That even this has been touched.
* * *
One of my favorite scenes in contemporary short fiction comes from Melissa Tandiwe Myambo’s “Deciduous Gazettes.” Saru, a woman from Zimbabwe, is married to an Austrian man. Her husband invites a group of North African men to dinner and the men expound on the multiple benefits of polygamy: a system that loves and respects women in a manner sanctioned by culture and tradition.
When asked about her own culture, Saru tells of a glorious country where a woman can take up to 8 husbands, who are all devoted to her, and indifferent to indivdual claims of paternity. Her African guests are horrified by this inversion and perversion of patriarchy.
Later, asked by her husband why she concocted the story, she replies, “I was tired.”
I fracture good prose with this clumsy retelling. Myambo is a delight to read.
* * *
Though I frequent and occasionally contribute to Kenya Unlimited, the Kenyan blog ring, I no longer count myself an active member.
In part, I got tired of the “you’re smart, but queer,” uttered by readers to whom I would not grant the first part of the statement. If I am to be judged, let it not be by mediocre thinkers.
(This might be called “catty.” Were I to be more provocative, I would term it “cunty.”)
In part, I got tired of the unrelenting heteronormativity, the limited ways in which nation dissolves into heterosexuality, and, increasingly, the problems of homonormativity, the confessions of respectable homosexuals, a little too eager to please, while indifferent to the privileges of masculinity and class. You know the type: I dress well but if you were to see me on the street, you wouldn’t know I was gay. I have little patience with the exercise of privilege.
Mostly, I got tired of my own paranoia: the fantasy that readers would stand by, if not cheer, while a relentless crowd of homo-haters decided to give me a necklace. I cannot dissociate picnics from lynching.
* * *
I like corners.
I rarely attend parties. I am happiest seated in a quiet alcove engaged in conversation, frivolous mostly, with one or two people. My favorite childhood memories revolve around reading under beautiful, substantial trees. Even now I recall the sensation of bark against my back. And it gives me great pleasure.
* * *
My father’s birthday was on March 4. Mine falls on March 7. In telling the story of my life, accounting for the possibility of inherited temperament, I claim to get my love for quiet from him. He had, in my creative remembering, a deep desire for privacy and intimacy. Not a withdrawal from the social so much as a desire to escape the social, every so often.
His big empty house, rarely visited by anyone, sits next to his grave.
* * *
One of my professors expressed an interest in writing about queer singleness. Insofar as the term queer has allowed us options to consider our lives quite apart from rhetorics of failed heterosexuality, I term it a success.
But I try never to forget that queer is, above all, an elegiac form, bound to a generation of corpses. This might account for the persistence of melancholia in my writing and thinking.