I am seated at the very end of this long table; the one hotels around campuses like to use. Beside me is a guy whose name I cannot remember, but he keeps leaning into me and whispering, “You look so young. Uko na ID kweli?”, to which I answer by throwing harsh glances at him, restraining myself from banging his head against the table.
The person who dragged me here, at 8 p.m., doesn’t look like they are interested in me anymore. They keep whispering to those close to them, then burst out laughing, their mouths full of half-crushed maize and beans. The particles spatter around, landing on our faces and plates, so I push back my chair and leave.
When I get back to my place, I make a mental note to push the memory of that night in a dark pit, but then a soft knock manifests on my door and when I open, it is you:
“You left this at the table. It is beautiful, and I felt you would feel sad if you lost it,” you said, handing over the piece of cloth to me.
It was the first time I talked to you, one on one, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship, built on sincerity, truth, and honesty.
I remember, two weeks later, when catching up with some of my friends, they asked:
“How do you and E get along so well? He is sooo scary, and looks like someone who can beat you to death if you annoy him.”
I laughed it off because honestly, I didn’t feel any fear whenever I was around you, and when I told them that you are easy to like, easy to talk to, easy to laugh with, they gave me warning eyes, saying, “Be careful. He doesn’t look normal to us.”
But look at us now. It has been years since that first conversation. Years since we started talking to each other about our lives. Years since we started taking long walks whenever our emotions overwhelmed us. Years since we started shopping for t-shirts together, and deciding to not let our past define us.
I have been asked, a couple of times, what defines friendship to me. And I would always, in my head, mention your name. Because there is nothing I have ever failed to talk to you about. There is no single moment of darkness in my life that you don’t know of. There is no success or milestone I have attained that you have not been part of.
You, though subconsciously, was the one who noticed how my greatest misfortunes almost always fell just before of after my birthday parties. It was you who asked me to be extra careful whenever my birthday approached. It was you who asked me to be choosy with the people I come into contact with whenever my birthday nears. And even when I decided never to throw a birthday party ever again, you held my hand, and asked me to listen to my heart. That no one ever died because they didn’t throw a party.
And even when, three years ago, I hit my lowest low, switched off my phone and wished the world would just end; you are the only one who knew what really was happening. You are the only one who understood why my phone was not going through, and even when I couldn’t sleep because my heart was beating too fast, you stayed awake beside me, and said nothing.
I remember this, because your words on that day, three years ago, still linger in my mind:
“You know you have to face this demon, head on, before you can ever regain your peace, don’t you? I won’t do it for you, but I will be right there with you.”
You, my E, has taken more bullets for me than I could ever remember. You have fought my battles, even when I thought I was being too much.
Like that other time I lost my phone to one of the losers in campus, because they were blackmailing me. Ah, I can never forget the fire in your eyes and the tremble in your hands as you stood before me, and dared anyone to confront you. I can never forget the silence as you walked me back home, because the air around us was too heavy.
It has been close to two years since I last saw you, but I still remember the last words we shared, face to face:
“I am proud of you. You turned out just exactly as I knew you would. I am glad I came across you, and I hope that the memories of this day forever remind you of the mountains you have been able to conquer.”
Sometimes, when my phone vibrates and your name shows on the screen, I almost want to crawl out of my skin. I almost want to stop all the systems in the world, just so I can listen to you. I almost want to shush everyone in the house, put you on speaker, and let them listen to an incredible person speak. I almost want to tell myself that I am not ready to talk to you, then I remember that throughout our friendship, we have never been ready for anything. We have always been spontaneous. Taking things in our own hands. Laughing at our flaws, and hoping that our kids do not pick our ugly traits.
So when I receive the call and hear your voice at the other end, I know that all my problems will be solved in a minute. That you will listen, even when whatever is bothering me is out of your reach. Even when you think I am overthinking. That, at the end of the day, you will give me the words of affirmation; You got this. I don’t know any other woman who has done whatever you have. Believe in yourself. It is going to be okay. You have gifts that no one else has, and that makes you stand out.
So, if and when things fail to make sense any more, I will be sure to find my way to you; to a person who does not judge me, whatever the mistake. To the person who mentions my name in rooms where the mighty congregate. To the person who fights my battles even in my absence. To the person who has never allowed me to take no for an answer.
For you, my E, are everything a girl would ever wish for. A living safe house.