We are seated there just the two of us in my crib. He is on the bed, his back to the wall. A pillow and a duvet cushioning his back against the hard-cold wall. His feet under another duvet; a position he takes whenever his mind is engaged with something serious. In this particular case, I am questioning his skills as a striker. His composure in front of goal.
I am on the other hand seated on the sofa with my feet on the table. In front of me, past the table beside the bed is a table on which a laptop gracefully sits. A football clip showcasing Eden Hazard’s best skills is playing on the monitor. I am trying very hard to emulate him on the pitch since my new coach decided to give me an advanced role in our local team. They tell me I have a height, bum and speed like his so why not play like him? I am now part of a very formidable front three.
He is part of that front three. I play on the left and he plays predominantly on the right. Speed like lightening. He is more of the Theo Walcott we knew at Arsenal a few years back. I am not as fast as he is. But I am fast. Among the rest, I might be the fastest. They call us the fast brothers on the pitch. I am pointing out to him that his finishing needs to improve especially now that I have been sidelined with a knee injury. We need someone to score goals for the team now that am not there. He is terrible in front of goal. He hasn’t scored in months. That is not a good sign if you play a forward position. It creates a certain kind of pressure.
I have started acting as his personal coach polishing on his skills. Since my struggle with injuries started, I have not been as directly involved on the pitch. I have however been allocated some roles in the capacity of assistant coach, helping out in setting the pitch for training and overseeing training drills and teaching about formations. I am the formations expert. I love 4-3-3. I have started thinking I could actually make it in this capacity. Perhaps even change my name to Pep Njoroge when I become coach. So, I asked our coach Fabregas to assign me to the academy team that is about to start their league. Like Zizou with Real Madrid B. Fabregas is the other member of this Council. He is the coach and vice chairman of our local club. Which needs funding by the way. So if any one of you knows someplace I could get funding, your input will be highly appreciated. I am the club secretary.
We are waiting for him. We just got back from training and it is Friday night. It has become some sort of a ritual to converge at my place on Friday nights. Not to drink, but talk about things. Football brought us together but our friendship has since grown and our conversations are no longer limited to matters of the pitch. Anything and everything can be discussed in this meeting. He went to drop his training gear at his place before he can join us. He is married, so naturally, he acts as the voice of reason and moderator in our discussions and provides a different perspective from the rest of us. He is our relationship consultant and advisor. The only problem the two of us have with him is his insisting that we get married soon.
Every sitting starts with the infamous question that we never want to hear. “Did any one of you get someone this week? Time waits for no man.” We dread that moment of the conversation. He is a crazy funny guy. But you can’t tell when you first meet him. When I met him at a conference three years ago, there are things I never imagined him doing. Like diving head first, with that potbelly of his, into a children’s swimming pool. Only the lord knows how he splashed half the water out of that pool and nearly killing children with that Tsunami of a dive. What’s even better is that he nearly drowned, in a kid’s pool, and they had to come call the small uncle because big uncle was drowning. He could not pull his ‘kitambi’ out of the water. That was the wake-up call for him to start exercising. He became “the coach who plays”. He never missed a training session the whole of last year. He is really transformed. His physique now that of a Russian athlete with pending doping charges. No one believes that only exercise is capable of such transformation.
The other guy we are waiting on is Pato. Our former midfield maestro. He now plays for another team but we still want him back. I am acting as his agent working on bringing him back home. He had business to take of at his place so we are not sure he will be joining us. He is sometimes unpredictable just like his look-away passes on the pitch. He could be looking the other way but still pass the ball to you. Almost catching you by surprise. He is also the youngest of us all. He has a lot to learn and a long way to go in life. If I was Plato, he would be Aristotle. He has the concentration of a Cobra whenever I am speaking. He also never argues without facts. He prefers to be quiet if he doesn’t know anything.
Conversations in this house range from women, politics, family, football, religion (the most heated because they say I am an atheist and the guy on the bed is a youth pastor) among others. I challenge the idea of God whenever I get the opportunity. Not that I don’t believe in Him, but because I want to understand Him more but the discussions provided by the church and pastors do not satisfy my curiosity nor answer the questions I have. So, I have resulted to exploring religious philosophy on my own and testing my theories on this council before I pitch them to other people.
There is tea boiling on the cooker on my left. Tea that we had both forgotten was boiling until it spilled. I have never understood how this works. You could be right there watching it. Your eyes literally inside the sufuria. But the moment you look away, baam!! The tea or milk spills. Maybe it’s the ancestors just taking their share of libation by force because they know we won’t pour any.
