I lost a friend

“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”
― P.G. Wodehouse

Facebook has a feature that reminds you of the posts you made on a given day from the previous years. Some of the posts reminds us of a time when we were excitable, naïve and stupid, full of the youthful idealism that pervades our early 20s.

Some posts bring back the good memories. A picture of you in a bikini, or boxers at the Coast. Happier times. Some bring about a post of a friend who died, and induces in you a mournful countenance when you remember that your friend, young as he or she was, is no longer with us. A raw reminder of your own mortality. Then, there is that one post that your crush liked, or commented on, sending you to cloud 9, giving you false hopes. You waited for the second comment or like as a sign to go ahead. She never liked or commented on your post again. You were distraught.

It was during one of these daily trips down the memory lane recently that I came across a post I made two years ago, must have been controversial then, given the long thread of comments. In the comments section, I came across the name of a young boy that startled me. The boy, a big fan of my Retrosexual column in the Nairobian, used to comment on my every post, and often differed with me, since he held different views on various topical issues that I often address on Facebook, newspapers or in this blog.

But he disappeared.

For the longest time, I never saw his name and frankly, I had forgotten about him completely. I immediately wanted to know what happened. I went to his wall. We were no longer friends. I checked if he has been active lately. He had posted a few minutes before, still the chirpy, impulsive young man from yester years.

For a moment, I kept wondering, what might have happened. I never block, or unfriend anyone on Facebook, except those Nigerian men, masquerading as women. You know them. Those with a picture of a light skin woman, one Facebook post-mostly, a recently uploaded picture-who start their conversation with ‘hi’. And as soon as you respond, they ask for your email (so that they can tell you something about themselves.) And of course, up to until recently, I have started to block people who are hateful, homophobic, and insulting, even when not provoked. Lately, I have no patience with those.

Anyway, I came to the logical conclusion that the boy either unfriended me (because of something I said, or did.) Or he withdrew from Facebook and when he came back, I had surpassed the 5,000 capping mark of friends on Facebook. In which case he could have just followed me.

But the young man, worried me less. Another beautiful, most awesome female friend had just disappeared from my timeline. I loved the woman. Not in the romantic way. She had dated a friend. But because she was easily one of the most intelligent women I have ever dealt with in life; honest to fault, kinder as a saint, tender like corned beef. I loved her. Don’t know what transpired, and we were no longer friends on Facebook.

My guess. Mmmh, at some point I became so critical of the Jubilee government. And in Kenya, if you criticize the government of the day, it means you hate the president’s tribe. The same can be said of the opposition.Criticise the opposition or Raila, and you will branded anti-Luo.  I have since toned down my criticism. I remember the lady asking me, why had I all over sudden became such a tribal jingoist. Which was a gross exaggeration since I don’t hate anyone whatsoever. I have so many problems in my mind to accommodate hate. Even when the lady was bereaved, I didn’t know where to find her to say sorry, since I was away and I couldn’t call her. Anyway, that is one precious friend gone.

But she was not my biggest worry. Over the last six years, I lost my best campus friend. The friendship died a slow, painless, natural death.

To this, we shall return. A brief history about me and losing my friends.

***

Back in high school, I had a friend, let us call him Ricky. Ricky was a short, dark, and skinny boy. Private and guarded, he only spoke to his former school mates (those from primary school). Ricky, spoke in a low bass, then quite furiously potent since we were adolescents. I think he spotted some scrubby beard. He was boyish, and manly at the same time. He could be snobbish or dismissive, or both. But with the benefit of hindsight, he may have been just shy.

I loved Ricky. We spent all our breaks together. Went to the river down at Igare to bathe and boy, we had endless stories to tell and share. We spent half the time gossiping our classmates.

“Martin looks like a child of a single mother,” he would say of a spoilt, or entitled classmate.

“Exactly, that is what I always think when he behaves like a girl,” I would add.

“And Isaac’s parents are definitely teachers…” I would say.

“Definitely, I actually know his father. He was a deputy in some primary school near home. Was very strict. But he was chased. I think people said he was a witch…” he would add. And on and on and on. And so forth. We gossiped worse things than women in a middle-class salon in a middling neighbourhood.

One day we asked ourselves, “what will you do if you fell out with your friend?”

“If you wrong me, I will never, ever speak to you,” he said, unequivocally.

“Even me. I will never speak to a friend if we fell out.” I said. Goes to show one of the similarities that had brought us together. Little did we know that our declarations will be tested too soon.

*

On January 29, every year, I commemorate the day my mother died. It is a ritual I have kept since I was boy, 19 years on. The three days in January, 29th to 31st, I am usually pensive and reserved, thinking on what might have been had mum lived on. I will be drowning in an ocean on a January 29, and I will remember, “ooh, it’s mum’s anniversary”. I never forget the day, however busy I am.

If you have ever lost someone, a beloved brother say, a dear mother may be, or a father you are fond off, the date of the day they died becomes permanently etched on your mind, and I don’t know about other people, but many such days, often found us in foul, somber and sometimes mournful mood. You ask so many questions. No answers of course. And since we record such events on Facebook nowadays, it makes their remembrance less spontaneous, since you just see a post from three years and it triggers the memory of the day you learnt the news that your beloved one had died.

So on that January 31, a Thursday, I wore a clean white shirt, a clean trouser and throughout the day, I tried to be chilled, attending lessons, doing my homework, so as nobody could interfere with anniversary.

Now, Ricky used to sit behind me. That Thursday afternoon I remember him trying to shake his Bic pen and may have inadvertently spluttered some red ink on my clean, resplendent shirt. For some emotionally innocuous reason, that fouled my mood, and I don’t know what I may have said in the intervening 10 seconds that offended Ricky so bad, and like a joke, we were not talking.

