You are a sperm. You are the best sperm. The chosen one. The one that made it. Of course you don’t know this at the beginning, you don’t think you are special because nobody affirms you and besides there are so many of you and you look like everybody else. Your heads are big, your legs are tiny. You don’t have any identity to speak of. You are a sperm, a protein. You are raised to believe in the fate of your purpose but also to embrace the inevitability of your odds. The competition you face is brutal, but you remain hopeful because what else you got? You got time and fate and you got duty.
As it is sometimes in life, and especially in old age, you start by doing nothing the whole day, just mucking about, waiting for something to happen. Nothing happens for days or even months. And then something happens. The race you have been preparing for is on! Suddenly you are aware of your innate talent to swim, to rise above the parapet. Your arms are strong. Your back is solid. Your lungs are powerful. Your focus is laser. You are ahead of the pack, in the swim of life. Suddenly there it is, you were never told what it looks like, that it would be an egg. Your chest touches the rope. And you are in, breathless, elated.
“Oh baby,” you gush.
The rest of the sperm – the sore losers – moan. They bitch. You hear disgruntled murmurs about how you cheated. How unfair it was. How the playing ground was uneven. How you started before the bell. All that hoopla. Sour grapes. It doesn’t matter. You won. They lost. They lost because they were waiting for the bell. What is this, the bloody stock exchange?
You develop. You grow. You become a person. Slowly. But it’s boring, this process of becoming; so much waiting, so little to do. Most days you just lie there wondering if winning that race was even worth all that hustle. You wonder if you won to lie here, all day, all night, in this unyielding darkness, this obscure bed of boredom. You toss and turn. Sometimes you are upside down because it makes you feel zen. Sometimes you get a bit tipsy, when you realise suddenly there is wine in your food; your host seems to be drinking a glass of wine a day. You hear music. You hear the thudding footsteps that, unbeknownst to you, are feet on a treadmill. Thud. Thud. Thud. Sometimes there is what sounds like a party, a hubbub, laughter, someone shouting, “Tell me when you get home, sweetie.” You often hear a deep voice. It could be that of a man, but the world out there as you will find out in a few months has changed so much, so it could also be a deep voice of a woman. Mostly you hear the voice of the woman you now know very well, sometimes it’s of the man. It’s deep and it vibrates against the walls of your little sac, like a distant reluctant thunder.
At the beginning of the first three months, it was tumultuous. She would scream, “You don’t care how I am. You just sit there, with your disgusting beer. Why do you drink in the house? I hate it. It smells like death!” There would be silence, after which the deep voice would say, “OK, I will drink it outside in the garden.” To which she would say, “Go drink it away from this house. With your friends who wear those awful suspenders.”
But things settled down after a while. There was calm and laughter and disgusting movements followed by the deep voice making funny disgusting sounds. You started feeling your hands at some point and your legs and you learnt how to kick, something you became fond of doing whenever you didn’t hear the lady’s voice. Whenever you kicked there would be a yelp of excitement followed by a loving caress and the soothing voice of the lady. As time wore on, the thud thud sounds died. There were less and less activities. There was always the sound of TV. Or her on the phone. Or her sighing as she stood up. She also ate a lot of masala chips, so much you could smell them. Once in a while, a strange hand would stroke you which you found intrusive. Because you were bigger now you’d clearly hear conversations. Someone would say, “Oh Janice, you look wonderful, you are glowing.” Then you’d hear the lady say, “I don’t feel like I’m glowing. I feel like I’m always bloated.”
“Janice. Do you know the sex?”
“No. We want to be surprised.”
By now you’d have figured that the lady is called Janice. And that she loves masala chips. And that she laughs loudly.
You get really bored. Just sitting there, doing squat apart from eat and shit and yawn. You wonder if this is going to be your life, this restrictive existence. Then one day you decide that enough is enough, you want to leave. You see a small light. You wonder if that’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. You go for it, headfirst. Suddenly the water you have been swimming in starts leaking.
