Is this how it feels to be a man? Years back, I should have felt I was spilling too much, but not now. There are naked women wherever you turn on the street. Men are soon joining. Nothing is hidden anymore.
In the morning, dad tells me to wash the car. We call it “his car.” A Mercedes, not too fancy, but must remain clean in and out. Perhaps the cleanliness is the price it — I —have to pay for its simplicity. The better word is something lacking fancy in every detailed, and even silent, way. Dad, must never find dust on his dashboard. His footmats must remain original-black. And so by the time I have cleaned the body, scrubbed my life out on the tyres, the remaining drops of water in my body evaporating quickly, I still have to crawl into the car to clean. But I must never say I’m tired.
Mum says fatigue is for women. And the lazy. Dad agrees with her. When I’m alone, I curse myself for being such a weakling—such a woman.
I leave home soon to where the beards on your jaw is not enough to convince people of your maleness. Even so, mine delays, and I’m tempted to rub kai kai (concentrated alcohol I think) on my face as the rest do. I’m scared enough to resist, perhaps the reason I’m not man enough.
Lemme tell you this, younger fellows; while home gives you succour, accepts you as whatever you deem fit enough for yourself, out here isn’t like that. You’re a man? You gotta prove it. You gotta BE it.
I have to learn to like football. I have no talent in it but in the talking I have to be good. Show me a man who does not like football, and I’ll show you Eve’s grandmother. Some say “I’m indifferent” but even that is a crime. I have to slow down each time I pass those football newspaper stalls on the roadsides. I have to cram the enticing headlines to initiate the longest arguements. Of course, it’s no news now that men don’t talk about football. They shout. And as expected, I’m accorded due respect now unlike the times I sneaked away when Messi and Ronaldo became the topic.
All is cemented when dad dies. My sisters surround his bed doing what girls do best in times like this. And when the tears stop to flow they start to sniff. I’m sitting on the bed. Mum is on the other side. Dad is holding my hand. Staring into my face. Searching. When he does not find what he’s searching for, he turns to mum, shakes his head, what I read as “What has happened to our son?” Mum shakes her head too, “I’m as confused as you are.” Call it Couple Advanced Communication, CAC if you like. I feel something in me wanting to give way. Some part of me wanting to cry. But I’ve heard “men don’t cry” a lot. Many times from dad himself when he’s nursing my wound with hot water. I look on. Eyes dry.
As he closes his eyes, I know he’s thinking of me. What man I have become, and with the look on his face, quite regretfully. He says no words to me. There’s no need for another BE-A-MAN! sermon. Or lip-chastening. I have become a good pious adherent already.
Moreover, I have now a strand of hair sprouting on my jaw.