My dad has no sense of humor. He will turn on the charm when he wants to, but he lacks a single funny bone in his body. I can picture him in his younger years, in the 60’s, sporting his long beard, walking around with his afro, his bellbottoms sweeping his path, playing football in the evenings and inhaling his numerous pan-African literatures by his gramophone that streams T.P OK Jazz.
Then God looked down at him and rolled his eyes at Angel Gabriel and said, “Gabby, look at Mr. Ougo down there, getting doleful in his books about Kwame Nkrumah. What do we do with this chap to lighten his life?”
Angel Gabriel stared at my dad then turned to God and asked, “Where did you learn that?”
And God was like, “Learn what?”
“That word, doleful.”
“My God, are you serious with your life now?”
And Angel Gabriel laughed, “I love when you say that, ati Oh my God! You are God in case you didn’t notice!”
And God ignored him and said, “No really, like how is doleful a big word to learn? How did we get here where doleful is suddenly a big word you need to look up, Gabby? Pick up a book sometime.”
“I always pick a book; the Bible!”
“Oh wow, a cookie for Gabriel over there! Now back to Ougo down there, what gives?”
“Remember that hot mami who last week was praying for a God fearing man – “
God chuckled. “God fearing? Everybody fears me, Gabby, I don’t understand when women send prayers up here saying they would like a ‘God fearing man-”
“Anyway, so there was that chick who sent a prayer last week, the funny one -”
“Forehead Jane? Oh Jane is hysterical… ”
“Yeah, Jane is a laugh, isn’t she? Then there was the other one with long legs, the one whose father broke his arm in that ditch while chasing that stray Billy Goat?”
“Which one? The one who likes ndumas?”
“No, achana with that one. You don’t remember that chick who’s dad went to the pastor and said she had a dream the whole village will be wiped off in floods if they all don’t repent and pay tithe?”
“Hehehe. Ohhhh….Philgona?. That chick is crazy. No. Ougo probably needs Jane. Send Jane his way. How old is Jane now anyway?”
“She’s ready. Si that’s settled? Ati you were saying doleful is a big word you guy, wait until I use Licentious on you…”
And just like that my mom – pretty and very funny Jane- was sent into my dad’s humorless life.
I don’t know how you grew up, how your childhood was, but given some of your needy Facebook activities I can only imagine, but growing up I remember that every Sunday my folks would sleep in (we are SDA) and whenever I passed their bedroom I would hear deep murmurs from behind the door. Like disemboweled voices coming from the bottom of the sea. There was the distinct deep male grumble coming from my dad and the slightly lower voice from my mom, and those voices would ebb and rise like a tide, mostly with the lower voice droning on more (naturally) and the deeper voice chipping in once in awhile. Sometimes there would be a ripple of deep laughter, mostly from my dad because Mum was the funny one. Occasionally I could hear my mom’s laughter, hearty and resistant, because when funny people laugh at a good joke, they seem to laugh hesitantly, like they can’t believe that joke didn’t come from them. They would talk in there for hours and then my mom would come out first, leso around her waist, a smile on her face and she would ask, “Usemadho chai?” and we had because Sundays was mostly the day for eggs and if we were very lucky, sausages. Nowadays kids sulk when there is no sausage or bacon! Oh how times change.
I often wondered what they discussed those mornings. I bet – knowing how my mom was – they were discussing some relatives, his side mostly. She always made fun of his relatives, in that tongue-in-cheek way that made him laugh. And then made fun of him, he was an easy target of her quips because sometimes he didn’t even catch the jokes.. But she was also wiser than my dad (aren’t all women?) and perhaps that’s when she put things in perspective for him, told him how to handle us, or gave him advice on a project he was undertaking, or provided a third eye on some professional insight and I pictured dad lying back in bed, the duvet riding half way up his body, his head propped against the pillow on the headboard, playing with his beard and staring at the ceiling, and occasionally at her, in deep contemplation, acting like he was considering her insight when he knew he would take her advice because it was smarter than all the other options he had heard & considered. He would be told how to handle a teenager (one of us) and he would listen and then when he opened the bedroom door, barechested and with only a faded towel around his torso, his midsection long softened by age he would go and stand over at the sink and fill it with water and using Bic Blade ran it over his foamy chin while telling me something ominous like, “you can never have a decent life in future if you don’t take your studies seriously. Your grades in maths need a lot of consideration on your part…books are the only way out,” then turn to stare at me briefly as I stood by the window, the morning light on one side of my face, and wondered if they had been discussing me inside there.