The night progresses and my conversation with Brian shifts from football to family matters bordering relationships when Fab walks in. He loves his tea so the first thing he does is pour himself a cup. We are now talking about family relations; how some family members are a burden to us more than they are help. How some always think they are right and how their opinions should be taken as the gospel truth. Mostly the ones who are well off than you. The ones that family meetings and gatherings don’t start without. My sister is normally the subject of such conversations. We have an unresolved sibling rivalry. I don’t know how we will ever resolve it because she is not the type that would call or accept a truce. You either apologize even if you did nothing wrong or forget whatever she did to you and move on like nothing happened.
Things go on for a while and Fabregas being Fabregas shifts the topic so cleverly to how families shape our relationship lives and determine who we ultimately date. That our background has a bearing on who we are as a person, our value for ourselves, our self-esteem, and self-worth which ultimately has a direct effect on our dating lives.
And just like that, I become the topic of discussion. I am always on the hot seat when it comes to relationship matters. Fabregas strongly feels that I should be in a serious relationship leading to marriage by now given my proclivities. Not to take you into details of his mathematics calculations and logarithms of how old I will be when my first born is 20 if I got a child today which is technically impossible. You would think his name is Pythagoras if you heard how well he has mastered that equation. I’ve had several relationships all ending in doom so Fabregas loudly wonders why that is.
Could it be that I have held my standards so high that women feel inadequate? Could my former very hot ex-girlfriend be spoiling things for the rest because I keep comparing the current to her? Could it be that I am not ready for a serious relationship yet? Could it be that I am stuck up on someone? That I have unresolved issues from my previous relationships? That my two years of staunch celibacy changed my perspective on relationships and women in general that I can no longer relate well with them or keep a relationship? Or could it be that question I keep asking (what other bargaining tool women have when and if sex is taken out of the equation)? Or my overthinking of relationships and how I see all of them destined for doom? Or is it that I am afraid of being hurt? Or have I been hurt too much that I am afraid it will inevitably happen again? Or could I be lying to my dearest of friends when I actually have a wife and a kid or a girlfriend somewhere else?
He knows how I think and therefore knows what questions to ask to provoke a reaction. He knows what thoughts to provoke in order to rattle my cage. And so, for a moment I am lost in thought, thinking of what he just said. The questions he just asked. A few things become clear. I am stuck up on someone. In love with someone I cannot get. I am also afraid of putting my heart on the line again. Afraid that it will get crushed, again, in the stampede that is declaring my love for her. I had cautioned myself against falling for people especially her. Sworn to self that I would stay away from love for some time since my last heart wrenching heartbreak. I did not want it to happen, it was not supposed to happen, but it is happening. I subconsciously knew that if I hang around her for too long, I would get attached. That it would be a struggle to let go. But I still did all those things despite all the warning signs from myself.
The council is now on my case like never before. I am forced to declare how many girls I am talking to. Fabregas, the chairman of the council, is very clear that he did not mean the lady fans who have something to say to me whenever I post a story. No. He means what he means and you too know what he means. Each of the women is now an agenda in this meeting. A number of questions are asked of each of them. But the most important ones happen to be, do you see this thing between you two going anywhere? Would I consider settling down with the said lady?
It is a tough question to be asked by another man. But these are my brothers and I know they are just looking out for me. Trying to ensure that my future is safeguarded against broke-ass slay bandits. I have no other option but to tell them the truth. To pour my thoughts out to them. To engage in an objective pros and cons analysis of all my female interactions possible relationships. I cannot pour my heart out to them and tell them straight forward that I am in love with a woman I do not think I’ll get. They wouldn’t understand my struggle. They would want me to elaborate and at this point, that is something I cannot do because I do not know how to. I had already resolved to let the emotions kill me if they will and I am hell bound to keep it that way. To be consumed by this fire I lit inside myself despite clear instructions by my brain not to.
Like we always do, we move on to religion, my favorite subject because there are things I have been reading and the only way to know if I understood what I read, and to know what I actually think is to present an argument that I can defend. Always playing the solo protagonist in such discussions because they cannot consider my argument or even for a moment toy with the idea that we could all be wrong in our religious beliefs and our ideas about God. That keeps us locked in a heated discussion until when Fab receives a call from his wife that he is needed to home. We wrap it up there, promising to continue in our next council meeting.
©C. J. Njoroge