Here and (T)here 1 of 5: Desire

Is it okay if I don’t know what I want, if my list reads undecided, if I have no list, if I distrust histories of desire, if I confess that desire’s manual remains unreadable, so unread.

What seemed possible, unremarkable, in Nairobi, becomes palpable here, in this country that first taught me desire, schooled me in desirability.

(T)here: “you have it so easy other there. You can do this and do that and find this and that.”

(T)here: “You can find a long-term partner.”

(T)here: the luxury of the quotidian.

Kenyan queers tell me they are being blackmailed by tricks. One acts on desire with caution. Aware that shared moans cost, and cost a lot. And choosing the right, safe partner is no guarantee that a Lawrence v. Texas, without the Texas, will not happen.

Sodomy is illegal in public and private.

Sodomites become cash tills. Vulnerable to the privations of an indifferent, needy police force.

What feels easier (t)here is not easier. But the freedom of affect is palpable. And I miss it. To feel that one’s desire breathes, has life, moves in and through crowds, attaches itself at will, to feel the freedom to desire. Nairobi gives me this.

I return to cruising and personals, to articulations of desirability, and, are you good enough. It’s strange how one never quite gets past these. Critiques of the marketplace of desire still implicate one within its economy.

Once, I let a man convince me he was in love with my mind. Foolishly, I offered my heart and body. Libidinal misalignment. And when I cried, I wasn’t sure for whom I mourned. Perhaps for a little queer Kenyan boy who thought, who hoped, who dreamed that here, here where desire is created and circulates, where desirability is produced and translated and imported, that this center of libidinal economies would recognize something, that nut would find bolt. And lock.

Here, where writing about desire comes so easily, so naturally. And where the question, “what do you want, what do you really want?” is skirted in 5-minute promises and 20-year unions.

It’s a crime not to know.

I return to a scientia sexualis, where anal depths and penile measurements define certain kinds of pleasures, and the proximate wilts under the glare of cruel assessing lights.

“If you’re good enough, get with me, get to me, get me.”

I had become used to this indifferent demand.

Now, now I want more. I want what Nairobi gave me, gives me.

I wonder if the structures of normative coercion here are akin to the structures of blackmail in Kenya. If the affective demands and bodily disciplines here replicate the indifferent policing Kenyan queers experience. This seems unfair, a stretch.

I am stretching between spaces, and what anchors my flesh often tears it. Nairobi’s scars may yet turn into keloids here.