This year, my dearest treasure is an anthology of stories, poems, essays, and the making of poems.
Its story is one that I am both ashamed and thrilled to tell. Before I chose it for this post, I searched thoroughly for a replacement. But there was none.
Sometime in February 2011, I felt low. Too low. The lowest I have ever felt. So I thought I could buy some pills.
In the morning, I went around town buying them from different shops till I had 280 of them. Then I bought 500ml of water and made my way to Ngong Hills, into the forests and bushes there. I wanted to just lie down and forget the world for good.
But before I could do that, I, somehow, remembered my books and a fierce sense of jealousy gripped me. I said, “Who’s going to have those books?” I couldn’t remember one person who liked books enough to care for them.
So I returned to the house, packed all my books in a plastic bag and took them to the Kenya National Library. From the library, as I was passing the city mortuary on Ngong Road, I thought, “Why should my body rot in the bush when I can donate it?”
That resolved me and I started for the University of Nairobi. I went to the Chiromo Campus mortuary, which is attached to the medical lab, to inquire how the bodies for medical practice were obtained. The attendant said it is a very long procedure involving relatives and lawyers, and that I should visit the legal department in Main Campus for more information.
I thought, “No relatives!”
Needless to say, I didn’t go to the lawyers. But I was still determined to go to Ngong Hills, and so I went downtown for a bus. It was just past 5pm. Given the immortal jam on Ngong Road, I would get to my destination well after 9pm. The better.
But just outside the Kenya Archives, when I could see one of the NMOA buses, which go to Ngong, right ahead of me, my eyes wandered to a book peddler by the road. He had spread his merchandise on the ground.
And there I saw the book. The book.
The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition of Volume 2.
I’m ashamed to say I picked it up and weighed it in my hands, felt it, smelled it, almost kissed it. It felt so real, so fine, so infinitely priceless.
I saw T.S. Eliot in it. Stephen King had quoted a verse from The Wastelands in The Dark Tower III. It was a great verse.
Mary Shelly was also there, with almost everyone else from Anne Laetitia Barbauld, William Blake, all the way to the likes of Doris Lessing, Anita Desai, Nadine Gordimer, etc. A century of treasure.
How could I just leave it there, huh?
I’m more ashamed to say I bought it. That night, I didn’t kill myself with the pills. I killed myself with stories and poems of invaluable value. They helped me forget certain very bad things.
Later on, I started missing the books I had taken to the Library and began buying them one by one. I have most of them now.
Thank you for reading and for participating in the Cherished Blogfest #CBF2016