We are seated in one of the massive halls in school, by the window, facing the bridge, ‘counting’ cars caught up in the afternoon snarl. The heat is excess, as usual, so you take off your blazer and as you hang it on your back rest, you let out a loud yawn. Both of us know what that means, but after throwing silent glances at each other, we ignore it, and drop our heads to our books.
I like these instances; sitting with you, reading, because there is a CAT at 5 p.m. I like it because you are easy. Your brain is light, so unlike the rest, you understand everything on your own. You do not budge with too many questions. Mathematics is so easy to you; you are the one who gives me the shortcuts sometimes. Most importantly, I like sitting with you, at times like this, because you understand me. You understand my silence, my masked words, my empty laughs, my sarcastic comments.
Someone taps my shoulder and asks, “Leo hamuendi lunch?”
Ah, we have never laughed that hard in life. We clutch our stomachs, in stitches, then after a few moments, we say we do not feel hungry. That our breakfast was heavy. That even if we wanted to go, the sun is too hot and even worse, it is only a few hours to the CAT and we are yet to read everything. That we are okay, really, and will eat first thing after the CAT.
No, this is not the first time we have run broke, with nothing to even get food. It is not the first time our stomachs are rumbling because of hunger, so we drink gallons and gallons of water in the name of ‘hot weather’. It is not the first time we are sitting together, thinking of our problems in silence, and knowing that we will survive at the end. It is not the first time that we feel like we have failed each other, but still hold onto each other.
It is not the first time, but people still say, ‘No, you cannot be broke. You are too pretty, and you dress like someone who owns the world.”
In the evening, when you say you want to spend the night at my place, we walk home in silence, lost in our thoughts, wondering whether the sun will shine in our pockets tomorrow, and bring hope for a better time.
It is a wonder, sometimes, how the two of us created such an impenetrable bond. At that time, I was new and silent. Confused and buried inside a cocoon. Yourself; you were loud and all over the place. You wore six inch heels and waked with your chest in the air. You swayed your hips, and knocked over anyone who wanted to ‘tame’ you. Ah, you were the envy of many of us. Wanting to have your level of courage. Wanting just an ounce of your confidence.
And then, suddenly, I was the one sitting next to you. You teaching me how to be loud and unapologetic. You teaching me how to wear my crown of womanhood with pride. You saying to me, ‘These men we sit with, they will always talk about you. Whether you do good or bad. They will talk in hushes because in one way or another, they are scared of your might. They have nothing on you.”
From thereon, it was a roller-coaster, and with time, we were like twins, to a point we scored same marks. To a point when someone saw me alone, they always asked, “Na leo umewacha wapi F?”
It was beautiful. Knowing you would always be around. You would always call in the morning to ask ‘Umemaliza? Niko hapa kwa gate yenu.” You would always choose my outfits, all the time saying, “You are too extra with your dressing. You make me look like your helper.” You would always book a space for me whenever I was running late. During exams, you would curse at me saying, “Uko na akili kubwa na handwriting ndogo. Sitting next to you is a waste of chance.”
You would always show up at my place, unannounced, carrying samosas and chapatis, enough to feed the whole neighborhood. You would cook as if it was your own place, and when you left, you said, “At least now you have real food in the house. These games of drinking juice and biscuits for supper have to end.”
Even when I fell sick, and had to spend weeks admitted in hospital, you were always by my side. Sleeping in the uncomfortable wooden chair. Whisking away the mosquitoes. Answering my calls. Calming down my parents. Waiting for me to regain consciousness. Quarreling the nurses and doctors whenever you felt they were sleeping on the job. You fed me, and bathed me at my big age. And even as I write this, I am tearing up because wueh, to be human is one thing, but to find a human who gives you all they have is a whole other thing.
I cannot count the number of nights I have spent in your house, because I needed an escape from my own space. Nights we talked, and laughed, and talked even more, before drifting into sleep. Nights we shared our dreams of the future, and the fears of our pasts. Nights we talked of the courage in our voices, and the opportunities that lie on the other side of fear. And when morning came, we washed our faces off the pain, guilt, and shame, and faced the world with a newness of spirit.
In the spirit of the amazing human you are, I hope that if nothing else, your daughter turns out exactly as you. Lover of all the fine things life has to offer. Building others, without expecting anything in return. Speaking with courage about the things that nourish her heart and soul. Calming racing hearts. Serving gratitude and resilience throughout. Being herself even in the midst of storms.
Someday, when my stars align, I hope to find ways to channel all this back to you. To remind you that whatever happens in life, there is a life you touched. There is a broken heart you mended. There is a withered plant you watered. There is a river over which you built a bridge, so a life was saved. There is a life that is super because of you; mine.