Church Pews

“When was the last time you went home?” Ms. Organ Stealer asked as we settled into the coaster seats.

I thought she would for sure go for the window seat, but to my surprise, stood aside to let me pass. I smiled at the question. I hadn’t thought of Jinja as home in a while. Every time I promised to text someone the moment I got home, I was thinking about Luzira, not Jinja. Not Bukaya, squared neatly away in Njeru. But she was right. Jinja was home.

“Not in a bit,” I said and then thought to myself, “I’m as much of a tourist as you are.”

She hadn’t done much traveling. Well neither had I but at least I could tell Yusuf Lule from Jinja Road. She had been as far as Mbale for a friend’s graduation so that was something even though she had spent most of the journey sleeping. What had spurred this weekend trip to Jinja? A question. “Where do you come from?”

Rather than tell her, I had decided to show her. I trusted that like its name, Jinja’s story was written in stone. Unchanging. I would be able to walk down the street I grew up on and show her Victoria Nile P/S where my Mum would drop me off every morning. Where I would later make some life-long friends and some passing acquaintances. Where I had had my first crush on Miriam Ssemakade. Where that first crush had been quickly extinguished by her indifference. Oh to be young.

I planned to walk her to where the best video store had stood on Main Street. Where my sisters and I weren’t fined for forgetting to rewind the video tapes because the proprietor was a friend to our mother. It was now replaced by an Indian supermarket. Not a supermarket selling indian things, but a supermarket run by Indians. All supermarkets in Jinja were probably run by Indians.

I wanted to show her Our Lady of Fatuma where we had prayed every Sunday. Almost every Sunday and hardly any Christmas because Christmas was when the rest of the world remembered to pray and the announcements were twice as long. She wouldn’t be able to listen to Fr. Picavet preach, he was long out of the game, but she could still sit in those same pews that I did as a child. We would think back on the things we prayed for then.

The sermon was about being moved to act and not letting things continue as they are simply because they have always been. I couldn’t help but think to myself, What an un-catholic thing! Like Jinja, Catholicism is deeply set in its ways. Unchanging. Or had been for the last 2000 years or so.

The priest drew from his visit to “Europe” where parishioners had fled the church because of the abuse scandals that had been awash in all the major media. I was pleasantly surprised that instead of sweeping the scandal under the rug, the priest had chosen to address it, head on. I was proud to turn to her and say, “This is where I come from.”

Being constant can be good, but we know the only thing that is constant is change. Let us all dare to unlearn those toxic traits that hold us back from being all we can ever be. We can only do that by submitting that maybe not everything we took to be gospel truth is that. Maybe not all things have to be set in stone.

 

 

 

 

 

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Quit

I met Jackson (not real names) about four years ago in a bank waiting area. We were both interviewing for the same entry position in that bank and had decided to share notes on the best way to ace the interview. To beat the competition which so happened to be each other. On paper he was the better candidate. He had worked with a bank before, while I had spent the last nine months slaving away for a company that had only managed to pay me my first month’s salary. Off paper, he was even a better human being. Smart. Polished. Ready. It didn’t hurt that he was also a genuinely nice human being.

You know how at interviews the competing candidates say to each other, “All the best” or “May the best man win”? This was the first time anyone had said it and I believed it. We both got the job. Turns out the bank had three vacancies they were looking to fill. Honestly, if I had found out that he had beaten me to that job, I wouldn’t have gone on a consolation pity party playing my best hits of “He probably knows someone in Management” and “Nothing in Uganda comes for free” I would have taken it in stride.

A friendly waitress brought me out of my nostalgic walk down memory lane. She wanted to know if I needed another Cappuccino or anything at all. Anything at all. The way she said it and that smile. If I were a weaker man.

I was meeting Jackson for coffee. This was the year I decided to be intentional about my friends. Seeing them more often was one way to accomplish that. I hadn’t yet worked my way up to attending wedding meetings and the Sunday football league but hey, we crawl before we walk. Jackson was late. Which was unlike him. You were always certain to find his white Toyota Raum in the company parking. Usually with him sleeping in it. He’d rather sleep in the parking lot than risk being late due to the morning traffic jam! A man like that isn’t late to anything.

