I received a message on my Facebook inbox to call him as he had lost my number (thanks Zuckerberg). The last time we talked he had just lost his father. After I called he gave me a lot of grief and of course included the classic Kenyan line, “haki Kendi umenitupa” (Kendi, it’s been a while) and just like that I owed him coffee. We had not talked since February, that’s a clean 9 months; a baby was conceived and born while we hadn’t talked dang! When he called I was in town just from a meeting. My phone vibrated, in fact my whole bag vibrated and I searched frantically for my faithful companion. I smiled when I saw his name because I knew deni ni kulipa.
When he walked up to me he looked different. He had lost a few kgs and his jacket hang awkwardly on his now trimmer frame. The last time we met he commented I looked sad, lonely and worried. This time he looked exactly like I looked 9 months ago. We had met for a drink and of course to catch up. That’s when I learned he was divorced. I then realized I had been caught up in the tyranny of urgency. I got busy chasing the dollar up the roof where it’s been heading on the speed of a space shuttle and I forgot to check on my friends . When I come around to doing it, it’s eons later and something major has happened in their lives; babies,deaths,marriages,diseases etc.
As we talked the conversation somehow shifted to his kids and it got very specific on his last born. She is called Precious, he told me when he named her precious he didn’t realize how that name would take meaning and tag at his heart strings everyday. He told me she’s dyslexic and he was scared as hell as he would not see her everyday mirages. He would not be able to know what the doctors have recommended. He would not be able to see her developments each day. All this time I was looking at him but I wasn’t seeing it, he was rock hard, his face was expressionless, I couldn’t feel the loss, the emptiness or the loneliness. As he continued talking about his daughter everything fell apart, his face aged a little, his voice started shaking and breaking off, his eyes drooped a little and he could not look at me anymore. He picked his glass of juice and I could see his hands shake. When he managed to look at me his eyes were glittery and tears welling up. He said he knows he is not a perfect human but his heart will break piece by piece every day and he doesn’t think it will ever mend. I look at him and agree with him. I tell him time doesn’t heal our scars it just makes them bearable.
I suddenly realize the old adage, ‘Men don’t cry in public’ sucks a lot. Do you know how freeing a tear drop is? It cleanses the soul and drowns the pain even for just a moment. I thank the stars I was born a woman. We can open the taps anywhere and it will even look cute on us. Society has taught me badly because I am suddenly glad he didn’t break down in front of me. I don’t know how to handle tears and emotions. I get mortified thinking what would I do first, hug him, offer him tissue, empathise? I have a feeling I would just stare at him and not see him. I would be unable to see beyond the tears, beyond the man he is. Right then it hit me how much fathers must love their kids and most times find themselves in situations that are so hard to explain because no one will believe them. Society has labels that if a marriage falls apart it’s the man’s fault and everyone takes the mothers side. That the man has abandoned his family, I have learnt to stop and remember there are three sides of a story; my side, your side and the truth.
Then I came back to my senses and I was sucking on my straw like a pacifier or munyonyi (baby bottle) and since my juice was over, it was producing disgusting hollow sounds. The eatery was not so crowded but man did I get stares .I ordered for more juice and sat there motionless wondering why do bad things happen to good people? I started talking and could not stop, I just rumbled on about nothing and everything. When I’m nervous or annoyed I can’t shut up unlike normal occasions where I just sit there cool, calm and collected. I get mouth diarrhea, it just shoots off uncontrollably. Then his phone vibrates and he looked at it, hollow. He did not pick it, I did not question why and he did not offer an explanation. He had a meeting in 10 minutes, I had one in 15 minutes we pay the bill and walk out into the Nairobi crowd where all our problems are drowned among the rest of the city population problems. I mention that he smelled like a walking chimney. He tried to justify it but I insisted. He gave me a knowing look and I knew he would not stop but he would reduce his nicotine intake.
Block life’s currents sometimes and take a moment to appreciate those close to you. Use rose tinted glasses sometimes. No one is perfect so appreciate fathers more, love them more, give them the benefit of doubt, trust them a little bit more and listen with every bone in your ear. When they cry cut them some slack, big boys also cry.