We’d debate who in our gang would get married first. There was Chess, James, Maitha, Kibz, Paul and myself. We couldn’t agree on the order, but my money was on either Paul or Chess. Then Paul had his heart broken when we were in second year and the only way he knew how to deal with his heartbreak was to bury himself in books. We only saw him in the evenings. If he was not in class, he was in the library, or on his way to one of those; a pile of books and handouts bulging from under his right hand, walking in that UoN academic angle. That girl did an odd number on him. So bad, there is no insurance that could redeem that broken heart. But that was a long time ago.
Chess on the other hand, lived up to my expectation. That one has never let me down. The other month he called some of us to a place on Mombasa Road, and he went down on his girlfriend. Not in that way, you filthy bastards. Like he went down on one knee, popped a little red suitcase and a question. It was love in a time of Corona. I had warned him that if she said no, I would be sure to capture it on camera and share it on Twitter for entertainment. Unfortunately, she said yes. With cars rushing on Mombasa road to beat the curfew, the sun setting behind the new Upperhill skyline, and a global pandemic driving everyone insane, a tearful Kalenjin girl agreed to spend the rest of her life with Chess. How he managed to convince her, is a bigger mystery than the coronavirus.
Then there is James.
Let me tell you about James. I met this guy on the first day of law school. As in, on admission day. My then girlfriend was the one who had escorted me to University of Nairobi, Parklands campus, and after a full day of jumping stations, we were led to the campus bus. See, Parkie is a tiny campus. It was built as a secretarial college for women back in the day when the world was still largely in black and white. Then it was converted to a law school, when only 100 students could fit in it. By the time we were joining in 2010, it was too small to accommodate everyone, so first year law students have to sleep in Lower Kabete campus and they are ferried every morning to Parkie.
So on admission day when we were being ferried to Parkie, I sat by the window and my girlfriend sat next to me. We did everything together, Gloria and I, and we were convinced we would get married, and can you blame us? We were 19 and Diamond had just released Mbagala. What were we supposed to think? Anyway, I remember we were sharing earphones, listening to music, when this guy sitting in front of us turned around (knees of his seat) and started hitting on my girlfriend.
Of course, James would later deny it, but then that was ten years and almost half a dozen girlfriends ago. Girls came and went, but James and I became the best mates. A brother I chose. I intend to tell this whole story on his wedding day.
Speaking of wedding days, shortly after Chess put a shiny ruby on his Kale girl, James did the same. Not to Chess’ girl. To his own. He had stopped disturbing other people’s girlfriends by then and found his own. A doctor, no less. That day, Daktari’s birthday, he took her out for a meal and by the time they’d come back to their house, the whole gang was stuffed upstairs in a dark room. We watched from the window as fireworks licked the air, and they held each other in an embrace for a long time. We couldn’t shout, coz to do so might have startled Daktari who was due anytime then.
A month later, I woke up to a message from James.
– King James.
I thought he was talking about LeBron. It was playoff season, but nothing spectacular had happened, so I wondered what he was raging about so late after the game.
-What has he done?
I responded after about 40 minutes.
– He walkest amongst us – here at Nairobi Hospital!!!!
Papa James. The young man was delivered last evening.
– Whaaaaaaaatttt? Are you serious?
It was more shock than wonder. I wasn’t surprised that the baby was born. I was expecting it. I’d thought he had named his child after LeBron James. Turns out, he hadn’t. A disappointment, really.
Listen, the point here is that it feels as if wedding bells are breaking up this old gang of mine. We men rarely talk about what time does to friendships. The first friends to go are usually the girls. They start getting married sooner at huko 25, and then things change. We see them online with their Jaydens, and we think ‘damn, already?’ and then we imagine that that kind of life is far away from us. We imagine we still have time, but then another five years disappear just like that, and now the guy friends are now the ones getting hitched. They start falling off from bachelorhood one by one.
First it is Chess, then it James. Then who next? Me? As in, I had also been a contender a couple of years back when I had been with someone’s daughter for four years. But then we all know how that ended. Kibz seems like he is up next, but that one is a leopard. You can never know his stories. For obvious reasons, because I would have already spilled them on this blog. I do not hear much about Paul’s love life. Maitha is more focused on getting his law firm off the ground to think of love; he is one of those brilliant minds (straight As, name in the paper after national exams and all) whose hearts only pump for blood. Yeye I am certain we are with him for a longer haul.
