I have friends. You have friends. We all have friends. Some friends remain friends while others become family. Life happens to some and takes them to extremes of the world, leaving you with Facebook and WhatsApp to keep in touch, that’s if you use these at all. Time and space comes between you. Age happens. Some friendships fade and you never get to see those people again, only remembering their names as a shadow that vanishes when the sun goes down. Other friendships blossom into strong bonds that last a lifetime. What does a lifetime even mean?
Why can’t we remember all our friends forever and be in touch with them always? It is impossible. But I have a family of friends. Maybe you too, have those friends you call family. And these friends do things for you that take your breath away. That sounds cliché I know. My friends did something that left me speechless, something they didn’t need to do.
Last Friday started the way most of my days usually start, with Tiara banging my head and piercing my eardrums with her sharp ring which vibrates at the side of my bed, me opening my eyes and telling her to shut up. I did not wanting to get out of bed but I threw the sheets and blankets off, put my legs off the bed, got on the floor and did my push ups. Then I took a warm bath, got dressed in my navy blue khaki and my favourite checked shirt, walked to the roadside to catch the taxis to town, and rode the elevator to the third floor of Rwenzori House. I said “hi” to two ladies I always greet because they both have glowing smiles; Idah and Sarah, checking in at the door through the biometric reader, pulled my seat and dropped my butt on the chair and got ready for the work day to kick off with a bang.
That was it. Nothing unusual and it was set to be yet another Friday like any other. Except for one thing. My workmate Joel, my homie, a guy I have known for about 18 months now, walks to the corner at which I sit, standing to my left in a grey shirt and brown trousers, well pressed by the way, his shoes shining like he won tins upon tins of Kiwi. He greets me, weighs his thoughts and asks in a rather uneasy way, as if he was a newly trained detective taking on his first assignment, what my work schedule was like that day.
I told him what it was, how my day was going to go, what the plan was and I blushed. And I asked him why he wanted to know. He said, with the shyness of a kid who had just stolen sugar and wiped their lips clean, “Nothing really. I just wanted to know.”
“You just wanted to know?” I thought to myself. I didn’t read much into it. And he wished me a good day, walked to his desk with a hidden smile and I didn’t smell a thing. Nothing!
It was morning and I needed to get work done. So work it was and I dived into with the strength of a swimmer.
I had a 5:00pm deadline for a story that failed to patch itself through. I struggled with it the previous evening, reread it and thought, “This won’t cut it.” I saved it, during my lunch break, moved to one of the meeting rooms with a thick vanished table made of mahogany at the center with four seats keeping it company. I plugged in my white earphones, the ones I bought from a shop along Kampala road between two phone shops selling Techno phones. I reread the story. It felt dry, with no legs and arms. It read like a skeleton just staring back at me. So I started on a new story. It was my only window, this lunch break, to write something uninterrupted. And just when I had made two sentences, I hear a push at the door and a crowd walks in, singing happy birthday to me, carrying a neatly baked round cake with candles lit and shining, cherries all around it, with a belated birthday message running across it. The cake had two of my names. They left out Jacob. But why? It was the fifth day after my 28th birthday.
This was my YALI family. The Alumni Chapter of Uganda, a group of diversely talented people who came up to my office to wish me a lovely birthday. It was breath-taking, a shock of sorts, humbling and really one of those moments that leave a mark at the tip of your heart, an unforgettable moment. I couldn’t speak for a while because those are moments to savor. You never have words at such moments. Maybe that’s why women become speechless when their men go on one knee and propose marriage (I’ve watched this in movies). That speechlessness can’t be explained.
And of course, Joel was there, the insider whom I work with. He is also part of the YALI family, the guy who coordinated the moves from within to make sure I wasn’t out of the building the moment the team hit me with cake and blessings. This guy!
I think it was Moses, my friend with the heart of a dove, who orchestrated the whole thing. I wish I could namedrop everyone who made my day last Friday. I say thank you to all of you. You all made me want to become a better friend, a thoughtful friend, caring and understanding. I hope I become that friend who will leave people with memories that will inspire them for a lifetime. I am blessed to have friends like you.