Slices of fatherhood

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I stroll into Debonairs on Muindi Mbingu Street on a Friday evening. It is a languid day. The thoroughfares and inside are full of pretty faces, gleeful probably because members day has a way of planting happiness on people’s faces. Friday implies taking a break from mean supervisors at work, a break from office work, a break from spirit breaking routines. Simply it is day to dodge from your usual boredom and wear some freedom on your sleeve. You can go out and have many bottles. The night is all yours, including the weekend and no one is waiting you the following morning to nag your ass as to why the job he assigned you yesterday isn’t done.

From where I am seated, I keep looking outside for a while. I just wanna see how people react to those seated inside. Normally, I would throw one look inside and walk off, pretend I didn’t see some pretty face seated inside taking a huge pizza.

Opposite, Elsie is seated. We’re sitting tight for a pizza which seems to take long. She has this Google Nexus 5X phone that is too large for her. And it bothers me because she is just nine. We’ve been going round town from morning. Her mom, who is attending a conference for doctors in town, dropped her at Hurlingham where I picked her up. Now she is at my mercy.

These are some of the privileges my old denied me. We never went anywhere with him, and if we did, it was a hospital. We had to walk up and down the hills of Kisii. I would run to keep up with his huge steps. And at times, he would treat me impersonally, like I was an object. I was scared of him. He was a total man. It is the history I would love to erase with my kids. I want to spoil them with so much love that when they grow up, they get to know that I also was a total man when it came to giving them love.

In those hours I have been walking with her, there is something cheesy that has been going on. People kept looking at her with admiration, and then me, with contempt. I think they might have thought I must be her keeper.  Some were bewildered when they heard her call out “hey daddy, come check this out” back at Nairobi National Park.

I have been wearing this dark goggles to avoid the ogling. It has been making me apprehensive, and sometimes my knees become weak.  So when we got out of the park and asked me where we can have something for lunch, I asked her, “What is your favourite?”

Unforgivingly, she perks up and says, “Sunday roast.” I wanna ask “what the fuck is that?” but again I remember she is just a kid.

“So what is this Sunday roast did you say?” I meekly ask because I have no clue what that could be. It could be a pig roasted on Sundays you know.

“Roast beef, roast potatoes, vegetables and Yorkshire pudding.” She lists them like a woman while looking me straight into the eye. Okay, if you were me, probably you’d scratch your head and try to comprehend that again. Roast beef. Roast potatoes. Vegetables. Yorkshire pudding. To be completely forthright, I don’t have the slightest idea where to get that, especially Yorkshire pudding. I don’t know so many eateries, plus we’re far away from town where we can chuck into something that looks there is decent food.

“Look here baby, we don’t got no yorksire pudding here. Can’t you take any other pudding that isn’t Yorkshire?”

“How about fish and chips then?” she changes her mind. We catch a bus to town. Elsie doesn’t know how to stop talking. If it is not about the cemetery she sees on the way, then it is the choppers on Wilson airport. Trust me, I don’t know stuff. Her English has gotten more difficult and I have to accentuate my correspondence with ‘uuuhhh’, ‘mmmh’,’ what did yoh just say?

People around can’t stop looking. Even worse, can’t stop laughing when I misconstrue her. Her accent is heavy.

How we end at Debonair is just funny. We alight the bus somewhere at Railways. I ask her what her favourite joint back home is. She discloses to me it is Debonairs in Bristol. As a man, right there was the answer to my problems of where we can have something. First, I have no idea where to find one in this town. So I tell her, I don’t think we’ve got any Debonairs in this city. She mulls over her phone for a while as I try to figure out the next step.

“There is one. Have a look.” Damn google. I ask her “what street did they say we can find one?” She pronounces Muindi Mbingu soo bad that I laugh. Hahahahaa. She rolls her eyes and grumbles, to which I chuckle.

In here there is a bubble of energy. People are enjoying their meals. I know I don’t belong here because on a typical day ugali mala or chicken with ugali is fine with me. Saving money to go and enjoy pizza in expensive eat outs is not my game. Plus, I am a simple man. Why would I want to entangle things?

And then there are two chics at a certain corner who keep looking at our direction. I have caught them glancing at us more than five times already. Elsie in her brown skin, is inundated on her phone while I keep throwing glances here and there.

“You okay with the wait or you can fancy a cuisine?” I ask her. She is so far away and that rattles me. Maybe she has gotten sick of me. For sure you can get enough of someone if you spend time with them for a whole day. I only get to see her once or twice a year you know. Every little window I get with her means the world to me.

“No, I can wait.” She replies and goes back to her phone.

“Hey, what you doing on your phone?” I ask. I really want her to talk to me because we haven’t had a heart to heart talk. This is the second day and it feels like it is the first.

“Nothing.” I grab her phone. “Let daddy see what you’re doing.”

