WHAT MAKES A MAN?

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This is a story of manly endings.

I come from a place of loss and want. I am disturbed by things, angered by things. Why does the world have so many human beings but so little humanity? Why do the good ones always suffer?

***

I was brought up to know that I should never complain. I am a man. Men don’t whine. Men put on a brave face and handle issues fair and square. Men don’t show emotion. It’s a sign of weakness. Let the women cry and drag themselves on the floor. Women are weak, don’t mind them. They will put up a show over useless things and create mountains out of molehills, haven’t you heard? Don’t bother. Just don’t. Love women but hate that they’re women. They will give you orgasms but they’ll also give you non-stop headaches…

Do you know why your uncle John beats himself up in liquor dens blowing all the money he earns from his construction job? It’s those two women he married. They want too much, those devils. They can’t let him be, I tell you son. In fact, let me let you in on a secret, it is those women that imposed themselves on him. You think John would marry such skunks in his right state of mind? No! John graduated from India. You are too young to know how many oceans you have to cross to get to India. Yet John did it! The first civil engineer of our kin. Those filthy women just wanted his money….I hear Rosa, yes, the heavy one that smells like swine flu, she planted a portion in his food when he arrived from abroad. She had traveled to Arusha some week before in the name of ‘youth retreat’ and you know Arusha and “waganga wa kiasili.”Next thing we knew Rosa was expecting John’s baby….

….Don’t even get me started on Miriam, that disaster that calls itself second wife, that one came straight out of hell. You see John and Rosa had been having issues; well, sincerely it was all Rosa’s fault. She could not bear us male children even after we accepted her into our family. Can you imagine? We counted and counted, all she did was diarrhea girl after girl. When the tally got to six we told John “John, you are a man of pride, you have an African cock” and wanted to marry the chief’s daughter to him (the chief’s line had a good history of boy-siring) when that nightmare Miriam showed up. John said she was a college girl and only twenty-three, virgin and juicy. We told John you can’t trust these college girls, marry one of our own John but his university degree blurred his thinking. He said he was ‘in love’ and we told him love is for the birds and foolish foreign girls (Miriam is not from our tribe)…

Eventually Miriam and her brown thighs seduced your uncle to marry her, worst decision after Rosa.  It did not take two years before she started running around with a sense of self-importance, ‘closing deals’ in that pathetic quantity surveyor job of hers. We told John to tame her woman but did John listen? No. Months later she walked in on him and a maid she had employed doing the deed in their marital bed. Her neighbors say she screamed like a mad woman. She started raising hell on us, calling us to ‘discuss’ his husband’s behavior. The village men and I said we’d rather hunt squirrels instead. That woman got it coming. She should have stayed at home and prepared home-made meals for his husband instead. Yeah, John drinks a little too much for a learned man but that ‘educated’ bimbo and her ‘big’ brain led him to it. We hear she is too proud to even let John be on the top. She thinks that she is so important now that she bore us two sons, only two! Nonsense!

***

Being a man is proving an uphill task from where I sit right now. I am sitted beside my mother’s dying body, in a faraway country. India. Dad was wrong, it’s not so many oceans one has to cross to get here. The smell of death hovers in the room and the bleeping machines are its confirmation. My mum lies on clean hospital sheets and her clean-shaven head makes the whole scene look so peaceful. Like death.

It’s been twenty years since my dad told me Uncle John’s story and what it means to be a man. Uncle John died a few years back. The doctors said his lungs failed and abusing libido-boosting drugs had only worsened his plight. My dad should be here with me but we have not seen him since we received the news that mother had stage 4 blood cancer. From what I hear he went back to his father’s home, my grandfather, claiming our house had been bewitched. He has resorted to the bottle like his late brother and mid-nights find him lying in trenches or staggering home singing songs of war and harvest. I processed his passport and sent him fare to travel to Nairobi and board a plane here but he hasn’t left the village since. I think he’s afraid but my wife thinks he’s cowardly. The other family we have here is auntie Rosa and her daughters who have been taking shifts watching over mum. The eldest one who is a doctor back home directed us to this medical center. My other aunt Miriam is now a big-shot manager of a real-estate agency in Kenya and together with his two sons living in the States has been footing most of the hospital bill. She claims I should direct my meager civil engineering salary to pleasing my young wife who for some reason happens to be her latest ‘BFF’. It kind of makes me jealous but I’ve never told either of them…I don’t know what I’d do without all these people.

My name is Michael. My mum is about to breathe her last and when that happens, I will cry and drag myself on the floor, like a woman. I now know well enough that it is not the inability to shed tears in the face of adversity that makes a man; it is not being a civil engineer or bedding multiple women and for biology’s sake, it’s not owning a pair of balls. Manners maketh a man.

 

 

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