I remember the night because an escort accidentally spilled wine on my white Adidas jersey. She had on a loud wavy red ochre weave that reached all the way down to her posterior which I will not say much about because less is more. The stag party was at a house with big, wide windows and no curtains. Parklands area. High security walls. Entry was strict and covert. You got to the gate and you said a secret word to the beefy security guy with no neck who looked up the word from a long list clipped on his file. Everybody had their own secret word which had been sent to us by email two hours before the party.
The word I was sent was “Potoo” which I only realised when others mentioned their pass-names, was a bird. We all had bird names. Potoo, I learned on Google was an ugly owlish bird that looked like the type of bird that evaded bird taxes. And ate snakes and rodents. The rest of the 25 or so chaps who showed up had a variation of other bird names like stork, swallow, bulbul, fowls and ducks and flamingos. The damage was 10K per person which should have included complimentary drinks, cocktails and food but the cocktails were terrible and the food was bland and unmemorable. But since the escorts were real lookers, albeit with viscous Nyeri accents, nobody minded.
The rules were in the email and the host was serious about them. No loutish behaviour which included, fighting, interfering with the music, unnecessary loudness, messing up with the furniture or any interior fixtures, peeing on the house plants, no plus-ones and strictly no cell phones allowed. The latter was underlined. I assumed they’d underline the peeing on houseplants rule, but what do I know about stag parties, it was my second one.
I got there a bit late, after 11pm and I was told that the madame, a buxom and severe lady who smoked a lot in the verandah, had read the gathering a riot act like a stern headmistress. I was drawn to her mien; she struck me like the kind of person who didn’t take shit, tough as nails. Someone who had spent most of her life working around men after dusk and so was well versed with the characters of the night and knew how to tame them with her broom. Her age showed on her knuckles. She must have easily gone over the 50s hill but still maintained taut skin.
Her rules were clear; any sort of disrespectful behaviour towards her girls was strictly not allowed. Which meant, you couldn’t touch them or handle them aggressively. You did that and you were shown out to go join the other animals of your kind roaming the night. If you wanted an extra arrangement other than what they were there to do (because that was on the table even though it was not distinctly voiced), you had to speak to the lady in question like a gentleman. If you caused a ruckus of some sort, behaved in an extremely lady way, there were four massive-looking muscle men wearing black suits and dark looks to toss your hide out, together with your unbecoming manners. I figured that the agency that provided these escorts was top-notch going by the pedigree of these girls who were so curvaceous you got vertigo just by looking at their hips. They all wore fitting little dresses and high-heels (not the clear type) and all, I mean all of them, were drop-dead gorgeous. And they all had amazing teeth. They were trained to entertain drunken men with grace and charm. Somehow they all kept a dazzling smile on their faces the whole time, even if you were being a complete prick as you’d expect a handful of chaps to be in a milieu like this.
Yes, so how I had wine spilled on my jersey.
I was standing at the threshold of the expansive high-roofed living room, leaning against the wall like a character in an old movie, holding my dreadful drink feeling very cool and suave, chatting up one of these girls who must have been 24-years old. I didn’t know the rules so I was trying to know her as a person, which was foolish because I mean, I had come as Potoo, a bird with a personality disorder. She was on a job, with a fake name like Lola. Or Cherry. I was asking really novice questions like, “where do you come from?” “Are those real?” [Er, her nails]. She was humoring me, I could tell. She must have been thinking, “Oh crap, why do I meet the ones who want to know me?” I know I wasn’t making any impression because she kept sighing. When she finally excused herself (to extract herself from me), she missed a small step going down as the living room area was sunken, and as she stumbled I reached out and held her arms to steady her, arms as warm as freshly baked bread, and that’s how her drink ended up on my jersey.
I didn’t know anybody at that stag party. I was there under the invite of a friend who knew the groom. Quite honestly, I only went because of its potential to offer great writing content one day. I don’t get a rise from parties and gatherings. When the chap getting married walked in just after midnight, his last day as a bachelor, there was a hooray and hooting and back slapping because they all knew each other. Someone placed a drink in his hand even though what he needed was clearly water, but again, last day as a bachelor.
