And yet she wasn’t ugly per se. No, that would be unfair to the many heads she turned. She was one of those girls whom makeup helped a lot-especially when applied the right way. One of those girls whose selfies appeared stunning when taken at an angle. Her practice and research on Instagram based on likes of her own pictures, had revealed that a slight tilt of the head to the left, with the lips pouted downwards towards the camera, eyebrows raised beguilingly and braids tied down one shoulder always accentuated her cheek bones, enhanced her full lips and hid her prominent forehead. All seven of her latest selfie uploads on Instagram confirmed this. The number of likes and followers had sky rocketed ever since she discovered this new trick. All she adjusted in the subsequent ones was a change of an outfit, or expose a little more cleavage or change the colour of her lipstick.
But when Lisa turned up to take a real portrait at my room based studio in Lumumba that day, she had done an awful job with her makeup. A really awful job. Either she did not have a look in the mirror before she stepped out of her door, or she had very mean friends. The kind of friends who praised you yet in fact you resembled the Clementina Okot P’bitek had described in Song of Lawino. The one whose red lipstick made her look like a wild cat that has dipped its mouth in blood. The only things that deserved credit were the line of studs on each ear which looked like rows of street lights and the hair, which I still credited to her hair stylist.
After failing to gather the courage to say what her friends should have told her, I picked up the camera and clicked away looking for all the right angles momentarily forgetting about my predicament.Many praise Photoshop but hardly ever know about the grudging and dreadfully long hours photographers spend applying masks, filters and more to retouch photos.
Photoshop helps, but the camera never lies. Even Charles Dickens wrote as far back as 1838 that painters make out ladies fairer than they appear, but as for photography, the trade is a tad too honest.
Dearest wicked one,
It has come to my attention that the way we parted needs an official notice since you have failed to see the signs or take note of the peculiarly cold shoulder I have been treating you to. You see, that is one of the reasons I decided not to add an extra day to the wasted eight months I have already stupidly shared with you-your obvious inability to read between the lines. It defeats even my own understanding how we lasted so long. Eight months, really! Count it on my great tolerance but if you could manage to get on nerves as cool as mine, then you left me no choice. I could only go as far.
I will never forget the way your eyes popped when my learned friend Lekdyang asked for your opinion on the under performing stock exchange. Similarly, I vividly recall the look you gave me when my old friend Okuku wondered what you thought was causing the plummeting price of the Shilling against the Dollar. It was a look that requested me to rescue you from matters of discussion that were alien to you. Only then did I realize how cleverly you had always dodged my attempts to engage you in such serious matters.
It won’t be hard to forget you. Only, I’ll tell stories of the horrid experiences you put me through to all of my friends and even grandchildren. How you gulped half a bottle of wine on our first date, or how everything we did was an open book to your friends-even how often we ‘did it’, and many more. I’ll tell them all, but to cut you some slack, I will spare your name.
I hate to admit it but the heady smell of your perfume hangs in my bed sheets like a ghost. It is the only thing you can deservedly take credit for, how particular and rare your choice of perfume is. The annoying (annoying because it reminds me of you) jasmine-rose scent must have been extracted from the wildest of flowers the makers could find. It keeps sifting through my nostrils each time I enter my bed. I’ve soaked and washed them thrice already in the strongest detergent on the market but that trademark scent of yours is clinging onto my sheets. Dumping them too will be my last resort. If that fails, I will conclude that it’s either in my head or you applied some evil charms on me. Now don’t you dare be fooled into thinking that I’m addicted to it, I’m not.
I wonder what took me so long to realize that the six inch heels that I previously thought accentuated your long legs instead seem to make you walk like the lame goats my friend Kaleeba talks about so much. I no longer have to tickle my head to imagine what a lame goat looks like.
Meanwhile, it is so refreshing to consider how many choices I have at the moment. It feels like I’ve been released from self-inflicted bondage. Rest assured that as for now, I’ll steer clear of all of your kind lest am wrapped around another grotesque finger. You can go on to your next adventure. But after all, you don’t need a blessing, do you? The adventures seem to find you. I am going to patiently wait for the fairest of them all. Ayi Kwei has been right all along “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born”
With bad blood,
I who was once yours.
the beautyful ones are not yet born
Often we deceive ourselves into saving the best for last. This idea works at times, but amounts to nothing. Here’s why!
You join secondary school and decide to quit reading for exams of any sort. Your argument- ‘you are saving marks for the finals.’ As the rest go for sports, you say you are waiting to grow big to go down to the rugby pitch. A beautiful song is playing at school on that only night in a year when you get to have a little bull dance and while the rest of your friends find it irresistible to dance to it, you occupy the seats alone and brush it off saying you are waiting for a better song to join them. Club functions are held every weekend and you convince yourself that you will attend only the social. You pass by this beautiful girl and refuse to say hi just because you imagine it is not the last of her that you are seeing. You reach university and immediately decide that all girls in your year are not worthy of your time. The next year’s girls come around and you wisely proclaim that they are even worse. Come third year and you make your final judgement “the beautyful ones are not yet born.”
Imagine if we were all to wait for the perfect things. How much perfection is there anyway? Which girl has got no flaw? Which song has stayed at the top of the charts forever? When was there a perfect time to say hello? Are you perfect anyway? And so life dictates that we catch every breath as it comes. That we awake each single day with the desire to be happy, forget the sorrow and even reach out for tomorrow. That we heartily live every moment, smile more and let out that loud laugh more often. For
“My candle burns at both ends
It may not last the night
But ah, my friends
And oh my foes
It gives a lovely light.”
only God knew whether worms would have the courage to bore into her flesh when she died
She was not the kind of girl you towed around hand in hand along Kampala’s dusty streets. No! Hers was a kind of beauty to be stared at, admired and preserved. In fact a friend had suggested that if it were possible, I should put her in an aquarium and place it in my living room. Then each day as I returned home, I would stare and behold the regaling goddess in the glass case, unblemished and pure.
Only God knew whether worms would have the courage to bore into her flesh when she died. I doubt they would. Ten days after her death she would still be as intact in flesh as a newly born. I was convinced that God would let her into heaven in her earthly form. He too would be hesitant to let this glittering creation of his hands to rot away into soil.