Shades of grey

He turned his eyes to look at the ground, his eyes still bright inside their wrinkled hood, lately the need to squint to see better is stronger. . .the world seems to be loosing its shape, everything looks blurred from a distance, . . . he almost squeezes his eyes shut. . . trying to see.

he wears his heart on his sleeves these days, that stony wall of a hidden gaze has fallen. . . they know. . . when he is hungry, irritable, tired. . . in fear. . . that’s the other thing, fear. . .it lurks everywhere. . . with the vendors selling him his fruit. . . especially on the days he needs change. What is to be given back to him after he pays doesn’t come quite as fast, and he never trusts what he is given back, yet stigma, that malignant pride and shame always have him waiting to count his change at home, behind the surface protection of a closed door. . . yet, even then, seeing himself spread out the coins and notes, then begin counting one after the next, makes sweat break out from his bald head, it trickles down his brow. . .irritating him, . . . even in private, the heat of shame burns. He counts, aha! a triumphant shout, he was given the right amount.

In the beginning he responded to his failing body in anger. . .The vendors were stealing his change, he would show them!. . . soon. . ., when his limbs stopped aching as they did, he will throw a punch, especially at Mzizi that crook! then it was the maid, a young woman who helped him clean his house and prepared his meals for him. Whom he was certain pinched his precious groceries, he never tells her, but he is always quietly seething in anger, full of resentment. The maid senses this quiet hostility. . . in the beginning it threw her off, destabilized her. . . yes she was a woman of humble means, but she had never needed to steal from the old man, even with his intense vile moods, she feels some degree of pity for him, the old man. . . left by his children to fend for himself. . .even pity has its limits though, she soon lost the battle to his paranoia, she now works silently, rejoices when she finishes up her day. . . she would leave. . .she really would, but she contends with poverty over the toxic man for her monthly pay, and knows her choice. . .

Some did steal from him. . . but most do not. . . fear spiraled into paranoia. . . as the years continue to bite at him he starts to get used to the fear, he just locks himself in his house now, no longer bothering to leave. . . no more has he, the energy to harness for resentment,. . . just outward calm and inner turmoil.

Age has not been his friend. He likes to wear his old ragged brown jacket. . . more for memory and vanity, than utility. . . in the jacket he is once more the revered captain, respected and feared by all, virile, youthful, dripping with charm. . .even within this mental cover however, on those rare days he chooses to step out of his house, he still hears whispers of pity ‘the old man has lost his mind’ . . .they say, judging his worn out clothes.

He realizes though that sometimes it’s his own mind voicing his insecurities loud enough to swallow the voices swarming outside of him, be they negative or positive . . . he also hears the clicks of impatience from younger men as he walks, imagined and real. . . they sometimes anger him, `how dare they! the disrespect! and other times fill him with envy and self pity, he curses them to age faster than usual under his breath, he leaves out the most terrible curses for the extremely arrogant young ones.

Every day is contention with a world that is now too changed and big. . . made to feel ever the more daunting by the fact that it lacks the foreignness’ and newness it would have were he to be a baby. . . at least then, the gift of wonder and the promise of life to come tides over any brooding or chronic pessimism . . .he hates every minute of this new fear. . . it is a world that he had already conquered. . . yet it now scoffs on his achievements and his body fails him. . . this sustained decline bears down on him daily, creating the perfect vacuum for fear and paranoia. . . he holds on to everything he once had . . . yet those things he once held so dearly, have also betrayed him, the property is in ruins, old, neglected. . . as neglected as the children that he left. . .he occasionally hears from the children, but as with all poorly maintained investments, the visits or calls are brief, lifeless and cold infused with hypocrisy on both ends . . .

`the children are no longer angry with me` he thinks. . . a thought that quickly makes him melancholy, as what he would now not give for those angry, impassioned accusations that so irritated him when he was younger. . .’the children are tired. . .’ he shakes his head, muttering his regret under his breath.

Part of his precious property is now an unfaithful mistress, lacking the luster it once held, after all the years and energy he poured into amassing his things. . . everything his eyes lay on mock him. . .yet he holds on. . . because those are the seeds he has sown. . . every day he raises to the task of valuing, self appraising and cataloging his property. Naturally, overvaluing everything in sight. He remembers the children pushing him to sell some of his treasures, foolish children, never!. . . he forgives them, they do not understand. . . their mother raised them poorly, they irritate him with those preachy talks and dour looks. . . though they turned out quite well. . . it surprises him that Tausi managed to raise them. . .Tausi. . . her name and memories leave a sour taste in his mouth. He retreats from that chain of thought.

the winds howl, beating down his rusted roof, the water marks on his walls now hold a fine layer of mold, the loneliness would overwhelm, save for his regrets which are a constant companion.

Lately memories of his father plague him, some of the memories have a clarity to them that they did not have before. He remembers his father’s warning. . .that he should hold on to things more loosely, so that he would get to keep them, otherwise he would one day watch himself loose them all. . .He had never been too keen on words from a father who’s actions never matched his words. . . . here he now was, feeling trapped by regret and tricked by a life that had ended up never straying too far from his own kin’s life. . . how he had fervently sworn to himself that he would live a different life, away from the path of his father. Fate must have been laughing, he was cursed by his genes. . . or so he believed.