But people change. Or more accurately, things happen to people to make them change.

Twenty minutes. Thirty. Thirty-five.

Dora, the friendly waitress, came by again to see if I still wouldn’t get that refill. A slice of cake perhaps? I chaired a silent mental debate on whether to tell her about my resolve not to eat any processed sugar. Then decided against it. I couldn’t help but think how she ticks off every box on Jackson’s list and smiled at the thought.

He walked in just in time to stop her from reading too much into my smile. He apologized for being late. Something about a last minute assignment from his hell-sent supervisor. I knew too well just what that supervisor was capable of. After two years at Bank A, I had decided that I had over stayed my welcome. The universe/God/fate had brought forth an opportunity with Bank B that promised better money and career positioning. So I had jumped on that.

A year in and Jackson too decided that he had had it with Bank A. So when the opportunity came round again, I mentioned that he should apply. I have regretted it ever since. Jobs are like relationships. Marriages if you would. Choosing a right partner could be the difference between heaven and hell. That choice is made even harder because of aesthetics. Not all that glitters is gold. We had been drawn to this new employer offering a six figure salary in a country with an insatiable unemployment rate. Just like that catch that ticks off all the boxes, but you later find out squeezes the toothpaste from the middle and not the bottom. Or leaves their socks littered in the living room. Our supervisor had gone from pet peeve to depression trigger. To dreading waking up in the morning because it meant having to face him again for another 8 hours or however long he felt was necessary.

Just like that spouse that suddenly decides she doesn’t like the shape of your ears, he had started finding faults with everything we did. He was always in a somber mood that spread to the rest of the office like a wilt or a dark cloud. When he graduated from picking on grammatical errors to issuing disciplinary cautions, that was my cue to find another employer. Luckily, the universe had done what it is that it does. Jackson hadn’t been so lucky.

Sitting before me, with Dora hovering as she waited to take his order, he looked dejected. Like if he received news that his beloved Raum had been stolen his only response would have been “Okay”

He was still in the same place that I had been not too long ago and it was my fault. I had helped him up onto this leaky boat. He was still there because throughout our childhood we were taught to believe that perseverance was something admirable. Winners never quit and quitters never win. But how bad does it have to get for someone to say enough?

I had a new gospel for him that day. The gospel to quit. As naïve as it seemed, it was probably the best thing for him at that point. Maybe it was finally time to work on that consultancy we always talked about. Something. Anything other than this.

He tapped me on the hand and gestured in Dora’s direction.

“You don’t change,” I said and prayed that maybe not everything about him was written in stone.

He laughed at my insinuation.

“Jackson, we need to talk,” I gathered up the courage to say.

 

 

 

 

Fix the damn switch!

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the kitchen. I remember marveling at how easy those TV chefs made it look and tried replicating their recipes in my own kitchen with usually disastrous effects. Over the years, I picked up a recipe or two that I could muster without burning down the house. Meat and pasta mostly, but that was a source of pride for me. Lately though, my obsession (if we can call it that) with the kitchen took a different path from trying to emulate the 5 star recipes plastered all over the Food Channel to a more holistic perspective: Healthy eating.

2018 was the year I was made aware of my unhealthy feeding habits. Junk, junk and more junk. That coupled with a regimen of no exercise at all meant that I had added a few more inches to all the wrong places. Who knew more inches could be a bad thing? I tackled my problem from the exercise angle by opting to walk more and use bodas less. That and the home work outs allowed me to shed some of the fat. Hiking took care of the rest.

But, as all humans are wont to do, I fell back into my comfort zone. My excuses were that I had started a new job which meant a different route to work that I hadn’t yet scouted out blah blah blah. The inches weren’t buying my story and so true to their nature, they made their way back. I would also have eaten healthier if KFC didn’t have that Streetwise which they promised they could get to me in under 40 minutes.

