TYPING: As a book blogger, I get to tell creators, ‘Nah, this book isn’t me. Best, Kobby.” or, “Nah, your blurb isn’t moving enough. Best, Kobby.” and just, “Oh, dear, I really do not read debuts. Best, Kobby.” But when the tables are turned…
Don’t Pee, Kobby, don’t pee. I urged myself in every possible way not to break my resolve. Though I was scared shitless by the image of my penis bulging at its seams with its tip blinking rapidly to announce an evacuation of some sorts.
I kept my pasted smile on, showing off my teeth praying they were super-white today and wishing they were ever super-white when you needed them to be, I cast my glance around the room. My gazed washed off the white walls, the comfortable plastic chairs, the terra-cotta floors. If I ignored looking at the annoying people all around me, I would have more control over Father Nature. (For masculinity reasons, no guy should ever be allowed to call their penis Mother Nature!).
Of course, I wasn’t the only one demonstrating ignorance. These people, if they’d seen my shuddering legs, my pale features, and how my head was frequently bobbing, they were doing a good job ignoring it. Ignoring me. After all, I was always the one to complain about the number of hours we were supposed to sit at this meeting.
“My last remarks people,” Adwoa , the stern, frightening leader of our flock, began and I blanched out.
‘Last’, that was a word I liked. But would Adwoa ever understand the spirit of that word as I did? This was a girl who always added ‘last’ with a noun phrase in its entire plurality. The last bookS (we would be discussing), the last personS (to speak), Our last supperS (have been shifted to another date)——‘supperS’ I like, but it was always the last suppers shifted to another date.
So could you understand why I was so sure those weren’t Adwoa’s last remarkS at all? But I still needed to focus, in case she called upon me, the group secretary, to hand out her suggestions in the form of writing.
“… I urge us all to be a writing partner to one another, offer ourselves help when one of us needs it,” she aimed a look at me as she said this, “be it anything, anyway you could help a writer-friend…”
Uh-oh. My heart fell to my stomach. Is that what this was? I asked myself. That awkward moment when you knew a writer-friend was about to ask you money to self-publish! OMG! Had I really been stupid last week for putting it out to her that we should encourage the group to look more towards indie-publishing if publishing houses were not finding our works ‘hot stuff’ enough? I really should learn to keep my mouth shut about indie-publishing around someone who’d been rumoured to have pestered a literary agent so much that she was given an electronic restraining order——
Oh, Aaaargh! I fucking needed to pee!
“So, meeting over.” At Adwoa’s order my fifty writing pals rose up. I rose up too. About to dash for the door when I heard my name. Gee, I knew she was facing some financial crises, but couldn’t that wait for after I’d peed? Christ, I didn’t even have any money… Well, ok. I didn’t have any money I’d want to use to self-publish anyone’s book.
“Adwoa, I loved today’s meeting.” I said with the widest faux smile as I stood in front of her.
“Especially, my inspiring words at the end?” I nodded briskly with my very gentlemanly smile. If I convinced myself I didn’t want to pee, I guess I could pull this off well.
“Anything you want to tell me?” You know those questions of enquiry you asked for though you really didn’t want to know what whoever had to ask? This question was one of those.
“OK. So, Kobs, here’s the thing.” She began. I held my breath——Aaargh! A wrong thing to do when you badly want to pee——I released my breath. “Your blog. I want you to quit writing it.”
Ahh, the relief after letting go off your bladder.———
TYPING: … How do you handle criticism?
“You wouldn’t believe what happened today?” I somehow managed to get all that out before I banged the door to my room. “My writing group! They want me to quit writing my blog or they excommunicate me! Can you imagine! You should have seen Adwoa’s face when she told me——“ I did a sad imitation of Adwoa’s voice, “——‘If you value me as a writing partner and you value the words of inspiration I always give you and you’d do anything to help a fellow writer in need, Kobby…’ I mean how dare she use that against me! I write about sex, so what? I’d like to watch her stop E.L James from writing the Fifty Shades trilogy——”
“Oh, fuck off, Kobs!”
