We were fierce rivals, sworn enemies, partners in crime, gossip buddies, playmates; and on our best days, we were all of that combined. Was there ever a better definition for Best Friends?
We were inseparable in those days, the three of us.
You were the first person I met, Alex. It was on the morning of our first day as Form 2 students. I was new to the environment so when I came in class that morning, I found a seat right at the back of the classroom even though I was amongst the shortest in the class.
Our first teacher decided to shuffle sitting positions to do justice to the heights of the likes of me. I packed my things and moved to the front as the teacher asked. I stood scanning all the seats in the front row, trying to decide where to sit.
When our eyes locked, something about your eyes caught my attention. You gazed up at me from where you sat, your eyes shining with cuteness and innocence and kindness and friendship. You and I were about the same height. Your occiput rested on your back as long as mine but while mine was slender, yours was massive. Without uttering a word and with your gaze fixed on me, you gently tapped the empty spot on your bench, inviting me to sit with you.
I don’t remember our first conversation. I don’t even remember saying thank you after sitting down. I probably never did. But how significant that moment feels now, looking back over a decade later. Who would have thought that we would grow to share so much of our lives together?
When we’d established some rapport, you told me you had a brother called Ransom in the other class. He and I would meet a few weeks after.
Ransom, I can’t paint an exact picture of our very first encounter but I know that when we met, we got along as if we had been old buddies.
The years drew the three of us closer and closer together. By the third year of our meeting, we would have sleepovers often as once a week. By the fourth year, we were roommates. People had noticed us together in the neighborhood and on school campus so long that we soon garnered quite a bit of popularity.
Even at that time, we played too much for our ages.
We were like three little clowns. Perpetrators of all kinds of mischief. We scuttled about the school campus like rats in an abandoned cathedral. I remember the smell of chalk and dust on those afternoons we spent moving from one empty classroom to another after school hours, scribbling rubbish on the blackboards and jumping all over the benches.
One day, in one of those empty classrooms, we wanted to see who could give the highest kick. Each of us would fling his leg as high in the air as he dared while the other two measured how high it went. When it was Alex’s turn, he lifted his right leg high in the air. When it was halfway up, his left leg gave way under him. Then he came down with astonishing speed, like a log of wood flung at the ground, the back of his head hammering at the floor with a tremendous BANG!
We burst into explosive laughter, Ransom and I. We laughed like fools that day. I seriously thought my ribs were about to crack. And then, just as we’d managed to catch a breath, you described to us how, for an instant, you thought you had gone blind and could only see blackness and moving stars. This launched us into fresh bursts of laughter.
A stranger would have thought this very rude of us but it is only expected behavior in our circle. Had it happened to Ransom or me, you would have laughed just as much or even more. We always did this to one another and had long since learned not to take it personally.
Do you remember our crushes? How we vied for their attention. How we wanted so badly to share a seat with them; or simply to stand next to them on the assembly lines, shoulders touching. How we boasted to one another when one of our crushes so much as smiles at us; or returns our gaze; or laughs at our jokes.
I say “them” because they were many and we seemed to discover new ones every month or so. Also, we seemed to have the exact same taste. When one person amongst the three of us was known to have a crush on a girl, whoever that girl is, the other two would automatically fall for her too; and thus would begin a new rivalry.
We didn’t joke when it came to food. Good food in the house was enough to make us boycott classes. We had no self-discipline when it came to food. We would blow away our allowances early in the month on rich food and snacks and towards the end of the month, we would scrounge for every meal.
We used to prepare queer meals too. For example, we would prepare soup by frying dried meat, dried fish, lots of mushrooms and a shit ton of green spices consisting of celery, leeks, and onions, and then eat it with Garri or something like that.
We were masters at coming up with nicknames. Do you remember Madam Arthropods? Prophet Jeru? Phytophthora Infestans? Liquid Metal? Antom? Do you remember how they all came about these nicknames?
Like these derogatory nicknames, our sarcastic and mocking remarks never grew old either. Instead, they grew more amusing the more we used them. I remember a day you two mocked at me and I moved from feeling irritated to suppressing a laugh.
Leo Tolstoy once said, “Every family is happy in its own way.” We were not exactly family but this quote applies to us too. We were very happy but we were not without our quarrels and disagreements.
Our feuds were as petty as they were shortlived. I remember occasions where we would be right in the middle of a heated argument and then something funny would pop up or one of us would make an unintentionally funny remark and we would all burst out laughing, and that would be the end of our quarrel.
Some of our quarrels were more serious and longer-lasting. But we always found a way to patch things up in the end. Sometimes it felt like we had no choice but to make things work out between us. Like a couple who don’t believe in divorce, it felt like we were bound together by both Fate and Destiny, and any attempt to separate was bound to fail or hurt even more than staying together.
We created many fond memories together. We often promised ourselves that when we are all grown up, we would come together every once in a while to reminisce over all those wild experiences. But you two haven’t delivered on your promises, have you?
When a person we care about leaves this world, it feels to us as though it had been in their power to stay and they chose instead to leave.
Who will I reminisce with now? You know I love to reminisce very much. I love memories. When I look back at life, it is not the pain, the guilt, the fear, or the suffering that I see. Instead, I see beauty. I see Poetry. Growth. Change.
So much has changed since your passing. The earth is behaving like a constipated stomach. Our land is soaking wet with the blood of the innocent. Trees are probably growing in our school where once there had been carpet grass. Schools have shut down by the hundreds in our country. A pandemic hits the world by the name of COVID-19. The same man still rules as our president. I don’t want to bore you with any more of these stories.
As for me, I have grown so much sober these days. The stern demands of youth and the tragic blows of grief have knocked all wildness and free-spiritedness out of me. Do you know I lost another just after you two? Or was it before? I can’t remember. The dates are fuzzy in my mind. But it couldn’t have been more than two years apart and he left in just as ghastly a manner as you two.
I read a quote by Gabriel García Márquez that goes, “No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had.”
I would like to leave you with this quote. We have had beautiful moments together and nothing can take that away from us. You two left too soon but maybe the short time you spent here was just enough according to God’s plans.
We will forever miss you. Continue to rest in peace in the bosom of our Lord, my friends. When I come we will take from where we left off.