Reader, I’m leaving you — no, it’s not me; it’s you.
Once or maybe twice, you have come across me someplace, waiting in line for KFC or loitering in the airport. At the same time, someone else makes for a more “dynamic media economy,” which is a phrase looming large and heavy on the aspirational end of my CV. On these chance encounters, you have remarked upon my humour; how hilarious I can sometimes be. You have said, “Stop, please stop,” and despite your chortling, I’m not sure you’ve meant that as a compliment. Your flowers are nice and all, but they’re always a little late. I am losing my mind because you, my countryman, will not die for anything built from creative endeavour. You are unmoved by plays and so have watched in deafening silence as the Lusaka Playhouse disintegrates to what is utter ruin. You flood the cineplexes — pardon, I have always wanted to say ‘cineplex’ in a paid-for sentence — for Black Panthers and Iron Men but not for Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, or even Spike Lee. So, the cineplex doesn’t bother bringing us Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett or even Spike Lee.
Worst of all, dear reader, you will not die for books. (Well, maybe you’re the exception since you’re reading this now.) When I leave the shipment depot just as you enter it, and you do not place me because I move in such exquisite darkness, I am the one who bears aromatic hardbacks from New York. You only ever have shoe boxes from Adidas and Nike or hardware I didn’t know you could unclog strange things with. Will Adidas present to you ever the difference between aesthetic and ethical living? Has Nike ever compelled you to stop and wonder what it’s like to walk in another man’s Jordans, especially if that man happens to live in, oh, I don’t know, Bhutan? You will render me and the wider literary species extinct, reader, by accepting a society and a market bereft of culture, inquiry and adventure.
When I am not, ahem, overseas, checking on my, ahem, offshore affairs, I am populating the United States of Bedroom (USBDR, which is not a sex thing) with stuff I can’t even share with you. This is not a healthy way to live: in one-sided emotional relationships with sports franchises that raise my BP, and overrated but somehow bestselling authors who raise my BP, and literary agent women who I think lower my BP. But these are, actually, the things that ought to raise blood pressure — in line at KFC, when we’re waiting around for the movie theatre to let us in, or when we’re waiting for our steaks in the smoking lounge at Marlin. How else do you actually get started on contributing something cool to civilisation — like War & Peace, Do The Right Thing, or Xbox Game Pass? How will we know who we are as people, not patriots if we don’t summon the courage to go snorkelling down our souls?
If we were dating, dear reader, we would be like a married couple that never does anything and never goes anywhere. We would do brunch with boring friends more inclined to run through the play-by-play of Friday night (ugh!) than tackle those concerns you and I once agreed were most pressing: the melting of icebergs, the twinned ascent of socialism and fascism, and where to find exotic cheeses. You believe these things matter just enough to justify a colourful Instagram page and, with it, rather good taste in clothes, but not enough to wonder how they offer life any real meaning.
So I’m taking my peaches elsewhere. Somewhere the locals give many damns about particular scenes in particular movies or the first sentences in books by materialistic hipsters. Picture me riding, dear reader. Or better yet, picture me fleeing the scene just as Batman and the cops arrive, cackling as all my clown makeup fades in the moon-glow.
“Til we meet again … Bat-MAN!”
(Yes, reader, sigh; I know you’re not actually Batman …)
Chola C is fading; at www.thegrab.net