It is 10.21 pm. I am lying in my bed, no sleep in my eyes but the fatigue in my bones threatens to break me. I turn. I am waiting for my person to text and say they got home safe. I wait. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty. They don’t text.
Slowly, I begin drifting into sleep. It is a heavenly feeling. When your muscles relax and nerves loosen. It is like you’re slowly giving yourself away into a world of fantasy. There are a million things I could give up in my life, but not the feeling that engulfs my body when I am starting to fall asleep.
It feels like standing in the middle of reality and fantasy, but the fantasy is so sweet that it pulls you towards its side.
Just then, my phone vibrates. The kinds of vibrations that could make the whole bed shake. That rattles the glasses on my bedside table. Do you know why? Because Nairobi people have taught me that phones are communal objects; today they are yours, tomorrow they belong to someone else you have never seen in your entire life.
Were you here, you would have laughed and said, ”Si ulikua unajiona umefika? Ona sasa madhara ya maringo.”
I assume it is him, saying he got home safe. I want to ignore the message because I am feeling so good in my drift. I want to assume that as long as he is home safe, then he could wait till morning to get a response from me.
But then again, what if he was hurt? What if he is lying in a ditch somewhere with a knife in his chest? What if he has spared the last few minutes of his life to text me? What if he got lost somewhere? Or his house has been razed down by an unimaginable fire?
I grudgingly shoot my hand from under the duvet and pick up the tiny little thing.
The message is from a new number. I say new because the Nairobian who made way with my phone did not leave behind much. It is a foreign number. Not the few ones I identify.
Who the hell texts me at this hour of the night?
“Do you still talk to your classmate Oyugi?” Reads the text.
Absurd. Why would anyone ask me whether I still talk to you? At 11pm? Why couldn’t they just sleep because well, no one, at least the ones I know, doesn’t talk to you.
“Yes, I do. Why do you ask?” I reply.
“Someone says he is dead. I have also seen a few people post that on his Facebook wall.”
I want to laugh. I want to laugh so hard my ribs would ache. But I also live alone, and I have a neighbour who looks at me like I am an alien of some sorts. He stares at me, straight into my eyes but says nothing. When I pass in front of his door, he grunts.
So no, I do not laugh because I do not want to give him more reason to grunt whenever I walk by. Nothing freaks me out as much as a silent grown man who GRUNTS when I walk by.
“I am not sure about that. I have not heard anything about that.” I reply.
What do I do then? I take close to fifteen minutes trying to log in to Facebook and find your page because again, the device I am using needs a lot of patience, maturity and self control.
I check your timeline. I see nothing unfamiliar. I breathe gently.
I get back to the new number and text;
“I have checked his timeline. I cannot see anything absurd.”
They are patient with me. They’re still awake. Perhaps thinking I am panicking, they text back;
“Breathe. Take your time. Angalia tu vizuri utaona.”
“Which user name? The one I am familiar with has nothing absurd.” I text.
“Eng MC Oyugi.”
Again, fuck the owner of my phone. May your sphincter muscles lose grip on your anus whenever you want to take a dump.
I spend another fifteen minutes searching the new username and voila!
“Rest well Engineer. This is so soon.”
I re-read that statement close to five times, then scroll to meet another three posts bearing similar messages.
I do not know what I was thinking at that time. The only thing ringing on my mind was “Why the hell would someone post on a supposedly dead person’s timeline? At 11pm?”
I know it is late, so I text the one person who shouldered me throughout campus. The one person who was always by my side every time you said to me “Yaani umeninyima hii kitu mpaka tuko karibu kumaliza shule. Sijawahi ona mtu mchoyo hii design yako.”
I text the one person with whom I always laughed at your jokes.
Like the one time you said “Si mnatakanga dark persons. Mbona mnanikataa? Au mimi ni black sio dark?”
I text Immaculate:
“Hey, someone tells me that Oyugi has passed on. I am not sure whether it is true. ”
I text only her because she is the one person who knows how bad I am at handling loss, and always does all she can to shield me from blows that losses throw my way.
After that, I sleep, hoping against hope that all this is someone playing tricks on me. Hoping that when I wake up, Immaculate will call me and we shall laugh at how easy to believe I am.
But here I am, weeks later, and the truth is slowly dawning on me. Here I am, putting on a brave face whenever the thought of you crosses my mind. Here I am, trying to calm my insides whenever I see pictures of us, and the reality that you remain only an image, and a memory in my life.
I have been defeated before. But never as much as I have been by your death. I have cried, and tried to run away from the reality of death. I have buried my face in the chests and arms of people I love, hoping that with their heart beats, there will come peace and understanding.
I have wanted to crawl back into yesterday, when you were here and spreading cheer in the form of sarcasm. When you were here saying, ”Mnakuanga serious na hii masomo ni kama hamna life. Si mchangamke aki.”
I have thrown tantrums. My moods have been on the edge. I have blamed people, places and things that should not have been blamed.
Why? Because in one way or another, I still have not come into terms with your departure.
I do not know where you are. I do not know whether you can feel anything at all. But wherever you are, I hope you smile when you see this. I hope you are at peace with yourself. I hope you look back at your days and feel as much pride as I do.
I hope you still watch over us; we who do not know how to fight for ourselves. I hope you still hold our hands and teach us how to fight for what belongs to us.
Because of you, I know what loyalty means. I know what friendship means. I know what it means to sacrifice for the people you have bonded with, even if it means carrying their old mattress on top of your head as you try to move them into a new house.
Because of you, I know there is a fire that fiercely burns inside everyone’s soul. And that fire stay within them forever.
I do not know how to live with this, but after this, maybe I will.
Rest well George. Rest well.