This has nothing else to do with Bien other than the fact that the following events took place on his birthday. I am one of those people who believe that Sauti Sol can do no wrong. That it is almost impossible for them to release a bad song. So when I heard that Bien was celebrating his stepping onto the third floor, there was no way I was missing it. But that is as much as that tall dude with an oblong shaped face and a head that is shaved all the way to the scalp, has to do with anything here. If you came here hoping for some kind of gossip, I am not even sorry for wasting your time.
This is about men and toilets.
The occurrences of 29th December 2017 still linger in my mind, stubbornly hanging around the way the scent of a Somali woman’s perfume sticks around after she is long gone. The plan was that this becomes the first blogpost of 2018, until Strangers in the Night happened and there was nothing I could do.
There was this dude.
I would have told you about his features, but they are all a haze to me. I would like to lie and blame the poor lighting of the room we met in, or even the fact that I was lubricated beyond what is generally acceptable when we met. But nobody would believe that. In truth, I blocked his face out because of the near traumatic way in which we crossed paths.
I did not know how to feel about meeting him. Then, that is, now I know exactly how I feel about it; devastated. We met in a night club’s bathroom, you see, and even with that alone you can feel how weird it already is. I had just finished my business, tarried a little longer to drain out everything so that nothing drops on my pants. You know? Shake well after use? Then this fellow boychild found me at the sink washing my hands. At first he did not say anything, he just looked at me strange. Then looked away. Then back at me. Repeat repeat until it became awkward enough for me to think Are we having a moment here? Shit! Am I falling in love with another in the bathroom?
That discomfiture of who would break the ice stayed on for a bit, but because I wanted to establish dominance in this brief bathroom affair, I waited for him to be the bigger man and get a move on. He did not. So I tried to hurry up and be gone. This guy wanted to talk, clearly. And I was curious to know what he had to say.
But therein lay the problem. Girls reading this cannot come close to understanding the struggle, so do not even bother. There are certain rules of engagement when it comes to using a public restroom; a well laid social contract that we men enter into with one another by virtue of being born male.
Unlike women, we do not, first of all, announce that we need to use the bathroom, we just go. And when we do go, we do not go together. It is a toilet, not a church, or a Jubilee rally in which Tuko Pamoja. We do not use that station for talk therapy. And when we excuse ourselves to use the bathroom, we do not mean it as as euphemism for going to powder our noses. The bathroom is a place of function, not of note.
If you ask me where these conditions came from, I will not know what to say other than the fact that they have saved this universe from, well, going to shit. And if it is not broken, then what is there to fix?
The cardinal rule about using the john is that men do not engage other men in the loo. It is an unwritten ordinance, a generational heirloom passed down to us by the men who came before, and that is how we keep it.
The idea is to make the restroom experience as painless as possible for everyone involved. The most you can manage with another dude is perhaps just a nod, given merely to acknowledge the presence of another human being in the room. Eye contact is discouraged, but if you must look it has to be from the chest up. Whatever a man has going on below is none of your business.
Of course there are those other obvious rules of engagement; you are supposed to use the bowl furthest away from someone else. You can never select the urinal directly next to one already in use.
If you walk into a restroom like the one they have in Galana Plaza, you will find that it has only two peeing bowls next to one another. That means that only one dude can go at a time. If you have to pee, use the, well, shitholes. That other station was installed merely for decorative purposes and nothing else.
If you walk into a restroom and you see only one bowl in between two guys dehydrating themselves, and you may actually die if you do not go, then the most honourable thing to do is to just die. That restroom has clearly reached its critical mass and there is really no need to take everyone down with you. As men, we will make sure that your memory will be nothing short of fond. Your valiance and sacrifice will live on in song and poetry.
There are those other urinals that do not have stations. Just a big metallic plate screwed onto the wall, on which you are supposed to drain your juices, flowing down into a little stream decorated with colourful moth balls. The rule there is simple. Use your head. It has many more uses than just holding your ears in position. Do not squeeze so close that your skin can touch the next guy. And for the love of God, when peeing, aim low so that it does not splash.
It is in the men’s bathroom that men are most vulnerable, because their manhoods are exposed. And that is what brings us to the most important rule of all, and the point of this whole jeremiad; conversation. There is no circumstance in which talking is permitted in the bathroom. Not even among the best of mates. You cannot make conversation. In fact, the only thing you can make when inside a men’s bathroom is a prayer that the sticky substance under your shoes is Tusker Cider.
You cannot speak. Not even to the dude cleaning up – and I am pretty sure he is more interested in the tip more than anything else. His job is difficult as it is already. Not even to make comment about another fella’s flow. Or even worse, the elephant(s) in the room. Not just coz that line of thought is never welcome, but because not every man is walking around with, well, elephants, you know? It is insensitive to presume these things.
There are two types of dangerous men in this world; the Antichrist who were conceived under the loins of Jezebel herself; men who do not spit after urinating, men who do not exhale loudly after farting, and men who make small talk in the loo. Restroom dialogue also slows down traffic. Because men’s conversations are seldom short. So while you and your friend will be chopping it up about whatever topic it is sons of Diablo talk about, some other jamaa will be behind them, losing his hairline, trying to keep his shit together. So think of the bathroom as a drive by, or a quickie. You are in and then you out.
You would imagine that the tenets of this social pact are embraced by every man visiting the cockpit, but no. All I wanted was to leave that place and go back to my table because Bien and Savara were about to perform.
Lakini here was this chap with something clearly on his mind, and in his eyes I could see an itching urge to break The Men’s Bathroom Code. Or in more simple terms, to commit treason. I tried to harakisha so as to spare him the temptation of having to sell his soul, but his impatience beat me to the punch.
“Hey,” I said, speedily wiping my hands with towels because the hand drier takes way too long. There was still time to salvage this situation before it got any further.
“Are you…” Damnit! Hope is a dangerous thing. Lakini let it not be said that I did not try, “…are you Magunga?”
I so dreadfully wanted to lie. I had had more than enough to drink and when that happens, mischief becomes my favourite kind of sport. If the setting was any different, I would have toyed around with his mind just for kicks, but I needed this to end as soon as possible. Neither the time nor the place. Also, Sauti Sol were about to perform.
“Most of the time, yeah.” I do not even know why said this.
“You are The Magunga!?” He said, this time, a few decibels higher. Even through my drunken eyes, I could see his face light up like NYE fireworks. The way he said THE MAGUNGA, I was confused as to whether he was referring to me or my blog. I am simply Magunga. This blog is The Magunga.
Again, I could have interceded at this point to make it clear, but we where it got uncomfortable because there were other guys in the room who then turned to take a look at who this The Magunga was. They must have thought I am such a big deal because only important people prefix their names with the article The. Oh, how mistaken they were. Poor things, anxious to not be left out, squinted their eyes to look, only to realize I am just a kawa half toothed beardless goon struggling through the dregs of a quarter life crisis.
“Yeah, the very same.”
I cannot remember much of what he said after that, or exactly how the conversation went from there. That bit of my memory is soaked in beer and shots of a drink whose name I cannot pronounce. What I can gather, in flashes, is him getting excited about this encounter, me not so much, him reminding me to accept his friend request on Facebook, him promising me nyama choma to discuss either politics or gender issues, me wondering didn’t this guy need to pee or something? and him extending a hand to me so that we shake on the promise of a lunch one of these days.
I hope I did no such thing. Shake his hands, that is. No two men ever shake hands in the restroom. Not just because we know exactly where those hands have been, but also because it’s nuts!
Oh, and before I forget, Happy very very very very belated birthday, Bien.