My wake-up call came one morning when I tried to climb the 4 flights of stairs at the new workplace. I was short of breath by the time I got to my desk. That couldn’t be right. I used to climb 6 flights of stairs without breaking a sweat. Something needed to give. I had to break up with Streetwise. I had to give up the convenience of take out. I had to cook healthier meals for myself. I didn’t want to be that guy that needs to hold the sides of the taxi door to hoist himself in because he can’t handle his own weight.

The catch with cooking home meals is finding the time to do so. I’m at work during lunch which only leaves supper. My accomodador (thanks Paulo Coehlo) is that I haven’t got round to fixing the kitchen light switch that’s been broken for almost 3 years now. Once that’s fixed, it will be 5 star healthy home cooked meals to go around. I took a step back and looked at my situation as an “innocent bystander” I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people are dealing with a “light switch” situation in their lives? That certification that they swear if they had would guarantee them a promotion at work. If they saved enough, they’d be able to afford that car. If they told someone how they really felt, they could resolve a long running family feud.

Let 2019 be the year you fix the damn switch people.

What “light switch” situation are you dealing with right now? Let me know in the comments section.

Photo by Clever Sparkle on Unsplash

 

 

 

Ponzi

He was on time. I had spoken to him earlier on the phone and he had sounded groggy. So I was surprised when he called me back ten minutes later to say he was at my gate. Meddie, my boda guy.

He was usually silent at the start. Apart from the exchange of pleasantries, we usually rode in silence till we came across a trigger. Anything that would get him to share his life stories and conspiracy theories. Boy did he have a few.

This morning however, we rode past Itiri House in Luzira. Or was it Kitintale? It was always hard to tell where one village stoped and the other started.

“How do you know you’re now in Luzira?” I once asked.

“When you see the prisoners, then you’re in Luzira,” he joked.

It was almost like The New Vision had circulated a memo on what jokes to crack about Luzira. I imagined such a communication would have had to be vetted by a well-compensated committee. The Minister for Ethics and Integrity would sit on such a committee. Ready to pounce on any jokes that threatened National Integrity.

No jokes with profanity would pass. None with blasphemy either. The Minister was a priest after all. Ex-communicated, but a priest none the less. So the Nation would have to contend with jokes that had lost the award for humor to drying paint.

Jokes about Luzira and its prisoners.

“Aba na Uganda tebali serious,” he started, true to form.

The discussion was about Development Channel, the latest Ponzi scheme that had been housed at Itiri house. The gist of the scheme was that you bought a learning tablet dubbed the “No Drop Out” tablet and would receive a share certificate that guaranteed you $100 every month for life. A scam obviously.  “For life”. That would’ve been my first red flag. The only people that should promise you anything “for life” should be potential spouses at an altar before God and even then, we know how that goes sometimes.

He went on to explain that this was all because everyone these days wanted a shortcut to the good life.

“D9, One Coin, Alliance,” he mentioned, “They all get people because people want free things”

I had lost money to D9 but I wasn’t about to admit it to him. It hadn’t felt very free on my wallet. I also knew people that were still servicing loans to the banks as a result.

“It’s also because we have weak leaders,” he offered, “Why do all these thieves only come to Uganda”

I chewed on this for a bit. In a way he was right. Countries out there had stringent investment laws aimed at protecting their populace from these kinds of things. Laws on due diligence and consumer protection.

“Maybe it’s because they have something to gain by letting in these people,” he said.

We were dangerously close to the conspiracy segment of our conversation.

“That man was being escorted by the presidential guard,” he concluded, “His arrest is just a show put on for the muntu wa wansi

The newspapers had been awash with the arrest of the Development Channel’s director as he tried to flee the country. My man wasn’t convinced. We had, at this point, passed the red Airtel sign post welcoming us to Conspiracy town.

