It was the sixties. Women had to compete with other women -wives and concubines- for their husband’s attention, affection, giving hand, and thrusting penis. Same women also had to always be on their best behaviour around in-laws; and in-laws were always around. In addition, they had to be the epitome of commerce, selflessness, servitude, silence, long-suffering, and humility -Christs par excellence- to the community. Perhaps most of all, they had to raise sterling children: a female whose promising cherry ensnared a man from a reputable family, and a male whose fabled prowess, money, or good looks had all the girls competing to win his marriage proposal.
It was the sixties. A mother’s success rode almost exclusively on the back of her children’s perceived satisfaction of societal expectations and standards. Then, there were some boys who often went out spotless but returned dirty and sometimes bloodied. They never got home before the sun went to sleep, usually were too tired to participate meaningfully in chores, got their siblings into trouble, caused the vexation of their fathers, and brought shame and ridicule upon their mothers. Mothers with such boys usually kept vigil with the cold space on their mat; examining their minds for the list of wrongs they had done, wondering which could have caused someone such offence as to curse them with such fate. Often they begged the son, and his ‘head’, to have mercy on them.
“You have made me the jest of everyone. Neighbours and peers mock me. Your father’s other wives are turning him against me. Quit your bad habit, save me from shame.”
They would cry, plead, call on the breasts he suckled in blackmail; their ultimate weapon to demand obedience.
It was the sixties. Footballers were rascals; everyone knew. They went out clean and returned dirty, sometimes bloodied. They cursed the wombs that bore them, dishonoured the breasts that suckled them, and were deaf to the voices that crooned them lullabies at infancy. They were also disreputable. Girls -intoxicated by victory or the exhibit of masculinity in primitive frames of guts and glory- sometimes offered their cherry to footballers who thought them a prize, and made trophies of them. Inevitably, footballers were envied, hated, and respected by fellow males who had neither human nor sculpted trophies. My father liked to play football. And he was good at it. His team would hardly ever play without him, his name was known in all the neighbouring towns, and the girls either hated or loved him. He was a “rascal”.
It was the sixties. Luxury, as my father tells, was returning home to elder sisters who had done his chores and hidden away some meal for him. It was playing football in the rain confidently; knowing his brother always had eyes on him, and was ready to put him on his back and race to the clinic if he had another crisis of pneumonia. It was never being afraid of the many males who ambushed him because he had elder brothers and cousins everyone knew better than to mess with. It was a father who always gave him a cone of ice-cream bought from big cities –away from the reprimanding eyes of his mother- and beamed eyes full of pride when his team won. It was a mother who swaddled him in her fanciest heaviest wrappers, while she watched the night and prayed for him to live through the cold.
It is twenty-sixteen. Luxury would be reading this to my father and laughing as he throws cute insults, swears words, and threatens me in a mix of disbelief, dismay, awe, and adoration.