I froze in my spot, no more walking to-fro a length in the room. I looked at Raymond, my roommate. A myriad of emotions splayed across my features; bewilderment and all its synonyms, then anger and all its synonyms. Then I realized my roommate’s position. On his desk. With a book opened. Oh no… the only time I saw Raymond in the chair was when he was going down on some poor excited girl. “Raymond…” my voice trailed off with concern.
“So, I slept with Celeste—“
“Behind Maya’s back?”
He glared at me as though I was made of silly stuff. “And she said the whole thing was rather normal. The sex, my sex, she said it was normal!”
Oh, my God, why did I even bother to care! Here I was thinking he must have a tangible reason for telling me to fuck off! Rage bubbled up in me again. He wasn’t concerned he’d slept with Celeste, my self-imposed personal stylist who was also his ex when he was already in a relat——Oh my, I wouldn’t call THAT a relationship——ing to Maya, his constant booty-call girl, all the things he wouldn’t do to her if she didn’t show up here early?
“I mean, how could she say that to me…?” He was still in rant-mode.
I was too couth to tell him to fuck off, no I wasn’t trained that way. Instead, I showed him the finger——very polite and refined, if you’d ask me——and headed out of the room.
“Where are you going?” Raymond wailed.
The moment I shut the door on him, I realized my roommate handled criticism by learning. Hmm… effective. If only I cared that much about my studies than I did about my writing.———
Maya also cared about my sex blog, so as I pounded her door, I knew I was going to get some sympathy.
She opened the door barely robed and fixed me with a disgusted glare. “OK. So when I ordered for a sexy cop I never meant one that wasn’t in uniform.” Then she swept her gaze over my crotch. “Oh, Kobs, really, I don’t do virgins.”
I looked down at my shorts and saw the trail of urine I’d forgotten earlier blazing on my pants. What rage could do to a retentive memory.
“They would do that?” The question flew off her lips as I’d finished relating to her my ordeal with Adwoa. “They couldn’t possibly do that?”
“I know.” I smiled for the support as I caught the trousers she hurled at me after using her blow-dryer on it. “Maya, what do you think about my blog? Would you call it sexual trash?” I asked as I pulled on the trousers.
“I think it’s absolutely good!”
The bright way she’d replied made me doubt her. “Maya, did you hear my question?”
“You asked what I thought about your blog.” There was that nerviness in her voice.
I was silent for a while, aiming her with a cocked brow. “Maya, do you read my blog?”
And that was when she began studying her feet, hopping from one to the other.
“Occasionally.” She answered without looking up.
“Um, like memorising the link? Yeah, it tells me what your post is about.”
“So you just do not click the link.” I said, enraged.
There was a knock on her door.
“Oh, Kobs.” You could tell she was relieved. “That…”
But she shouldn’t have bothered. I could tell from the rapping of the door, that bat belonged to someone from law enforcement.———
“Grannie-Grandma?” I was on the phone with my grandma. I’d looked all over campus for her. And she hadn’t been anywhere around with her Fetish Priest husband, which was odd. Because these oldsters stepped on campus and decided they’d only leave when they ever got the hang of it. No one really, ever got the hang of this campus. There was always a party somewhere if not here.
“Oh, hi, Kobs. We left for Accra.” You could hear the excitement in her voice, then she began whispering, “I am at a party.” Lots of shrewd giggling from her end. “It’s a Seniors Meet For Swinging Party.”
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. I stared at the walls of my hostel’s cafeteria in horror. I only called to find out an older opinion of my blog. I certainly hadn’t been expecting such a——
“Bombshell! It’s a bombshell——“
“Anyway,” I cut my Gran off before she could elaborate. “Gran, you read my blog, don’t you?”
“I suppose I do…” she asked suspiciously. “Wait, I am not going to allow you make me say anything liable to let your wicked mum put me in a home!”
“No, no, gran.” Although a nursing home might be my parents’ answer to curb Gran’s sexual adventures. I was definitely noting that down. “I just want an opinion of my blog.”
