ON A MONDAY in February, father came home.
He had been gone for seven years. He left on a Saturday when I was six years old for a business trip and did not come home till that day. The guise of a business trip had worked for a few years but at some point it became too hard for mother to hide where father really was. She started by explaining to me that father had been used by evil men with power. That he was like the ball I liked playing with, present and pivotal but collateral; easily discarded and forgotten. So on a Monday when I was ten years old I learnt that my father was in jail.
Mother did not like to talk about it; often she said that as a country everyone had decided to forget the post-election violence. They had decided to forget so well that even victims were forgotten. Mother didn’t forget. Some nights she would sit in her room and cry, holding pictures of father, she would curse him for trying too hard to be a hero to prove to faceless men that he could sacrifice it all.
Aunty always says that father was not violent; he could not even hurt a fly. Even when they were children it was Aunty who protected father from village bullies. She says that the government wanted to look like it took action so someone had to pay. The government was just pleasing foreigners at the expense of innocent civilians. She called it new colonization. I don’t understand Aunty, most people don’t either, but mother says she is always drunk. Drinking the same beer she brews. Sometimes I meet her staggering as I come from school and she tells me that they took my father because they knew he was the only hope for the family. By taking father, they killed my grandmother with sorrow, pain and their witchcraft.
On a Monday in February, I heard my father talk.
During the seven years he was gone I could scarcely remember who my father was. I could see his lanky frame, built with the elegant finish of a stick. I could see his bare chin and similar scalp, the contours on his forehead, each present and pronounced, clamoring for space on his square-shaped face. I could at times see his teeth, large and spaced, fitting on his jaw like mismatched pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. All these features I could conjure, but never his voice. I tried hard as I could to remember what he sounded like but it never happened; all memories of him were voiceless, like the show reel of a mime. Mother had once told me as we watched television that he sounded like Chuck Norris and I believed her. So I always assumed that my father spoke in a deep voice with his lips barely moving; he didn’t. He spoke in a high pitched voice with a slight stammer. Every few seconds he would pause and look at me then continue with his conversation and all I could do was stare, in disappointment; my father was not Chuck Norris.
On a Monday in March my father picked me up from school.
In the seven years I had been to school I had never been picked. In fact, very rarely was anyone ever picked at the school gate. The school was within the slum so navigation to and from home was never an issue. But I had walked out of the school gate and found my father waiting for me. We didn’t talk the first few minutes of walking together, I was trying to get over the mockery I would get from my friends; it wasn’t the cool kids that were escorted home.
“Finding work in my situation is near impossible.”
I didn’t understand what my father was talking about but he went on; he told me about stigma, rejection and poor society values. I was scared to talk at first but then I realized he was not. It was as if he was continuing a conversation we had suspended. He didn’t explain where he was or what it was like, he just went on about jobs, politicians and why I needed to work for the judiciary. My father was boring; I wished I had walked home with my friends.
On a Monday in March my father told me about the secret of men.
Father picking me up from school had become normal and with the advent of this new trend my popularity in school plummeted. Some days were good, he would buy me sweets and we would walk home talking about football and whether I could be a star, and on the boring days he would talk about bureaucracy, democracy and all other bad ‘cracies.’ This Monday was the good kind; we bought sweets, ice-cream and a ball. Father promised we would start to practice my career; sport was an eternal pay day.
When we got home he told me before starting practice that I had to learn the secret of men. Even before I asked, he explained that he had learnt this secret while in prison, that all men at some point had to be taught and it was better if they were taught by their father. The secret had rules; we had to perform it when totally naked because clothes were not good. The secret was never to be told to anyone without my father’s permission. If I even told my friends, the secret would kill me immediately.
The secret was painful and hurting. Father said that it was that sort of pain that made a man. The first time, I cried, got a headache and became dizzy but father would not stop, the secret had to be shared to completion. And just like that, Mondays became for secrets. On good days father would be tired or busy and the secret would be postponed, but on normal days, and they were too many to count, we would share the secret of men.
On a Monday five years after that fateful March, I told both my parents that I was gay.
My father slapped me and said no son of his could be a homosexual.
Post image by MFer Photography via Flickr.
About the Author:
Munene is an aspiring writer with a passion for stories and story-telling. He splits his time between school assignments and sporadic blogging on www.littlekenyanstories.com. His parents are still struggling with the idea that in a world of infinite possibilities he decided to be a writer, but aren’t we all struggling with something? Munene hopes one day to draw in words the picture of a people; its new generations and its struggles.