There is no tale as heartbreaking as that of a life full of potential going to waste, to never again have the opportunity to explore the immense possibilities that come with the gift of being alive.
Sometimes I picture this young guy, what do we call him? Let’s call him Kim. Our story begins when he’s still in his late 20s, still a ‘millenial’. He is staring at the blunt squeezed in between his thumb and index finger, noticing how slow it burns like incense for the gods. He watches the thick, curly smoke rising up before fading into the thin afternoon air. He takes another puff, inhales deeply and feels the burn in his throat as the smoke forces its way down like an unwanted guest. A cough escapes to give room in his lungs. The cough is accompanied by smoke, which rises up into the air like a bird which had just found freedom from a cage. Within minutes, his head feels slightly light headed, then an overwhelming sense of peace and calm engulfs him, like the world with all its troubles has packed a bag and left him to his peace. He is preparing himself for some ritual of sorts. He takes a gulp of cheap whiskey from the bottle lying carelessly on his feet.
His mind drifts off to the time he had his very first puff.
He was just in Form 3 when it first happened, on one of those long December holidays when people always look for an excuse to party. His parents were the strict type, they forbade him from going to such parties, but one Friday night they weren’t home, so he wore his favorite jeans, a tee and sneakers and sneaked out. He had a pal whose folks were always out of town on business trips. To compensate for their absence, they always bought him gifts and left him a lot of cash, which he used to buy booze and drugs and throw mad parties for his fellow millenials so that he’d feel less alone. That’s where our guy headed. When he arrived it was a few minutes past 10pm, but everyone was already high on something. Someone handed him a clear drink in a party cup; it was vodka, and he took a seat on the couch next to a couple which was making out. He’d been sitting there awkwardly for a minute when the aroma hit his nostrils. He knew the scent of cigarettes, and this wasn’t cigarette smoke in the air. It must be weed. Well, he’d never seen marijuana in his life before, except in rap videos. But he’d always wanted to try it, because the people he looked up to in the rap videos smoked that stuff and bragged about it. He looked up to them, they gave him a sense of identity in a world fraught with many uncertainties. So with his drink in his hand, he got up and followed the smell, all the way to the back of the house where a couple of his peers were sitting in a circle, smoking and drinking. Someone handed him the blunt, and curiously, he brought it to his lips and took a puff. He must have almost coughed his lungs out then, then laughed for thirty minutes straight for no particular reason, then after a while got overwhelmed by an intense feeling of paranoia, convinced that he’d lost his mind. However, when morning came, the feeling was gone. And just the same way we get addicted to pain and abuse, he must have craved that dangerous feeling once more.
I picture our guy reliving that moment the next day, and convincing himself that he’d had the fun of his life, before asking himself why his folks always denied him the opportunity to enjoy life like that. I can imagine him vowing to become the rebellious son. I imagine his relationship with them growing frostier everyday, his grades taking a nosedive, and his new found pals telling him not to listen to his folks, ati they are old school and don’t know shit about life.
Perhaps by the time he was sitting for his KCSE two years later, he was thoroughly unprepared, and subsequently performed way below his potential. His folks were just glad he’d managed to come this far without getting expelled. They probably sat him down a couple of times, prayed with him and for him, told him how much they loved him and made him promise that he’d turn over a new leaf.
I imagine him joining campus, and moving from home into a hostel. With no parents to tell him what to do anymore comes the freedom to do what he wants, and with the freedom, he decides that he wants to party some more. He stops going home over the weekend, mostly because he’s always too hungover to. Then he stops attending class because he’s always too hungover to, then he misses a CAT, then another, then an exam, then a semester, then school in its entirety. All this time, his folks are holding on to his promise, their son has turned over a new leaf and has learnt from his mistakes. When he doesn’t come home for a month, doesn’t call or text or pick up calls for that matter, the doubts start to linger for longer. His dad visits him in his hostel, a stranger opens the door, and tells him that Kim moved out like two months ago.
I picture him spending the last of his money on booze and weed, then trying to call his folks for more cash, lying that he still lives in the hostel but in a different room. His dad insists on meeting, so he hangs up and goes back into hiding. He’s now living at a pal’s place, they wake up, pour a drink, light a blunt, then repeat. With no money for food, his eyes take on a permanent bloodshot look and you can now count his bones through his skin.
I picture his pals with whom he’d started partying with in campus now working in those posh offices in Upper Hill, because everyone always has an exit plan from peer influence. I can see them meeting after work on a Friday evening at Whiskey River, with their polished corporate look and one of them pouring Singleton into his glass as he asks, ‘Kwani what happened to Kim, I hear he didn’t even finish campo’.
Our guy is still holed up in his pal’s crib, and this ‘pal’ now starts telling him that he has become a ‘liability’ and he needs to find another place to take his dead weight because he no longer has money to buy booze. But where can he go? He’s still there because he did not have an exit plan like his peers. Or maybe he is just the statistic. One in twelve adults go on to become addicts in the course of their lives.
I picture our guy sinking into a deep black bottomless pit filled with shame, guilt, helplessness and despair.
I can picture his distraught parents, desperately trying to reach him, leaving him notes and messages saying that they love him so much and that whatever he is going through will pass, but his heart, now unable to receive any more love, has grown cold. I can imagine the sleepless nights spent in prayer for a son fallen in a well so deep. The helpless sorrow and guilt, that maybe they could have been more loving, or harsher, or lenient. After all, parenting has no manual.
I picture him summoning up his strength to do one last act, a gun in his right hand, a gun that he got from a guy who knows a guy. I picture him cocking that thing, raising his trembling hand and placing his weapon on the the temple of his head, then boom!
The trigger goes off.
I can picture his pals sitting on a table at Whiskey River on a Friday night a few weeks later, with their crisp shirts, ironed pants, and shoes on which you can see your reflection. One of them is pouring whiskey into his glass as he says, ‘I can’t imagine Kim killed himself, si hii life ni short’.
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