Someday Fathers

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I met him in a bar. One of those Nairobi one’s in the middle of a residential area. Upmarket. Somewhat. Where the waiters and waitresses speak in English and the hangout is what used to be a really large bungalow with acres of real estate for what must have been a large kitchen garden but is now dotted with wooden tables straddled by high chairs.

He’s at the bar, knocking back what’s left of what looks like his third glass of whiskey. He looks at it first as if reading it it’s last rights, then tosses the contents into his welcoming mouth. I can tell it’s his third because he doesn’t grimace as he swallows. He licks his lips as if trying to feel them. The numbness has started checking in.

He’d wanted to talk. That’s what he’d said in his text earlier. Ok, not in those words. More of, ‘Let’s catch up you guy. Been a long day and I hear there’s no elec at my digz. Si we meet at Explorer?’

I pulled a chair next to him and got on with the usual pleasantries as I ordered for a bottle of water. I had to hydrate after battling Nairobi traffic that was thicker than uji that day.

Sema my guy? How’s the going? I broke the ice

I’m ok my guy. He responded as he dumped two ice cubes in his now refilled glass.

Clearly you’re ok. Is that like your twenty fifth double?

Haha. He guffawed sarcastically. It’s my third. Si you know I’ve become a light weight these days. Twenty five doubles I’d be outside parking myself in the parking lot like a moti.

We laughed. I wouldn’t put that past him.

We got into the usual banter. Work, family, traffic, politics and how we should check our voter details lest we find we’ve been registered in Moyale. Not that it mattered anyway, because our salaries would remain the same and we’d still have to buy bread for breakfast no matter who got into power. And the sun will rise and set and form a day.

He was stressed he said. He dove straight into it. Must have been the liquid courage he’d been sipping. He’d been happily married for four years now but he had no kids. Not for lack of trying. The doctors said they were fine. Three opinions they’d sought. It was the same thing. Nothing is wrong. Just eat healthy, pray and keep trying.

I mean, It’s not that it’s not fun trying. He still had his sense of humour.

But sometimes you just wish someone could call you daddy you know. Not uncle so-and-so. Someone in your image that you can hold, and nurture and care for and take to rugby matches and teach them about life and girls or boys. Someone who thinks you’re the strongest, smartest person alive. Someone you’d die for a thousand times. You know what I mean?

I didn’t know what he meant. Not exactly. But his watery eyes told it all. I sincerely hoped it was the seesha smoke from the obnoxious group next to us. A grown man in tears is not a comfortable scene to behold. Unless his favourite team has lost. He seemed to notice the emotions in him bubbling under and quickly put them in check by ordering for another double.

I didn’t even know what to say. You hear of childless women craving the need for motherhood and going on about that ‘biological clock’. I guess I was never ready, or even knew, there was a man’s perspective to all this.

Si you just sow your seeds everywhere and anywhere. At least that’s what those before us have always done. Then you discover your half brother at your father’s funeral. And you don’t object because you have the same orange sized nose.

As if on ironic cue, Boys to Men’s A Song for Mama filtered through the speakers. The seesha crowd sang along with incongruent precision. Frogs in a creek sounded better. I had to break the awkward silence as well as distract my mind from the seesha crooners.

How come there are no songs about fathers?

Good question my guy. Who knows? I guess people have thought that fathers need no songs. They just need to be fathers.

Yeah. You’re probably right. I agreed and ordered myself a double.

We sat in silence. Him thinking about why fatherhood had eluded him. Me, thinking about how many fathers couldn’t care less about raising children. Such is the world I guess. Some fathers are on a road seeking children while some children are on a road seeking fathers yet they do not meet.

The tone deaf seesha crooners had stopped their torturous din. I turned to him, looked him in the eye and raised my glass.

You’ll be a father one day my guy. Just as long as you don’t raise children who sing like those blokes.

We laughed and clinked glasses.

To someday fathers. 

 

Be The Best Man You Can Be

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I spent part of my December holidays in Uganda. My pal was getting married. Actually, he’s more than a pal. He was my best man in my wedding. Since it was his time to  bite the marital dust, I was returning the favour. This was probably the highlight of an otherwise tepid 2016.

You see, this pal of mine lives in Canada. That’s where he met his Ugandan babe. This love knows no boundaries I tell you. He’s what you may call my best friend. My boy. We’ve done all manner of stuff together. Had good times, bad times, ish ish times. I’d missed him, no lie. So it was good to hang out together. To try and relive those old days when we were young and silly. Don’t judge me, it’s just man love. Yes. There is such a thing.

We tried to go to a strip club in Nairobi, like back in the day. When we were young and unencumbered by life. This strip club was different though. More refined than the places we’d frequent in our youth. We realised we’d caught on on age, when all we could do was stare at the women do their thing on the poles and we’d be cringing like new parents watching their child on the monkey bars. Some of those stunts were impressive I must say. We got a raw deal in our time. The strippers were not as athletic. Needless to say that night sojourn failed, and all we ended up doing was sipping whiskey and reminiscing the good old days.

Uganda was awesome though. Apart from spending time with my boy, the experience was wonderful. That thing they say about Ugandan women? The kneeling, the kindness, the child bearing hips? All true. I experienced it. Well I didn’t ‘experience’ the child bearing hips.  Not that I wanted to. I should probably stop talking about the hips. Yes, every single thing I’d heard was true.

Worst part about Uganda, the heat. You can fry an egg. No. An omlette in that heat. Your car bonnet will suffice as a pan. I sweated litres on this trip. I mean I ordinarily sweat like a pig. I can’t stand heat. I’m the guy at the gym who has to wipe off every piece of equipment I use. And disinfect it too, before I get dirty looks. Even when I eat spicy food (which I love), I get a wet patch on my now balding head. I sweat. Alot. So heat is definitely trying for me. My pal converted to Islam to marry this wonderful Baganda girl. And so, we had to dress up in Kanzus for the wedding. If anyone is interested, I have baked internal organs to donate when this world spits me out. It was like some practical joke.  But it was a blessed one all the same.

I learnt a few things on that trip that December. Simple lessons for an otherwise tough year.

Sometimes in life you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

We traversed Kampala buying cooking oil, flour, copious amounts of juice and sodas and water as gifts for the bride’s family. We braved the heat and the stress and the traffic. We partied hard in the night and were up early to carry out various tasks leading up to the day.  All because we had to get this guy married. And such is life. Sometimes you just have to get up and show up.

People matter.

Forget your problems and your pains sometimes. Look out for people. Help them and be there for them. Where a coat and Kanzu in the blistering heat. You’ll sweat but you won’t die. And even if you do, at least you were there. We focus so much on fickle achievements and selfish goals but sometimes you just need to be there for people. That’s enough.

At the end, it’s all fun.

Many times in life there’ll be tough days. There’ll be days you don’t want to get up. There’ll be days you don’t want to show up. But in the end it’s all worth it. And you can laugh and toast to having come out alive on the other side. Savour that moment and enjoy the bliss. Then wake up the next day to take on the next challenge.

On that note, I hope to live those lessons. It won’t be easy, but a hand towel would have no purpose if there was no sweat. I don’t know about you, but I’ll try to be the best man I can be. To myself, to those around me. Or just simply to be.

Here’s to an awesome 2017.