The lady starts moaning a lot. And then she starts cussing a lot. She starts saying bad words. You hear the soothing words of the man with the deep voice. He sounds distressed, confused, fearful. Movements. The sound of small wheels turning, rolling on linoleum. Frantic voices, some calm. Screaming. Hers. The light is now brighter, but your head is stuck. You feel a weird breeze on your scalp, a strange sensation. Someone is holding your head, pulling it. Someone is urging Janice to “push.” Your head is out. Someone chuckles and says, “There now, there he is.” Then you are being pulled out and a cold draft hits you. You are hanging upside down like a fish on a line. Someone slaps your ass. Jesus, you think, what party have I come to? You start yelping. You hear the familiar deep voice of the man. You can’t see shit. Your eyes are shut. They place you on something, a warm metallic surface, under the warm glow of light. Someone says, “5.3kgs, what a fat baby.” You want to shout, “Stop calling me fat! I’m a bouncing baby.”
Then you are in the arms of the woman. You can smell her. You can feel her. She’s familiar. It’s almost like you’ve known her all your life. She’s sobbing. She’s saying, “Oh my baby, let’s name him Polo.” You don’t want to be called Polo. You want to be called something else, but not Polo. You overhear the doctor ask, what Polo means and the woman say, “heaven.” For crying out loud, heaven? Who are these people? You start crying again. The woman sticks something in your mouth, which you start sucking on, and slowly warm fluid that tastes better than anything you know, including masala chips, trickles out. You black out.
When you wake up, people are staring at you. And cooing. And saying, “So cute.” Disgusting. You decide to pretend that you are asleep. They keep passing you from one set of arms to another. Polo? Jesus. You make a point to change your name when you are older. No way you are going to be called Polo. Especially when you smell of chips masala.
The world is a strange place full of light and sounds and sensations. It’s all too much. You miss the sac you left; the peace and quiet you enjoyed before they named you Polo. You grow and you learn that you have a family. That your father hates changing you, that when he does he makes a face, as if his doesn’t smell. You start sitting unaided. They talk to you in baby language that you find insulting. Then one day you start crawling, then you stand without support, then you fall and stand again, then you make a step and then two and then your life continues in this family, with these people you didn’t choose to be with. These parents who fumble around to raise you. You become responsible. Or you don’t, you open a twitter account, or Tik Tok and you post sound things, things of gravitas or maybe you are vile there, rabid like a stray dog, insulting people you don’t know, peddling negativity making other people wonder, “Why are they like that?” If they bother to find out, they will have to go back to your childhood, how you were raised.
And this is the whole point of this post to open a new series called Fathers and Mothers. I know, sounds like a disused scrap metal dealership, doesn’t it? Fathers and Mothers established 1986. I want to speak to anybody raising a child and what that experience is for them. What has been your experience raising a child, yes, but what was your own childhood experience? Because how we raise our children is informed, in many ways, by how we were socialised by our parents. There is a series I love to watch on YouTube called Soft White Underbelly by Mark Laita. He interviews all misfits, pimps, prostitutes, gang members, mafia hitmen, addicts, sex offenders, and in each interview, he asks that important question that opens that conversation up, giving it perspective, “How was your childhood? What was your relationship with your father/ mother?” Then you sit back and go, “aaahaaa!”
So, fathers and mothers to special children, fathers and mothers to adopted children, fathers and mothers to only boys or only girls. Fathers who have numerous children sprinkled around town like confetti. Why? How does that happen. Mothers raising other women’s children. Blended families, they call them. How’s that? Do you love them equally? Mothers for nine months then miscarriage happens. Mothers who hate being mothers. Single parents. Fathers and mothers who are widowers and widows, raising their children alone. Mothers who get babies at 45 or 50. Sometimes you see an old chap at your son’s grade one events. He looks like he’s 60, white hair, crumbled coat, tired face, and you wonder, that chap has a child in grade one, what the hell is his story? Third marriage? I’d love to talk to such a guy. I’d like to speak to fathers who have been denied access to their children by courts for whatever reason. I’d like to speak to a mother who carried quadruplets, pushed that crowd out of her body and they are now old, eating, laughing and rolling about on skateboards in the estate.
All types of Fathers and Mothers. Just drop me an email to [email protected] with a short synopsis of your story (not two pages of it, for crying out loud) and we can get cracking.
Happy New Year. Good to have you back here. I bet you added weight over this December period. Stop sucking in your tummy. Be you. Be proud of you, this is the person you are now, with a tummy.
Have you bought my new book? Yes? Crap. Buy it for your cousin then. The favorite one, not the one who wears those annoying and noisy wooden earrings. Up there, is a section called Marketplace. Click it and buy it from there, it’s easy now. We have embraced technology. I will autograph it. We deliver at your door. With a smile. Sometimes with a lollipop.
Nice to have you back.
Let’s kick it.