“I hear you.”
“But for me, it turned out as nothing more than an oscillation between hating Monday mornings, celebrating Friday evenings, being in denial of Sunday evenings, and then returning to hating Monday mornings. All just so that someday, near the end of my life, I could reach that retirement fund and dignified burial. No one tells you that. We all silently agree to perpetuate the deception of a desirable real world.”
“You’re telling me.”
“Yeah.” Feeling irritated by my braids brushing against my cheek, I pushed them back and re-tied the hairband. “I couldn’t handle it. I fucking hated that job. I felt like I was fading a little every day like I couldn’t breathe and no one cared. I was slowly dying, not physically but in my soul, in my mind, and in every way, no one could see. It was another failure, another point of difference between me and the students in that club. It frightened me.”
“Do you still feel like that?”
“Sometimes, but not as often as before. It comes and goes.”
He nodded. “So you tried the second kind of bar, the one without university students.”
“Yes. As soon as I walked in I knew I wasn’t the only failing artist there. I met a forty-seven-year-old woman who had been an English teacher her entire adulthood. Her dream was to be a novelist. She told me, quite proudly I might add, that she possessed a high pile of rejection letters to prove her dedication to her craft. Forty-seven years and all she had to prove she was a writer was a pile of rejection letters. That was it – the entirety of her literary footprint.”
“You must have met someone more successful than that,” he said, in between coughs and wheezes.
“I met a playwright who had guest-lectured in New York, directed a show in London, played a small role in a German series, and done several other artistic things. Yet even with those milestones of his malleable career, he’d never lived a day without the worry of bankruptcy. And that didn’t make him more creative or successful; all it did was give him sleepless nights, a messy divorce, and a strained relationship with his daughter.”
I shook my head. “There was nothing romantic about any of it, nothing desirable or inspiring. I never asked his age for fear that he might be another forty-seven-year-old or older. When he finished his story, we all drank vodka and feigned humour at our variable struggles.”
“That’s very sad,” said Matome.
“I suppose it is.” I shrugged and poured him another glass of water. “It feels funny enough when we laugh about it. You get used to it after a while.”
“You tried to kill yourself, Nsuri. There’s nothing funny about it.”