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I hope my doctor will never read this post.

I hate all forms of physical exercises,except lying horizontally for eight hours a day,sleeping in other terms.

There are men who constantly stare at themselves in the gym mirror.

I can’t think of a greater testimony of
vanity.

This is not a story about mirrors or vanity; this is about friendship, at least some of the more defining moments of it.

OK, it’s also a bit about mirrors- at least if you hold it up.

But to tell you about friendship, and for you to appreciate certain nuances of it you have to understand how it really began.

My friend Meja is one of them- at least he used to nine years ago.

Meja is my boy.

It all began in a gym, one of those cheap threadbare sweaty estate gyms.

I was, what, 23yrs old,my last year in college, a bit scrawny and in need to flesh out some muscles.

But before you start arching your eyebrows, I will have you know that gym is the ONLY place a man is allowed to tell another man,“Chief, those triceps!”

No really, ask around, it’s permissible.

But once you step out of the gym, even
staring at another man’s well filed nails is considered queer.

I noticed Meja because of two things; one he walked round the gym shirtless, showing off his toned body as if he was a Greek god.

And two he constantly stared at himself in the mirror; stared at himself while he curled the dumbbells, stared at himself as he did military presses or squats and stared at himself as he swigged water from this fancy silver water can that he brought to the gym.

I often wondered why he hadn’t asked for his own phone number already,cause here was a man who was truly in love with his own image.

And I hated him.

I hated him because he looked better than most of us in the gym.

Hated him because he had the kind of biceps I
wanted, not the rubbery ones that wobbled on my arms.

I hated him because once in a while he showed up with this blonde bird (a vivid testimony that muscles never attract brains) who would sit at a corner doing something so cheesy like suck on a lollipop or pretend to “read” a book.

I’m certain she couldn’t even read her own name.

But every guy in the gym secretly lusted for her.

She would carry for him this very white towel and after pushing some serious weight on the bench (all for her benefit) he would swagger over to her and wipe his silly face with that stupid towel like he was Mohamed Ali or
some other braggart.

Then he would make small talk with her
before resuming the session.

And she always giggled at something he said, which was odd because he struck me as the kind of guy who had a personality of a cold sandwich.

The only reason he brought her to the gym was
to massage his bloated ego.

Oh I hated Meja.

I even hated him more because she was so hot, and obviously misguided.

She deserved someone like me, someone who
didn’t stare at his image in the mirror (because what stared back was not optically digestible) not this insufferable oaf who worshipped his body.

To find conviction in my hatred for him, I ignored him.

But Meja was so intoxicated with his own vanity that nothing else mattered to him apart from his biceps and his split chest and so he didn’t notice if you ignored him.

He hardly talked to anyone in the gym.

He came on, did his workout and later he went to the next room where and joined other kick boxers.

And together they pounded and kicked a bag of sand.

Very creative, if you ask me.

I knew we would never be friends because he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would hold a conversation for more than 30secs without lifting up his shirt to check if his six packs were still there.

So like ships in the dark, our lives oblivious passed each other in the sweaty gym.

Six months passed.

One morning as I waited for the gym to open one of his chicks showed up, another blonde but one with terrific legs this time.

She asked me if I could pass on some brown parcel to him when he comes around because she had to scoot.

I said no, I wasn’t going to stick around for
long.

I didn’t want to be a part of his charade; I didn’t want to be the guy who carried his what not.

Plus you never know, that parcel could have contained hair removal waxing kit.

She begged.

I relented, but only because she had great legs.

I did it for the legs, not for Meja.

A time comes in every man’s life that he does things for a woman’s legs.

Meja’s chick had a pair of legs that looked heavenly to my eyes.

That was my time.

And that’s how we started talking, Meja
and I.

I’m writing about him not because he is one of the closest friends I have (I have closer friends) but because of something that happened recently when I passed by his house recently over this long weekends.

It was 10am; he opened the door for me in an ugly faded towel wrapped around his waist.

He had some chick over.

Another pretty face.

She was in his t-shirt written “A Harvard dropout,” and was nibbling on a toasted slice of bread.

I was introduced.

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” she said
sweetly.

I hadn’t heard anything about her and as a rule I never struggle to remember the names or faces of his women.

They never stay around for too long.

Since three is a crowd I made some feeble talk then excused myself,while he walked me out he mentioned that they were going to drive to Malindi.

“Tomorrow?” I asked.

“No, today.” he said.

“But it’s headed to 11am.”

‘Yes, we shall spend the night wherever dusk finds us.”

And this brings me to the whole point of this story.

I remember being envious at his free spirit, at him being able to make decisions like that.

To live life on a whim.

He is the only truly single friend I have, the rest are dating or married.

I quite often admire this laidback lifestyle, sometimes even though I know it’s not what it
seems, that quite often it’s filled with emptiness.

I have seen him in some low points, Saturday nights spent alone in his cold house.

Sometimes when we go out I see him lingering about, not wanting to go back home too early
because nothing awaits him there, not a single sign of life; except the humming fridge.

But still once in a while,I want to be him even though he confesses he wants to be
me often.

A case of the grass being green on the other
side.

In him I have learnt one thing; that cold overnight pizza only tastes good when you have a hangover.

Among other lessons.

Then there is Gathura.

Yes, that’s his name.

I know.

We were in campus together.

In this friendship I find hope.

Lots of hope.

His life, at least so far, is a testimony that whichever card God hands you, deal it.

Three years ago, Gathura lived in a small Servants Quarter in Nairobi’s leafy suburb,
Kileleshwa.

Let me digress.

Here is the thing; Kileleshwa is the new middle-class cliché.

A burgeoning estate that should stop pretending to be leafy.