I always wondered what they murmured about during all those Sunday mornings.
Still on books. You know how you walk into a bar, a freaking bar, at 5.30pm when the tables are all empty and the music is dead and the waiters are all out back in a cluster being given their pep-talk by the managers and you find this girl seated at the counter, wearing a jean-jacket, a flowy white skirt with her legs crossed showing just the right revelation of nakedness of the beginnings of her thighs and the lovely dying light of the evening is falling on half her face and her head is bent – as if weighed down by the story – into this book, gobbling up the plot as her half-finished glass of rose waits patiently by her side. You want to ask her, “What does this moment mean for you, right here, right now, with that book and this light in your face, what does it mean?” But you can’t ask because you can’t intrude on that private book moment.
Or when you are in those massive airport bookshops because those places draw you in with a weird chasm and when you walk around the shelves and shelves of books, you see this elderly gentleman standing at the inspiration and self-development section of books, reading glasses perched on his nose, and he’s completely blocked out all the hubbub around him intently reading a page and you want to ask him, “Sir, what specific thing are you looking for in that self-help book at this point in your life? What part of your life do you need developed right now?” And that would open a powerful conversation about life -his life – and all the things he did wrong and things he wished he would have done and how he’s righting the wrongs now through books and deeds and thoughts. But of course you can’t ask him because you’re in Charles de Gaulle airport and the French obstinately refuse to speak English to you, not in France at least. Besides the only French you know is Mon Cherie and you can’t break the ice with an elderly gentleman using those words.
There is a page I follow on Instagram, It’s called @HotDudesReading. I know. Hehe. Hang on, I know how that sounds, it sounds like I’m deep in the closet, right? That I – Chocolate Man – secretly stare at hot men on Instagram. I’m not going to comment on that even. (Nairobi speak? Even.) So anyway, this IG page is run by this chic who takes pictures of hot guys on New York Subways and writes these funny captions. It’s lustful and funny and creative and I find myself trying to find these book titles that people many worlds away have read in bookshops. Check it out. You haven’t seen so many men read.
The holidays are here and now I’m wondering if you have a book for the holidays, because we work our asses to the bone the whole year and when this time rolls around, we need to chill and pat ourselves on the back. Which means we only need two things, a book and a drink.
If you don’t know what book to get for yourself or your woman or your guy, here are five of my recommended reads:
“Through My African Eyes – Jeff Koinange.
“The Book Thief,” -Markus Zusak
The Goldfinch – Dorna Tartt
“Half of a yellow sun” – Chimamanda Ngozi
“Brief History of 7 killings,” – James Marlon
These books are at Bookstop Yaya. If you go and ask Chan and request to either buy or talk about any of these books above, Chan will be more than happy to engage you. He will also pour a glass of whisky for you and you guys can chat about these books and any other book, because what is better than talking about books with a fine drink in your hand?
Downstairs, right at the entrance of Yaya you will also see a Chivas Gentleman’s Lounge set up, today from 4:30pm and everyday until Friday you can join us for a chat and a drink. We will be giving away some of these books mentioned for free, if we like your shoes. Or hairstyle. Or if you don’t make a face when you sip your whisky neat.
But should you not fancy any of these books above, you can write a comment here and ask for a book and Mwangi from Bookstop will reply if they have it and you can go right to Bookstop and pick it. You will probably find us there with a drink in our hand.
See you later?