on Facebook and there was a gentleman throwing stuff around, kicking doors, screaming, popping a vein. Melee. He was livid about the story I had just put up. My page was slowly coming to a boil. A heated debate was afoot with some saying it was a storm in a teacup while others said it was unethical and wrong and irresponsible.
I didn’t think it would go gaga because I’m the great grandson of a staunch SDA “founder” in my village, surely the good Lord must always be in my corner, right? So I got off social media, stretched my legs before me, leaned my head on the wall closed my eyes and felt the sun curl in my nose like a smoker’s trick.
Meanwhile Lucifer is throwing more wood in the fire, stoking it. The fire is getting bigger and angrier and suddenly I start getting all manner of phone calls from people. One said, “Biko, what have you done to your usual lynch squad of Twitter?” and I’m like Why? And he says, “They are saying you are a condoning rape.” And I’m like, “Excuse me, what!?”
Then the bottom fell.
Here are two truisms. One: a day doesn’t have 24-hours. Two: you can never predict how your day will go. You make plans in your little planner, you write To-Do notes on your phone, you pack your lunch and a fruit and you plan to go out and seize the day but you never know how fast your day can quickly turn on its head. You have absolutely no control of anything actually. Mine went apeshit from 0 to about 200, 000 in a blink. I leave my desk for a minute to go bask in the sun and when I go back, the devil is seated at my desk with that devilish grin. Gotcha!
So first, they called me shit. They didn’t say I’m the shit, they said I’m shit. Someone called me a penguin which I suppose is more of an insult to penguins than me. Then the lynching commenced in earnest and it happened so fast I had no time to comprehend where the bleeding was happening to plug it. When they lynch you on Twitter, they tie you to a tree with your hands on your back. Then they whip you and spit on you and they shout in your face and they call these dreadful names. And it stings. Let no one tell you that they have thick skin, let nobody lie to you that if you are in the eye of the storm and a whole legion of people are lashing at you that it’s water off a duck’s back. It isn’t. It stings. It stings when you “know” some of those people in the lynch squad spewing vitriol and hate.
Even even before things went tits up, Wallace Kantai (bless you) was the first person to flag it for me immediately, imploring me to make a decision about it and make it fast because it was about to go south quickly. I consulted more people who are wiser and smarter than me and had some conversations with some other people and I had Fred pull it down. Then I spread butter on my humble pie and wrote an apology.
But twitter was already inconsolably furious, a furious ball of fire rolling down the hill. It spat anger and vile. How about that for happy socks, Chocolate Man?!
Someone Tweeted, “Going by his bio, Biko must have been thinking with his fingers.” (Good one). There weren’t a shortage of people who defended me. When someone called @Missgachie said, “He has apologised already, can we move on?”, a scruffy-looking man with an old coat that smelled of garlic roughly pushed through the crowd, knocked her down and stepped on her neck. There was this one guy, I will not forget him, @MusyokaLuis who kept defending me and they kept trying to put a pot over his head to gag him and he kept shouting, “What has he done! What has he done to make you spit on him!”
Oh, do you still think you had a bad day yesterday?
In case you are wondering what I did. I made some foolish decisions, put up a sensitive interview I had done, one that I didn’t have to run. My heart was in a good place, though.
It wasn’t all gloom, though.There were moments of hilarity. There was a chap @neuro_words who tweeted, “Biko ni ule boy anakaa Blueband na hucheza rugby.” (Mimi sio boy, Mimi ni baba ya watu) Or someone who said, Biko deleted the post and @THEOgada tweeted in reply, “I hope that Biko extinguished that weed he was smoking while at it.” (Booo! Party pooper!) Do you know the most profound tweet that I saw yesterday during this furor? It’s by some chap who tweeted, “Steve Biko once said, “Black Man, you are on your own.” How true. Because essentially we are all on our own.
I wasn’t surprised when I started trending at number one on Twitter. I have never trended at number one on Twitter. It was new to me, like a new house. I didn’t know where to place my gratitude. You don’t know how it feels like to trend at number one on Twitter. It’s like being on plane at 12,000 ft. just before you are pushed off without a parachute.
They say that when you are driving on a slippery muddy path and the car starts sliding, you should turn the wheel into the skid, never away from it. So I didn’t stick my head in the sand, I didn’t lock myself away from the fire, I went to Twitter and Facebook and read all those insult and took it in all in. At some point I had taken so much beating that there was possibly nothing anyone was going to say that was going to shock me. I wasn’t going to bleed anymore. I was leaning into the skid. And it stung like a bitch. You know what really surprised me the most; that amidst the insults nobody even mentioned nasty things about my forehead, a testimony that amidst man’s great vengeance sometimes lie a grain of leniency.