He sat on this one chair that looked like a throne and, not long after, the madame led this magnificent specimen of the female race to him, a woman who sucked all the air in that room. I don’t think I had seen her earlier…strike that, I hadn’t seen her earlier, I would have remembered. I suspected that she was being kept in a different room until this moment. I bet that prior to showing up, she had been soaking in a bathtub filled with milk and floating slices of imported oranges. She seemed to have drunk a whole jug of stars because her skin glittered. I suppose she had applied that lotion with glitters but I chose to think it was a jug of stars. She had on the highest heels and the shapeliest of legs, the priestess of the night, not a single bone out of place, her body proportionate and symmetrical, God’s own opus. Her hair was short, natural and dyed blonde. Loopy wooden earrings dangled from her ears. Just elegance, my fellow Kenyans, elegance! She strutted over and slowly lowered herself on the lap of the groom and draped one hand around his shoulders. I think I fainted after that.
Let’s call this groom, Sam.
Before I did an Irish exit that night and called a taxi (this was pre-Uber era), my friend took me to this groom and introduced us. That’s how I met Sam. Years later he reached out and said he wanted to tell his story anonymously. So here, we are.
First, before we get ahead of ourselves; he never ran away with the temptress at the stag party. [Shame]. He got married and started a life of domesticity. The first year passed without any incidences of morning sickness. In the second year, his wife said that perhaps they should consider going for tests to ascertain that everything was good with her eggs and womb. A doctor shone a torch in there and looked around the tubes and things.
“The battery of tests gave her a clean bill of health,” he says. “The doctor gave her some fertility boosters of some sorts and off we went to try again.” They tried the whole of the second year but no baby came. She kept getting her period. Soon, frustrations joined them and this little inactivity started causing little tensions in an otherwise happy home. “She started feeling like she was the problem and she was frustrated because she was doing everything right to conceive.” Time went by. He started a business while still keeping his day job. That distracted him for a bit but in a few months time, it all went tits up and he had to close down. Meanwhile, they kept trying for a baby; monitoring ovulation, taking walks together because the right body weight is important, the doctor said. They ate healthy; blended fruits and veggies. She recorded menstrual cycles religiously. They took all the prenatal vitamins they could get their hands on. He even quit smoking. (For a while). Nothing.
After the third year, his mother called him aside and said, “What’s going on here, my son? Do you guys want children? Does she want children” He said she did, they did, they wanted four children. They wanted so many children if you opened a closet to look for your shoes, a child would spill out of it. His mom was relieved because she was afraid he might have married these “modern women who want to see the world and not have children.”
“Then when do you intend to start?” She asked him and he said they were on it but nothing was happening.
“Leave it to God.” She said. So he left it to God.
One evening in 2018 he came from work to find the wife seated on the dining table, looking at a cup of black tea as if it was a crystal ball. Maybe she had seen their future in the cup of tea.
“You are home early.” He noted, removing his coat. They lived on the fifth floor of a sparsely furnished walk-up. She liked it because they got both the sunrise and the sunset. He placed his laptop against the wall by her potted plant. “What’s wrong?” He asked, joining her at the table.
“Do you want some tea?” She asked, getting up to get the tea anyway. When she came back and placed the cup before him, he asked again. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”
“It’s about us.” She said. “About this baby business.”
He cupped lightly the mug of tea with his right hand, to warm them but light enough not to get burnt.
She started, “maybe – and I’m just saying this, I’m not accusing you of anything,” she refused to look at him, “but I was just thinking that maybe you should also do a test.”
“You see,” he tells me now. “I had been waiting for this moment. I had long agonized about this situation, because really, if all the tests had shown that she was capable of conceiving then surely, sooner or later the focus would be on me. So I was ready.”
“I will do the test.” He told her.
He did tests.
“They said I had something called Azoospermia.” He tells me.
“Spell that for me.” I said.
“Zoo, as in the place for animals?” I said. “Like zoology.”
Azoospermia is when there is no sperm in the semen. Your semen could as well be fruit juice. He says he had no symptoms other than the fact that he would get frequent swollen testis during his teenage years.
“This is not something you want to hear you have ,” he tells me, “That your semen is useless.” His first reaction was to say it was all bullshit. No way his semen didn’t have sperms, look again, there are lots of sperms in that semen. I come from a long line of people with a lot of sperms. The doctors might “have made a mistake.” But he never did want to go for a second opinion. I ask him why.
