I have never been “good” at keeping a diary. I record events when they fit into a narrative, a theory, a speculation, not when they happen. I append dates to blog posts when I feel an idea can go on the internet, or when I’m tired of editing, or when I have no real reason to fiddle any more. (It’s far too easy to suggest, here, that I write like an academic: we are always writing with and to documents in multiple temporalities—the archives we haunt, the critical tradition, recent theory, and what we imagine and create.)
I am amused, then, by the temporal markers I have adopted. The sense in which they dance around time, here contracting it, here expanding it, here ignoring it, here trying to be fastidious. Not to mention the silent edits in which “4 days ago” turns into “last week.”
There is a broader theoretical point to be made, one based on my ongoing research, which is that authors of the black diaspora consistently fracture and rearrange time: Larsen in Quicksand, McKay in Banjo, Kenyatta in Facing Mount Kenya, and Tutuola in Palm-Wine Drinkard pay lip service to temporal continuity.
In each of these works, time stops, is extended, contracts, becomes unpredictable and unstable—I would not use the handy “postmodern” to describe this phenomenon. That explanation for another day.
In part, of course, these works are tethered to “other” temporalities. They are not organized by labor in any standard way, but driven by events worth recording—this is the conceit of the picaresque, that some events are worth recording, some stories worth telling, others less so. A short long-ago book tries to explain the “black” picaresque,” but there is still much more work to be done.
But there is also the strange temporality of “re-turn,” which suggests I have been here before. I continue to wonder how one shifts when the space around one is no longer the same.
How does one negotiate a here that is simultaneously then and where?
The trees I used to climb no longer exist, the roses have been transplanted, the orange trees cut down because of disease, and the ivy that covered the house removed. I wonder if I seem as odd to those around.
Every few days a chance remark unsettles: a much-too innocent voice remarks, “I thought I had told you,” and I feel the distance between where I am and where the story is. If in some ways I feel ahead of the curve—I read Perez Hilton and know more useless gossip than others—I am also way behind.
Catching up is a myth. The end of each narrated sequence marks another that has proceeded without me. One settles into the incompleteness of narrative—in another lifetime, I might have said, “all will be revealed at the end.”
* * *
I’m trying to figure out the connection between long-distance running and Kenyan politics.
The trick in both, it seems, is to exhaust your opponent. Kenyan runners sprint to exhaust others and sprint when others are exhausted.
Indecision 2012 is in full progress. The games are afoot. Let’s see who makes it to the end.
* * *
Last week Samuel Wanjiru was a hero for winning the Olympic marathon. This week, he’s just another Kenya whose house was burgled.