He explained it as thus: One had to be either incredibly negligent or complicit to let things run the way they were running. From here on, I merely mumbled my agreement owing to another conspiracy I’d heard. All boda riders were spies in the employ of the government. I chose to err on the side of caution.

“Did you lose money with Development Channel?” I asked.

“No, but I have a cousin that bought four tablets,” he explained, “He had to sell them for two hundred thousand shillings”

My mind wandered to people charged with recruitment. Did they still greet their neighbors after the banks had foreclosed on their houses? Maybe not, considering they wouldn’t be neighbors anymore.

How about the people they churched with? Ponzi scheme recruiters are known to be  relentless. Even more relentless than Jehovah’s Witnesses. The good minister wouldn’t let that joke pass. Or maybe he would, being catholic and all. The committee would have to convene.

“So how do you know where to invest?” I asked, “How do you know where to put your money?”

“First of all, Ugandans have a lot of money,” he pointed out, “You can’t wake up and leave your hard earned money with a company that hasn’t been around for even 2 years.”

He had a point. Longevity was important. So were start-ups a no go? I had read somewhere that most businesses do not make it past their 6 month birthday. Meddie was clearly seated on a wealth of knowledge.

“You haven’t answered my question,” I probed.

At this point I was genuinely curious about what investment opportunities were out there for people that wanted to invest safely.

“Secondly, I can’t give money to people I don’t know,” he added, “Mpulira nti the Director was a Nigerian.”

Referrals. Got it. Also, avoid high risk profiles like Nigerians and Bulgarians. Generally, people you don’t know. What happens if it’s family that gets you involved? What would have happened if his cousin had recruited him?

“There must be something I’m doing. No one is going to give you money for doing nothing. It must be a business that uses me. Hard work”

He was alluding to exchange of value. Consideration, I think the lawyers call it. Most Ponzi schemes didn’t have an actual line of business they were involved with and focused mostly on recruitment of new investors. If the business model isn’t clear to you, stay away from it.

The return on investment was also suspect. In other words, if something seemed too good to be true, it probably wasn’t.

Meddie was onto something with his cardinal rules of investment. At times we’re too eager to strike the iron while it’s hot and throw all caution to the wind. Any legitimate business investment ought to be taken based on an informed decision.

Business class had to be cut short because we had arrived at my destination, but perhaps we can pick a leaf (or the whole branch) from Meddie. Conspiracies aside, whom are we surrendering our money to?

Thoughts?

 

Kalagala

Children are not to be counted. It’s bad luck. There are two ways to surmise that someone will make a bad visitor. One is if they show up right before a meal is served. The other is if they count the children in the homestead.

It’s probably why when I asked, he simply proceeded to name them and what they did with their lives. He didn’t tell me how many he had, but I counted. In all, he had 8 children.

“Nga bangi,” I had exclaimed.

They weren’t many, he had explained. It was the norm of his time. Things had changed, he offered.

“You people now have AIDS,” he said, “You can’t afford to go around sowing seeds anyhow.” He chuckled with nostalgia.

He spoke of simpler times. Wilder times. Times on the road. Times in Rakai.

“I was there when this disease had just come,” he informed me.

“How did you survive it?”

“A Somali man warned me. He told me that if I behaved like all the other young men in Rakai, I’d leave the same way they were leaving. In boxes,” he said as he chuckled at his own morbid humor.

“It wasn’t easy. Rakai was a well of women. Women of every shape, size and color. And they all wanted me,”

He goes on to narrate how they would ask him to have a drink and profess their love for him saying, “This man is fresh.” As he said this, he grabbed my thigh to demonstrate. It felt dirty. Like I was in that bar in Rakai, being propositioned.

“They wanted me to add together with them,” he continued, as if it wasn’t clear before. He had held out for 3 years in Gomorrah. All the time remembering the Somali man’s warning. All the time seeing the people leaving in boxes. Then Alice had happened.

They had started out as friends. Colleagues was a more accurate description. He was the Chief Administrative Officer’s driver. She needed to get to a meeting to do his bidding. Demand had met Supply.

