But my voice didn’t break when we got to Class 6, neither did it happen when we went to Class 7 when almost every boy in class had a deep voice and wisps of hair on their chins and on the back of their hands. I thought I’d be doomed to a life of sounding like a girl. I’d be those guys who stand at the fast food counter saying with a shrill voice, “Can I have chicken nuggets with a large fries please?” then the staff listening in the kitchen would giggle and whisper, “Do you want that with a double D bra, sir?” But then the Lord doesn’t forsake his people because in second term, my voice broke. I started sounding like I had a cold that wouldn’t go away and finally it did and it was replaced by the distant rumbling of thunder. Never been the one to speak up loudly, I started to test my voice often: “Hi Vanita, where did you buy that Oxford mathematical set?” It didn’t impress her.

Anyway, my point is, I was a late bloomer. My beard took ages to come out. In fact, I only started sprouting a beard at age 24, but even then the strip in the middle wouldn’t grow any hair for as long as I remembered. My chin looked like it had been shaved off in the middle to stick the terminal ends of a battery for purposes of torture.

While my age mates were looking like they lived in caves by 28 years of age, I looked like a choir boy. It disturbed me, of course because I’m vain. I wanted to have a neat beard like my father’s. Back then he had a big sexy bush of beard that was called ‘Channel O’. He trimmed and tended to it meticulously each morning like it was an investment portfolio. Then it started greying out and he looked so distinguished and stately that I thought ‘God, you better have given me the genes of that man’s beard’. Finally I got a thick bush of beard on my chin and for a long time I’d stroke it absentmindedly when talking to someone, or just thinking of what I would be having for lunch. Now I’m bored by it.

I have thought of shaving it, but then I will look like a choir boy, which isn’t bad at all… except that I can’t sing. So now I have decided that I will grow it out. I plan not to shave for the whole year. I want to grow the biggest beard in the history of our family. I want to leave it unattended, to grow in any way and direction it pleases. I will let it tendril up my face and into my nose if it pleases. I want to leave it to roam free, to be who it wants to be and maybe in the event, it will turn me into someone else. I want to look in the mirror and say, “Hey, I’m Jackson Biko, and you are?” I will name it Black Moses. I want to be estranged by it. I want it to grow so big that it will scare other children in school when I go to pick up my kids. I want other parents to whisper at each other as I pass. And embarrass my daughter. She will probably forsake me before other children.

I won’t care if people say I’m losing my mind or that it’s the onset of mid-life crisis. I won’t mind if my beard traps my soup and bread crumbs when I’m eating. (I eat like a child). I want to hide behind this bush and see if hair will change who I am and how people relate to me.

I want to feel the weight of it on my face and feel it swallow all my words. What’s the point of this, you may ask? Why disfigure my face with a scraggly beard? Because I’ve had it for at least 20 years and I’ve never tested it. This is the year to test myself.

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