Here is a shocker. She is chatting with some dude called Drew. It is an offensive to go through a girl’s phone but I am tempted to see what they’re talking about.

“Who is Drew?

“He’s my friend from school?”

“What kind of friend?”

“Just friends.” She says this while avoiding my eyes. Which of course shows there is more than she wants to reveal.

“Come on honey, you can tell daddy anything. He won’t be mad. Come on.” I gently massage her ego. Girls always want that. She takes time. I keep scrolling to see if the texts included sexual stuff because if they did I’ll book a flight to Bristol, go find this boy and break his knuckles and knock off his knee caps.

“Uhh, he’s just a cute boy two classes ahead of me. He comes over once in a while when mom is not in.”

Fatherhood can never be easy. Some things are really exciting, and sometimes you wonder what a nine year old is doing with boys who sneak home when parents are out.

“Why doesn’t he come over when your mom is in?”

“Because she doesn’t like boys over our house.” She says without realizing that she actually sold herself out.

“I too don’t want boys over to mommy’s house. Can we agree on that?”

“But why?” she dissents.

“Because you’re too young to bring boys over. Plus, boys are bad?”

“Bad. Does that mean you’re bad too?”

“No. I am a man. You see this huge beard here?” I say pointing my beard, “If he doesn’t got one, he is bad.”

That confuses her a little. She takes time to take it in. I see this as an opportunity to hammer more sense into her before she opens her mouth again.

“Look here baby, we love you, okay? We do love you so much, and we don’t want something nasty happening to you. That is why we want you to stay away from boys.”  By this, I hope she doesn’t remember the incident of me scolding her when I realized she was massaging the interwebs and flushed her out.

 

 

The pizza comes in late. Like a hungry tiger, she pounces on it and all her attention goes into it. I sit there and watch her. She is so lovely that if she weren’t my daughter, I would wait for her to grow up so that I can marry her.

Being around Elsie alone is so fulfilling. At times I don’t even feel hunger creeping on my back. There is always a feeling that fills me with such a bundle of joy and happiness that every other thing looks insignificant.

In my wallet, I have close to 13.5k. Not my money. It is from her mom. She asked me to take her out to any place that she probably won’t find in the UK. I am not that travelled. So I goggle out the best places to visit in Nairobi. That is where I land Kenya National Park.

Nairobi Museum tops Hapa Kenya blog’s list. Being a no fan for things from the back, I consider that a no no. I also don’t want my kid to like things I don’t like. It would be betrayal. She can eat whatever she wants because we all have different tastes and appetites. But when it comes to places to visit, why go to watch immobile things, which exist through theories and stories that have been passed down the line and lost the taste?

Also read: Mending the cracks of our Nation

When she is half way, she asks why I am not eating. “I don’t fancy Pizza.” Which of course is true. She is chewing vigorously.

“So you will not eat?”

“All I care is for you to get full. I’ll buy some ice cream and chicken wings for myself later.”

“Will you also buy me ice cream?”

“Of course darling. If you finish that pizza.”

She whimpers, “If you help me I will.”

I take one piece and have a time of my life with it. Actually it is savoury. Soon enough I am so engrossed with it. She is left snickering.

“So you were this hungry and you’ve been pretending all along.” She jests.

“Come on now, I was retrieving my appetite from the brain.” She laughs hard and a couple nearby throws glances.

 

An hour has sunk already. We’re through and I really want to get out. But I have been admiring her phone and wondering why a kid owns such a sleek phone.

“Did mommy buy you this phone?” I ask her.

“Nop, her boyfriend did. She brings me things?”

“Boyfriend? What else did he bring you?” my mind actually goes off the phone thing. I always wanna know the kind of man her mom is dating. I want to know everything about every man she dates because I don’t want her to bring a thug home who will make Elsie’s life miserable.

“He bought me a purple dress for my birthday. He also brought me a big white dolly.”

“What is his name?”

“Robert.”

“What does he do?”

“He is a doctor with mommy.”

Doctor! Doctors are damn players. Okay, at least if you get sick he can treat you. I tell myself.

“Do you like him?” I ask enviously

“Yeah, he is good to mommy.”

“Do you like him than me?” This is called testing the waters.

“I do like you more than him. You’re my dad.” That warms my heart so much that tears force themselves out. I try to fight them.

“Come and hug daddy.” There has never been such a warm embrace. I close my eyes and the world of problems leaves. I just whisper softly in her ear, “I love you, girl.”

It is good to be back again. We have been having trouble with other browsers in accessing this blog. Now that the issue is sorted, we look forward to the old good times, and new better taste for you.

Thanks to Vyonne and her team for fixing this.

Today’s post was nothing but these arbitrary things we write when our emotions are sparked. Men rarely get emotional but kids can change equations of our wiring harnesses.

As always, I am your Peace Ambassador,

Mzangila Snr.

Cheers to ya’ll.

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