One evening Mercy sends me an invitation to her cousin’s wedding captioned `clear your calendar gal’ (people who use gal believe they invented slang). I go straight to the wardrobe.
What’s the theme?
Lol. Blue and yellow I think.
Mirror on set, 23 trials of fitting clothes and matching heels, attire found, I confirm attendance.
(Can’t someone just type okay? Or do bundles deplete with the number of letters? anyway).
I wanted to look exceptional, and to show off my newly acquired urban sense of fashion. No more sports attire during weddings. In this one, I would pass to be a Nairobian and have priorities of getting food fast; going to the special toilets with tissues, and people would want to take a selfie with me. (Okay, you don’t have to shout I’m from Machakos, si it’s near Nairobi?)
That Saturday took so long to come but finally. The way I anticipated that wedding; you would think it’s my son’s. It was not the wedding, just eagerness to show off my attire. Mercy gave me a ride in her white Bima. It is manual; she tells everyone that she drives a manual car and that makes her feel like she is a cast at Fast and Furious. It was a gift given by her boyfriend on their engagement (Which part of the heart do these gals touch to deserve such gifts?).
Ok. We arrived ceremoniously and enjoyed every part of the wedding.
My tears are usually very far, in Honolulu maybe, you would need to cash them to open the taps. Nevertheless, on this day, I wept. I shed tears. Like a full tumbler. And no, this is not a twist. I was not the bride neither was the groom my ex. It was the vows the groom made. The words moved me. Heck. Words move writers, we listen to every word with keenness and when it’s a vocabulary, we write it down faster and hunger to use it on the next article (Honolulu). We wept.
`I will always love you Shiru. And when we bear the fruits of our love, the kids, I will cherish them. I will be there from the beginning. We shall bring them up together in the ways of the Lord.
I promise to be a present husband (loooooonggggg pause)
and dad (loooooonggggg pause)
so……so…..So help me God’. (the groom repeated this line three times, face up, not reading, looking at the bride in the eye and then at the mother who was seated in the crowd and he tried to hold tears but they were too arrogant they slid).
For a moment an emotional mood set in. Those who couldn’t hold shed tears; women, men, kids. This moment did not choose. When a man cries on his wedding day, in front of his friends, in-laws, strangers, family, you really want to understand why. I didn’t really understand why, and Mercy thought it was too personal to the family she wouldn’t let the cat out. Damn! These gals who are gifted Bimas and drive manual cars can keep secrets.
As a highlight, none of us caught the single ladies’ bouquet; we shall catch in the next one.
Weeks later, I reached out to Mercy so she links me to the couple. The essence was to get to the bottom of that line. This must be a story. After so much convincing, the groom was willing to share his story with the world as long as his name remains anonymous. So we call him AM? Ok, it’s 3.04am as I write this, it has no deeper meaning. We cool? We can listen to AM now?
It’s a cool Sunday afternoon. Shiru gets the bell and hugs me like we were high school buddies. She has a shape this one; must be a loyal follower of Jane Mukami and detoxing. She does her make up well, keeps natural hair, and her voice sounds like that of a vlogger,
`hey guys, welcome to our chanol…..’. AM is concluding on a plan; he is an architect. It’s me and Shiru; she hands over the wedding album to keep me busy as she prepares something in the kitchen. AM appears a few minutes later.
He comes in buttoning his cuff shirt. He is dressed in a suit for the interview; they took this too seriously. They thought I was a newspaper reporter and first impressions matter. We start.
I am the first born with 2 younger brothers and a sister. My mother was a primary school teacher and a farmer, very good with kids. At home, she was a disciplinarian; you couldn’t ask for anything without saying `please for your kindness’. Please forgive me if I use please so many times, my friends say I’m over courteous; my mother shaped that side of me.
Shiru brings us varieties of fruits. Please have some; my wife thinks serving us some soda will add 120calories.
My father was a civil servant. I’m not sure what his profession was but he kept on being transferred from Naivasha to Kisumu to Nyeri. When he came during the weekends, he always had toffees or new clothes, shoes and many old newspapers to use in the toilet (we were rich; we used papers and not leaves). He drove a Volkswagen beetle, those days people called it chura (frog). Owning a car was a big deal and a sign of richness. Our house was cemented, wooden up to some point with a three course of stones. We were a respected family. I didn’t struggle to get a girlfriend; I changed them like clothes. Other boys wanted to be me so badly.
I owned a BMX in class 4 while other people cycled their uncles’ black mambas; girls loved me the more. I suffered from short men syndrome and these material things overshadowed the disease. I was a very short boy; tiny; smallest in our class. I would have shared clothes with a class 1 pupil; my shoe size nevertheless was very big compared to my body size.
Hahaha on this shoe size note, I (the writer) laugh. A hard loud laugh hiding my face. AM tells me to
please stop and I please stop then remember the joke and laugh and then please stop. For evidence’s sake, he requests Shiru to bring the old albums; we go through one as he explains every photo. We are on the same shoe size page. We continue.
