Shaggy said it and I reiterate…life is one big party when you are still young. That is of course in retrospect now that you are all grown up and you worry about more important stuff like the next pay check, your weight, the kind of phone you are carrying, and that lassie next door with so many ‘uncles’ dropping her off at the hours of the night that no self-respecting girl would like to be seen alighting from a man’s car. Especially if the man has a generous belly that spills ungracefully over his pants, and looks like he has been paying PAYE way before your existence was even an idea.
Back when we were kids, the only sin that I could ever commit in the eyes of my mother was to have a double digit figure in my report card. It doesn’t matter what grades I had in my subjects. In fact, I remember at some point in class 4, I checked in at number 12 out of kedo 115 with 12% in Mathematics. The mistake here that earned me bamboo stick scars on my back, thighs and a scorching inferno on my bum was being number 12. But our God is a fair God. For what he measly understanding He gave me of numbers, He levelled it out with 50/50 in English Grammar and 45/50 in Composition.
Soon we shed off the innocence of childhood and defile the purity of younger years with worldly pleasures. At 10, I remember asking my dad why Brook and Richard of The Bold and the Beautiful famed liked closing their eyes as they bit off each others’ lips. I never understood why people would be so cruel to want to bite off another person’s mouth. What happened to that TV show anyway? I was the longest program ever known in the history of Kenya’s nighttime TV.
Later on at 12, your best friend in primary school whose dad is some big shot honcho in government takes you to their place and makes you watch Karmasutra on VCR tapes (remember them days?). Let’s just say that after that day, I never wanted to watch any more Indian movies for a long time. I needed therapy sessions to recover from the horror of breaking my visual virginity. But then we grow up and then we begin to worry about stuff like the number of followers we have on Twitter and the number of friends on Facebook. For girls, being fat becomes cool no more. Having a stomach that looks like you just swallowed the moon forces you into the gym to shed off those extra layers of fat. In an age where being anorexic is phat and being Rubenesque is a curse, ladies are forced to maintain an image; all the while struggling to look like an airbrushed model on the cover of Cosmo, Vanity Fair or Campus Chronicles. You spend more time in front of the mirror wondering why your mum never told you that she once dropped you as I child. Bony girls with eating disorders refer to girls burdened with cholesterol and corpulence in the same breathe as pigs, elephants and whales.
For us guys, growing up the only essential that you need is a father to teach you some things; like where did all that hair on my crotch come from, when & how to approach girls, which side does a condom roll, and whether God would be angry because you dreamt of doing obscene things Jane and then woke up with a white sticky smudge on your thighs. The rest is for experience and movies to teach you in the University of Life.
So last Tuesday, I added one more year to my age. I turned 22, much to the disappointment of a number of my lady friends. I still do not understand why. In my campus, we have this long-time, handed-down tradition for anyone on their birthdays. It entails throwing the ‘new-born’ in the swimming pool, and for those who cannot swim, you are allowed time to have your fair share of chlorine before someone dives in to save you. The tradition cuts across the board, whether you are a dude or chic. It is our version of incarnation into a (wo)man. After that, you are welcomed to dine and wine at the table of men, or powder your nose in the mirrors of women. And the person who always led the pack of hounds is none other than yours faithfully. So Tuesday was the day half the class wanted to even their scores against me. The boot was on the other foot, and it was about time I had a feel of what my medicine tastes like.
There was Winnie- I threw a bucketful of cold water on her on the midnight leading to the dawn of her birthday, never mind the cold or the fact that she has chest issues. There was Timothy- on his birthday, we snatched him from the comfort of his dendai and threw him on the deep end of the pool in his jeans…and phone- a birthday gift from his squeeze aforementioned. There was Naserian- at the end of last semester; we knew her birthday wouldn’t find her in session. So on the last day, as she was dragging her suitcase to the car park where her dad was waiting for her, I we orchestrated a plot and washed her using a fire-fighter horse pipe right in front of her folks! There was Sarah, who were used a fire extinguisher on. The horse pipe was dysfunctional. There was Jean who met her fate in the washroom- we poured water that was soaking ugali sufuria and threw the contents of the slime on her face, and newly made hair. There was Eric- we caught him just after the afternoon class and hurled him, kicking and screaming to the lecturer for salvation, into the deep end of the pool. The pool attendant had taken a sabbatical leave that week and the pool was green. Ever seen a green swimming pool? I have. Come to Parklands Law School on a Sunday evening.