“Because you just know you are the problem.” He says. “You don’t need many doctors to confirm that.” He took it in the gut. He felt it spoke directly into his manhood, that he wasn’t enough. What good are you as a man if you don’t have sperms, he thought. Of what use are your two arms if your sperms are like water? Birds have sperms. Even fruit flies have sperms. “I was in denial for a while after those tests. I felt unmanly. Weak. Incomplete. I felt insecure. I started questioning who I was, my masculinity. If something went wrong, like at work, I somehow thought it was a reflection of my manhood, or lack thereof. Everything, and I mean everything became about my manhood. I would beat myself down for things that had nothing to do with me.”
“I bet you sucked as a husband as a result.” I say.
“Of course. Major insecurities. I mean major! When you feel small, worthless, you can’t even rise up to the occasion. Your mind is convinced that you can’t be good at anything else. So it’s like a ripple effect; this small part of your life starts affecting you, then you start affecting the person closest to you, who in this case, was my wife, then it spreads to work and then the ring expands and expands and before long, you are staying away from your friends, locking people out, just refusing to leave the house because when you do and you see fathers with their children in a mall, that stuff just hits you so hard, I’d go to the loo and sit there, shaking.”
His marriage almost collapsed in the middle. “I gave my wife so many reasons to leave.” He says. “And I did this daily, consistently. But she didn’t. Instead she dragged me to therapy.”
“A man or a woman?”
“Who, the therapist?”
“A woman.” He says. “At first, at least. Because I didn’t want to face another man with a problem like this.” He chuckles. “But then I felt the lady therapist wasn’t getting me, so we changed to a man and he was good. I think therapy helped me a great deal. That and my wife, she was very patient. At some point, when I’d sink into my lows, I’d urge her to leave me and find a man who could give her babies – she wanted babies badly – and she’d say, ‘I don’t want a baby if it’s not with you.’ She was a class act.”
Early this year, after a long process that isn’t too vital to this story, they brought home a baby boy. Adopted. A baby they chose not that was given as babies naturally are. He ogles at him all the time because he can’t believe that in him was a man who loved babies. He’s 6-months old. He’s a deep sleeper, so deep that you can lean over in his cot and shout, “Baby! Baby! Wake up! There is a fire!” he would not even stir. He sleeps like he pays rent. He’s got chubby hands with rings like a sausage roll. You don’t want to smell the hand because you might nibble it. When he tries to sit him, he topples over in slow motion, like a bag of makaa. He’s a bit of a show-off, bringing his leg to his mouth to show how flexible he is. He makes gurgling sounds with his lips. His eyes are large and trusting. When he laughs, his mouth makes an oval shape. He has two teeth. When he cries it’s so loud even he seems surprised that the sound came from him. His poop smells so bad it fogs his spectacles. And he’s theirs.
“He’s adorable.” He says. “He’s brought so much into our home. He’s brought light and love. He’s brought laughter. He’s brought purpose and will. He has brought many more reasons to be positive. Having a baby has healed us and it has healed me. I feel like he’s the son I was to have. I suspect he even looks like me.”
“If you look really hard, I’m sure.” I say. He laughs and says yeah.
Fatherhood has taken over his life. It’s taken away any residual angst he might have had regarding his manhood. “I think now I’m defining myself with completely different parameters. When I introduce myself now, I’m a father first. It’s my first identity, then I’m everything else, because being a father has saved me, adoption has saved us and the reason I wanted to talk to you is to send the word out there that being a father is not about having sperms. And that more people should adopt.”
“What kind of a father do you want to be?” I ask him.
“A grateful one.” He says and I chuckle because, I don’t know, it sounds so rhetoric. Something you’d hear on a Youtube channel. “Grateful in a sense that I have been given an opportunity to do something that nature had denied me naturally. You know what I mean?”
“Nature had decided that I wasn’t going to be a father, but here I am, raising this boy who will grow to call me daddy. I think it’s an honor.”
“Do you want to be called daddy or father? There are people who call their parents, mother or father. Like they are in a Victorian novel.”
“I called my father, dad. I don’t mind if he calls me dad either.”
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers this Sunday. This is your happy father’s day week. May you know that your influence in your child’s life is as immense as it is special.