We had lived with James for many years as brothers. I had never seen him cry. If I was to be asked to describe him, he was a bold man- somebody even in times of difficulties, could manage a smile. He was a good man in the eyes of the world but even to me, I couldn’t tell that he was insidely suffering. And you wonder why the lifespan of a man has significantly reduced compared to that of a woman, any man to tell? Okay any woman? It is because unlike women, men keep all their problems to themselves.
A woman (for example) in times of break up, she will cry it out, sometimes with tears she will laugh it away or sometimes she will tell her friends and they will go like, “Oh, that son of a bitch he didn’t seem like he can do that, what clay are men made of? I’m so sorry dear.” They will embrace; hug and then, ‘What happened?’question follows. She will explain her ordeal. Each will try to create a similar experience as hers and try to show her that despite what happened they managed to pick up the pieces and moved on. They would discuss the topic to nothing and as result she will end up realizing it was just a normal thing. But to a man, this is a sign of weakness little do they know that death is not only for the weak, the strongest dies too.
I still remember this day James called me. We had not talked for about two months. When my phone rang, I was expecting a call from my girlfriend Santa. We were to go for a date and therefore she was to call me when through with her stuff. I obliviously went ahead and answered the call;
“Are you through dear?”
“Oh, oh John, this is James. How are you doing man?” he asked with a tweaking voice.
“Wululu, sorry for that man, I was expecting a call from Santa. I am doing fine. What about you?”
“We need to talk.”
“We need to Talk?”
“About what, is everything alright?”
“When do you want us to meet?”
“As soon as possible”
“Let’s meet tomorrow then.”
“That’s better at 2PM at our usual place.” He hanged up.
I found him already seated. He was facing to the wall. I was the first one to see him before he could see me. I walked to where he was and even when I stood behind him, he did not sense my presence. I tapped him on his shoulder. He jerkily turned and faced me. His eyes were sullen and bigger than usual. He must have been crying, so it’s that serious? What can make a man cry? I asked thoughtfully.
“Oh, you are already here?” he asked.
“Yeah man, you don’t look nice, what’s the issue?”
“I have lived a very peaceful life.”
“Yeah, that’s what I have known you for.”
“But life is not the same again. You don’t know how much I wish it had a reset button.”
“Just go straight to the point bro. what happened?”
“I have lived a just life. I followed the Bible teachings to the letter until last year. When we graduated from campus, I realized time was not on my side. Mum too started asking me funny questions. I remember a time I was asleep in my house, she knocked twice and when I did not respond, she just went back. I thought I was dreaming but I woke up and immediately opened the door, all she could tell me was, ‘I am sorry son, go and tell your guest I am not that kind of a mother.’ ‘I was just asleep mum.’ I tried to explain. ‘You want to tell me nobody?’ she asked. ‘Yes nobody.’ I assured her. ‘Ooh son, can’t you see how happy your mother was?’ I did not answer her. I just understood what she was trying to tell me.
“I remained faithful to myself. I always prayed to God that when the right time comes, He gives me the right person. In church before and after receiving the Holy Communion I prayed;
Father I pray that your son Jesus Christ brings joy in my life,
May he always give me a peace of mind,
I pray that he be my guide.
Always to be my strength to overcome temptation,
Forgive me my sins,
And always lead me towards my destiny.
“Last year at the conference I told you about, I met with a girl whom we were with together at campus. Her name is Susan. We were happy to meet again after five years. She looked as beautiful as then but a bit older. At the campus she was a party girl. She seldom recognized me because my standards never matched hers. At every point in her campus life she had a reason to say, ‘I have somebody,’ and that’s why you never heard me talk about her. I loved her to the moon but my words couldn’t get a ground to stand on. I therefore caged my feelings. When we graduated, I just forgot about her and as usual life continued until during that conference.”
“I know where you are heading to, congrats’” I interpolated.
“That’s not the point bro,” he said.
“Not the point!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, not the point, when she told me she is yet not married and that resurrected my feelings. And the fact that she too looked desperate, I saw it as an opportunity and when the conference ended I asked her out. She agreed and the rest as they say is history. I noticed she was not the same girl I knew. She was very different- mature and somebody with set goals.
‘I would want to know what happened, you are very different from the Suzy of then,’ I found myself asking her one day.
‘Life is a good teacher I have come to realize that but sometimes it teaches someone the hard way. I never thought at 27 I could be unmarried. All of the men I pushed with during my campus life thereafter went back to their villages and now almost all of them are married and look here I am. But I don’t blame anybody. I can’t blame my parents, no, they gave the best upbringing. I am solely to blame. My world started going round when I realized I was beautiful. Somebody just told me that and from then on, beauty became a tool of trade- I gave out myself very cheaply. Money and clubbing were my favorite bait. I forgot about my dignity. I never thought about my future. Love to me was just a noun. I thank God I am still breathing and still mentally sound.’
‘It’s a twist of life, who knew one day we will sit like this?’
‘God knew my dear. We can’t go against our destiny. Remember Jonah of the Bible? But my fish almost digested me.’
“We became good friends. I started seeing a wife in her. I was planning to take her to my mother but…”
“…but what? When are you going home?” I interrupted.
“We are not going anymore.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Last week she asked me to accompany her to a burial of one of her ‘friends.’ It turned out that he was her former husband and as rumours had it, he had died of AIDS. Doesn’t that translate to mean that am sick too?”
“Maybe you are not. Have you considered going for testing?” I asked him.
“It’s obvious bro. Can you guess what? Since then we have never talked.”
“So what are you planning to do now?”
“What else? Wait for my going day too.”
“Don’t talk like that bro. You need to go and know your status. There is still life. Many are happily living with the disease. You only need to accept and life will just be simple. But you are not sure whether you have it. Cha muhimu is to go and get tested.”
“I will think of whether to go or not. I know she can’t accept that we go together. Every man has his own Eve. My dreams are now shattered.”
“Don’t talk like that, they still hold. You only need to have faith in yourself.”
“Thanks bro that’s why I picked on you. Allow me go and see you next time.”
“Take care and please don’t stress yourself too much.”
I watched James walk along the hotel corridors until he exited the building. I followed him with my eyes until he entered into his car and drove off. Who could tell that that was the last time to see him alive? On that very same day before he got to his house, he had an accident and died. The police officers said he was driving under the influence of alcohol. The police said he was found with many beer bottles in his car. How that happened, I don’t know.
Today is the 1st anniversary of James. He was only 28. He would be 29 this year but why did he have to go so soon?
One year later, Susan is still alive, negative, and again ready to collect her broken heart pieces and give someone else to put them together.
Did James commit suicide? And if yes, why did he have to do that? Who is to be blamed? Why can you decide to die because you fear to die and its obvious one day you will have to die? Can we call that a destiny?