Do you remember the friend who was always late? There was that Friday night when when he called and texted, you didn’t pick up. You didn’t pick up because you didn’t hear the phone ring. You didn’t hear the phone ring because you were sound asleep on the couch. You were sound asleep on the couch because you’d had a long day, and your energy was spent like a bullet cartridge. While sleep had taken over you, he was at the club, sipping his favorite poison. It was whiskey, golden in appearance, a little harsh on the throat. With every sip he’d feel the liquid flowing down through him like a river on its course.
He’d become accustomed to this, the tingling sensation on his tongue, the mellow aftertaste that always made him crave for more, the subtle seduction of its buzz, the feeling that ‘everything’s gonna be alright’. He’d long figured the reason why they say drinking whiskey is a lot like getting into a romantic relationship; it was how the drink killed you slowly while giving you pleasure at the same time, how it felt so darn good at night but left you with a bad hangover in the morning. It was how it burnt your tongue and throat as it went down, and at the same time leaving you with a buzz that almost always made your toes curl. It was in how you had to embrace this inconsistency, and learn to find the pleasure in the pain, and the pain in the pleasure.
When you didn’t pick up that night he was disappointed. The disappointment showed in the fine lines of the frown on his youthful face, in the pensiveness with which he was plopped up on the high back seat when he’d rather had been dancing to the beat of the music. He was disappointed, not in you, but in himself, in his apparent incapability to adapt to the changing times, to evolve with the rest of his peers.
The disappointment led him out of that club that night, and into an Uber;
The Uber took its course, picking up speed, silence ensuing in the car. I picture him seated on the co-driver seat that night, his body slouched solemnly into the cushion of the seat. I imagine him looking out of the window, observing the glow of neon lights illuminating the road ahead of him, his mind lost in introspection.
When he reached his destination it was at 2am. There was a home pub adjacent to his street that never used to close. He decided to go in there and nurse his thoughts. When he walked in, it was dimly lit, almost empty, except a few patrons who seemed to be winding up their drink. Country music was playing in the background, giving the place an antique vibe.
‘Waiter niletee quarter ya whiskey,’
The waiter brought his drink, a glass and water in a jug.
He’d been sipping his drink for about 30 minutes when a man walked in. He immediately recognized him, this man was one of his neighbors. He was old, with gray hair, a slouched back that seems to have carried life’s weight for so long, and an intense set of eyes, eyes that seemed to have seen things that rather not be talked about. What’s more, he was as mysterious as they came, always kept to himself, lived a life of seclusion like a hermit. Besides, who walks into a pub at 2.30am and from where?
He took a seat next to the friend who was always late and told the waiter to bring ‘the usual’. The waiter brought a Tusker in a huff, opened it and poured it into a glass, only stopping when the foam reached the brim.
He took a sip and let out a long sigh.
‘You, I’ve seen you around here’, it was the old man, a shaky hoarse voice, finger pointed out to the late friend.
Silence ensued, maybe the old man assumed it was rhetorical considering there were only the two of them remaining in the pub.
‘Umm, yeah, I’m your neighbor’.
‘Hmm, I haven’t seen you here, what brings you to our pub, it’s for old timers like myself?’
‘My friends, I’d invited them for a drink tonight, they didn’t show up, hata they didn’t even pick my calls. No one cares about me!’.
‘Ah, what a realisation’.
‘What do you mean?’
The old man took a sip of his beer. ‘You young people, you’re so self-absorbed. You believe that all life revolves around you. It’s always about ‘me’ ‘me’ ‘me’. Ohh, no one cares about me, no one loves me. Me I am sad. No one wants to accompany me. My friends don’t talk to me anymore. And stuff like that.’
The friend who was always late stared at his drink on the table.
‘It’s actually taken you a long time to realise that no one cares so much about you, but it’s not personal really, most people are also self-absorbed, soaked up in their problems, real or perceived. No one has the energy to focus on you. Your friends, they probably were just tired and fell asleep on the couch.’ the old man paused to take a sip of his drink once more.
‘When I was your age I had friends too. As we grew up, one of our friends took to the bottle, he said he was depressed. After a while he disappeared, when he came back he was as clean as new. Kumbe he’d been going to AA meetings. So we asked him what the secret was. He said that in AA they learnt to set their eyes on something bigger than themselves, to submit to a higher power. That higher power is what sustained him, kept him away from the drink. It wasn’t him that did it on his own, none of us can’.
The friend who was always late picked his glass introspectively, took a sip and sighed. It was sinking in, he’d spent almost a decade, self-conscious of whether he was fitting in, what people really thought about him. He’d bent over backwards to please his friends and the people around him. He’d forgotten to live.
When you didn’t pick his calls he thought it was about him, that he was being ignored. Then he realized it wasn’t about him.
It’s Friday, if you must drink, don’t drink and drive.
Enjoy the weekend.