She does not come as death usually does: a cough, then body pains, then a diagnosis, then improvement, then a relapse, then a change in treatment, improvement, end of story. She comes as a human.
She has little on her appearance to write about. Her height, like mine, is unsure. Her eyes are lifeless. Her laughter is dry, and empty.
It is her character, maybe, that we focus on. Because, she welcomes us all with no judgement. Each time you meet her, she leaves you feeling that you are human. Despite that the class she belongs to and ours are steps apart.
I meet her, in a market, with him.
He is the one who recognises me in that crowded chaos. I am going around minding my business when I am tapped on the shoulder. I turn around, it is him.
Our hands clap. Then, we embrace.
I say: ‘long time, man.’
He, with a smile, repeats. We are full of joy, and laughter, that we hug—like, perhaps, the expression of feelings among men is not frowned upon in our hypocritical society.
We exchange pleasantries then he calls my attention to her:
“Meet,” he mentions a name. “My girlfriend.”
He also introduces me to her. And, that is how we become friends.
I am a loafer, so it is at his place I spend most of my time – when he is back from work.
Each day, she is also there. She cooks, cleans the house before knocking off for home when darkness starts creeping.
In one moment, I ask him why he is not marrying her yet.
“Well, it’s in the pipelines. You will dance soon.”
But, instead of that big dance, she moves in. I raise eyebrows but ask no one.
Until that day, at midnight, there is a knock at the door.
It is late so I do not bother to honour it. But, when the person identifies himself – and the voice matches – I go to open.
“I need someone to talk to…”
“At this hour?”
“I am so confused, man…”
I advise him to relax, breathe in and out, keep calm and drink water.
I regret the moment I finish giving that advice. He breaks down. Tears, only, at first. Then, an actual wail. Loud. And meaningful. With words.
From the words, I piece together the story:
There is trouble in paradise. Her, the woman, I had grown to like as a companion of the friend, has been cheating. She has someone. She comes when the friend is out at work and whenever he can.
It is actually a long running relationship.
“I don’t know if even that pregnancy is mine…”
“There’s a pregnancy?”
“Yes, that is why she moved in.”
I am inexperienced so I lack coherent advice to give. But, I tell him, prayer solves everything.
He asks to leave after ranting but I hold him back. It is late, leave at dawn – I say.
He begrudgingly accepts. When I wake, however, he is not there. I call him. He tells me he is at his wife’s parents.
The story of what really transpires there, I never get to hear it. But, he moves to a new location. He breaks up with her – this is something I get to hear months later.
For me, he just sends a brief text message:
‘I am sorry; I should not have bothered you…’
I respond that he should not worry, that I am his brother. I ask:
‘Where are you? We should meet.’
There is no response and when I call later to follow-up, the phone is not reachable. Actually, the phone never ever again comes into reach.
He, somehow, becomes a rumour: he was seen at a, b, c today…I was with him at so and so…he was throwing up at such and such
When I meet him again, after months, he is a shadow of his former self. The only thing remaining about him is his sharp brain. He is, once again, the one who recognises me.
When we shake hands, his is feeble – and uncertain. When I go for an embrace, he collapses into me. Then, starts sobbing.
I say it is the beer so I try to extricate myself. But, he starts telling a story. Of how they broke up.
The pregnancy, she said it was his but her heart was no longer with him.
“In the presence of her family, she told me off. I caught her cheating, forgave her even without an apology and guess what she did? Deny me.”
“So, it wasn’t you who broke it off?”
“No, man, I could do no such thing. It was her who broke it off.”
“Did she go to the other man?”
Yes, she did. But, it was not to stay. After a few weeks, they broke up. Then, she reached out to him. She said she was sorry. It was the devil. Would he reconsider giving her another chance?
“I wanted to, man, because I loved her but the things she put me through, no!”
He did not take her back, even when it hurt him. He walked, away. He moved, away – without really moving on.
“And for the child?”
He supports him. He says the child is a dashing reflection of him.
“It is her whom I have no business with.”
We shake hands, and part, after exchanging numbers.