Kileleshwa is like an ageing man stubbornly clinging to his youth.

You see those old men in pubs rubbing the knees of some young girl half their age?

That’s Kileleshwa. Kile in short.

You see those ageing men who dye their hair black and talk stuff like “We really “just
happened to be born yesterday,” that’s Kile.

Kile is like a woman who lies about her age. Kile is an old estate that has refused to look in the mirror and see what it has become.

Kile, the incubator of the middle-class, is the starkest allegory of Nairobian’s brazen
quest for affluence and, in that quest, it’s lack of creativity and the herd mentality that afflict it.
Kile used to be the home of the truly affluent, now it’s the home of phonies and wanna-bees who carry their poodles at the back of their Toyota Ests and Mitsubishi Lancers.

There I said it and to borrow Eddie Griffin’s words, “Tell ‘em I said it.”

But look, I have nothing against Kile, I seriously don’t, we all have friends and relatives in Kile, we all have dropped someone off in Kile, or had a crash on someone in Kile or slept with someone in Kile or had a meal in Kile because everyone seems to live in Kile now.

But in Kile people try too hard, which you might argue isn’t a bad thing.

And please don’t ask me where my hood is, it doesn’t matter.

OK, I will stop.

Anyway, Gathura lived in this crummy Servants Quarter just after you’ve made the left turn at the Kasuku center roundabout.

He worked as a para legal in some law firm
not too far from there.

Creepy job.

I was doing better than he was as a Jua-kali(informal business sector) entrepreneur, he was lucky if they paid him those peanuts on time.

But we were great friends, we hanged out.

Once in a while he would call me on Friday at midnight and ask where I was because he
needed a ride home; he needed a ride home because he couldn’t afford the cab fare.

That’s how bad it was.

Quite often, mostly on a Satos, I would pitch up at his digs with a bottle of something, and we could crack it open and put on some Family Guy or something and kick it.

I knew his finances were in a pit, but he kept his nose up, he kept his sense of humour and he is one guy with an irrepressible sense of humor.

But he was starving.

One day I showed up to his digz at night to find him using candles.

I asked him what happened to his power and he joked, “Well I knew you were coming and I thought we would have a candlelit dinner.”

He hadn’t paid his power bill because he
couldn’t pay it.

And the thing is when your friend is going through such rough times, you sort of try and not talk about it.

We are guys; we don’t talk about things like that.

It’s like talking about heartbreak.

When you find your boy stripped off his clothes, you hand him a towel to cover his nuts, you don’t ask him what happened to his clothes.

That’s the male code.

And the thing is when you are going through stuff like this you tend to attract such rubbish women.

(I have to write about this hehe, I’m sorry)

So anyway, at this time he was dating this lady who was a real piece of work.

She had some money on her and she sort of liked him and he her, but boy was she dramatic!
One time she locked him in her house, threatening him with bodily harm because he was leaving her and her drama.

I had to drive clear across town at midnight to go save his ass from being stabbed, which basically entailed me pleading with her through the grilled door to open the damned
door.

She was drunk (that’s the very first time I learnt
about Nordic Ice, first time I saw that drink) and she was crying the whole time, she said teary eyed, “Ben, please ask him not to leave. Talk to your friend.”

And I said,“Leave you?

How?

He would be crazy to leave you, now please let go of his head and open the door sweetheart.”

Hehehe. She finally opened the door and he left her…eventually.

Anyway, when you are broke, you attract a
certain pedigree of women.

I suppose it’s even worse when you are rich.

A dog’s life, eh?

Then something nasty happened, his mom passed on.

Road accident.

See, he was close to his mother, always talked about her.

He had no relationship with his dad.

He was a stranger to him.

He was the first son, his brother was in campus.
He was screwed.

Troubles set in; debts,the pain of losing a mother, a brother he had to see through campus and yet he couldn’t even feed himself.

Life sunk into a deep dark pit.

He started losing weight;he started becoming a bit touchy, more sensitive.

It’s almost like he was looking for ways to have his friends disappoint him the way life had, looking for a conviction that indeed life was against him.

I saw him less because I’m impatient and I didn’t want to be put in a situation where we could clash but once in a while I still pitched
up with a drink, we still drunk and laughed but it was like walking on eggshells.

Then his tide changed; one day, five months after his mom passed on, his phone rang.

It was UNDP and just like that his life did a three sixty.

I always told him that his mom struck a deal with God; take me away lord, but please give my son a break, she told God.

This is a true story by the way; I haven’t even changed this guy’s name.

Overnight his life transformed before my eyes and it gives you lots of hope, its God showing you his hand.

It’s God saying, look, I’m here, I run this town.

And here is the spookiest of things; while his phone was ringing with an offer from UNDP I was losing my business.

Yes.

Both our tides were changing, albeit in different
directions.

Twilight stuff I tell you.

That was, what, two,three years ago?

He has since moved out of Kile, good old
Kile, gotten a good woman and is even growing a small paunch, (which he knows he should do something about).

He smells better, dresses better, hell he even changed his drink.

I’m certain his mother is smiling.

Here is how his life has changed.

He works in northern Kenya and when he comes down we always catch a drink.

So last week, on his invitation, we went to this
posh bar and placed our orders.

I ordered wine and he asked for a double Jack Daniels and some rocks.

When the waiter left, I leaned over and asked him with a cynical tone how much they were selling bloody Jack Daniels and without knowing the implications of his answer,without meaning to sound showy he replied nonchalantly;“I don’t know.”

You know you are struggling when you
ask the price of a drink in a bar.

Surely there must be some take home lessons in these two stories of friendships.

Just some random thoughts that came to my mind….©Profarms’ Random Thoughts®

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