It all starts with this question from one of my many girlfriends, who considers herself the conquerer of this heart that is made of stone.
“How will I look if I dye my hair red?”
“Do it,” I said, “Get red hair and then I will get white hair, and then we will be walking around like Game of Thrones – a song of ice and fire.”
It was one of those things you say without thinking and then later on come back to bite you in the ass sooner or later. This one chose sooner. A week did not pass. This past Monday I was reminded of the promise I made. And like every normal boyfriend, I denied ever uttering such things.
“Just say you are scared,” she said.
“Of what? White hair? Nothing.”
“Yes, you are scared. You cannot do it.”
“Oh, I can do it.” “You can’t.” “I can.” “I dare you then. Prove you are not a scared little mouse.”
So here is the thing, I do not back down from dares. I am a man, dammit! And when you question my manhood, we have a problem.
“You know what, I will do it,” then I remembered I am broke and so I added, “you are paying for it.”
I was hoping that she would back down when she heard this,girls fear costs as much as they fear pregnancy, but it seems like she had decided to really put her skin in the game. Look, I am used to spending 20 minutes at the barbershop on a day when there is an extra neck rub. That is 17 minutes more when there is none. And within that time, me and the barber whose name I have never dared ask, have done a complete wrapup of the current trending news topics, even goes as far as planning what we would do with the NYS money if it drops into our accounts inadvertently. And when I go to cut my hair, I spend KSh. 50 for the shave, another 50 for my in-existent beards, and the wash from towel that is so heated it can light a pack of cigarettes is all free. Those are the dynamics. In and out. When I went to this salon to get my hair dyed, I spent 6 hours. Six bloody hours and the amount left behind for this shit was KSh. 2000.
Now let me tell you how you spend Ksh. 2000 and 6 hours in a salon.
You meet this chap called Mike. His hair and Christiano Ronaldo`s look pretty much the same. He used to be a footballer. Position 7 for Bandari FC. Somewhere along the way, he got injured. A bad tackle from an opponent (like the one Ramos did on Salah the other) day made sure he would never use his right knee for soccer. While recovering in his uncle’s house, he spent time with his auntie who used to own a hairdressing spot and so he’d hang out with her, because what the hell. You know? Of course you don’t know, but bear with me here. So that is how Mike got into hairdressing. Because you are going to be here for a while, he tells you stories of how painful it was when he got hurt, but what hurt him most was not having to quit football, but having to deal with a father who could not stand the idea of his son being a hairdresser. You would think that a person who has known pain would not inflict it, right? Wrong! Mike will smear some chemicals on your head that will burn your scalp until your hair turns yellow. How appropriate that your hair is turning yellow, the color of the sun’s flames, just as it burns with the fury of the biggest star in this universe.
This is when you know that being a man is not easy. Mike will set your head on fire and you just have to sit there and take it. Take it like a man. A man can feel pain, but should not express it. And if he does, it must not be in the form of tears. So your eyes water, you blink repeatedly to keep them back, your eyes turn red. There is salt in your eyes. But you are a man. I am a man. I will not cry. I am not a scared little mouse. You tell yourself that over and over again until you start to believe it. Mike tells a lady to wash your hair with cold water. When the soap disappears and you look at yourself in the mirror, your hair is yellow. That is when it hits you. You had taken this dare head on without considering one thing. Your mother. If she ever sees you like this, she will not even take you to a salon to dye it back to black. Neither will she take you to a barber to cut it all off. She will most likely take you to a shoe shiner to brush your head with Kiwi until it shines brighter than shoes. It is either that or she kills you. You start writing your obituary in your head, and just then, Mike comes back to check on it.
“Why is it not white? I said white. Not yellow.”
“Relax. This is just step one. We had to bleach off the black colour before now putting white.”
“Shit!” You say as he sets your hair ablaze again as if to raze all the dirty language from your mind.
You are surprised you haven’t suffered brain damage by now, or drifted off into a coma. It is a miracle. You begin to feel like a true Targaryen. The Unburnt King of the Andals, the Rhoynar of the First Men, King of Meereen, Khal of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Father of Dragons. But then guess what? Your hair still does not turn white. You go and check the progress of your Chieftress, who all along is seated at the corner placidly smiling and you can see hers has turned red. But yours has not turned white.
“Why?” you ask the clearly bamboozled Mike.
“Yako imekataa kushika rangi,” he says.
“What do you mean imekataa kushika rangi. It is a dye. It is supposed to turn colors.”
“Pumzika halafu we try again after a few minutes.”
You have waited this long anyway, gone through hell (literally). All of that cannot be for nothing. So let’s do it, you imagine. But this time, your manhood flies out of the window. You cry. Tears flow. You even start singing
Pretty Hurtsby Beyonce. You want your mommy. But still, your hair is stuck on yellow. Racist dye has refused to turn your hair white. Mike is vividly at his wits end. To hell with it! Let it stay yellow. You admit defeat, even though you know that you will not be able to do the Song of Ice and Fire anymore. For that, your hair had to turn white and hers, red. But yours is yellow, like a fever. If it all there is a song there, then it would sound like a broken record. You look like a Lingala musician, those who sing at Simmers every evening; those with lightened skin who sing with high-pitched Kisii voices and who, for some reason, never get tired (or even a sore throat).
The rangi might be gender sensitive too, or your hair is extremely stubborn and recalcitrant, or your mum`s prayers, deep in the village, are working!