“Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.”
Aggrey had said to me in late January 2009.
“I could also do that with mine because am an adult, but I don’t because I know better.”
That was his rejoinder to the reply I had given him when he inquired about my hair, and why it was so shaggy and unkempt.
“Be responsible enough to know what is acceptable and what is just mere stupidity.” He had added.
I did not take offense because he was more than a decade older than me – and had had the time of his life knocking me around when I was younger (as he taught me how to ride a bike).
He was standing just a few metres in front of me. Even though I could tell he was getting pissed, he was trying hard to remain calm and collected. I still miss that about him. Somehow he sensed my walls coming up, and my disobedience brewing. So he reasoned with me a bit. And I appreciated that and respected him even more for it. Because he was the first person ever to treat me like an adult – reasoning out with me, and often winning me over to his way of thinking. Especially when I was dead set on doing something that he did not really approve of.
To this day, I don’t think there is anyone I have been as respectful and loving of, as I did him.
I had just finished school and was still exploring the fun that comes with making my own decisions over the little things in MY life. Like when to wake up in the morning, or whether to even do so at all. Or how many hours a day to watch movies and music videos. Or whether to have lunch a few minutes after breakfast – because I still had the appetite of five grown hyenas. I was eighteen and finally an adult in the loosest possible sense of the word. See, in school everything had been predetermined and I was not a big fan of the rules. Back then I still believed in being a renegade. I so longed for the freedom to decide when to cut my hair or when to sleep – without the risk of being reprimanded by a stressed out teacher who had better things to do. I still recall the feeling I had had when I walked out of school after finishing up that Business Studies exam paper in November, nearly a decade ago.
Anyway, the late-January day ended with Aggrey staring at me in the mirror on the wall at the barber shop, as the excited barber dug into my skull. The machine hummed annoyingly into my ears as four months of hair preservation fell on to the dirty floor of Jamnic Kinyozi. Over the next several months of 2009, he would knock on the door every two weeks to take me for a haircut – he footed all the bills. His determination amazed me. That is how I would end up cultivating the habit of cutting and trimming my hair two times a month, and looking dapper as a result. I tried to stick to the routine even when I went off to college several hundred kilometers away. And long after I completed my education.
Next month will be three years since he left. And I think I need him to remind me one more time, that my hair is ready for grooming. It’s been three weeks since my last hair appointment and my barber has called me two times already to check whether am fine.
Because am a being that thrives on routine, I have been feeling like something is off-balance. I know it’s my hair maintenance routine that is out of whack, and I know how I can fix it, and feel whole again. But I have started this thing where am addressing my compulsive habits through a combination of self-directed cognitive behavioral therapy and simple ignorance of the obsessive voices and compulsive thoughts inside my head. It has caused me many a sleepless night and a great deal of discomfort. For instance, there are times when I feel like there is an ecosystem in my hair simply because am one week past my haircut appointment.
Often I try to convince myself that the fears and paranoia are just a product of my imagination but I guess I am my hair.
Sorry Indie Arie…