So welcome back everyone. It really does feel nice to be back in the game after such a long break. I sure as hell missed you guys deeply. I am however a little bit disappointed that the last person here did not switch off the lights. Imagine my surprise coming back to this place from the holidays and finding the lights on, the taps running and the place so dusty with cobwebs all over. Anyway, aside from the jokes, the fact that I am here ranting about it means that we are all set up and ready to explore this new chapter called 2019.
A lot has been said about this year. Some people have posted everywhere that this is their year. I find such statements amusing at times but you got to give credit to such people for their unshakeable high levels of optimism, courage and confidence. If only some of us had such traits within us perhaps we could have already accomplished a whole lot of great stuff this year. We could have finished reading Becoming perhaps or even devised a solution for the current shutdown in the United States of America. I know some people have finished reading Becoming and now they can’t let us live in peace. They are on Whatsapp rubbing quotes on our faces every single day. Some are out writing essays on Facebook as to why Michelle Obama is a better writer than his husband Barrack.
Now that we are in 2019 and this is my first post of the year, I feel like it would be unfair to just start over without giving us a closure. We all need a closure of 2018. I couldn’t think of any way other than telling the story of Andy. His name is Andrew but his mum, sister and I call him Andy. Andy is one of those friends that life brings your way in one of the most peculiar ways you could ever imagine. Those friends with whom you just can’t account for the inception of your friendship. It’s like the friendship between Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida in the TV Series, 24. You realize that you’ve been friends for almost three months and you know nothing about him. You don’t know where he lives, who his family is, and the school he goes to. You can’t even tell whether he is an alien or a human being till one day you get to know much about him and you are totally surprised to discover who he really is.
So two days after Christmas, my niece Joy wakes me up from an afternoon nap to tell me that my phone is ringing. I wake up irritated. I felt like pinching her little nose for waking me up from one of the most beautiful naps I’ve ever had my entire life. I am sure we all have those moments or days when you feel like all you want to do (for the rest of your life) is nap on hot afternoon especially in a hot lakeside city like Kisumu. So I turn around the sofa set where I fell asleep on as I was watching some boring Sony Max movie that ironically had very spectacular ratings. I stretch a bit then pick the phone from Joy’s tiny hands and say hello in my ugly post-sleep voice.
“Brandy is that you?” says a female voice on the other end.
There was a time in my life when only my mum used to call me Brandy. I wish this was that time because I could have definitely known who the caller on the other end was. I am at a point in my life where so many people call me that and frankly it’s hard to know who it is especially if I haven’t saved the number as was in this case.
“Yes. It’s me.” I reply hoping that she would introduce herself to save me from the torturous awkward moment of asking who she is. She doesn’t say who she is. You guessed it right.
“How have you been?”
“Fine. I guess.” I reply and then add “Who am I speaking to?”
“It’s Sandy” Comes the reply.
Sandy? Who is Sandy? I am tempted to ask her whether she’s calling from Kamiti but I restrain myself. I figure out this might be an important call and asking that might be rude and insensitive. So I try to think of all the Sandys I have ever encountered in my life for a moment but my memory cells fail me.
“Do I know you?” I ask resignedly. After all we are not obligated to know everyone in this planet. It’s a world of over seven billion people. A Sandy would just have to excuse me if I didn’t remember who she is or who she is supposed to be and whether I should be knowing her.
“Yes you do. I am Andy’s sister.” She says.
At the mention of Andy’s name, I rise from the sleeping position that I had assumed on the sofa set and sit upright in order to process what I just heard.
“Andy? You mean Andrew? Wait a minute. First of all, I am sorry I didn’t recognize your voice Sandy. It’s been a very long time you know. Where have you guys been all this while? And where’s Andy?”
I had a whole string of questions. Who wouldn’t? I mean these guys just disappeared from my life mysteriously and now Sandy (her real name is Sandra by the way) was here calling after eight years had passed by. Eight years is a pretty damn long time. Someone could successfully become an American president within that period for a whole two terms. That period is also enough for a hardworking couple to successfully get eight kids. And now Sandy is calling out of nowhere and I am a little bit shook.
