Nothing creates a stronger bond between men than collective suffering. It is the laboring through tiresome drills that creates a sense of brotherhood among military men.It is suffering that is the fabric on which many a high alumni association has been formed. It is the blood, sweat and tears for one another that underlie the success of any sports team. It is also the suffering season after season and the promise of next season that unite Arsenal fans across the world. Even the Good Book has something on it: He who bleeds for me is my brother (John 15: 13).
A man with whom you have suffered is one you can trust with your life,if it ever gets to that point. You have nothing to hide from people who have seen you shed a tear or two. Well, on most things except mildly embarrassing ones that they’d mock on you on end with like the girl you had designs hooking up with someone who looks like a blackjack. These are men you can trust with your girlfriend. They have even helped with her GIS assignment because you know jack about Civil Engineering, even though you know it is glorified Geography–which you have never been good at, anyway. They have proven themselves to be trustworthy. These are people who know you too well that they know which former girlfriend to make fun of because they know which ones you are likely to hook up with again. Perhaps more importantly, they never lure your ex girlfriends to their beds when they (the ex) go seeking advice on how to win you back.
So this past weekend we all gathered by a pond in Western Kenya. These are people with whom blood has been shed, and tears wiped- while looking away, because we are men and we don’t give one another tissue. We don’t even have tissues for ourselves! It wasn’t a Blankets and Wines or a middle class shindig like that. Yes, we had Maasai shukas but there was no wine and no crappy bands singing their lungs out. We are all struggling engineers dragging ourselves to the proverbial career ladder so we substituted the wine with something way, way cheaper and significantly more potent.
See, my friends are not the most fashion forward people you’ll ever meet. In fact putting any of their names and fashion in one sentence is a disservice to the word, an injustice even. Not that I’m any better. The male friends to my former girlfriend thought and still think I do not have swag.(I don’t like the prefix ‘ex’ because it has a connotation of badassery, like ex navy or ex army, and it also implies that the position is presently vacant which the case is never. In reality, it’s like the presidency —one simply finishes their term but the office remains). That’s fine, because I don’t know what swag is, and also because I don’t take seriously people who [attempt to] talk like American rappers and wear skinny jeans.These ones wear clothes so tight that they have trouble taking deep breaths or breathing properly for that matter. These people would get 3rd degree burns if they were to fart without taking off their jeans first.
Not one to be left behind, I also own something tight-fitting– a shoulder pad for my rugby games. But I guess it doesn’t count since it is an underclothing. Look at me, using big fashion lingo like underclothing. The only other occasion I see myself wearing clothes that tightly hug my rib cage is when I get into a crunching tackle and suffer broken ribs and the only way of keeping them from falling off is by constricting my thoracic cavity.
I like to breathe comfortably and be able to move my limbs freely. Being able to breathe comfortably and walk unhindered makes me happy, and like most sane people, I like doing what makes me happy; even if it means not having swag. The pursuit of happiness means living life on your own terms and not keeping up with the Kardashians and the latest trends in skinny jeans.
Also, most of my close friends are male. I used to have female ones but we grew apart when libertines came up with phrases such as “Having a female friend is like keeping a pet chicken, you’ll eventually eat it.”
Joe was in his trademark sweater. I have never seen the man without a sweater, ever. I have privately wondered if he takes it off during coitus. But like they say, every brilliant mind deserves at least one vice, so for a man who got First Class in Engineering, I let him be. The rest of us were in their unremarkable attires including Evans in his characteristic pair of trousers made from a material so stiff that they could stand on their own. It seems he shops for his clothes from a hardware store. Hell, they can even be used to hang other clothes. I mused if he gets bruises from them if he quickens his walking steps. Collo was the only one who came with a woman.
I think she is a good woman. A woman who accompanies you to spend a cold night in the open is a woman worth your while. She also has good sense of humour. She doesn’t get offended at our lewd jokes. At least she doesn’t show it. As a Junior Elder, I have advised him aweke kitu bahali yake so he can negotiate for dowry from a point of strength. Your prospective in laws go easy on their dowry demands when you have planted your seed on their daughter. The rest of you are also welcome.
By 10, Don was already lamenting about the cold but that’s because he spent two hours on the phone talking to his girlfriend whom he had left in his house just a couple of hours ago. Also, Don complains a lot so no one takes him seriously anymore. The rest of us felt nothing. Perhaps it was the distillate coursing through our veins. Liquor makes us think we are the immediate descendants of the three wise men. This was in part courtesy to one man Philip- a man who can do no wrong. In his infinite foresight, he had seen it was going to be long night and saw to it that all the supplies were more than enough.
Being that we are insufferably cerebral, we engaged in a long discourse on philosophy after which we made a toast; a toast to our fathers because we were there to celebrate the life of a father.We were by the pond to celebrate the life of a man who lived the way he wanted to live. Whether it was a life well lived, it is the bearer who can tell, but we all acknowledged he lived his life the way he wanted to live it. 58 years of non-conformity. Six decades of not keeping up with the Jonesses.
We were celebrating the life of a man who abundantly provided for his children. A man who was proud of his wife; not ashamed to show off his wife to his peers and workmates. Someone who taught his sons to say no, even to him. A man I remember showing up for his son’s graduation with a gown of his own. A man who walked through fire with so much stoicism that it rubbed off on whoever was close to him.
A man paid a befitting tribute by his wife and sons.
When men pay tribute to their old men, tears are bound to brim their eyes. You don’t make eye contact with a man in tears. You are, however, allowed to squeeze his shoulders, just once, and offer him a drink.