When I received word that Jesse brought his girl home, I did not know how to react. I doubt even if there was an iota of facial expression to show that I reacted. I mean it was a long time coming. Jesse knew just as his girl, given they were expecting their first child. The little one was fast coming and there was no other better environment than the father’s house. So I said my congratulations and gave Jesse a part on his back. For finally making up his mind of course, and err for a job well done. I am not sure of the relationship between the outcome of the job that Jesse did, and good at that and his back. I wonder if there is any other more deserving part of the body than the back. But it’s ok. I gave the part. Give unto Caesar what is Caeser’s right.
Three weeks and I start noticing changes. But that is expected. I tell myself. I try to imagine my feet in Jesse’s shoes. Dude has elephant feet. I would not have handled things any better. I tell myself. He will come around after things are in place. Is that not enough of reassurance? So I wait. I wait so that we can catch up on the things that we have missed…the football and stuff, which he cannot play well. Remember his short fart feet? Jesse could not dribble the ball past an opponent, and he could not let an opponent with a ball past him, tit for tat; the latest development in town…who is grooving who, to which he had been the topic of discussion for a while…and the latest bird in town. But Jesse is nowhere to be seen. No more bad traps. That broke my heart. With each passing day he says there is a new business he has to take care of. He says commitments. And I understand. People get committed.
Before long it dawns on me that Jesse is gone. That Jesse is in another world. A world in which there is just enough space for the Jesses. I cannot complain because I expected things to turn out the way they did. That is what happens to all friendships. Things change and so do people. I occasionally peek at Jesse’s and I am amazed at the way things have changed. The way the subwoofer no longer blast with the latest hit from J. Cole. Songs that Jesse listen to make my ear tingle with sweat. Songs that say you no longer exist in the same league…songs that say what a leap someone has taken. Sometimes I wonder what songs Baba used to listen to as a young chap before he started listening to Papa Wemba’s Rail On. And what songs will I settle on when I finally enter that door? Time. Jesse is clean-shaven, with a kitambi too. And I marvel at the strength of a woman!!!
Flash forward and we are at the waiting room of a hospital. Jesse strolls around the hallway, in the waiting room, to the enquiry desk and finally back on his seat. Jesse jumps and walks around like he is the one experiencing labour pains. Jesse jogs, sits down, jogs again before finally sitting down to wait. He resorts to scratching his clean-shaven head…looks up to the ceiling as if trying to capture the attention of somebody. He murmurs and looks up again to see if he is given a listening moment. I admire Jesse now. Not his labour pain-like demeanour, and not his clean shaven head but the fact that he is here to witness the big moment of his life. I decide to engage Jesse in a talk to unhinge him. I am astonished when he takes over the conversation. Quiet Jesse now yapping about how the forthcoming little one would not lack as long he, Jesse would still be alive. Jesse goes over the list of names they had already picked for the young one. I can tell Jesse is super happy…and proud.
On the list with the heading JESSE, I notice that he is so dying to have a baby boy. He does not flip to the next page and so I cannot tell what gender Jesse’s lady would have wanted. At that moment I’m taken back to what my birth had felt like. My head is only filled with questions like was Baba there? How did he behave? Like Jesse? What names did he pick for me? And nicknames, why did I not have any? What was his reaction when he first held me in his arm? Did he cry/smile or he just stood there, his mind wondering, lost in some other place? Trying to figure out where the next meal and school fees for my other siblings will come from. So many questions without answers that I feel my head jammed. So I drop it.
The doctor finally appears stethoscope in hand and delivers the good news. Little Jesse had a safe landing. Bouncy. Only Jesse is allowed to go in. The doctor says. I remain behind, with my thoughts which come back, nagging me. A couple of hours later Jesse emerges across the hallway towards the waiting room, baby in hand. He says he cannot let his kid stay in the hospital. He is so excited that he just wants to have his kid in his own house.
Time passes and the Jesses are doing just fine. Jesse is more committed, focussing on particular things to do. He’s got a role to play. He has sweat to wipe and love to give. But Jesse is troubled. Deep within he is fighting thoughts that are gnawing at his rather happy spirit. Jesse goes through life wondering if he will keep up to his promise. Despite being the hard worker that he is, Jesse is not sure if he will set the right example for his kid. He is not sure if the man he has turned out to be is worthy of copying by his kid, or maybe just another kid. Jesse had dreams, he still dreams of the life he wishes his kid to live. At the same time he is wondering where to draw examples, the right examples from the right role models. He dreams of being better than the father he barely knew. Of the uncles that he only got to hear stories about.
The men that Jesse aspires to be like, better than even, to his kid, he was told were lost…lost to battles that nobody could put into words and describe…battles that came long after the struggle for Uhuru…battles that snatched them from their homes and their families, their presence never to be felt again…battles that denied people like Jesse the opportunity to feel the presence of a man in their lives…a source of example to draw from. Men who went out in search of themselves but only ended up lost…lost while looking for themselves. Men who even their presence elicited close to no effect on the lives of those that they lived with.