Falling Sick Like A Man
I can’t swim. I dislike the sight of any large mass of water, but mostly I cannot swim because I’m earnestly opposed to drowning. I have an addiction to oxygen, so much that I can’t hold my breath for five minutes. In fact, if I have a stuffy nose with my genetic sinuses, I sometimes almost suffocate when I chew food. I choke on bath water which is why I spend exactly 7 minutes in the shower. Water isn’t my only weakness. I have so many vulnerabilities that it’s quicker to just list the things that can’t kill me: sleeping, waking up and tying my laces. I guess that’s it. My greatest vulnerability however, like any other man, is falling sick. When a man falls sick, whether it’s a pimple on his nipple(If there is one part in the male body that is useless and obsolete, that should have been done away with at creation, is the nipple. Tell me one function of the male nipple if you may), malaria, typhoid or a cold… He really falls sick. Let me explain.
There is no man under the Southern Hemisphere who will act strong when sick, especially not before a woman he is in any relationship with. None. Science shows that there is an enzyme called phenyl ethylamine that induces a dizzying feeling associated with romantic love. The feeling of malaise, is involuntary. When a man is sick the science I have written myself which you cannot quote beyond a matatu or bar talk, shows that phenyl ethylamine is produced in larger, boiled quantities. A man with flu, is a s sick as a man with Schistosomiasis, elephantiasis and ascariasis, in the presence of a woman. That man cannot fart, cannot bathe, cannot boil a jug of water in a heating jug and cannot pull his duvet to cover himself. He cannot find his own socks, and will certainly not dress himself. These are all hard labour undermining the intensity of his illness. While a pregnant woman whose water just broke can still drive to a hospital 10 Kilometres away, check into a ward and call relatives, a man with an overgrown pimple cannot plug his phone into a charger. All we do is remember our Bank and Mpesa PINs which we swear oaths in ‘Terms and Conditions’ Y’all never read, to protect.
I have a friend, Michael, who is a lawyer. He is your average Kenyan lawyer… Earns a salary not exceeding a gross of 50 thousand, lives in a one bedroom in Kahawa Wendani but wears the 70 thousand three-piece stitched suits. He has big talk, like other lawyers do. Did you know that doctors, with all the Chemiosmotic coupling which is the coupling of Adenosine triphosphate synthesis to an electrochemical potential gradient across a membrane and I have no idea what the ***(Censored word which I must say starts with an ‘F’) I am saying which they learn in 6 years of undergraduate class, call their meetings seminars? But a collection of 10 lawyers sitting down to throw big historic words about the legal achievements of now dead lawyers, call their meeting a colloquium? I am describing an average lawyer. Lawyers who will complain about this description are average, that’s what I mean. Michael is your average Kenyan lawyer, but I can’t take him seriously because his name is Michael (You cannot be named Michael and expect to win a case before Justice Aburili or a judge with a serious name as Aganyanya, or a lawyer called Aula Soweto and I also just dislike the name Michael), and also because I know Michael’s bluff. I can’t call it, I just know it. And he likes to watch golf. It’s interesting he only goes for the Barclays golf thing which is once a year. I consider golf a way of ensuring your time in fresh air is as unproductive as humanly possible.
Michael was unwell, didn’t tell me what was ailing him. But like the good friend I pretend to be, I visited him.
He has a rich girlfriend whom we shall call Michael’s girlfriend. She comes from a well-off family. By well-off I mean she paid for Michael to be transferred from Broohaven Medical Center in Kahawa Wendani to Nairobi Hospital last year when Michael had a running stomach. Michael was transferred in a Nairobi Hospital ambulance. Guys if I fall sick and go to Mbagathi Hospital, the best you can do is bringing me Ribena and Pears and I will know you care for me. This girl believes in a paleolithic diet, a nutritional fad that emulates the food choices of our ancient ancestors, who were hunters and gatherers. Michael’s girlfriend is opposed to wheat, the fiercest opponent her emaciated, carbohydrate-deprived body can handle. By her logic, bread and other flour-based goods including Michael’s and every man’s favorite, chapati, are nothing more than delicious poisons. That’s why I hate her. She is the perfect example of a woman raised right, but the devil in her was also raised right. She enjoyed the bread and butter of her childhood, but the devil in her equally buttered the second side of the bread. Unfortunately, the devil in her grew faster than she did. NB: prisons are full of sheltered preachers’ kids who encountered a slight bit of sin, like seeing a nipple or tasting sugar, and then went on drug-fueled murder sprees because they didn’t know how to handle it. To avoid this fate, I’ll let my kids watch what they want and beat them when I want. They will go to public schools like I did, and will play football with polythene bag sewn balls. But Michael loves her and she loves him back. Love itself is a mind-altering substance that impairs your judgment more than any recreational drug, so we can understand how this works. Another NB: I am a bitter man who was not hugged enough during his childhood. I have said that before. I just need you to understand me better.
