January didn’t creep in like a thief on a rainy night. It didn’t sneak in. It walked in through the open door left by 31 December. It carried with it its reputation that stinks of poverty and brokenness, a repute of a ruthless rebel leader who maims and slaughters his victims using such ferocious methods that the mere thought of it releases chills down veins.
It had earphones and was listening to the sound of fireworks, grinning. It slumped itself on the couch, picked the remote and pressed play.
That’s how 2018 began.
I know a first-month-of-the-year baby who loathes their birthday because as she put it, “No one cares that much about you in January.”
It wasn’t all dark.
People sent her birthday messages on social media. Of course I saw them. I saw them because Facebook is a nosy app. It pokes its nio nio into people’s lives and takes their business over the walls of other people. Many of them simply wrote “Happy Birthday” on her wall. Was that all their minds could conceive? I can’t believe they couldn’t write any other thoughtful wish for her.
My biggest issue was with those who sent “Hpy bd” as though a robber broke into their set of alphabets and stole all other vowels and consonants. How do you use such incomplete sentences to wish your friends well? Did January take your letters too?
Her boyfriend pulled a stunt of cowardice on her. At the turn of the year, he ghosted her, went quiet for days. First, she thought since he was returning from upcountry, he was settling back. He’s one of those guy’s whose home district is three hours from Kampala, not too far if you asked me.
She’d send him WhatsApp texts. His response would be one word. She’d write, “Hi babe, how are you?” He’d take 100 years to respond and if he did, he’d reply with a “Fine” or “OK” or “Good.” She wondered what this change was about. He became cold and distant. He stopped the morning text messages and goodnight calls. He removed the last seen and read receipts on his phone. He’d sometimes grey tick her and stay online, probably scrolling through other people’s statuses.
“The worst thing that happened,” she says, “is when I’d see him online on WhatsApp and he wouldn’t care to reply my texts.”
It broke her.
It felt as though someone drove a spear through her veins. It wrecked her spirit, beat her confidence and made her feel useless, uncared for. Here she was reaching out to someone she thought loved her and there he was, turning his ass to her, not giving two shits.
“That’s not how he was during the first four months of our relationship,” she says.
They met in August and started dating in September. It was wonderful times. Bliss. They went on dates. They made out. They’d have evening strolls on Saturdays. They’d spend time together.
“He was a fun guy to be around.”
She goes silent and tilts her head in a position of contemplation. I tell her everything will be fine. Her right eye twitches. No, I don’t think that was a wink at me.
It’s February now and he sent her a text over the weekend. He wants to meet-up.
She’s asked me what she should do. I don’t think I want to be part of this mix.
Anyway, as January flipped the channels from one day to the next, I took solace in books to keep me from thinking too much about my draining bank account. These are the books that kept me company during the long, hot, a few times rainy but mostly sunny dry month of January.
Dear Obajimi – Sharon Abimbola Shalu
Obajimi will wake up at 5:00am, his usual time of rising from bed. His faithful wife, Morenike, will make him breakfast and kiss him a good-day. He will head out to work but won’t return at the end of the day. His car will be found parked by a bridge. There will be no sign of him anywhere.
People will speculate. He probably jumped off the bridge. Why would he do that? No one will know. The police will start an investigation.
His wife will cry and start writing letters to him in the hope that he’s alive. Days will be longer and nights non-existent. She’ll even go to church to a pastor she never liked. She’ll write this in a letter too. Her husband’s family will blame her for making their son disappear. Maybe she sacrificed him, some will claim.
Then one Sunday afternoon, she’ll go to their favorite place and yeah, you guessed right. She’ll find him there, sitting with another woman, a woman who calls him by another name.
Morenike will return home enraged. She will write a final letter which she’ll sign off with, “Your Deeply Disappointed and Most Truly Betrayed Wife, Morenike.”
And in the sequel to the book, Dear Morenike, Obajimi will pen down his reply with a blow by blow detail on why he left and how she should’ve seen the signs written all over.
This one is for those who want to go back to the old times of letter writing.
What would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness – Stanley Bing
I found this one so brutal a book. It’s a book that says people who have gotten ahead in life have at a certain point been ruthless and cold and insensitive. They have been vile and made many decisions that have kicked others off the track. They have slit throats and drunk blood of their competitors for breakfast.
I disagreed with a number of the author’s thoughts. He defended being mean and bad with formidable reason. I read on.
Stanley’s voice is powerful. He goes all in. He blends humor and examples to explain his reasoning.
The book lets you know there will be inevitable ethical trade-offs. You’ll make some harsh decisions that’ll hurt people. He says you shouldn’t feel sorry for it at all.
And his ultimate question is, before you do anything, before you make a decision, what would Machiavelli do?
The answer? Whatever is necessary.
It isn’t my kind of book but I followed through.
Great Lives: A Century in Obituaries – The Times
If we played a guessing game, you’d probably not figure out whose obituary I read first. It wasn’t Nelson Mandela’s, although Tata Madiba was the face on the cover. It wasn’t Margaret Thatcher, lady Prime Minister who played her part in the politics of Britain.
Not Ernest Hemingway, a man whose prose I’ve tried to emulate to no success. Not Pablo Picasso either, considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century or Mother Teresa, the custodian of charity.
“Few men in the whole of history and none in the modern times have been the cause of human suffering on so large a scale as Hitler, who died in Berlin yesterday,” read the first sentence.
I read about his life and his rise to a position of power, how he started as a painter and shifted trajectory, joining the army and later becoming a dictator. I saw a correlation between the ruthlessness I’d read from What Would Machiavelli do? and how Hitler acted.
I had a glimpse of the lives of over 100 people who lived through the 19th, 20th, and some who made it to the 21st Century; politicians and artists, novelists, scientists, and athletes.
If you want to know something about people who had an influence, then Great Lives is for you.