Celebrating East African Writing!
Once, while traveling to campus from Nairobi I sat next to a charismatic woman with whom I struck an instant rapport. She was thirty but looked twenty-two. I guess that’s why I could easily converse with her.
In our six-hour drive we shared a box of chocolate, sips of apple juice (now you know why she looked so fabulous) and significant personal confidences- you know the sort that in retrospect make you want to offer money in return for silence?
Perhaps, it was the combination of boredom, tiredness and the fact that we were two strangers who were maybe not going meet again. I was a student studying Information Sciences, and she was a doctor. I, honestly, am not fond of doctors. Hospitals scare me stiff.
But enthralled with each other’s “understanding” and feeling lighter with each unburdening, we talked through the rough dusty road, through the beautiful green Burnt Forest and in-between naps all the way to Eldoret.
Our eventual parting was intensely emotional and we pledged to see each other shortly thereafter, “but not anywhere near a hospital” I suggested.
However, after a week, I started feeling uneasy. It was almost as if, having gotten so much off my chest, I was literally physically empty. I think I actually started to miss my secrets, fears and insecurities. I had divulged so openly to a woman almost ten years older than I was. By the end of the week, the niggle in the back of my mind had become fully-fledged embarrassment and horror.
When I eventually summoned the guts to awkwardly call off our reunion, with some stupid excuse like cats, somehow I wasn’t too surprised by the relief I heard in her voice on the other end of the phone. I have always felt confession is a bit like a club- all open and out there with the ingredients quite easy to identify, but really quite messy to handle.
W e conceal aspects of ourselves that we think invite rejection, but ironically, the very act of secrecy makes us inaccessible to love. We think we are hiding our secrets, but really our secrets are hiding us. Perhaps our secrets struggle to be revealed because they know that confession can perform a miracle. It can make dark secrets bright. It can turn our mistakes or tragedies into beacons of hope for others.
Think about it: when you’re most trapped by secrecy, you do not want the advice of people who have never been touched by evil, despair or confusion. You want someone who has been where you are and made it back alive. And that was exactly why I felt immediate connection with the woman at that time.
What I had experienced was, in effect, an emotional one-night stand. Intimacy is not the same as familiarity. Time is what grows housemates into family, colleagues into friends and one- time acquaintances into your safe inner circle. Anyway, every act of genuine confession, large or small, brightens the world.
© Wendy Kasera 2009
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