“There are times I just switch off my phone.”
“Usually for two to three days at a time,” he tells me without pomp.
“Why would you do that?” I prod. Not because am interested but because I have to. Otherwise the conversation would mellow out pretty fast. And then we would be forced to sit there awkwardly as we wait for her to come and fill the void.
“Well, it helps me visualize things at my own pace,” he continues.
“Helps me slow the world down, and live life on my terms,” he adds.
My half eaten burger and empty glass of mango juice sit next to his plate of crisply done chicken thighs and fries. Between us stands a small table covered in a brightly colored cloth. Am tired. And I need to go home but I have to listen to him. Because he is the only friend I have left in the world and I can’t seem to get rid of him.
“Don’t you worry Jiji might call and get worried about you?” I ask even though I know the answer.
“Whenever I take time off, she just lets me be.” He says, looking at his plate. And fondling the food with the cutlery.
“I don’t really think she actually loves me.”
“She is probably with me because she hasn’t found a better guy yet.” He confesses.
“You know I love her. I just never tell her. Might drive her away.” He adds.
I can tell he had to summon all his strength to admit that. Deep down, I wish I had grown-up problems like he does. We are both chasing twenty eight, and what do I have other than insecurities and dead-ends?
He is about five foot ten, just two inches shorter than me. His skin is a dark shade of black. Not like 7.45 p.m. dark, more like 5.20 a.m. dark. He has the most neatly arranged dental formula. And his teeth are a light shade of egg shell. I hate that he is cleaner than me and can manage to wear white t-shirts all the time. Plus he smells so good I always want to hug him. But that would be wrong, right? And I think his girlfriend might not appreciate that very much. Well, I think she is his girlfriend though he has often told me there is nothing serious between them. I can tell he does not mean that. I suspect the girl makes him say that. Her Instagram account is always a swamp of selfies with sad hashtags like SingleForever. I suspect he does not appreciate her ‘independence.’ But he has no say in the matter. What with the “Empowerment of the Girl Child”.
Last year, he tried to off himself. His girl/friend found him lying in the kitchen of his house. Right wrist gushing blood onto the cream tiles. She had called me, and I had in turn sent a taxi over to his place. He was stabilized and discharged two days later. It was a miracle really. We never talked about that event ever again, at least not since the last time I asked him about it and he brushed me off. Claimed he was drunk off his mind. He has never really found the need to tell me what happened. Because we are boys and we don’t delve much into any issue. I have since let it go but deep down I suspect he must be depressed. But then again, even I, am depressed most of the time. Heck, most of the people I know are depressed. So I let him be.
He has an ugly scar on that right wrist in the shape of the Nike logo – as if telling him to ‘just do it’. The lady friend has managed to stick by his side. Though – according to her – they are not dating. She often claims they have an arrangement that works. I envy them. Because am single and I don’t even have “an arrangement” with anyone. He tells me he wants more. She does not seem too keen on offering that ‘more.’ Who would blame her? We try to catch up from time to time. Align our chi, if you will. He often asks me why am not married or dating. A question for which I have never found any answer. Truth is, even I, don’t know why am not dating. I used to think I was a catch – but that must have just been my ego playing tricks on my emotions.
“You should try it sometime,” he invites, meaning the ‘arrangement’ thing.
“Naaah.., am too full of love to do that,” I retort. And he lets the subject go.
That is how we often discuss our issues. In a series of one-liners, punctuated by neck turnings to ogle at the ‘blessed ladies’ who walk into the restaurant. We never really talk much about emotions and insecurities – though they abound. Our version of catching up never includes much talking. Unless we are drinking. Though lately there hasn’t been much of that. His sister told him to lay off the booze for a while. His girl/friend has been enforcing that policy on the sister’s behalf. Which means our hangouts are very boring. Because we are both big, and tuck away our emotions, and avoid talking too much. Or maintaining eye contact.
Our lives just seem to move on. Mainly because of the grace of God. And also because we are not ripe for death yet. At least that’s what I tell myself. We live each day as it comes. He lost his job when Chase Bank closed, and has been doing some odd businesses here and there. I am no different. Sometimes he is happy, most times he is not. But then again so is everybody. Because life is hard, and nobody cares much. His parents are wealthy but he never asks for their help. Not since he left college – about six years ago.
“They don’t get it.” He has often said whenever that topic comes up by chance.
I never really bother him with any question on the subject anyway.
He says some day we will make it in the world.
Because even though life is unfair, God Loves Big Boys.