On Failure: Clifton Gachagua

I’d promised to write you a letter. After a while here I now know the chances of that happening are few. Every morning I wake up hopeful I will finally be able to write you, and I drink coffee, walk the streets on this side of the island, say hello to the cats (something you taught me), and come back and sit at the lobby and Dear T my way into hesitation, staccato, fear, the unknown, regret, shame, forgotten histories. At the end of it all I manage nothing more than one hundred words about coffee, this side of the island, the call to prayers, the smell of the lobby, like at night imagine it is a small hotel for cat jinns with very small bladders, or maybe the leaky faucets have found their ways into my dreams. I fear I’m afraid of coming to terms with some truths here, truths that have been apparent since we met but have nonetheless been readily suppressed. Should I be asking myself other questions, as has been the nature of this all, our entire time together, questions with no answers, that our bodies beget nothing but the sound of mourning and rain, that when we touch there’s not even the slightest hint of want, desire? Lost landscapes within the body––haggard and lush terrains––/North and South Poles suspended between pleasure and understanding. So not this. What is in a letter between two people who cannot agree on the limitations of love, the body, between people whose only ideas of being together are that they agree one ought to keep a garden, one ought to be kind to animals, that the oceans are rising, that pilipili ya mahindi choma is a genius invention but when used for those ukambani mangoes? So to make up for this letter I cannot write you I want to offer you something else. Compared to what you have offered me it seems very little. Hear me out. I want to offer you an erratic journal of my time in Zanzibar, whatever little I managed to write, also coincidentally written on the notebook you gave me because when I left Nairobi I had not packed a bag and couldn’t even find a pen; also we’d been drinking until very late that morning and I could not really manage to find paper in a house full of books. Please have these notes. In a way this journal serves another purpose: a few months ago, when we were still getting to know each other, you let me read a couple of your old journals (diaries?), where you lay yourself bare on the page (remember I was so shocked by this willingness to be so kind and open to a stranger, what I called an act of daring you shrugged off as commonplace)—now I offer mine. This is not compromise. I’m simply trying to offer you lands in my mind that have so far been so occupied by doubt and other maladies, that have been so removed from me that they remind me of their existence by interrupting my dreams so that instead of tropical fish what I’m left with is drowning in black water, falling off buildings. I’m reading Carl Phillips: restlessness sets risk into motion, and that the two are catalysts for imagination and, by extension, the making of art. What I want to believe is that our restlessness set into motion our love. Or that there was a conversation to be had there that we’ve never quite reached.  And if love isn’t/ eternal, what’s the point?

 

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