I Am God
I have a wardrobe full of over-sized clothes. My clothe hangers are laden with clothes that fit the metallic shoulders better. There are shirts 2 sizes bigger than me, when I wear them they flow like robes, I actually don’t wear them, they surround my body.
I was schooled long ago that we are supposed to grow into our clothes. I believed
So, my mother would buy trousers that were size 31 when I was a size 27. In face, I have a size 34 jeans in my closet. A size 34 that I will never grow in to, yet it was bought when I was in class 8 and 13. When I used to wear that trouser, it creased and folded severally around my waist under the strangling hold of my belt. Most of the time, it would just release the excess pressure by sagging at the front embarrassingly. I would also have to fold it at the bottom to prevent it from sweeping floors and paths, over time, it has retained the colour at the bottom where it used to be folded while the rest of it has faded.
I gave up on growing into my clothes 2 years ago when I was in second year. By that time, I had accumulated a whole set of polo shirts, official shirts, jeans, vests and t-shirts that were all too big for me. I read somewhere that we stopped growing at 22, in actual sense, I haven’t grown more than an inch taller since high school.
I was reminded of my over-sized clothes situation when I graduated the other day. Those gowns! They appear to suggest the tailor did not have scissors to reduce the textile, or there was an abundance of cloth that had to be disposed off. They gobble everything that goes inside them. Maybe we are supposed to grow in to them, maybe that’s all life is about, growing into bigger shirts, growing into bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger ambitions, bigger loans; everything bigger, but never fitting. And it never stops.
I graduated, and now I have to go back to the life I am used to. When you are a copywriter, you live in this world where you’re never enough or ever done. There’s always more milk to be marketed, more tissues to wipe asses, more cars to be fuelled; a never-ending cycle of tempting consumers to keep buying. We are the reason shopping malls exist. Seriously.
Then there’s the illusion created that you are the hero of the day every day. That without you, Safaricom would run into untold losses in 3 weeks, so you wake up every day to chew on new briefs from “client” and regurgitate more concepts to make sure people keep buying more tanks, even when they don’t need new tanks. We are the reason most homes have 2 or 3 tanks when one will do the job. So you create fancy headlines that will make the consumer believe this tank will save their lives if called upon to do so. When people see your billboard, they believe it’s talking to them, so they rush to the stores while stocks last. Later the client service chick in high, sharp heels and a body meant to push away your frustrationss will appear at your desk to tell you that the “client“ just sold 300,000 units of that smartphone you wrote copy for. You are a hero. You are a king. You are God. You place your feet on the desk and pray for more briefs to come you way. You refresh your Outlook e-mail every 2 minutes. You link your Outlook e-mail to your G-mail account so that even on Sundays in the middle of service you can get a ping when a new brief arrives. You live for the glorified moments of your work on daily newspapers and prime-time TV spots. When Maina Kageni reads a line you wrote, you turn to the passenger next to you in the matatu. You point to the speakers, then point to your chest, “Hiyo ni line yangu.” She gives you this incredulous look reserved for mad men and ad men. But inside your heart is burning with joy. You command the world.
That’s the illusion we live in. It’s so well crafted that many people don’t know where advertisements come from. They can tell you who sang Kuchukuchu and who its ghostwriter was, they know the full cast and crew of Churchill Show, but ask them about Smartika and you get nothing. “Ni ad ya Airtel” is all they know.
We stage a concerto for an invisible audience and the audience gives a standing ovation to the invisible performers, all so perfectly crafted.
Then one day you wake up and realize you haven’t played your guitar in 5 months. You sold your TV to get that classical guitar, yet it sits in its bag patiently waiting for when you will come back. The calluses you have on your finger tips from playing the guitar are getting softer under the continuous banging of computer keys. They have forgotten the roughness of guitar strings. The pain of playing good music. You remember how you used to brainstorm on play ideas for the Drama Festival with Muraya. How you directed a school to the 2nd position in the nationals. You remember you used to write poetry. Bad, very bad poetry, but at least it was yours and it was written. You remember you used to go to TUK every Thursday evening for a jam session with kina Denno, now whenever you try to sing, you always go off-key. You were once wild and free, but you heard the zoo had consistent servings and the hunt didn’t sound so alluring any more. So you go yourself captured to live in a zoo. To grow fat and feel important.
But you fear. The world.
It has led you to this cave where you live with Batman helping him save the world that does not even know you exist. You even tried telling your mother what you do but she never seems to get it. This is the greatest cover up. When your friends ask you what you do, you say “I am a copywriter.” But they think you meant “copyrighter.” They ask if you can help them copyright their scripts and ideas. You say “ I work in an ad agency.” They ask if you can “connect” them with advertising jobs on TV. You say “Yes.” Because you don’t feel like telling them there’s a difference between a casting agency and an advertising agency. On a good day, you tell them there are fewer copywriters than doctors in Kenya. They don’t know why you’re proud because they don’t see your work, and you don’t even drive a car. And you go to work in a t-shirt and jeans. And some times you work on Saturdays and Sundays. What is so good about your job? You laugh.
You know what they whisper.
We think we are in control of life, but we are not. It’s in full control and not even democracy or motivational books can change that. That means I will get a wife soon. Inevitably. This wife will bear me kids. It’s expected. One Saturday I will decide not to go to work and travel with my son to Meru. On the way there, I will tell him I used to play the guitar. I will tell him I published a book once. I will tell him I recorded a song once. I will tell him I was on the newspaper once. I will tell him his dad was a copywriter who wrote thousands of advertisements. Most likely he will not understand the last part. Even “client” will not remember me. All I will have is an yearly mention of my ads on sparsely populated Facebook pages of ad people. Like the oversized clothes on my hanger, so many things will want to fit in my life, but they won’t, I will not grow into them. The few clothes that fit always itch.