You only become cognizant of how fast time passes when you run into an old friend. And as you bump into each other haphazardly, you feel a certain tingling inside of you – that tingling of awkwardness that slowly mutates into an overwhelming sense of guilt, carefully hidden behind a veil of feigned concern. Your guilt is justified. This is not the first time you have met under such circumstances.
The last time you met you were in campus, running late for an early morning class, so was she, a student of medicine rushing for a Medical Biochemistry class, so you quickly exchanged numbers and promised to be in touch. You didn’t call because engineering students simply have no time. She didn’t call because she had to memorize the human anatomy and that eats into your social life. You were so close, within the same institution, yet so far, drawn apart by the demands of education. And a promise of a better tomorrow. But does tomorrow ever come?
Fast forward 6 years down that road, you graduated with a second class upper in Civil Engineering and stepped into the corporate world with both feet, hungry for your first paycheck.
You started hustling for a well paying job, tarmacking in the streets of Nairobi, brown envelope in your right hand carrying your CV and academic credentials. You walked into big offices to hand in your papers. Big offices where the light skinned ladies with perky breasts and manicured nails sitting behind the reception desk always held out their hands to receive your envelope, at the same time smiling and retorting ‘We shall be in touch. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ They never did.
Sometimes you were called to interviews where you sat across a panel of inquisitive interviewers who took turns dissecting through your background like a science experiment. When there were no more questions to be asked, they turned you away because you had no work experience.
Job prospects became fewer and fewer, leading you into a dark tunnel of desperation. You even contemplated carrying a placard along Thika Road to attract potential employers.
What happened until you turned your life around is still shrouded in mystery. All that matters is that you pulled through. You gathered the few coins you had left here and there and somehow, they were just enough to start a small business. So you set up shop in Moi Avenue.
Then one day, in the midst of the scorching heat of the midday sun, you stumble upon your long lost friend. You are on your way to buy supplies for your shop, she is on her way to Mater Hospital, where she is on unpaid internship.
She is late for her morning rounds. You are in a rush as well, the busy businessman that you have become. Even your phone keeps ringing incessantly.You both agree unanimously – this is not the time for catching up. So you hurriedly exchange numbers again. And promise to be in touch. Again.
But then, none of you will call.
Life will happen. Societal expectations will be heaped upon you. A wife by your side, kids will come into the picture. Stubborn kids who will demand every ounce of your attention. Kids who will turn into teenagers and invite mischief into their rooms and install ‘Keep Off!’ signs on their doors. Bills will have to be paid. Work will beckon you to another part of the city, Days will become weeks, Weeks will turn into months, Months will transform into years.
The changes will be subtle at first, but then they will become obvious.
Then one day as you walk along Kenyatta Avenue, lost in thought, reminiscing about days long gone, you will meet your old friend again.
She will be bespectacled with a PhD tucked nicely inside her bag of achievements, aging gracefully, her curves waning and leaving the stage for middle age.
Regretfully, you will both realize that you never called when you could. Life happened.