So there I was, with a hand-mirror in front of me, admiring my bony black face that morning. No be small thing oh. Even monkey self dey look mirror! Chai! Laugh wan tear my yansh! My beards had grown aimlessly. Mad hair had sprout on my face and I was thinking of the possible time to have it shaved. I turned in several positions thinking madly about stepping out with the face. My thoughts ran wild, a portion going towards my girlfriend and another to the countless jobless people who tag others base on appearance.
The Nigerian woman does not like a man with an unshaven face. If they want such men they would go to the zoo, one lady had told me. She said such unkempt beard is dirt. Sometimes I think the beard is more than dirt to us, the men who keep the face. It serves as an act that keeps us occupied. For me, I run my fingers through my beards when I am confused. I look odd but it allows me to think beyond the human realm. Yeah, no woman would listen to such gibberish. Women love sanity. Try it. Come home one day looking nice, smelling nice and your spouse would hug a life out of you. She would introduce you to anyone who comes around as her man, without mincing words. Do not think about the opposite. You will be popular in a small time as a mad man. Women love such good stuff. Men suck at the knowledge of such. Nigerian men are usually forced to dress properly either by a job or some mad concept while pursuing a contract. Chai. Men self!
No matter how rich you are, if a Nigerian woman perceives a foul smell on your breath or from your crazy bushy armpit you are dead. Do not think of coming close to her so a fair lady is not charged for murder. Dreadlocks could be a wahala too, sometimes, but I think women love it now. So that morning while I was looking at my reflection in the mirror I was not so concerned about the time and place to have my beards shaved but the money. I had no money on me or in the bank. Sometimes it gets that funny and I keep beards, playing with it. My girlfriend, like a billion other girls, doesn’t like beards. I try to avoid it but sometimes it is like fate, I cannot run away from it. I just go broke and I save some miserable beards.
I keep beards when I have unfinished projects, maybe a magazine that is yet edited, a book that is yet to be bought or some fees to clear up. But that day there were no projects I was mourning with my beards. I was just broke, utterly broke to afford a barber or a Gillette shaving stick. My great-grand dad shaved himself with a wooden shaving-stick. He had one which had a replaceable head. When one was blunt he would change the razor blade inside or pick the razor and sharpen it on a stone. My great-grand old man would unscrew his stick like he was a specialist with the machine, blow watery air into it, bend low on a stone and sharpen it.
My great-grand dad would not talk while doing his sharpening. I am sure he had reasons not to; maybe the sound of his voice could blunt the razor or something. I mean I met the man when he was already old. He was over a hundred years older than I was. And I was bound to listen and learn a whole lot of stuff from him. All of what I saw in him was old and unconventional. Even his language was old and confusing. I speak a corrupt version of K’ana while he spoke a clean one. English has ruined my life. But it did not ruin his. I could barely make a sentence in K’ana to the man without a word or two translated into the English. My great-grand old man knew no English so a word in it pained him like a nail on his head. He did not care about English in any sense of the word. He felt Europeans had done so much harm already and letting go of his local language was the worst maltreatment anyone would give to another human. He never drank beer for the palm-wine. My great-grand old man thought and prayed in K’ana. He offered Kola-nut and alligator pepper to his gods in the language. He never had problem with buying alligator pepper. He had a farm filled with it. He could even sell some to buy himself a pack of razor blade for his shaving-stick, if he desired.
I once stole into his garden as a younger adventurous naughty headed boy and collected as many dried pods of alligator-pepper as possible. I never took them to him. I sat with friends and ate them up. It was my first time. Moments after chewing the bloody pepper I was running madly naked in the village begging for water from neighbours to quench the hotness. My great-grand old man, ironically, did not save beards. Maybe he knew more about women and their love for a clean face or there was something philosophical about it. He bought a razor when it was really necessary. His time and mine are apart. This day I use Gillette or I go to a barber. As a man I think my life is better and less chaotic. Women do not go through such easy steps to have a nice haircut; in short they do not get haircuts. They make their hair!
I hate seeing my reflection in the mirror especially when my face is bearded. It reminds me how handsome I am not. It reminds me of my girlfriend and her dislikes for beards. I am not really a tall guy and I am skinny also, it is only a clean face that inducts me into the world of sane people.
So while brushing my hair that morning I perceived a special cologne behind me. I rarely wear perfumes so I knew that my girlfriend was around. I turned and saw her in her dazzling clothes. She wore a pair of jean trousers and a nice blouse which brought forth her breasts like it was a gift. I hugged her and she smiled. Chai! Smiles are cute oh.
All Nigerian women should smile and this world will be a better place. If you are married to a woman who does not smile you are in a serious wahala. Your fowl don lay cooked egg be that oh! When a woman smiles, I mean a pretty woman, the world stops for a moment and things just go well. If there is a moment you should prefer as a man it should be that moment your spouse smiles at you from the bottom of her heart, not when you are in bed, no, bed is bad. My girlfriend touched my beards and announced her verdict. I knew what it was. I never had money but money appeared from wherever it was and I had a clean shaved face again.
ARTICLE BY NWILO BURA-BARI VINCENT