“Andy needs to talk to someone. He’s going through a lot right now. I can’t say it over the phone. Please come over to our house tomorrow. He would be pleased to see you. We are back at our old apartment in Parkview.”
She hangs up as if in a hurry leaving me asking myself even more questions and trying to guess where these old friends of mine had been to all this while and why they were back right now. I drift back to sleep a few minutes later trying not to worry too much. I can’t, however, sleep peacefully because of some two rascals called Joy and Josh who are running around the house and making all the noise in the neighborhood.
The next day finds me enroute to Parkview Apartments. It’s a short walk from my sister’s place. I walk through the empty roads with a deep feeling of nostalgia all over my being. I feel like its 2011 all over again. Andrew, his sister and I were the best of friends back then. We were an inseparable trio with rhyming nicknames and we used this route on a lot on many of our hangouts. At times Andy’s girlfriend, Glo, would join us for our walks, mostly on Saturday afternoons and late nights.
I reach the gate and stop for a while hesitating whether to go in or just turn back and walk away. I mean who do these people think they are to just disappear for all that time and then resurface as if nothing happened. The Jesus in me persuades me to just ring the old bell at the gate. I still remember the numerous times that I came to the place and was met with a deep silence from all corners of the place. The neighbors had then told me that the family had just moved out with all their stuff one morning without telling anyone where they were headed. Rumor had it that they moved to a different country and that they would be back someday. But why wouldn’t they tell anyone? These are the questions that I looked forward to getting answered.
An old gate-man ushered me in the compound and I walked straight to House number 13. When I knocked the door, Sandy opened in less than a minute. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She had grown so big, so tall and so beautiful. I wanted to be mad but I couldn’t. Her voice was even softer than it was over the phone. She gave me that weird and awkward gaze. An eight-year old gaze. We exchanged a few pleasantries as I walked inside the house where I found her mum watching CNN. The mum seemed so happy to see me. She gave me a warm embrace and almost teared up as we hugged. A long time might have past but one thing I could never forget is how this lady was motherly to me back then. She treated me like her own son. She bought Andy and I similar clothes. She gave us cash for boat rides when we were broke on so many occasions. I don’t even remember the number of times she invited me over for lunches and dinners at her house. Apart from my mum, I have never met a lady with such unrivaled kindness and warmth in her heart. Her heart was literally that of an Angel.
After some small talk about how she has been and how she missed Kisumu, she tells me that Andy is somewhere in the balcony and that if I liked I could go see him. Of course I was going to see him. Why else was I here anyway? I silently wondered to myself. As I moved the stairs to the balcony, I realized that the house hasn’t changed a single day. Still as lovely as ever with amazing interior decorations thanks to Andy’s mum whose love for designs, art and decorations almost equaled her love for her children. The walls are still as white as the Swedish snow. The floor still gleams like the evening star. The floor mats, just like when I last visited the place, are still strategically placed at various points in the house. I wonder the amount of time it usually takes this iron lady to neatly put everything in place like they are at the moment before she embarks on other businesses.
When I reach the balcony, the first thing I see is a lean boy standing by the edge of the enclosure. He seems to be in deep thoughts. He looks like he is bearing the burden of thinking on behalf of everyone in Kisumu. A bad thought even hit me that perhaps he might decide to jump from that position and end his life once and for all. There’s a way in which you look at someone and you just know that they are troubled and that whatever troubles they may be having, yours are nothing compared.
“Andrew?” I call him out softly.
When he turns his back around, I can’t help but notice how lean he has become. All the childhood fat he had seems to have been melted by whatever problems he could be experiencing at the moment. He gave me a look that demanded a sympathetic response. I came angry but couldn’t afford to be anymore. Clearly something was off with all these people and Andy was the most affected by it. I would have been an animal not to have any ounce of sympathy.
“ Oooh Brandy my friend.” He says forcing a smile. “How long has it been? A decade? Come here man. How have you been?” He ushers me to a long stool nearby on which I sit after giving him a good greet.
