Sometimes I am told a story and I know exactly how to write it. Those are good days. Those are days that your boss doesn’t ask for too much and there is a gorgeous sunset at the end of a productive day. Days when you pass by a butchery and get yourself a ka-quarter just because. During these times, life is easy. You figure out your purpose. Other times, I am told a story worth writing about, but I still feel it lacks that je ne sais quoi. Something is missing. A tragedy, a wedding, sometimes even a wheelbarrow. These times I hate. These times happened with this story quite a lot. But I will do as I do and let the gods decide.
We will start this story in a matatu. A rundown beaten but still roadworthy matatu. We are seated on the solo seat [you know the one I mean] and the driver is a man just tasting his thirties. He is clean, a testament to his doting wife fussing over the creases on his work shirts.
“See this crease here,” she might say to him. “This crease determines whether people get into your matatu or not,” and he might protest saying, “But sweetheart,” [because he must sweeten the common sense to make it common] “the people getting into my matatu are determined by the tickets they purchase, not my shirt” and she will give him a look that lets him know who is boss. Anyway, I’m trying to say he is a family man, our driver.
Somewhere between his venacava and aorta, he has three individuals. A boy, a girl and a toddler, male. They have their bare necessities. Basic needs are taken care of and they have parents who make sure there are no creases on shirts and all vaccines are up to date. This is his family. He thinks of them on the drive to Nairobi and back to Nyeri. Sometimes, if he starts early enough, he might think about them 4 times. He dies on one drive to Nyeri.
The accident is not dubbed a taboo. They talk about it. The toddler grows up just hearing of the word ‘Father’ without really knowing what the word represents. He is told, though, of how meticulous the shirts he wore were. He is told of hands that carried him and of the rise and fall of his voice.
Now that this story does not have a wheelbarrow, I will give it one. I met Evans in the course of one week. We had snippets of conversation until he suggested I write something on him. Usually, I say I cannot. That my brain is not a faucet of activity that can just be turned on and off at will. Usually, I say no. I say that I cannot write about something I cannot form two sentences on the spot about. But I saw the love in his eyes as he peered through. You see it in him, and you know, even before you see the photo itself, that it is a masterpiece.
There is a crinkle on his forehead as he focuses the lens on a subject. A tiny frown that lets the world know Da Vinci is reborn. He holds the camera delicately, as a man would hold something he loves. As I imagine he would hold his woman. He holds it as if he is afraid it would leave him for a man with a yacht, and that would break him to his core. Once, in the week I was around him, someone else grabbed his camera from the table and tried to twist the lens and he almost twisted in his seat.
His brother had one of those cameras that our parents tell us about. You’ve heard those stories. How photos would take a month before you saw them and even then, there was no guarantee that these photos would be what you posed for. Sometimes you didn’t even get your photos after this wait. His brother was one of these cameramen. The tailors and carpenters of that time.
He would watch, forever forbidden to touch any of the equipment because he was just a child, but the seeds were planted. It was the kind of love that grows without sprouting. The roots dug deep but provided no branches to see. No stem to look at. But you can be sure that the roots spread deep.
The first time he worked with one, the first time his hands held his love, it was magic. He produced works that were never before possible. His love loved him back. They were made for each other. Granted, he had to kiss a few frogs. He dabbled in acting, among other things, but they did nothing for him. They did not rouse his inner beast. They never made him growl in the night. But the camera did.
“I was working with a friend of mine at some organization,” he stands before a few of us while he says this. “And there was a sentence on the wall. I can never forget it. It said ‘Your first 10,000 photos are nothing’. I live by that statement.” He says he is nowhere near his ten thousandth photograph. He will do more, seek more, take more. He plans to take photos until they have to create storage space for them. He envisions his photos before he takes them. He knows what it would look like before he peers into the camera. And every time, every single time, he comes out at the other end with magical results, appreciates it and tosses it aside because he is on a journey to 10,000, and he is not even halfway yet.
I ask if he remembers his first job.
“I can just say nilianza nikilipwa 250 per job,” he replies. “But God came through for me. I now have my own camera and my shots were always masterpieces.” He recalls taking better photos than those of his mentor at one point.
I ask about his childhood.
“I grew up in Meru. Raised by a single mom. My dad died in an accident when I was one-year-old. I’m the last born of three. One bro, one siz.” He texts. “I don’t know much about him so I don’t know what I can say.”
“Was he driving?”
“Yes. PSV za Meru to Nairobi.”
The first photo he took was during a graduation party in 2016. It was not is camera, and the gig was of a friend [I hope my friends are seeing what other friends are doing for their friends].
I had wanted to talk about some of the photos he sent me as samples. With that idea, I was to talk about each photo. What I see, what it feels like, what I think he ate right before or right after that image. I didn’t have much to work on with this story. And, I lost my notes of the first interview we had, then realized the recording I had taken had not recorded shit. So I sat in front of my laptop and started typing whatever came to me…and I think I did a good job regardless. Some of his photos are featured down below [Lol, so youtubey]
Also, tomorrow is my birthday so Yay!
[PS: If you have a Young Love story, hit me up. I am (@mir_awu) on IG and Twirra and there’s a facebook page (mirawuofficial). You can also act grown up and send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org]