Today is the first day of school vacation so I got up at 8:30 in celebration. Through the kitchen window I see that the moon has decided to sleep in too. It sits still and white in the blue morning sky. Half moon, I think.
I see. I say. It is. I call it a half moon. Why don’t I call it a moon that I can only see half of? Why should the moon suddenly be chopped in two because a mere and mortal man standing in his kitchen can only see half of the whole? ‘Half moon! Half moon?,’ he says incredulously, shaking his half head.
There is a man. His skin is black. He becomes a black man. Why not just a man? I say ‘black man’ because that is what I see. Fine. But we have come to this universal and unequivocal equation: I see + I say = The Truth. In a market place in Kenya a man meets another man. Both are black. Neither sees a black man.
Everything I know for certain and without a doubt is based on my unique perception. (Only I can see out of these eyes.) Truth never has anything to do with the reality of what is actually out there. It is simply a confirmation of one’s vantage point. Nobody in a man suit has the capacity to see, let alone the words to say, what is truly true. ‘Half moon today’, I say sleepily as I sip my coffee gazing up at the cold autumn sky. Offended, moon goes to sulk behind a puff of cloud.
When the sky gets lighter, brighter the moon disappears completely. So no moon. ‘What? No moon? Well, thanks for nothing.’ The fact you cannot see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And what you can see is never all there is to see.
I walk forward with an outstretched hand. So far so good. I say hello. Suddenly chunks of my being, my upbringing, profession, hopes and hobbies, are flicked aside as quickly and automatically as whisking a nat away.
Whoosh, gone. I am stamped ‘foreigner’. Face value, only value. I stand no longer anything but what he sees and (silently) says. I feel cheated. But this all happens in a split second. It isn’t like one day I’ll have the opportunity to defend myself in court, to explain the accent and argue that I’d be a bit more if you’d only look at my invisible side. There is no time for a right of rebuttal. I see in his eyes that I’ve been stripped of my being and now must parade around as a thing he ‘knows’ for certain. I also feel the heavy pressure of all his accumulated knowledge about foreigners now bearing down on my shoulders. I said hello and now I’m stupid. All foreigners are stupid because they talk funny. (‘Maybe I didn’t go to Harvard but at least I know how to pronounce roue, roi and rouille’, he thinks privately and thankfully.)
‘How are you’, he asks. But not really. Why ask about what you know already? I want to answer, ‘Mutilated’. But I abide by social convention and thus limbless, headless and heartless, I answer, ‘Fine, thank you, and you’?