“ I’ve been fine I guess.” I reply.
“My father died” says Andy.
He didn’t even give me the chance to settle on my stool. I didn’t even get the opportunity to ask him how he has been, where they have been and why the atmosphere at their house was this somber. He just drops that weighty statement like that and I am left shocked, surprised and guilty. I try to open my mouth to say something but I am met with resistance from my lips. For a moment, I feel paralyzed. I never knew his father but the death made me feel deeply sorry not only for Andy but also for his sister Sandra and the mum.
“When we left eight years ago, he was in the ICU at a hospital in Maputo, Mozambique. We had to go and see him. Then he dies on the exact day we arrive.” He adds that on top of my shock leaving me completely numb. I felt like crying but decided to hold back. I remember back in the day when Andy used to tell me about how deeply he missed his dad who worked for the UN in Mozambique. I could still picture some days that I was over at their house when young Sandy would joyfully converse with the dad over the phone and giggle quite a lot like the little girl she was. I felt bad and guilty that all this time I blamed and judged these people for disappearing mysteriously without ever even imagining to myself that maybe something bad had happened and that it was beyond their control.
I decide to rise from my stool and move close to the edge of the balcony. For a moment I feel lost, perplexed and unsure of what to do or say. I hear a faint laugh downstairs. Sandra must have probably told her mum some joke. The next minute I find myself lost in thoughts and consumed by the view from where I am standing. If there is one thing I have constantly loved about this house it’s the view from the balcony. The beautiful shiny waters of Lake Victoria can be seen from a distant and Impala Sanctuary is visible closely from where I am. I see tiny things moving inside the lake from afar. It makes me wonder how some people could have the urge to go for boat rides such early in the day.
“I don’t know what to say Andy” I slowly turn and tell him amidst the screaming silence that had now grown between us.
“Don’t say anything. Let me do the talking” He responds. I notice that he is in tears now leaving me torn as to what to do. I could have given him a handkerchief but I had none. The mere thought of not having a handkerchief to give to my friend when he was obviously in terrible pain made me feel like Iddi Amin’s son. You can imagine my relief when he managed to overcome his tears and stabilize.
“ Glo also died three weeks ago.” He threw another shock my way.
I can’t describe what I was at that moment but I remember being unable to hold it back anymore. This is definitely not how I imagined that my day would turn out. I have known myself to be a better handler of terrible news but what Andy was telling me was clearly beyond my comprehension. I felt like a murder had just occurred in my heart. If this is what I was feeling, I couldn’t even begin to fathom how Andy must have been crushed under the burden of grief.
Glo was Andy’s girlfriend. Her real name was Gloria Havana. The memories came back to my mind in a rush. I could still see the three of us ( Andy, Glo and I) running around Parkview area like wild dogs. It was still clear in my mind how we used to go for boat rides at Impala Park and all the crazy things we did. It had never occurred to me that Andy and Glo continued with their relationship all that while and that she waited for him all that time while he was away only for her to die in an accident a few days after he was back from Mozambique.
“That’s all that has happened Brandy. It’s a mirror of the miserable past few years that I have been through.”
He didn’t say further details and I didn’t want to ask. I just stayed there with him in silence. We stayed in silence till evening. Sometimes words cannot bring any comfort to a grieving person. Sometimes the silence is all that is needed. After all, what could I possibly tell to someone who lost his dad and a girlfriend whom he had dated for eight years? Nothing at all. Nothing could fill the void. No amount of those condolence messages they taught us to write in high school can help in such situations. So I stayed in there in silence till it was time for me to go. I just asked him one last question.
“What remains of your heart Andy after these terrible tragedies?”
“Only love remains” Came his reply with his head bowed down.
I wish there was more I could do for him. I promised to be in touch. I also promised that we’d visit Glo’s family the coming week and go for a boat ride in her memory. His last response touched me deep. ONLY LOVE REMAINS. I repeated that to myself as I walked home. Here was someone in grief not allowing the gates of pain to prevail over him. I felt inspired.