Out of the blue sky of last Saturday, my best friend called.
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I saw his number on my phone screen and my heart leaped.
Because he, let’s call him Bill because he is a modest if high achieving guy (and I don’t want to make him blush in the gazeti), has been away in Norway for the last four years ‘pursuing further studies’.
Because we are ‘cool like dat,’ Bill and I had agreed to just take it easy and not over-communicate while he was away, except on Facebook inbox.
And that’s the way it should be among men.
Only girls are allowed to talk for hours on phone with their BFFs who are a billion miles away in another country.
I love my sister who is in the diaspora, I do – but I sometimes dread when she calls, usually on Sunday mornings (Saturday night over there in Minnesota) to reminisce, because she/we can talk for three solid hours.
Cell-phone bills are not my sister’s problem, but when hang-over on a Sunday dawn, then you have to jaw-jaw with your beloved sis from six to nine am, kuna vile unaeza choka, ha ha.
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Anyway, Bill came from JKIA straight to a local bar (of course he has missed nyama choma). We caught up till late.
I first knew Bill back in college, as freshers, in 1999, because he was at the pub there called Joe’s, reading a poetry book.
(This was back when universities were easygoing and allowed people to operate bars within their compounds, and our barman/bar owner was called Joe. He had a box haircut, and let regular drunks -- er, students -- drink on credit).
Moving on, once I learned Bill was also a poet, like me, it was brotherhood at first drink. I also came to know that we shared a secret deep sorrow -- having both lost our mothers just before joining university. Now I had someone I could actually talk to about how much I missed my mom, and he too could tell me about his parents, and we would commiserate with one another.
After college, Bill got a job and a car, and I got a job. Which means it was his moti that we would run around in all over Nairobi -- from Nyayo Highrise to Nyayo Embakasi. We even dreamed of starting our ‘Men Only’ magazine, but never quite got round to it.
There was the time I was played out of a month’s rent and two month deposit in the mid-oh-ohs, whilst moving out of my cold water flat to a hot bath apartment.
I ended up living with Bill and his two brothers in their house in South C, turning their comfortable couch in the living room into my bed.
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During the Post-Election Violence of 2007/8, I spent every single day of that red January in the company of Bill -- and this period of our friendship is captured in my story The Road to Eldoret.
We have buried former college mates –- from a suicide to one poisoned recently in a bar in Isiolo to our former chess-mate, Paul Magu, who shocked us all by being yule msee who becomes a family annihilator.
Bill was my bestie at a former wedding, and indeed has seen me through three relationships in the past two decades -- the college sweetheart, the long-term fiancée and the ex-wife.
“I’m happy to hear you are now stable, and looking well fed,” he joked when we met Saturday.
In 2013, both our kid brothers passed on -- quite young they were -- and Bill and I cleaved closer in big brother grieving.
The following year, we did road trips all over the country -- from Mombasa to Kisumu, together.
Coincidentally, the following year, we both got scholarships -- myself to Concordia, Canada, and him to that Scandinavian university. He went. I changed my mind and stayed in Kenya.
Bill’s big news is that, while in Norway, he met a woman and got a baby girl.
‘Does this mean I will be a best man soon?’ I asked him excitedly.
‘Not everyone marries their baby mama,’ Bill said, slowly sipping his first Tusker in four years.