There is a big problem for a man hitting thirty or thereabout. Especially if the one we are talking of is a graduate on his ninth job that isn’t what well-paying is defined at Oxford. No promising job invitations. No sustainable cash flow. At this age, you have already become what you wanted to become – a man. But again you are not so sure if that was the best thing, and you sometimes spend your evenings facing the ceiling and mulling over the years you have stashed in your knees with little to show because you have also become what you did not want to become – a loser. A shell. A semi-man.
So you spend your evenings studying your ceiling. You will find comfort in looking at the dots and lines left by the careless painter. If your house is like our houses then there will be a cobweb or a hill of dust near the lamp. An image will develop slowly. The scratches that once were artistic errors will now connect to create the sketch of an ogre. And like poverty, ogres are naturally ugly.
In those stories, ogres were African. Even had the tail. Sometimes you wonder if it is an ancestor forming up there to remind you your sins in the evolution history. As you lie there thinking weird things you will try picturing if your grandparent ogres are responsible for the hustle you go through today. You can’t afford anything, not even your own poor soul which you rented to the Indian long ago.
Today you arrived from work early. The first in four months and one of those moments. Now the door is locked and you are standing in the HQs of your Ministry of Food and you can even say your government isn’t doing so badly. You are at least better than Greece. Though your citizens are tired and famished and beaten by the winds of life, they will soon eat. In fact, once you are through with cutting these onions everything else will be just fine. A good evening.
Random thoughts have taken you to the grocery woman. How she keeps sympathising with you every time you buy her stock. Like today she was so full of sympathy she sat you down and offered a banana. Then she mentioned Stacy so very much more well. You learnt that Stacy is not her daughter but a niece. She is at the university and is not selling today because she has exams next week. Mama, for that is how you call the grocer, even gave you Stacy’s number so you could always book groceries when you delayed in the jam.
Stacy. Stacy is a good person; you are not. How she can deliver groceries at her aunt’s orders does not enter your curriculum well. You look at your past and you don’t want history to start repeating itself. But you decide to mind your own business anyway.
Now you are about minding your business when the phone bleeps. The sudden sound frightens you at first. It is a message. Since your hands are wet, you decide to check it later. It could even be that WhatsApp group where people send 2000 texts every evening discussing only sex and feminism without knowing Butler or the other woman. This is a good group to leave. But the guys are always online the entire night. And the way they discuss anyone who leaves has kept you scared.
The phone bleeps again. Then the call tone comes. It is a strange number. You wipe your hands in your hair and decide to pick it. Someone, mum, could be in trouble.
But the ninja was only beeping. Cuts the call just before you press the green thing.
You have no alternative. You call.
Halo Sadik. WHY aren’t you picking the call?
Sorry. I was in a meeting.
A meeting? At 10pm?
Umh, er, yes. (Eff lies.)
And which job is that? Don’t they release you at 4?
Then the guy starts giving you reasons why he can’t do such a job. All along you want to ask him who he is but you feel it too selfish. And so you are relieved when he brings it up himself.
Do you know whom you are talking to?
(Like you are the governor’s daughter?) How can I fail to recognise your voice bro?
How is Zanzibar?
Er…. I am okay here.
So what do you say?
I think we should visit Tanzania one of these days.
Not that. I mean what do you say about that text I’ve sent?
You sent me a text?
Some minutes ago. You didn’t see it?
No. But is it something we can discuss directly?
No. Read it first and give me your feedback.
HIGH CUZ. AM DOING A MINIFUNDRAISER 4 MY PRE-WEDDING NXT MONTH. AFTER THE FIRST MEETING, AUNT HAS SET 20K AS THE MINIMUM 4 FAMILY MEMBERS. WE ALSO NEED SOMEONE 2 HELP WTH TRAVEL ARRANGEMENT 2 N FROM MA GAL’S PLACE. CAN U MANAGE 2 FUEL THE BUSES?
THNKS LOVLY CUZ AND GOD BLAZE.
I put the knife down and lift myself onto the sink slab. I go through the text again and again until the words make an imprint at the back of my mind. Yet I still read it several more times my eyes become sore. I read over and over in anticipation that tears will be kind enough to come witness this covenant with fate.