He held on to everything, everything. . . in so long as he believed he had earned it, then it was his. . . fair and square, . . . one of these ‘acquisitions’ has left an indelible mark in his memory. . .The shamba, It had belonged to that gullible stone mason, who had approached him for help. . . he was stuck he said, needed some money urgently. . . the old man had at first suggested that he finish up with the renovations first, then he would pay him with an overdraft. . . they, him and his wife, had hired him to help renovate some parts of the house. . . it had been earlier on in their marriage, before she had fully stared into the icy depths of his being, before she fully comprehended how unchanging and stony he was. . . he feels a pang of nostalgia, remembering her youthful face. . .the edges of this memory are frayed not quite as accurate. . . he sighs . . .he cannot clearly remember the form of her face. . .though the impact of the experience and the emotions remain. . . firmly pinning him to his regrets.

The memory of the mason comes back, his mind rattles away these days. . .memories intertwining with each other, one bringing on another before it is a complete picture in his mind. . ., he sighs. . . yes the young stone mason had gotten desperate, telling the old man he couldn’t wait for that long, you see. . . they were about to be kicked out of their home and he couldn’t bear the thought of his children outside in the cold. . .he just couldn’t. The old man had given him the money. . . and liened the mason’s ancestral land in exchange, it was the only fixed asset the mason had. . . had it been a fair earn. . .that land? or had shylock gotten his pound of flesh?. . .how it now bothered him that a-cursed piece of property. . . how that mason sang in his dreams, looking right into his eyes, chained to the old man’s house, hitting and hammering at the house, this was the form the stone mason took in the old man’s sleep, a-cursed all of them a-cursed!!

Then there was his wife. . .that erratic, beautiful woman, who had turned his children against him. . .a part of his mind dared to chide him, reminding him that he worked to loose his children on his own without anyone’s help, this errant thought he snuffs out with a sneer.

he remembers his own father again, his mind tells him to let him go, the same mind responds how? was he a carrot to be thrown out? or a bird that he could release from its cage, does not even a parrot have a mind of its own? repeating the obscenities it has heard at the most in appropriate times. . .how had he the old man held anyone captive. . .yet he sometimes understood, that it was space. . . the space in his mind that his father needed to be released from, . . . and how he took space, oh so much space, he took the space he was given and the one he had not been given, the proverbial camel, dominating every inch of the old man’s decision making process. . . he sighs. . . he grows weary, tired from the burden of thought. . .

It is exhausting the mind, just when he thinks he has it figured, he has it under control, it slips from under him. He had for a long time believed the words, the lie, that a strong mind was enduring. . .it was a lie, the mind was fragile, emotive and highly impressionable. . .it can be a liar. . .a liar very well able to shape and structure the path your choices took. . . he sighs. . .

Maybe he could trust character? he now thought. . .that fabric that makes a man, the essence of who he was . . . that solid build of his heart, that seeps into his actions, his words, the things he does in secret, the thankless actions motivated solely by his disposition. Yet. . . the old man thinks, most would choose to be guided entirely by their minds, to rely on suspicion, fear, caution, they will tell you that your heart betrays . . .nay. . . the life blood, the core of your being, your soul, will never lie to you.

It is your mind, your highly impressionable mind that will lie, your mind that withers under scrutiny, gossip, perceptions. . .your mind that adheres to convoluted ideas of who you are. People that hold influence over your life tell you a rhetoric. . . your mind takes over, warps this rhetoric into a formula that influences your decisions, your mind shapes your ideas from these words, the experiences you end up having, the lessons drawn from these experiences all begin and end with your perception of who you are. . .what this mental formula has stewed out for you, and the quality of life you believe is owed to you, your standards, all, are set by this formula, created by your mind. That mental formula, shaped from words of people that have influence in your life.

The old man now knows, to question your own perspective, is to challenge this mental formula, is to reject it’s dominion . . .the old man also knows. . . That his opinions would only be challenged through interactions with other humans, . . .the same humans he successfully isolated himself from most of his life. . . The humans he has forsaken for inanimate objects, lifeless things that now leave him to shoulder the burden of grey on his own. . .aaaah, he spits through the gap between his teeth. . . bitter. . .

. . . he sighs. . . then chuckles. . . philosophy becomes him in these twilight years. . .he wishes he had been wary of it, . . .his mind, when it told him to amass so much that the loss of a few would not hurt him. . . it was a lie, the loss of his family is an underlying ulcer, hidden by surface anger, greed and a constant feeling of betrayal. . . he knows though, that were he to engage his spirit, . . . to un wrap that complex layering of false emotions, he would find a burning ulcer of intense pain, that wound of rejection that was inflicted when he was a child, and has endured without healing through to his old age. That old betrayal of his filial piety has poisoned him his whole life, masquerading as mental strength. . .he sighs. . .how he wishes he had left room within himself to sometimes question his emotions, his perceptions, his prejudices. . . he never did, his thought process was king, flawless in his eyes, it made no matter who he hurt or destroyed.

yes the mind . . .he thinks. . . how one should be wary of it . . . for it is your most influential and most dangerous, constant companion. . .

he sighs. . . they grow labored his sighs. . . the sojourning continues. . . his steps grow weary with regret. . . and the colors of life ever more ashy, silvery and nondescript. . . never aligning in perfection or brilliance with either white or black or any of the three primary colors.

. . . he sighs. . .

the old man and the sea, Anne Weirich, downloaded from google

By Ruth Mgendi

I have an appreciation for words, the power words have to uplift, build, create, without words we would not be able to convey intent or meaning to each other.

I am also a legal researcher, lover of comics, art, color, stories, adventure and beauty. Above all I appreciate and respect life, the body, the mind and the soul.
I seek a higher connectivity and understanding of the co-existence between these three parts of life and hope to share this journey with any other learner.
I hope this forum will be interactive, positive and above all I hope it adds value in some way to those that read and interact.

Hope Nyambura is my attempt at a pen name, so. . . indulge my pink and golden bubble :-)

Thank you!

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