We had a house help called auntie; mum ordered we call her so. She did our laundry, cooked, and stayed with my small sister who was very young. She only cooked when dad wasn’t around as dad only ate food cooked by mum. Auntie lectured us when we wet the bed.
The punishment would be waking up, removing the mattress to dry in the sun, and washing the urinated clothes before going to school. She beat us sometimes. I enjoyed her beatings; they were not as thorough as mum’s.
At some point, mum went to upgrade her education so her salary could increase. That’s what she told us. Back then, they did assignments on manila papers. She studied during holidays and we were left with auntie; dad would come often to check on us. Mum studied for 5years; she had retakes; many retakes, and I felt like lecturing her to work hard, stay focused, and stop playing with education. However, the thought of a thorough beating with that black pipe with green stripes was enough to stop me.
One Saturday, we’re supposed to meet up with the boys and unknown to my short, tiny self; they have a mega plot against me. I land with my BMX, one of the boys borrows so I give him to cycle. Immediately after, punches come from every side; I cannot even feel my body or hear what they are saying; it’s like there is a swarm of bees around me. They beat me up and my cheeks swell. I get a chance and run for my life like no one’s business.
Shiru brings his phone. You should take this one. It’s Denno; he has called 4 times. He picks and they speak construction language. There in, I (the writer) get a chance to sneak a peek on his current shoe size. Ok. Curiosity. It’s number 9.
Sorry, business matters.
Where were we? The beating! I had prepared to get very mad with my parents. Mom, for choosing to give birth to a short boy; she should have changed the style or eaten water melons while pregnant or prayed for a tall baby. And dad for being rich and owning a car and buying me a BMX. So I rush straight to his bedroom without even knocking and find him and auntie. Auntie was on top. I had sneaked in some episodes of the bold and the beautiful so I knew what love making was. I had even experimented with a class 7 girl and this is what dad was doing with auntie. It’s dad who saw me first; he was dumbfounded for a sec, pushed auntie away then told her never to break in in their room. Auntie ran out faster buttoning her shirt. They had not gone far as dad’s zip was intact; his nini was bulging though. Dad gave me first aid and bought me whatever I wanted; many toffees and juice cola and broad way and a promised me a new BMX. He literally begged me never to tell anyone about him, auntie, unbuttoned shirt, bulging nini and as long as he kept meeting my demands, I was sold out. Corruption started early.
I didn’t tell anyone for years, not even my mother. I’m in form two and dad now works in Nairobi and lives in Zimmerman; I had been to his place twice but we stopped going. When he comes home, he is a bit tipsy and stocks the cabinet with tuskers and a spirit whose name I forgot. He indirectly taught me how to drink as I would take a tot of spirit and add some water. By now I had grown taller and my shoe size had increased even more.
Ok. I (THE WRITER) laughed hard again. AM, you are newlywed, please don’t tempt me to start imagining and drawing circles. I have seen your shoe size and I am not Mary mother of Jesus please for your kindness.
My parents had arguments most times, especially money related. When I asked mum for pocket money, ask dad, dad, ask mum and so on and so on but dad mainly came through. He stopped coming home often and even visiting us in school. We questioned mum and she explained he was busy working. Mum sacked auntie one Sunday morning; she had become very inactive and was vomiting every now and then; signs of morning sickness; she was expectant.
I missed my dad terribly. I missed our driving sessions together, I missed replacing the wheels, I missed coming home to a new pair of jeans, and most importantly, I missed stealing his alcohol. One closing day, I said enough is enough. Instead of going home, I went to Zimmerman uninvited and knocked at his door, auntie opens the door; heavily pregnant, her stomach looked like a big white rugby ball. This was very confusing. Like a dream. Like the bold and the beautiful. I was the bitterest teenager.
I ran; she was so pregnant to chase me and started my journey back home. On arrival, I narrated to mum what I had seen that day and disclosed the 10years ago incidence shyly. Later, my parents would divorce and we would be left with mum. Life changed; money decreased; kids used me to explain the deeper meaning of `aliye juu mngoje chini’. The hardest thing was seeing my siblings grow without a father. It should be dad taking my brothers for circumcision, it should be dad walking my sister down the aisle, it should be dad teaching us about manhood. We missed having a dad. Terribly. I was a bitter man who acted like the man of the home in many occasions. Bitterly.
4years ago my dad died of cancer; my step sister informed me of his demise. I had many regrets of not reaching out to him, of ignoring his phone calls, of not inviting him to my graduation. I should have listened to him when he called, I should have given him a chance. I only saw his bad side. I was bitter. Even in his death, I pray that he forgives me as I forgave him in his death bed.
After all is said and done, for as long as I live, my wife and kids will always have me by their side.
By now AM is weeping and I want to make the big shoe size joke; I’m not funny and have no other joke at the moment. Shiru hands him a handkerchief. We go into silence. I travel to Honolulu and get my tears; we all weep.
Ok. Please for your kindness. Bye!