“I love it, Kobs. Although I really think it’s bare.”
I was crushed. “Bare?”
“Don’t get me wrong. You are really not decided of what you want your blog to be. Do you want your blog to be of sex or too explicit sex. You are just in between. You are not at the extremes. Take a plunge, Kobs. Do something more racy!”
I definitely wasn’t going to note THAT down. “So then you wouldn’t believe my writing group wants me to quit writing it.”
I loved my gran. She was probably about to board a flight to come kick Adwoa’s arse.
“I’m sorry what did you say?” She came back on the line after a couple of seconds of silence. “Sorry, someone stabbed me from behind with their pork-sword. All my fault, if only I’d been alert, or even lubed in the first place.”
Senior citizens, I thought sickened, quickly disconnecting the call in horror, too much time on their hands (and knees) after pension.
A text buzzed on my phone. I was filled with dread.
ADWOA: An emergency meeting has been called to discuss your blog at four. Would be expecting you.
That there was me about to be excommunicated loud and clear. I was sweating profusely.——
“You are really being excommunicated because of writing about sex?” It was two hours to the meeting and I was with Celeste, my personal stylist in her room. “That really isn’t legal, is it?”
“I’m not sure what legal is anymore.” I said, still not any less shocked than I was when she’d opened her door, to me, a lost dog on her doorstep.
“I know the best thing you need, Kobs,” she went on, probably regarding my situation as trivial——especially when she had no idea I co-founded the group with my sweat and blood, “there’s this party over in Accra,” she spoke heading for her closet when I was really about to tell her, no, swinging with oldies was just so wrong, “it’s that Frathouse thingy. You need that escape, trust me,” she walked out of her closet holding out things she’d expect me to wear for the party, “I’m already packed. Hop up on board so we could go have a good time and get back to school after we—ahem, you have found a solution.”
I didn’t waste time nodding. Perhaps, that was what I needed. An escape.
TYPING: How do you face criticism?
Something about it all just didn’t feel right, I thought as I walked back to my hostel from Celeste’s to pack a bag. It just wasn’t right that they’d want to kick me out because of my subject matter? I mean, I might write about sex, but I was still a writer and didn’t need to be discriminated upon.
I halted, took my phone out of my pocket, checked the time. A few minutes to the meeting. I typed Celeste a quick message telling her I needed to face my problems, and run on for the meeting.
But as I entered the meeting grounds, all the courage whipped out of me. I hadn’t known there were over a hundred members in our writers group?
“Welcome, Kobby.” Adwoa stood up to greet me as I took my seat. “As you can see,” she gestured towards the people I didn’t recognize. “These people have pretty moving sentiments about your blog, they’d like to share.”
Person 1: You should rot in hell!
Person 2: You are a ‘sex satan’!
Person 3: You should be beheaded!
Oh, no… the hate words were just spilling out of people’s mouths.
“You see,” Adwoa silenced the crowd. “Your blog. You just write about sex. African writers are supposed to write tales that give off morals to society. But you. You are just not taking a stance on dry sex, or blow jobs, or dirty-talk…”
Oh, my God. I pretty much didn’t wait to listen to her speak. I stood up and left the room, crushed.
I really didn’t know what to think as I bounded out of the place. These people were no Celeste who said my blog was fab, or Gran who said my blog was bare, or Maya who had said my blog was good when she hadn’t even read it. These people were real people who read my blog and were angered by the feelings I evoked in them.
“Kobs.” I looked up to see Maya racing down the road approaching me with Raymond tailing behind her. The two of halted breathless at my feet.
“What are you guys doing here?”
“Celeste told us about the meeting.” Raymond spoke, “She mentioned you looked dejected and we weren’t going to make these people dictate to you what you should write and what you shouldn’t.”
I was touched by their concern, but…
“Kobby, I’m so sorry I haven’t ever read your blog. But that Adwoa girl,” Maya interrupted my thoughts yanking me back towards the hostel. “She’s a writer’s number one enemy: a bully.”