Jealousy is like a cough and I can’t fool mine. I can’t veer it off of all the married people I know. I think of Eric and Edwin and Ahmed. Sam and Eunice. Donald and Melania Trump. All married and swimming in the ecstasy of love. Today they ate a good meal. Put on clean clothes. Had a hug. A kiss before and after work. For years they have had organised life. And look at me here! Spending lonely evenings peeling onions and sitting on sink slabs to read text messages with spelling errors. What a tragic story of an innocent African. A graduate, for everybody’s sake.
I wonder what I would be doing now had I been born white or red or yellow.
Perhaps I could be making love to a Saudi woman at a cabin in my oil well. Or coming from my rice fields and shouting to the Good-One in Maori. Or I would be lying in a shallow grave in Ghaza. Or I would be an aborted sperm in the drains of Florida and would by now have turned into a ghost sperm making noise in the pipes….
Isn’t the ghost idea a superb one? Though anything else would still be so good considering that the alternative is to spend a life with fake people.
But my cus’s girl must be a catch. I can see it in the upper case. The last bit, though. I think of the girls that I have had. What if I dwelt on reminding my cousins to send something for the proposals and marriage dreams that somehow met an ugly shocker afterwards? I hope theirs will not be the big thing that fails slightly before the first anniversary. I’m no pessimist. People should just learn to stop playing with us.
When you are a man and you identify a woman, the thrill that carries you should sum the pains you will suffer trying to maintain it. Think of the blue outings and golden rings and candle dinners. Think of the bills and how in return you will still have a disgruntled citizen who regards you the stingiest beast. Think of the fights and demands from that first greeting to the day death doeth you apart. If the summary is glamour, take home your bride in silence. If for some reason you see it tough but still think you should give it a try, get a witch by your side, not us mere mortals.
The case of a man marrying a woman through fundraisers should be a spiritual affair. It must be a matter handled by experienced intercessors who know how to pray well. Organise it at an open field in the heart of the night. Give it enough publicity on TV and then parade the two at a stadium so that after marriage, everyone can see the marriage certificate signed and sealed with a SPONSORED sticker done in red.
After all, we helped you when you couldn’t afford the nail on her small toe.
Men, telling us to fuel a bus to your wife’s place is a great disrespect to humanity. You will not lease her to come cut onions for me. She will not be my wife on contract till you refund my fuel contribution. You even quote the minimum amount we should bring, but during child making we shall not be invited to also induce children.
WE ALSO NEED SOMEONE 2 HELP WTH TRAVEL ARRANGEMENT 2 N FROM MA GAL’S PLACE.
My evening now smells fermented garlic. What do people gain by piling cow shit in their heads?
But maybe he is right. I should look for the most beautiful girl and take her to my uncle’s neighbour to deal with the expenses. Get some subsidised messaging service and text all my imaginary and real friends and specify the colour of suit they should wear at MY wedding.
Everything around me finally turns evil. I descend and walk to the bathroom. The man in the mirror is defeated. I need some water to mop my face. Then I remember the fools cut my water connection last week because of the bill. I check the man in the mirror again and he is sad. But can carry on.
You cannot simply decide to start life on the wrong foot and expect us to look and cheer on. And then when you die we shall be asked to buy a coffin for the coffer. And since you taught your model wife how to throw away wealth, we shall each be issued with papers inviting us by the gate to fundraise for the suit we shall bury you in. Then we shall be shocked that you even sold your land to pamper your wife, and like the good citizens we are, we shall all come together to buy you a place at the cemetery. At least your kids will go back to your mum who must then be responsible for raising an arsehole.
What happened to good manners and sense the chaplain used to tell us?
But we take our fate. We accept that the world is no longer a world of men and women who think beyond the warmth of their beds. We accept to live with mediocrity. We don’t even want things to change. We want our walk in this damnation to be so quick so that we can meet our deaths and run away from stupid men. The special caste that thrives on illusions and an imposed feeling of self-worth.
God blaze them for us.
He even called me Sadik. Sadik is my brother. And it is my sister who was staying in Zanzibar; she came back three years ago.
So how normal this pre-wedding fellow is I can’t tell. Does he walk with two legs and smile at people? Does he fart in a toilet and pee when taking a shower? Or maybe he is the Akond of Swat history has been seeking. For who, what, and why he is, I also don’t know.