But things are changing. Five or so years ago, we were The Real Bachelors of Langata; running this city down with drinks and debauchery. Now, people are running towards greater responsibilities. Someone even had the mind to change our WhatsApp Group name to The Real Husbands. Must have been Chess after meeting his Kale sweetheart. As in, niggas fall in love and they start running wild.
All of a sudden, it is Friday and you are thinking of hitting the club, but you first have to ask them to ask for permission to come out. James has an infant right now, so of course he has to be home by 7pm. He needs two visas – from the Daktari and from his Jayden. Before he steps out, he will need to give notice of two weeks like a tenant, attach a letter from the chief, certified bank statements of three months, and a COVID-19 certificate.
If we are being completely honest, though, it would be unfair to say that we may be drifting apart because the boys are getting engaged, into relationships, and having babies. Think about it. The average age of the gang is 30. I must be one of the youngest at 29. We are getting into that phase of life when things are evolving in every aspect. Not just marriages. Guys are busy building careers, and getting lost in a blur of deadlines, submissions and scheduled posts.
It is even worse for me, I think, because I switched professions. The rest are advocates, and I presume they meet in places and spaces where advocates meet. I have to make the extra effort to be present. To show up at James’ office on Jakaya Kikwete Road every Friday evening for a pint, and to slap the stick of cigarettes out of his mouth.
There is simply less time. These boys are no longer interns and junior associates in law firms doing PA duties while aspiring to be Harvey Spectre. Then there is me and my travels. I can never sit in Nairobi for two weeks straight before I have to be on a Jambojet exploring the next destination. It is no longer possible to do Karaoke Night on Tuesday at Club Mist, Ladies night on Wednesday, Salsa night on Thursday at Brew, Dancing on Friday at Mwendas and 40Forty on Saturday and then wind it down at Jiweke on Sunday for a polite one.
These days we are lucky to even see everyone in one week, leave alone all of us meeting at a go. That will require planning to make sure Chess will be available, James will not be holding brief in Isiolo for some big shot city lawyer who can’t travel, Maitha will not be hunting down a client, Paul will respond to messages, Kibz will not be mountaineering in Tanzania and I will not be in Diani setting baecation on Instagram.
I guess we can incorporate the ladies in our meetups. But it won’t be the same. I mean, there is a certain thing about boys chilling by themselves. We can have a couples thing (when Maitha finally gets someone), but can that be separate from our own thing?
Like, already things are not the same. We are older now, bellies are growing bigger, we can now afford to open a proper scotch when we meet and not that chang’aa from London Distillers, and when looking for a place to chill, we are not looking for a noisy place where you have to shout open someone’s eardrum to have a conversation.
The only thing about us that has stayed the same is the fact that I still cannot grow a beard, and…. again… Maitha cannot seem to find love. But at least his situation is temporary.
Or is it? Hehe.
I guess what I am saying is that I have this nagging fear that this friendship might end, now that everyone is progressing and paying attention to other aspects of their lives. And I wonder whether it is selfish (or needy) of me to try and get more than a WhatsApp Group where no meaningful conversation happens anymore, just memes and screenshots. To keep the band alive. I would have brought this up with the boys, but I am sure they will say, are you going soft on us, Magunga? And y’all know a goon never goes soft on nobody! Grrrrr.
The last thing I want is to wake up one day and ask myself where did everyone disappear to? You know, that threadbare storyline in movies where friends who were tight in campus leave and drift away, and then they are brought together by a death, a terminal illness or a nasty divorce (knock on wood). I’d rather not be a cliché Hollywood narrative.
I am not sure if other young fellas are experiencing this, or if it is just me. We men do not work hard at keeping friendships the way we do with relationships. Which is funny because many marriages end, but your boy will always be your boy. Almost as if the fire of male friendships can only slow down into embers, but can never really go off. That’s why at the end of those movies, the gang always comes back together, albeit too late.