Have you ever seen a grown man cry?

Have you ever seen a grown man cry? I certainly have. I have seen tear-blinded eyes, fist against wall, defences crumbling down to reveal that very thing that gives birth to strength in the first place: vulnerability. Peel back the layers and you will surely find, that within each grown man – beards, biceps, and all – there is a boy version of him who hides.

I know a man whom many men are afraid of. He is broad, laconic and stern-faced. He has a tattoo on his arm [“Only Allah can judge me”] and works as a security guard. Bullied into being this way by the acerbic tendencies of family members who were prone to favouring his sister; leaving him to his own devices, even at the tender age of ten. These things hurt, and perhaps never really stop hurting. And nothing – not even being tall and muscular and poker-faced – can compensate for the voids that such realities leave in their wake.

Recently, I walked into a time machine and saw that boyhood version of him: a big but lessened figure, hood up, eyes scarlet red. His father is severely unwell – in his final stages of life, the doctors say. An entire lifetime of being bullied by the very man whose feet Boy now sits at. Boy’s daughters encircle him energetically, hugging their beloved father and begging him to play with them, overtaken by that puerile euphoria that Boy wishes he could have had.

And Boy, who is a walking embodiment of masculinity now, cries too. He cowers and hides, arms folded and expression blank, and the pain still eats him alive. His wife walks into the ward; smiles sympathetically and places her hand on his back. She loves him, she loves him, she loves him – in ways that his parents never would.

Sadia Ahmed, 2019 

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