Her first impression of him had been that he was a different kind of man. A settling kind of man.

“Were you?” I asked.

“I was,” he said, “I had a family back in Kampala” He chuckled some more. The old devil.

But she had listened to the words he had spoken and they were not words spoken by the other young men of Rakai. The young men who simply wanted to add together with her. He had also looked upon her. He had liked what he saw and the words she had spoken. That was how she won him.

3 years down the road, they had had a son. They had been happy. He had managed to provide for both families: back in Kampala and in Rakai while at the same time keeping the truth of his double life hidden. Then the winds of retrenchment had blown by the way of Rakai.

He didn’t have the requisite papers and so he was let go. Alice had proposed that they pool resources and buy a boda boda which he could supervise to earn an income. That wasn’t a life he could buy into. He was a man for the road. Late stops in highway towns. He wasn’t ready to be domesticated.

“Besides, what will the children in Kampala say?” he had asked her, “They know there isn’t a job anymore so why doesn’t their father come home to dig?”

I felt sad at his dilemma. At how little his  resolve to fight for Alice had been. At how easily he had given up. For the first time, I felt that maybe I shouldn’t have been privy to his story. His choices.

“So you went back to Kampala?”

“So I went back to Kampala,” he confirms, “So I went back to my family”

A part of me wanted to remind him that they were his family too. Alice and the boy. I realized that it wasn’t my place.

“Did you see her again?”

“Let me tell you,” he says.

So he does.

He tells me about how tough things were back in Kampala. About how much weight he lost. How his oldest son had lost his way and had been married by a woman twice his age.

“How will he control his house then?” he asked. I mumbled something about the change in times. How age shouldn’t matter if they cared enough about each other. If they respected each other.

“It isn’t right,” he maintained.

He goes on about his daughter and how she had dropped out of university due to a pregnancy with a no good boy. I listened, but all the while only interested in one story line. What had happened to Alice and her boy? He caught on.

“You want to know about Alice,” he said more than he asked.

“Yes,” I confessed.

“I was given another opportunity to drive,” he said, “Driving cars from the border and delivering them to their owners here”

Fate had seen him go by the way of Rakai once more. He had driven to the house he had built with her when they still shared dreams of a life together. In its place was a palace fit for a king. Or queen as it were. Surely, this couldn’t be the right place?

He had asked after Alice and the neighbors had confirmed that he was at the right address. Mustering every ounce of courage in him, he hooted at the gate.

“The car I was delivering gave me the courage,” he explained.

“The car that wasn’t yours?”

“She didn’t know that,” he said amidst awkward chuckling.

Alice had been cautiously happy to see him. Scared that he might be a dream or an illusion and that she had finally lost her mind. It wouldn’t have come as a shock to her. She had invited him in and offered him a seat.

“How do you even start a conversation like that?” I asked then realized that I had said that out loud.

“Words had always been easy between us,” he explained.

Alice had re-married. She hadn’t had to tell him that. Her new beau had come down the stairs to the sound of visitors in the house. She had introduced him as the Kalagala she always talked about. Junior’s father.

“And where was Junior?” I impatiently asked.

“She called him to the sitting room. He was a lot bigger then. 7 years is a long time”

She had pointed to the pictures on the wall, but Junior knew another man as his father.

“I was happy that they kept the pictures. That they didn’t throw them away. He’s a good man. He won me”

I couldn’t help but wonder if someday, he would tell him stories of Rakai. Of young men arriving with their unquenchable thirsts and leaving in boxes.

Then I thought, perhaps it was best to leave it at that.

Off the Grid.

The older I get, the more I understand people that walk away from it all. Love, work, religion, all of it. They just wake up one morning and their tea doesn’t taste the same anymore. It hasn’t for a while yet they remember a time when they were passionate about that first cup of tea in the morning. That cup that meant they could persevere, at least till midday, have lunch, then count down the grinding hours till 5:00pm so they could rush out into the evening traffic and just sit in that taxi that isn’t going anywhere fast. Get home. Eat. Shower. Set their alarm for 6:00 am. Sleep. Repeat steps 1 through 5.