Michael’s girlfriend was with him.
She hates me too, but I am willing to play villain in her love story with Michael. When they eventually get married, she will read a speech saying “Our love stood the test of time. Michael chose me over everyone else.” The ‘everyone else’ in that story will be me. I am part of her testimony and I am content with it. She opened the door, looked at me like she had seen the bark of a cinchona tree, and left it to me to close the door. Guys if anyone opens the door for you and walks to sit down, and you’re left shutting it yourself, you’re equal to a parasite. You and a bedbug are competing for recognition.
Michael was on the sofa, covered in tonnes of duvets. He has some duvet you can plug into a socket and it warms up pretty nice. The details of what happens when the electrically plugged duvet comes into contact with a liquid are equally sketchy but it’s warm and that’s what matters. He looked at me; his bloodshot eyes looked like Ebola itself. He was tired; he spoke with muted strength, and couldn’t laugh at anything. Michael, who watches back to back Videos of TNA Wrestling whenever he is in his house, was watching some Mexican soap opera channel I never knew existed, called Televisa. That is a sure sign that a man is sick. I sat beside him, and laid my cheek on my palm. He had all the symptoms of a sick man: At one point he stood up to go to the washroom, and you could see he was dying. He walked to the lavatory holding his head, one eye half shut and another eye looking for hope. He walked back and dropped on the sofa like some illegal luggage. Michael’s girlfriend was busy, making him oxtail soup with some sesame seeds (Yeah… There are such girlfriends, when some women cannot boil you tea). She came back and had to drag him up, sit him down, feed him soup, wipe his mouth, put him back on the sofa and covered him. I need you to note that the girlfriend fed him soup.
Of course it was funny in my eyes, but I had to tell her how whatever she was doing was sweet of her. You can’t walk around being honest with people’s girlfriends. If I was honest, I’d say she’s making the Luhya man a sissy. But whoever said honesty is the best policy must have been an anarchist. When interacting with a boss at work, “Yes, sir” works well than “Your plan is stupid and no one will cry at your funeral. We will only come to your funeral to make sure you are dead.” The only useful skill I learned in Moi University was how to lie. In first year, some professor assigned a huge amount of group work term-papers on Creative writing or wildebeest sex or something. I don’t know for sure because I didn’t read it. But I was dishonest enough to have my name appear on all assignments. I graduated.
Michael slept on the sofa; the girlfriend did dishes and excused herself. She kissed him on the forehead, then left. All she said to me was “Mchunge.” My translation was that the commitment to stick together “in sickness and in health” didn’t extend to being sick of each other, and she had to save her life. But I nodded and equally left her to close the door behind her herself. You can’t go on walking people’s girlfriends to the door and closing the doors behind them, and shaking their hands or hugging them goodbye: In the sixth chapter, second amendment of the bro-code, if someone’s crush touched your hand last and you touch yourself with that hand, by the transitive property of mathematics, you had sex with the crush. That is where saving the best for last came from.
Michael woke up thirty minutes later, looked around, and concluded his female was gone. He asked if I wanted tea, which I declined, but he offered to make the tea and actually made the tea. He went on to take a shower, spread his bed and mopped his house.
“So what is ailing you Wakili?”
“I have a very serious cold Irvin. It’s nothing serious, but I am sneezing and my nose keeps getting blocked,” he said.
Basically he described every morning of my life for the past twenty something years since I was condemned to sinuses at birth. This man had a cold, and was here being fed soup from a spoon and having his mouth wiped… I would have acted the same or worse. I probably have. If a man does not show these symptoms, question his sexuality: I believe Hitler may have been not so straight. In his book Mein Kampf he describes the soldiers in his regiment as a “glorious male community”.
We are men. We are all the same.
Enjoy your week.