Friday, April 2, 2021

Slickario (or, The Fashion Killer Of Cool) - Rémy Ngamije

 This is what I remember.

My uncle Rigobert, a sapeur who spends his money on the houses of style but none on the home his family lives in, is hiding out at our house, avoiding his wife and parental responsibilities. He’s a made a game out of it and sworn me to secrecy.

Mon petit, they are all after me. You must hide me.”

I tell him I know good places for him, places even my younger brother can’t find me when I hide from him.

My mother scolds Rigobert from the kitchen. He has blown his pay on some new threads. She lambasts him about there being no food in his fridge while his wardrobe bursts with Milanese and Florentine fashions.

He sighs and looks at me. “Being an older sister is to spend all of your time complaining about your younger brother,” he says. “When you’re older just let your brother be himself.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of notes as thick as rolled tobacco leaves and peels off some for me. He tells me he’s paying me to listen to his wisdom, a charity he says I’ll never come across again as long as I live. “Nowadays people pay other people to tell them their problems. What foolishness is that, eh?” I shrug, holding the money, a token of generosity I will later remember even after my mother tells me Rigobert is a liar and classic charlatan who preys on friends and family indiscriminately. My uncle rubs my head. “How old are you now, mon petit?”

“As old as your eldest, Rigo.” A pot lid’s metal ring reverberates in the kitchen.

My uncle whistles. “That old already? That’s old enough to hear the truth as Moses brought it down from Sinai.”

My mother snorts.

“Have I ever lied?” He clutches his heart, mortally hurt.

“To everyone you know, Rigo.”

“The truth is for strangers.”

“I do not want you corrupting my son.”

“Never. He is my heir.”

 “You have heirs.”

“I have children, yes, but no heirs. This is the one who must take over.”

“Take what over? You are a pauper, Rigo. Everything you have is in your dreams.”

“Which is where everything starts and everything ends. Dreams are important things.”

“My son is not your plaything.”

“I am teaching him the great game of life. He will be more powerful than me and cut them down I tell you.”

I am excited hearing about cutting. I ask him if we are playing sword games. He giggles, a strange sound from the tallest man I have ever seen. My mother laughs from in the kitchen. (She denied this many years later.)

“Ah, mon petit. I must part your intellectual waters.”


“Relax. I share nothing but wisdom with him.”

“He does not need wisdom from you.”

“Nonsense. Have you not heard of my name? I am Slickario, the Fashion Killer of Cool, the Sage of the Six Paths. I must pass on what I know.”

My mother laughs again but says nothing.

My uncle winks at me as he hides from his wife and family in our lounge. He lowers his voice, leans in close so I can smell the sharp cologne slashed on his neck. He tells me this is how you stop women and men from getting ideas about you:

“One: never keep a full fridge. An onion, a sliver of butter, the last slice of bread, a shake of milk in the carton, that’s all you need. A man with a full fridge is asking for a wife and for his friends to camp at his house. Two: do your own cooking and cleaning. Women will use these favours to trap you; and if you clean up your friends’ messes, you are just as culpable. Three: never let anyone use your bathroom. Once they shit in it, that’s the start of your problems. Four: never let anyone sleep over. When you’re done with women, make sure they leave. If they can drive, jangle their keys at them before they try to cuddle. If they don’t have a car, let them walk. Nothing like night air to clear their heads and hearts out. Whether it’s the police or military checkpoints or the Last Judgement outside, make your friends—man or woman—leave your house. If they sleep over they will think you are brother and sister and you don’t want that. Five—come here—when the time comes you must keep this hard like a handbrake. You need to be able to stop women’s world; stick this in them a couple of times and they will become soft and do anything for you, they will u-turn their lives like cars from the movies, eh. Keep this strong and your friends will respect you—the one who holds the gun is feared as much as the gun. Six is the most important one: no falling in love. Ever. Love is for fools. Do not be like your uncle, Rigo. He is a fool.”

My uncle Rigobert who calls himself Slickario—the Fashion Killer of Cool, the Sage of the Six Paths—tells me all of this with the solemnity and sincerity of a sermon. Later on, as a man, I will act on his advice. It will bring me ruin and heartache. His counsel will take me to the edge of love, friendship, family, and sense of self; it will dump me in a vast and unexplored country called loneliness. But right now I am young and he is the coolest man I have ever met.

Rémy is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine.

His debut novel The Eternal Audience Of One is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, American Chordata, Azure, Sultan's Seal, Columbia Journal, Lolwe, and many other places. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website:

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