Growing up was never an easy task for me, not that I have grown up enough to be called old. It was full of hurdles, which then seemed herculean and uphill for me, and my ilk. Perhaps putting in writing a tale of my life would seem boring, and excruciatingly so, but wait a moment, will you? The growth of a modern Maasai is far from the tale of your dreams.
I wasn’t born in a rich family, neither were we ever poor. For life I have been stuck in a war of sorts, unable to distinguish I am from either. That is the curse of the middle class kid, you know. You never really know whether to tell the girls that you never had the latest gaming tech inn your house as you would want them think, or that you only played it once, at the mall, on someone’s bill. One moment my dad would complain of having no cash in his pockets, the next he would be drinking booze at the locale. Yes, the cash too was neither here nor there, ever.
I have been a terror all life, I can’t remember when I wasn’t naughty. I tend to tell myself that I should probably be conscripted into some sort of anti-terrorism unit, if ever there was one that includes the art of “terrifying” people as part of its qualifications. I was the kid who would slip pour water from a spout into the open pockets of my desk mate and start yelling that he’s a sissy who pisses on his shorts. I learned how to make faces at a pretty early age; I guess if memes had been available then I would be in all of them. But worst of my misfortunes is the fact that is the son of teachers, Maasai teachers to say. Teachers don’t spank, no, not in Africa. Here, they beat, and the Maasai parents are connoisseurs among connoisseurs in the arts of inflicting pain.
Nine came pretty fast. By the age I was a strappy boy who loved the fields, and football in the dust, and throwing tantrums when food came late to the table. And I thought I was already grownup when I started getting crushes on neighborhood girls. I think they went through my heart intermittently. One day it was daisy from the house next door, the next one it became Joy from across the ridge. I guess that’s how all men start becoming professionals at cheating in relationships. I honestly did think that mum would give the switch she kept in the kitchen cabin a retirement. Yes she did, but in retrospect the small switch was better than what she brought as replacement. Out went the leather strap, in came a stick, socked in brine. I think she pilfered it from her cane stocks at school, but she would never confess to that, not to me in the least.
Modern kids can’t miss their tenth birthdays, not for anything in the world. Sometimes they would make you think it’s the date when they get to sign their magna cartas. But I did miss mine, and I don’t know how am still alive, because I definitely am a modern one. For issues best known to the old ones, they sent me, and a couple of other village boys to boarding school. I always tend to think that the others were serving as my escorts, because my dad did take all of us. You know the way each one of us wants to feel like the boss of the crew, the Don Capone perhaps, but sorrily it wasn’t so. School taught of us to go his own way, and it did me to how to hide offering money to eat candy and chocolate (didn’t we all do that?)
And I forgot about girls, till the holidays, and then I would forget them when in school, and then remember them. And the cat and mouse would go on and on. I stopped being a kid when I could wash my own clothes; my mom went on wash strike when in grade six. Yes, I did wash, but I did repeat my clothes more often than the number of times I did that. It was torturous, all that rubbing and rubbing, when hard slim-fit denim was just coming into fashion, then you would rinse them, hang them, only for mum or the hell of an elder sister to pop out of the house and start laughing at the mess you have made. And you would have to start the treatment all over again, at the behest of your nails, for the fear of the fact that she, in one of her gossip tours might just tell her friend, your crush.
But the epitome was when I had my first girlfriend. Well, I ha d always had girlfriends, but she was one. No, we did not have a conventional relationship as you would tend to think. I guess we didn’t even have a relationship in the first place. We met, we talked about nothing as all couples are wont to do, and we left each other with a normal goodbye, again like all normal couples. But trouble followed us, like it always does in relationships. My mum got to know that I had talked to a girl, my dad from her too. Hell did break loose, her mum was informed, a teacher too, and they got to work for a round of communal beating, on the guise of beating the demons of early relationships out of us, and the spirits of marriage. They forced the relationship; blessings came in the form of gossip within teen circles the next day. I had a girlfriend; she was taken by yours truly. I hope I didn’t shed a tear. So all the boys stayed off her, they thought she was mine, and all the girls would give me the bro treatment because they thought I was hers.
I don’t remember owning a phone, ever. Every time I would ask for one, my dad would invoke the universal “school fees” quote and quickly change the subject of our conversation as if it were a pile of hot coal. It worked; I survived the age of texting in cryptic, incoherent anagrams. To date, I can never tell you the difference between LMFAO and LMAO, apart from the` M` that is. But I thrived still, in secrecy. I didn’t own a phone, but I “had” a phone, in my dreams, and a phone number too. I mean, how would you explain to the girls, that `you` have no phone because `your` dad balked to buy you one. You just go like, “Hey, can I have your phone numbers please?” And promptly forget it, until hell does you together, and you have to answer her charges. That’s being a boy, right?
In this era of Netflix and live video chats, I will blame no one for the decadence in the younger ones of us. Movies for me were always the pirated discs they sold at the movie place. It amazes me when I hear guys paying a couple of hundred shillings for one at IMAX. Man that is a week’s stock for me. Some I would hide under my bed, because they had scenes of kissing, and the act afterwards (if my mum ever did see that I would not be writing this), some with more age acceptable content I would place next to the TV for my dad (yes my dad!) He would saunter into the house with his muddy boots, oblivious to the carpet that mum had washed all day, shove them off at the sofa and start sifting through them to see whether I had bought Schwarzenegger, not that he ever offered a dime for the movies!