Except the tea company, in trying to keep up with the competition from all the new brands from Kenya, decided that they could still rope in a handsome profit without curing the leaves (or whatever process they use to give it that flavor). Our ardent tea drinker presumes the change in taste to be something much more. A message from the universe perhaps. Something epiphany-worthy and so decides that this life isn’t for them anymore. They pack a bag. Try to explain their decision to loved ones and friends, most of whom don’t get it. This is just a phase. It will pass. How can you be so irresponsible? Grow up Kenneth! (Kenneth sounds like an ardent tea drinker) They don’t bother to pen a resignation letter because their supervisor hadn’t even learned their name yet. Even after 2 years in the same role, she still called him Amos, a far cry from Kenneth.

So, with their bag in hand and the last of savings which don’t amount to much, they set off for a distant place where nobody knows them and they know nobody. Rid of social obligations, routine, deadlines. Free.

How did your tea taste this morning?

Writer’s Block.

It was a lot harder hearing your call this time. Hearing your voice. I think I was too distracted by the loneliness of this place. By the sheer desolation of it all. The dry sand and the cactus and and the unrelenting desert storms..Oh, there I go again.

But there is no drowning out your call. Not entirely anyway. A little bit always manages to seep through. That little bit is always enough to make me turn around and walk back. Enough to make me realise what was missing and at the same time, make me forget why I wandered in the first place.

I’m afraid it’s going to be a little harder this time. Getting back in your good graces, but like you always say, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. You say all I have to do is pick up my pen and the words will flow again. I wish I could tell you how much harder it is, but I’m all out of negativity. 

So I pick up my pen and will myself to write. 

Absolute or Not?

Freedom of expression.

That is the theme around which Ugandan bloggers are expected to tailor their seven day posts for the second quarter #UgBlogWeek. Pause. Am I the only one that sees the inherent irony in telling people what they should write about while maintaining the theme Freedom of Expression?

If yes, then by all means, pay me no attention. If however, like me you feel that this unforgivable irony tickles you in certain ways then perhaps spare a moment to answer me something. Is Freedom an absolute concept? Is it an all or nothing arrangement? You’re either free or you’re not. OR can it be relative? Can you be relatively free? As is the case with this theme business. You can write about anything you like BUT it must be centered around freedom of expression.

If you’re leaning towards the former, then I guess there is no freedom of expression because even the slightest infringement undoes that freedom. Picture that hideous sweater you once got for Christmas, one tug at that string standing out of place and the whole thing comes unraveled. To your delight I might add. Not so much when it comes to the freedom thing. To achieve this absolute freedom, would mean that every one’s opinion would matter, which if you’ve been on Twitter or any other social media platform for that matter, you’d agree isn’t necessarily a good thing.

On the other hand if freedom can be relative, then maybe that’s a more attainable goal. The problem then would be how much of it are we willing to compromise to let us enjoy whatever is left.

Yes. Age makes philosophers of us all.

FREEDOM

 

 

 

 

 

This Or That Book Tag

The plan was never to post this, but I figured it might be a great step in the fight towards my writers’ block. So thank you Diamante for the nomination. I don’t know what you’re going on about me always being nominated but oh well, here goes. I won’t be nominating anyone though. I’m too lazy for that. I am a work in progress, but Jesus isn’t through with me yet.

Reading on the couch or the bed?

Hmmm. What if the couch is the bed? You know, one of those really uncomfortable ones that your parents told you will inspire you to greatness if you slept on them because you just had to make enough money to afford a king size bed. So I guess, bed. Wait..what if the bed is the couch? What if you haven’t yet broken out as the writer you want to be so the only real furniture in your house is the bed? That’s still the bed though, so yes, I’m sticking with my answer. Bed.

Main male character or female main character?