All these (and many more) were looking forward to my birthday. All of them ripe with scores to settle. All of them anticipating my death by a thousand cuts. I was a wanted man. A fugitive.
However, they never got their day.
Problem is this; I do not celebrate my birthday. Okay, I used to up until my 14th birthday. On that day, I buried my dad (R.I.P). And when you bury your old man on your birthday that kind of changes everything. And however much I try to think of happy things on the 12th of March, the only images that come to my head are of him in a box, white cotton covering his facial openings, and his body being lowered into the grave by some careless idiots- one of whom dropped the rope too soon and plunged the casket into the cemented grave. I can still hear sound of the mahogany hitting the earth. I can still remember the cries of my kinsmen sending him away with wails and screams. His, however old and quaint he had become, is a story of a flower cut off in full bloom.
It has been eight years down the line and I still cannot seem to get my shit together and blow off a candle. Why? Why would I celebrate the anniversary of my old man’s burial with jubilation? Nobody with his or her accumulated wisdom of decades would convince me to smile at the images that haunt my mind. The messages on Facebook and twitter on my timeline only come close to curve out a smile from my lips. Just close. But no there yet.
In deed, for every decomposition…there is fertilization. On the same day, March 12, twenty eight years ago, six years before I was born, my grandpa died too. That’s why I was named after him. Magunga. Williams is from my dad, William. So I am Magunga Williams- named after two men with whom we shared a day in the calendar. Cool? NOT!
Do not get me wrong, it’s an honour to share this date with these men, but is a painful honour. So while the hounds were looking all over school for me, I was locked inside my room. Coiled inside my bed sheets trying to shelter myself from the cold, painful memories of March the 12th. Trying to get a hold of myself and be whole again. Trying desperately to control my sensibilities. Attempting to feel something else. To think something else. Attempting to guard the wave of tears from manifesting itself. Trying in vain to stop my heart from bleeding, and failing miserably. Struggling to gain, but gaining nothing but confusion- because there is no happiness for me on the 12th of March. Just excruciating memories of people lost ages ago.
So yeah, I cried. I lost my cool and let salty waters swamp and dampen my face- the one thing that men arent supposed to do. It was a wounded cry of a fatherless boy. At that point I was a boy- crying for his long lost father, hoping that if I cried long enough, then perhaps God would listen and bring him back. But his answer is always the same. He answered me the same way he did last year and the year before that. He answered me with no response. According to man, silence means consent, but according the language of the gods, it means NO. I cried for my absent father who was never around for me when I was growing up. He never taught me how to be a man, or talk to a girl, or how to use a rubber.
It’s a good thing my roomie was watching some game in the TV room. So when I was through, I picked up myself and walked to Aga Khan- where I was born. The scene of crime. Where it all began. I spent 10 months in my mother’s womb before I finally gully-creeped from her bosom on the ramp as she was being wheeled into the maternity room. She had expected a girl, to name Joan. But then she got a goon. So I went there and got coffee and felt a sense of déjà vu- like I have been here before. I once lay in an incubator in this hospital. It felt like home.
The silver lining behind all this sentimental brouhaha is that I still got washed on March 13th. Too bad the pool was closed, so they gave me the fire treatment- a horse pipe. All thanks to the cumulative vengeance of half a class of lawyers who would not let bygones be bygones.
Lawyers are vengeful bastards. Be warned! Learned friends my ass.