A term went. No talking. Another term came and went. No talking. Third term. No talking. We were in Form 3. Still not talking.  We never spoke  and by Form 4, we had made peace with our swearing back in first year that if you ever fall out with anyone we will never talk to them. We were young boys. Proud as hell. It used to be awkward since we had the same circle of friends and many may have questioned why we were so childish. But a man is as good as he can keep his word. And we were men. If we ended up on the same table, during lunch hour or dinner, one of us had to switch. It was embarrassing honestly. We never spoke until we stepped out that great school in the middle of nowhere in Kisii.

Later, I run into him in Moi University, when I went to visit friends. We did say hi, quite relieved to overcome our stupidity. We did some small talk and disappeared. Later, he did start a Facebook chat, telling me that he had been employed and posted somewhere in Kapsabet as a teacher. Good for him. But we both realized that we were straining at the chat and our high school differences had taken a terrible toll on us. The chat died. And I have never heard from him.

But Ricky is not the story today.

*

My university friend, let us call him Adam, is. I met Adams in first year. A quiet, laid back guy, in the ensuing weeks we would become tighter friends, brought together by our shared love for things literary.

We loved book. We were both in the Literature class. We loved Sidney Sheldon. We read almost all his books and recited passages from the books that we thought were funny. I am still convinced that there was no greater story teller than Sidney Sheldon. Oh Man. Those cliff-hangers. The humour. The characters. Jeez, how did Sheldon do it.

Our favourite character was the obnoxious female assassin in the Windmills of the Gods, described by Sheldon as having “the body of a cow and manners of a pig”. We loved that line. Still do.

We loved magazines. Economist. Intelligent Life (now 1843). Time. Newsweek. Everything he read and he thought I would enjoy, he would pass it to me. I did the same. As we both struggled to become writers, we did support each other, although not as much as we should have. I still wished we would go a step better to peer review our articles, blogs and such.

While we shared literary pleasures, our inclinations were different. Adams to me was more of a conservative. Even in his writing, he was the austere, lean writer. On my own, I am more of a populist. I lean more towards popular, accessible (both intellectually and physically) literature. So, whereas he may have found my writing too populist for his tastes, I had no problem with his lean prose and keen eye for observation.

With Adams, we also gossiped a lot. OK, men, don’t gossip, we do Mantalk. Adams had some of the wittiest, meanest lines reserved for those crushes who used to give us problems. And man, he could describe a lady. I remember this one lady in class from Kisumu, who had a waspish waist that used to drive him nuts. He would describe it in such poetry, you would love the woman without having ever seen her. And yeah, Adams was a poet. A good one too, though he never stopped writing poetry when he realized the world no longer reads poetry.

We traveled the world with Adams. He was always a good sport, a great conservationist, with a volatile sense of humour, that you had to provoke first.

I don’t what I did on my part to give our friendship the cancer that would metastasize and eventually ruining our friendship. On my part, he said long time ago, that revealed the kind of friend he was. He said in excitement and may not have considered his words. But it hurt.

But my uncle who doubles u as a father figure had once told me,

“Never fall out with any relative or friend because you never know when you will need their help. Or they will need your help. Even so, never fall out with anyone, always be in their good books.” Ever since the high school fiasco, I had come to live with that prized wisdom. Despite what he said to me, being slightly older, I knew that time would prove Adams wrong. It did. But we went on being friends, though increasingly edgy.

But, we drew apart increasingly. Now, I am not a saint. I don’t know whatever I said, or did on my part to spark the cancer that killed our friendship.

Now in psychology, we are told, there are four types of ourselves, remember that Johari Window from your first year communication or Psychology class:

  1. The Known self: what is known by the person about him or herself and is also known by others.
  2. Blind self: what is unknown by the person about him or herself but which others know.
  3. Hidden self: what the person knows about him or herself that others do not know. E.g being a closeted gay.
  4. Unknown self: what is unknown by the person about him or herself and is also unknown by others. Maybe you don’t know that the person you think is your biological dad is actually not. Or you were adopted and no one ever told you.

I am keen on the blind self. May be I have this blind spot that people know about that I don’t know. And in it, I may have said something equally offensive, or behaved like an arse#*le. I don’t know. What I know, I do have a careless tongue, sometimes I do say nasty things about myself and others. But truth be told, I have never harbored any malice towards anyone. I am the kind of person who wants everyone to succeed including my enemies, for I know, their success or how their life pans out, has no bearing on how my life will pan out. We all live our lives and write our own stories.

The reason for this loooooong blog, is that I am sure there are people out there that are baffled why they are not talking to their former best friends anymore. There are always reasons.

First, friendships die naturally because people grow old, priorities change and life happens. You have absolutely no control over this, as a good Facebook friend, told me recently.

Secondly, some friends are very competitive and can’t bear competing with you and sometimes they lose out.

Thirdly, maybe they were not your friends in the first place. Fate just brought you together and your friendship was just expedient and died when it was tested in worse times.

But it is a philosophical experience. Since, you can’t replace some of the friends. We all make our best friends when in college. Outside college, we are less trustworthy of the the people we meet, because after college they are too old and their opinions on everything about life pretty much permanent. We only become their friends too cautiously.

I am now a literary orphan. No that one bosom friend  to share my best reads. No intellectual equal (more or less) to weigh our mutual tastes against each other. It is such a painful fact of life that friendships sometimes do go to the dogs and just like a death, or a separation, you get used to it, live with it, until the end of time.

 

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