Have you ever realized how when it comes to female characters, we always put the fact that they are female before the fact that they are the main character? Yet, with the male character, it’s always main male character and not male main character? I think, we need to change this. But yes, female main character any day. It’s always enlightening to read what goes on in a woman’s mind when she’s dealing with a particular problem or adventure or an unrequited love.

Sweet snacks or Salty snacks?

A bit of both. Compromise is where it’s at.

Trilogies or Quartets?

Neither. Heptalogy because have you read Harry Potter? Now try to imagine all that awesomeness crammed into four books. No way Jose.

First Person Point of View Or Third Person?

First person. It feels a lot more personal. Like the story is being told by a stranger you’re seated next to in a bus as you head to the village for the holidays. Third person feels more like gossip. Like the person telling the story overheard it from these two people that were seated ahead of him in a bus. Coincidentally, he was also going to the village.

Reading at Night Or In The Morning?

Definitely at night, when the rest of the world has quieted down. I look forward to a time when I can read in the morning without having to worry about being late to the office. That would be the true definition of making it.

Libraries Or Bookstores?

Libraries. Complete with a bespectacled librarian that will shush anyone trying to pierce the silence with small talk. Isn’t small talk just the worst. I don’t think we really have bookstores in Uganda. At least not in the true sense.

Books That Make You Cry Or Laugh?

Any book that can make you feel things is worth a read. Books that make you laugh because I feel like there’s already enough sadness in the world as it is.

Black Book Covers Or White Book Covers?

Black book covers. They have that allure to them like you’re holding in your hand a manuscript on alchemy or some lost art of mind walking. White book covers are cool too.

Character Driven Story Or Plot Driven Story?

Plot driven story.

 

 

 

The Reluctant Muse

Reluctant Muse

She didn’t know why he insisted; buying her lunch wouldn’t change anything. Her mind was made up. She had said no already and the more she thought about it, the more ludicrous the idea seemed. She preferred the moat she had built around herself undisturbed. Thank you very much. And here he was, boat in tow trying to get across. Trying to get her to shed her layers by calling her things like “the diamond that wouldn’t let itself be discovered”

She loved her layers. They were safe and warm. But he had insisted and so here she was, if only to reiterate her ‘No’ She knew better than to trust the words that fell from a writer’s mouth. Her mother had taught her better. Why was he so curious anyway? Why her? She lived a pretty ordinary life. In fact, all she had wanted to do was go to her favorite restaurant and order herself some matooke and meat stew. The same thing she ordered all the time.

She could eat meat in perpetuity and never grow tired of it. That would be a noble cause to dedicate one’s life to, she thought. Not going about asking strangers to be your muse. No. You sir need a day job. She smiled at her inner sass. She knew she would never be able to say any of this out loud but her mental voice was enough for now.

Although, in all honesty, this was his day job. Plus her friend Ella said she needed to open up a little more. So maybe, she’d see what he had to say.

“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” she admitted, “I hate talking about myself.”

“This isn’t an interview so you won’t have to talk about yourself. Well, not directly anyway,” he explained, “We will just have a polite conversation over a hot meal and see if anything interesting falls out of the tree.”

“The thing about letting your story be told is that the author could never cover it all,” she lamented, “If I am this diamond, as you put it, then I would want for all my facets to be showcased. Not just the ones you deem worthy of the spot light”

“That’s the problem with you writers; you promise immortality but only to the versions of your characters that your audiences will be comfortable with,” she added then realizing that perhaps she was being a little harsh to someone she barely knew, retreated into her glass of passion juice.

He merely stared on. His eyes occasionally darted to the menu so he could avert his gaze from her large brown eyes that burned as she spoke her mind.

“I’m sorry,” she went on, “You probably expected some tale of heart break or scandal or something that would have a better chance of grabbing your reader’s attention. Not a reluctant muse.”

“Ahaa,” the writer exclaimed as he experienced his eureka moment, “I’ll write about just that and then we won’t have to worry about what you can and cannot reveal”

She smiled. She wouldn’t have to feel naked after all.