A bully was pretty much everyone’s enemy. But you wouldn’t find me telling her on that. After all, I did need her support. Even though I felt all was already lost.
TYPING: In the face of harsh critique, you need your friends…
“You can’t certainly excommunicate him from the group!” Maya was yelling at the members of the writing group who were stunned to silence. “Even though Kobby does write about sex,” she spoke with so much fierceness my heart filled with warmth. “he uses, um,” she faltered, then looked at Raymond who winked at her. Oh, my God had they practiced a speech before hightailing it here? “Better metaphors, his similes are similar, and his oxymoron——I know, I just called him a moron, but he wouldn’t mind!——is the very, um, essence of our, um oxygen!” She whipped around to whisper in my ears, “Kobs, see I am rhyming, isn’t that the kind of thing you people appreciate in these places, why am I not hearing any cheering?”
“If he doesn’t put an end to that sexual trash, he’s no more in this group.” Adwoa spat to the support of people in the group.
“Hold it right there,” Through the door came Celeste, dressed head-to-toe in fur and dragging a suitcase behind. She passed us and glared at Maya who shrugged as though saying: I tried. “Now look here, you inconsiderate prudes,” her listeners moaned horrified, “So what if Kobby writes about sex? The fact that we are African shouldn’t mean we should be kept in the dark about the s-e-x word. I love sex! Yes, I am African, do not doubt that. And I would read Kobby’s blog all the time, because he teaches us there are other positions besides plain, boring missionary. He teaches us some foreplay is important and sex is not all about that moment where he’s in you and it’s all babies! He teaches us we could try contraceptives, like dry-humping which gives very good orgasms, I promise you.” The crowd gasped. “So I would have my cake and eat it and you aren’t going to ruin it for me.”
I was touched. Highly touched Celeste stood up for me like that. She had the opportunity to fly out to the capital if she was going to get to the party on time but she chose to come here. Unlike my Gran who I presumed at this moment was enjoying being stabbed.
“You teach that on your blog?” Maya demanded whipping out her phone. “What’s your blog address?”
TYPING: …your fans, that little comment that brightens up your day instead of the one that brings you down, as long as you know you have such a community of love supporting you…
I left Raymond to answer Maya and stepped in front to Celeste, facing the members who were still shocked at Celeste’s appearance and her words. Celeste had said good, but she really hadn’t said it all. “Guys,” I began after a deep inhalation. “Yes, I do write about sex. Yet that shouldn’t make me closely related to the sex god or even the sex satan,” The person who’d referred to me by that pulled out a cardboard with a picture of me topped with horns jutting out from my jaws. I stared at the picture strangely wondering if he’d overturned it, but looked away after an impatient snort in the crowd. “My motive behind writing the blog is not to put up sexual trash as you say. I want Africans to be expressive about their sexual tendencies. We shouldn’t stay in the dark if we want to talk about sex! We shouldn’t be penalized or excommunicated if we just want express what sex means to us! Of course, I don’t take a leaning on my blog, because who am I to condemn? Who am I not to state the realities?” I found my voice elevating. “So, hell yes, I want to talk about SEX! SEX! SEX!”——Oh, Christ, how liberating it was to say that word!——“SEX! SEX! SEX! And I really do not care if you want to kick me out. At least I am not shy to voice that I love sex or writing about it!”
TYPING: … and as long as you love, and are confident with what you do, never let harsh critique steer you away.
“So, screw you all!” I yelled at the top of my lungs before backing towards the exit. “I quit. Not the blog, this group.”
Since I started my blog, I’d never felt this justified to write about sex. But yes, now that I know my friends were behind my back, and an online community who kept flooding my blog and email with lovely remarks were in support of me, and that my motive was really something that was dear to me, I was never going to be swayed by harsh critique, I thought as I walked into the sunset with my friends.
After all, hadn’t the worst already come? Sex satan was that high on the scale of worse to worst. And of course, ‘Mad. Bad. Man-child’. It really couldn’t get any worse than that.
TYPING: You handle harsh critique by facing it.
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