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.