It’s the soundtrack of every African child’s life. You live your life trying to impress your parents, making sure not to taint the family name. You don’t stir the pot, you behave, you go to school, you work hard and get decent grades. And your parents cheer you on. They brandish your success to their friends the same way Rafiki brandished Simba atop that rock. It’s a symbol of status among their peers. “Look, our child is a model citizen, home-trained with a listening ear, can you say the same for yours?”
They sit and they brag about what their kids are doing. About who is going abroad, who is in finance (No dad I’m a measly writer, I’m not in finance) and now that we are all grown they sit in their quorums and talk about marriage. About how their daughters are marrying well of guys and how their sons are marrying hardworking, obedient girls and I imagine a lot of them are getting frustrated with their unsettled children because we are no longer at a place where they can control us. I imagine my old man and the lady of the chateau are feeling out of their depth when such conversations start bouncing off the walls. I’m sure they have been caught by a stray bullet not once. And they have a sour taste in their mouths everytime wondering when their turn will come?
I got a text sometime last week from an unknown number that made me tee-hee, ‘Marry, marriage is a blessing, a good wife comes from God, I will get a motherly woman and a God fearing, God’s time is the best. Use…’ A number was left at the end of the text. I looked up the number the text came from on Truecaller. It was incognito but I was convinced these were my parents works. The question was which one? Whoever it was they are not the best at grammar. Maybe a few one on one classes before we embark on the tumultuous journey of finding my better half?
You see, the reason I’m certain these are my parents’ hands is because my mom had sung to me earlier on about a family friend that was getting married. “He flew from diaspora to come and arrange his nuptials.” She said it as if he had flown in to save Africa from famine. The activity of meeting your spouse’s family and paying dowry has never been more glorified. I responded like I always do with conversations I want to end promptly, with mm’s, huh’s, and eh that’s nice.
“They met in diaspora by the way but she hails from Kiambu. We are going to meet and greet the family on the weekend.” Whenever someone says ‘by the way’ they are trying to pass a point that is weighing on them and somehow make it sound backstage.
“Eh, that’s nice,” I retorted.
The same week my old man had told me a story of similar plotting. About one of my cousins: Tall, bony chap, I see a stick every time we rub shoulders. They have a kid with this yellow Kamba woman and another one is on the way. So they were going to meet the family. “After two kids?” I wanted to ask with a raised eyebrow. The nerve of today’s men, eh, not very well home-trained, wouldn’t you say? But I didn’t want to open that can. Plus, my dad was all teeth, you could have seen his last molar. I mean, meeting the family after two kids, nobody cares about decorum nowadays? To tell you the truth I was a bit on edge. I wanted to say something like, ‘Wacha watoe jam.’ I mean wow, first the snobby diasporan and then this, can’t a man catch a break? But I replied the way I always do.
“Eh, that’s nice.”
That must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. The idea that I’m oblivious to any kind of commitment must have turned them on their heads. They must have called a crisis meeting after: A couple of phone calls, emails, a boardroom, projectors, and within minutes they had a full-blown quorum. Their best suitors, think Merchant of Venice and Portia’s admirers, and their most debonair copywriters in the room, and in no time a message was sitting pretty in my inbox.
I wondered who the number they left behind belonged to. I looked it up, it was also incognito. Obviously, my parents are operating a very tight ship. Tighter than the Corleone family. They probably even have a consigliere on their roster. Black-hat has nothing on them. There are probably layers of informants and enforcers before I can actually get to them. I mulled over that number. Perhaps it was a relationship counsellor but I would need to be in a relationship to need a relationship counsellor. So I called my own small meeting and axed that idea out of the equation.
I figured it must be a girl’s. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched, I mean parents have eyes and a working tongue. They see and talk to girls they admire and they think maybe that one would suit him, you know I wouldn’t mind seeing her in family get-togethers with that dress that is almost sweeping the floor, no, in fact I would love seeing her in family get-togethers. I didn’t make the mistake of calling the number but I wondered what kind of a girl she was. Did she have a brain in her head or did she think in terms of selfies and filters? Was she yellow, snotty and short? The kind that stands on tiptoe whenever she wants to get a kiss? Or tall, the timbre of her voice bird-like, with legs that go on and on like the Southern Bypass?
Was she from House of Mumbi or had they decided to save me from floating food and she hailed from the house of Mekatilili wa Menza? I hear besides good food the Mijikenda women have certain skills. Skills I would not mind experiencing for myself. Or maybe, like a burst pipe, the blood of Ramogi rushes through her veins. She’s loud, boisterous and headstrong. A think-tank who wants to save a rare flower that is going to extinction because of human encroachment. I would love that. Surely my parents wouldn’t know their son is ripe for marriage and not know he has a thing for women from the lakeside?
But not my parents they are staunch conservatives, they eat and drink from the feet of Waiyaki Wa Hinga. I suspect they sleep and dream in jubilee colours. Their blood roils at the very mention of Tinga. I should bring a descendant of Luanda Magere home just to spite them. “Son we really wanted you to get married but not like this.” They would probably send me a flurry of numbers after that. I would insist that my lady takes a break from saving flowers and teach our kids fluent dholuo so they could run around family meetings shouting, “Gini-Wasekao”. That would get my old man’s goat. His soul would probably leave his body that day. And my mom, well, my mom would call Women’s Guild and they would pray till their blue headgears fell off.
I’m not planning to call the number that was left nor respond to that text anytime soon and that’s exactly what ticks off the Mafia. They must be frantic even as I pen this. Plotting and scheming, burning the midnight oil, poring over strategy and case studies. They must be calling long tedious meetings and blowing up maps and target areas on large LCD screens.
I might be walking obliviously on the road on my regular walks one day and out of nowhere a black mini-van, no number plates, tinted charcoal windows pulls up and robust men step out and cover my mouth with big, suffocating hands. I kick, bite and scream and the last thing I feel is the butt-end of a Kalashnikov connecting with my skull. The world spins out of focus and I wake up dizzy in some warehouse in the woods. A warehouse swarming with counsellors and suitors. When that day comes, pray for me and cross your fingers that among the suitors will be daughters of Ramogi and Mekatilili wa Menza.
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