Square One

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Sometimes I would walk in after a long day in town. Scrambling for crumbs of the national cake with my fellow citizens. At times collecting some bits for myself, other times coming back empty handed.

Not all of the days in that hole were happy. But no matter who had screamed at me for messing up an order at work. Or who wrote me a bad cheque. Or whether the conductor was rude to me on the matatu ride home. I would feel a great burst of calm and peace drifting my way the moment I pushed open the door and slid out of my shoes. I would slip into my in-house sandals and loosen my belt. Throw my leather folder on the table and check the kitchen. I always knew there was no food there but would still look. You know, just in case…

I was twenty-three then. Starting out for myself. I was barely a man. Just a boy trying to carve out a name for himself.

 

I would fire up the music. Blues n RnB if I had had a rough day and just wanted to chill. A little bit of Christopher Martin whenever I had to go out again later. And Genge or Bongo when I wanted to kick back and relax because I had had an awesome day. Whenever I had had one of those awesome days I would walk in with chicken or beef or liver. Whenever I had had a bitchy day, I would have nothing but bread or eggs. But no matter how bad my day had been, the freedom I felt whenever I got into that hole, and settled into my couch, just made things right. Made me whole again. Gave me the strength to wake the following day and grind away some more. It was the bachelor pad that fine-tuned my edges. Made me appreciate the value of money. Taught me the joy of buying things for my own self. And enlightened me on the need to take care of my damn self above all else. Even on the worst of days, I would let loose and allow the music take me away. It was my true chill spot – for the bad days, and for the good days.

 

By God I loved that house.

It was the only space I could call mine. And I paid for it. With my own damn money. I have never been as proud of anything in my life as I was of that house. It was a small one bedroom unit that cost me way more than I wanted. It was in a safe neighborhood full of rich people. I had gotten it through the connection of my ex-girlfriend. It was in this estate where houses were surrounded by neatly painted perimeter walls and fewer shops than I would have preferred. Most of the houses were hosted in quiet courts with crisp cars driving in and out, and access control personnel (not watchmen!) greeting the drivers with divine courtesy. It was a nice feeling for me living there. Taking my weekend strolls through the well planned roads in the estate and meeting pretty and petite girls walking well-mannered dogs that understood English.

 

My house was in a less quiet corner of the estate that hosted a number of compounds with rental houses. It was in a nice compound with a gate (Not a gated community). The compound housed four units, and I was the only single person there. The rest were family households. Meaning I got quite the judgment whenever I came back with Miss M instead of Miss L or Miss R who had been there the previous week. Any such judgments were never verbalized however, because I made sure not to talk much to the neighbors past the niceties. My landlord was this animated guy with a voice that one of my lady friends used to find funny. She would laugh so hard whenever the landlord came by to pick a quarrel with one of the neighbors. Which happened every weekend – mostly after church on Sunday. It was as though he would go for a dose of the Holy Spirit then come and quarrel the devil out of that neighbor. I always tried to avoid quarrels with him. Well, I never gave him any reason to target me. Even when my rent was going to be late.

 

I learnt a lot of important lessons in that crib. I learnt the value of keeping my space clean. I learnt the value of patience – with life and with money. Though am still trying to master those lessons even as I write this piece. It’s also in that house, in that rich neighborhood, that I learnt the value of determination and dedication. I started out with nothing but a laptop and a suitcase of clothes. And gradually bought most of what I needed as time went by. I never quite got to make the house a home though because I could never get any lady to stay long enough. Largely because I was still an immature, impulsive and emotional child who could not contain his desires.

 

Living in that house taught me the benefit of honest negotiation – convincing the landlord to grant me a week’s extension on the rent deadline because I had a bad cheque from a client. That house also made me more responsible. Made me master the responsibility of settling my bills and planning my shopping to last me the entire month. Sometimes I was flat broke, but I always pulled through. Thanks to God. And to a few souls who would come through because they believed in me. One lady friend actually thought she would change me into a responsible man. Stood by me despite the numerous flings I had, the senseless drinking sprees, the miserable failures and the constant broken promises. She would later leave, bitter and disappointed, after a full year of little to no progress.

 

The house stayed with me, and offered me the space to host her replacement. And to hang up my boots after a long day – sometimes terrific, sometimes hell.

It was my very own square one.

My private corner.

My eternal chill spot.

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