It was another typical Saturday night; the unforgiving midnight cold sending shivers down my spine, a DJ on the decks masterfully switching from hip hop to dancehall and finally to local music, then repeating the whole process. An inebriated sea of party lovers dancing to the tune and asking for more. Wooden tables filled with bottles of beer, whiskey glasses being refilled again. The occasional clinking of glasses at some corner where peeps are making a toast to something. Smoke rising into the air like incense. The typical club scene.
Interestingly, it was around that time when the year is about to end and everyone is in a party mood. I wasn’t really in a party mood though. Why was I there then, you ask. Well, two days before, a long lost friend had given me an unexpected call ”It’s been a minute, we should meet up soon, why don’t we do 1824 this Saturday?
Yes, it had been a while. We’d last met when he had just finished his engineering degree at the UoN. At that time he still wore round spectacles like a university professor. He’d gotten a first class honors, rightfully so because when the rest of us were running around campus looking for pretty chics to keep us company, he was already married to the course he was undertaking and to show for it, he always was in the company of a big book tucked under his arms. With a mind as sharp as a lion’s tooth, he possessed deep insights about every topic you’d possibly bring to the table for discussion, and I liked to pick his mind on many issues back then when we were really close friends. His focus in life was unblinking, and that’s why we all believed he was poised for greatness.
At that time when we met after his graduation, he was brimming with optimism about an uncertain after-campus life, and persistently talked about diving back into school for a Masters’ Degree and later venture into Artificial Intelligence where his passion lay.
”I want to be one of the pioneers of automation and robotics in this country!,”
We never met again after that, life happens and people lose touch, but I did call him about a year later. I could tell over the phone that his optimism had dwindled. Actually, he was angry about life and his apparent circumstances.
”I’ve been out here looking for something to do but guess what, everywhere I go, they say I’m not experienced enough. I’ve worked so hard yet….”.
I remember listening to him with a sunken heart. True to his words, life was tough. When we stepped out of the comfort of lecture halls into the cold unforgiving tarmac looking for an identity and eager to make a name for ourselves, we were mostly overwhelmed by the sudden demands that life heaped onto us. We all felt like we’d settled for less than we deserved. It was like a gruesome initiation into this fraternity called adulthood.
”We should catch up soon” I cut in. ”This conversation needs a proper sit-down, probably over a bottle of whiskey.”
Sadly, we never met again, mostly because we were both struggling to stay afloat, hence we got self-absorbed in our own personal issues. It stayed that way until I received that call from him asking to meet up.
That is how I found myself at 1824 on the busy Lang’ata Road on that Saturday night, three years after we had last talked. Well, at least we were going to have that whiskey after all, weren’t we?
I had just arrived and was strutting in, trying to maneuver my way around peeps grinding and gyrating their bodies to the music. A few minutes later, I found him, my long lost friend, seated at a table in the midst of the club in the company of two young women. He ushered me to sit.
”Waiter, glass ya whiskey!”, he called out to a waiter who was passing by with a tray full of beers.
I craned my neck to look at the large crowd, awed by the presence of young energy at this time of the night.
”Nairobians love to party, huh? Perhaps it’s a distraction from a reality so harsh. Or maybe it is the deep yearning for human connection that drives us from the loneliness of our homes to the club where we drink and hook up with friends and strangers alike and take them home with us, desperately hoping to cure that biting aloneness within a night”. my long lost friend shouted over the incessant party noise.
”Ahh, I see you haven’t lost your philosophical touch”, I chimed in.
”Oh, let me introduce you, this is Eva and Mercy we’re having whiskey,” he said as he lit a cigarette.
”So you smoke now?” I exclaimed.
He laughed, ”I only smoke when I drink!”
”Oh, he’s a chimney”, Eva interjected.
”We’re all gonna die someday anyway, why not pick your poison and go out at your own terms?” he rationalized, blowing smoke carelessly into the cold midnight air.
”Clearly a lot has changed about you”, I blurted out.
Something had surely changed, but because we had not been in touch for so long, I could not exactly place it, and even if I could, I had no basis of calling him out on it. Even then, I wish I’d ask him if he was still following his dreams, if he was curious about learning more as he was back then. Did he still want to be one of the best in his field in engineering? I couldn’t tell. Besides, it seemed rude and inappropriate to ask at that time?
Waiter came back with my glass. I poured in some whiskey, added a couple of ice cubes and raised my glass to make a toast. To friendship.
And as I lifted the glass to my lips to sip my poison of choice, I silently wondered what modern day friendship is worth, when we cannot push our friends to be the best versions of themselves. We only call our friends if we need something from them, if they have successful business ventures, we want to partner with them. When they are buying drinks at the club, we want to feel the burn of whiskey on our tongues. And when shit hits the fan? Our silence is conspicuous. It’s a cold world, isn’t it?
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