We all have that one friend who seems to never be on time. If life was a party, he’d show up after the fun has ended, a bottle of whiskey in his right hand and car keys jingling in his left. He’d stand at the door awkwardly, eyes darting left and right hoping to land on a familiar face. You’d see him before he sees you, noticing how his aura is encased in a distinct sense of carelessness, his demeanor depicting an utter lack of sense of time.
You’d slouch a bit hoping that he doesn’t see you. But isn’t it unfortunate that the more you try to hide the more visible you are? Of course he’d spot you looking the other way, trying to hide from his gaze. A big smile would probably form on his face, his arms falling wide open like he’s about to come give you a big hug, his familiar voice reverberating from across the room,
‘Ahh, Bro! Vipi!’,
You’d cringe with discomfort as he made his way to you, but he’ll be too excited to notice, and he’ll tap your shoulder with excitement as his forehead forms a frown;
‘Maze leo si there was mad traffic on Lang’ata Road!’.
You’d be tempted to remind them that he lives in Rongai, and that this bestows unto him the unfortunate responsibility of having to leave at least 30 minutes earlier than the rest of us regardless of whether we’re all going to the same place.
You might have noticed that this same friend is the one that’s always posing awkwardly in all photos that you’ve taken together, a can of beer or a bottle of whiskey in his hand as the rest of you are holding your girlfriends in a tight embrace. Well, occasionally he’d tag a girl along to the meet-ups, but not the same girl twice, and if you asked him ‘what happened to the other one?’ he’d throw his hands up and say that they disagreed and broke up, then he’d whine about not knowing what women want, and again, you’d be tempted to remind him just the same way you don’t have to understand life in order to live it, maybe you don’t have to understand women to keep one.
I imagine that it’s not just socially that he’s lagging behind like a dog’s tail. There’s this time that you boys decided that there’s more to friendship than catching pints over the weekend, so you sat together over a bottle of whiskey and crafted a business idea, drew a plan and got a first meeting with a prospective client. You were to meet this client at the Pool Deck Restaurant, Sarova Stanley, right in the middle of the CBD. Everyone arrived on time – the client, and you boys. Everyone but him. Actually, you had been seated for thirty minutes when he finally replied to your texts, ‘Bro, niko kwa jam hapa Galleria. Hii ya leo si ya kawaida!’.
Let’s fast forward to this time in the future when everyone in your crew has finally settled with their girlfriends and walked down the aisle. Probably there are a couple of kids in the picture now. The hangouts have dwindled to an uneasy halt. Everyone is busy. You’re now a family man, focused on taking care of your wife and kids. But the friend who’s always late, he’s still partying like he’s 25, still trying to understand women. And life. There is this one Friday you get a text from him;
‘You guy, where are you. Si leo we patana pale Whiskey River. I was there jana for reggae, there was this chiq, you should see her…’
It was 11pm when you saw that text, you’d just put your two-year old daughter to bed. She’d been crying the whole day because she had a fever, and you’d spent the afternoon in a queue at Aga Khan waiting to see the doc. Yes you needed a drink, but not with the accompanying boom of music and the scene of youngsters grinding their bodies against each other, so you sent him a text and told him that you’ll pass.
But because he’s persistent, he called the next weekend. You were stuck in traffic after a long day at the office, but you picked the call anyway;
‘Vipi you guy, si umepotea?’
‘I’m just around man, family and work, niambie,’ you said, slightly yawning.
‘There’s this new joint on Kiambu Road, si you pass by for one for the road ukienda home?’, he said, his voice distinct with expectation.
‘Let me get home and get a change of clothes then I come, sawa?’
You reached home and played with the kids till 9pm, then had dinner. By 10pm, the week’s exhaustion had taken over you, and your eyelids shut reluctantly. When you woke up, it was 6am, you’d slept on the couch throughout the night. You checked your phone, there were six missed calls from him. The last one was at 1am. You opened your inbox, there was an array of texts:
1.05am: ‘You guy are you still coming?’
1.10am: ‘You’re still kujaing?’
You cursed at your forgetfulness, made a mental note to call him back later. You didn’t.
That friend never called you again. Life happened. Time flew by as it always does. I imagine you one day at the mall many years after that. You’re with your wife and kids (they’re grown up now, your eldest son is taller than you), your hairline has receded a couple of inches away from your forehead. You’re strolling towards the supermarket when you hear a familiar voice behind you;
‘Ahh, Bro, Vipi!, si umepotea you guy. Si we patana this weekend and catch up, there’s this new joint…’
You turn around, your heart warming up with nostalgia, your eyes searching for your friend. It’s not him. Instead, it’s a young guy probably in his mid-twenties, roughly a few years older than your son. He has a phone held tightly against his ear, he must be speaking to his drinking buddies, making plans for the weekend. He’s adorned in black converse sneakers, blue jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and a combat jacket. You notice that that’s exactly how your friend used to dress.
You feel the memories rising in your mind, your heart filling up with sentimentality, a sigh escaping your lips. As your mind sinks into introspection, you’re helplessly awed at the paradox that life is, how things change, and how they remain the same. Then you start to wonder where your friend who was always late went to. Is he still lagging behind up to today? Will you ever know?
Have a Happy Easter fam.