By lunch hour I could barely breath, my mouth was dry and my nose bled and my ribs hurt and they jeered at me tied there to a tree. I had a lunch meet up with a friend I had forgotten about and quite frankly wasn’t going to honour. She called asking, “Biko are we still doing lunch” and I said ( sulkily), “I’m not hungry”. She said, “Nonsense,” so she brought lunch and I wore my dark shades, a hat and long overcoat and I furtively came out of the office and ate the meal in her car.
Majani of Ghafla Whatsapped me and wrote, “Leo ni siku yako [smiley face]” and I wrote back, “Majani are you going to have your people write: You won’t believe the evil that lives in Bikozulu. Click here for more gory details!” And he sent a smiley and wrote, “Gicheru [Techweez] beat me to it.” I wrote back, “Oooh poor Majani.” I remember putting on my headphones and listening to “Still D.R.E” by Dr Dre at such loud decibels I’m surprised I can still hear shit.
A few gracious people called to say, chin up. Mutoko, who must know how it feels like to be tied to the big twitter tree called and said, “Keep it together, stay upright. It shall pass.” Mark Kaigwa sent me a powerful email on the art of apology which I can share with all husbands if you guys are interested. Scores of acquaintances Whatsapped to check if I was still standing and I’m sure when they saw blue ticks they were surprised I was still alive. None of my siblings checked up on me which is cool because when I win a Pulitzer I will say I was the only child during my acceptance speech. I will disown each one of those traitors. You wait.
Twitter is a cesspool of anger, brimstone, wrath, unforgiveness and bile, vendetta, vengeance and naked rage. Twitter bites chunks of your flesh and spits it in the furious fire. Then it bites again. And it’s unforgiving, sweeping hastily causing you as much damage as it can inflict even when you are on your knees. No rules apply, no mercy allows. Twitter is inhabited by puritans, people who never make mistakes, who walk in a path paved with good decisions and stones made from piousness. The verdict on Twitter is swift and its uncontested. And twitter keeps pounding you on the head savagely with its bare fist and by 3pm they had beaten me into a bloody pulp and I was curled in a corner in fetal position, bleeding from any hole made by God and some made by man. I remember telling Fred my partner (who by the way just sat there drinking juice while I was being lynched nkt) that this was like drowning, the more you fight the worse it gets, so you let go, you take it and you sink down, down, down, until you hit the very bottom then you wait to rise again. Because you have to. I told him that I knew one day I would be crucified; the question wasn’t even if, it was when. The good comes with the bad. I wasn’t sure in what form it would come, but it was coming. I felt it under my feet, a little tremor from afar. I just didn’t think it would come on the day I was wearing my happy socks.
But you can’t feel sorry for yourself for too long, so you have to learn quickly and move quickly. You learn, first, that twitter is nobody’s mother as our politicians would profess. That it has no loyalties or allegiances. That it’s like a petulant teenager with its swinging moods and outbursts and you never can quite read it adequately. You also learn that you can take in so much. Much more than you imagined. That you can bend and bend and just when you are thinking you can’t possibly bend anymore, you bend again. You learn about the ugliness of jealousy and spite and how shockingly ghastly they are when you see them in the words of someone you thought was in your corner.
You also learn that there are very gracious and kind people out there, strangers who reach out in inboxes and say, chin up, this is not even about you, we know you meant well. And words from complete strangers somehow mean a whole lot more.
Last night as I showered blood flowed to my feet as i scrubbed the dried blood off my scalp, then I went to bed, I checked twitter one last time and I wasn’t Trending anymore which was both sad and relieving. (Villainy is addictive). I thought I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a start and find lots and lots of birds in my room. Birds on my bedside table. Birds on my lampshade. Birds in my wardrobe. Birds on my shoes and on my curtain box. Birds on the floor. I thought I’d find so many birds in my room because I thought that’s what you dream of when you have been lynched on Twitter, you dream of those twitter birds. Instead I slept like a baby.
At around 2pm yesterday when Twitter was incinerating me and Fred was watching me closely, because, I don’t know, maybe he thought I’d jump of the balcony (first floor, really!) He kept asking me if I was really fine and I remember telling him, “Everybody has a tough day in the office, today is mine. I made a mistake, a wrong judgement call which I fixed and I’m sorry about it. I’m not a bad person. That won’t change if I trended on Twitter for two weeks.”
And – with a bloodied nose – I hang onto that little shred of dignity throughout the day. It’s the one thing nobody can take away from me, least of all a blue Larry bird.
Do you know the most amazing thing? That if God allows, the sun always rises the next day, always! And regardless how your day ended the previous day, you have to rise with it and do better and be better. You chin up and you keep walking. You always keep walking.