Becoming a Masai warrior


“A knife, a spear or a simi?” he asked.

“Simi,” she responded after a pause. She raised her face from the necklace she was attaching beads to and looked at him. He lay on the mat, facing the roof of their home. He was shirtless, his small ribs sticking out like the thorns of an Acacia tree on its bark.

Several flies hovered over his face but he looked calm, undisturbed.

“The Morans will be dancing during the initiation, their hair flying over their heads as they jump,” he continued. “I will stand straight completely naked, with mud applied on every part of me awaiting the cut. And I will not flinch when the Oloibon pulls the foreskin and cuts it off. I will be still, silent and still. Then as he throws the foreskin away, I will be a man.”

He said the last part with authority.

“That’s right, a man.” Her voice was more of a whisper to herself. She stood up, her back bent and walked towards the door.

“And then I will hunt and kill a lion. I will become a Moran, strong and feared.” His voice became softer. “I will then pay the dowry for the beautiful dark girl. You know which one I am talking about Koko, don’t you?”

She grunted in agreement, pushed the animal skin that acted as the door aside and stepped out. The rays of the hot sun illuminated the room but he lay there, without moving, still talking.

She returned carrying a basin half filled with water. A woman half her age followed her into the mud and dung plastered room. She carried with her a small gourd and a fly whisker.

His eyes were closed; he had stopped talking and was half asleep. The older woman woke him up, wiped the sweat off his face and then helped him into a sitting position.

The younger woman made him drink the contents of the gourd. He sipped once, twice and then coughed out thick darkish phlegm and blood.

They wiped him again and put him down on the mat. He drifted into sleep and started a gentle snore. The younger woman sat next to him swatting off the flies.

“Is he still hallucinating?” she asked.

The older woman sat on a three legged wooden stool. “Yes. He still thinks he is a child. What did they do to him in the town?”

“I don’t know. Someone said he got the town disease, you know AIDS. When they brought him, Teiko told me he would die within a month. He said AIDS kills that fast.”

“Those town people do not know a thing. I have seen people in this state getting well. Your father will get better.”

They sat in silence, one swatting flies, the other making a beaded necklace. He turned to his side, coughed and then went back to sleep. They looked at him with worry. When he started snoring again, they continued with their chores.

The only sounds they heard were the occasional chime of cowbells, the gentle snore of Koko’s husband and the flapping of the skin door.


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