Eleven years ago I was in primary school. Among the many people I did not like in class, was Nyambu.
Nyambu and I were agemates. Liked the same color of ice(zile za one bob), preferred the ‘Nice’ biscuits our class teacher hawked at break time over chapo moto at the school canteen, and wore the same type of jeans on Sunday. So naturally, you’d expect us to be friends(in primary school, these characteristics are actually enough to make you friends) This was far from reality.
Since Nyambu and I had mutual friends, many times we would find ourselves in the same room, arguing over the same topic, laughing at the same jokes, and discussing the same boys. But no, Nyambu and I never talked directly to each other, or said hi when we would bump into one other along the school corridors at break time.
I had no solid reason why our relationship was this bad. We had never physically fought, had an argument, talked at/of/about each other. Nothing. But we had this cold war going on, and the reality of it all kinda weighed down my heart every time I saw her.
So one day at school it is my turn(and a few other classmates’) to clean our classroom floor. I am pushing and pulling lockers, dragging a huge, wet rag across the floor, trying to get the job quickly done, so I can go home. Then I see shoes, dirty muddy shoes, step confidently on one end of the floor I have just cleaned(I am still bending down holding the piece of cloth). The shoes move, two more steps further into the clean area. I am angry. Extremely infuriated that there’s actually a real human roaming the earth, who lacks even an ounce of common sense.
I straighten up to look at the face. And it is Nyambu.
Our eyes meet. In hers, I see a challenge. She knows what she is doing. Anger gets the better of me and I fling the rag at her. She holds one end of it and jumps at me…
Long story short, the next day our parents(in the presence of the headteacher), had us shake hands and smile at each other as a sign of peace, and friendship. What suprised me was that in the process of shaking hands, I again looked into Nyambu’s eyes, and there, I saw something else. I saw myself. And I saw my best friend.
All through the rest of my stay at that school, Nyambu and I were inseparable. I got to learn that we had both been brought up around the same places, had a similar family setting, had the same fears, and cradled similar dreams in our hearts. We were both afraid of darkness and heights, and also, her favourite color was red. Of course in many ways we were also different. But even in these differences, we found a middle ground. For instance, because Nyambu was funny and entertaining, she would do most of the talking when we’re with other people. And because she loved moshene and I was good at milking stories out of people, I would set the stage and ask the questions for her. On some nights she would sleepover at my place(which my dad was totally against). ‘Kwani huyo msichana si mlipigana? Mnataka kuniletea shida tena?’ he would ask.
I also did not understand. I did not understand how the person I never wanted sit next to, would become the person I fight to sit next to.
Point is, we never really know who the next person is that we are going to give our hearts to. Or in whose eyes we will look into one day and see a reflection of our naked souls. This person might be someone you’ve known all along, or someone whose name you don’t even know yet.
It might be that lousy neighbor you so despise, or that girl that spilled your drink at the club, or that cute boy you keep running into on your way to class, or that friend of a friend with a sweaty weave and a deep Luo accent, or the boy your mother talks so much about,as she gives you ‘the look'(in my mother’s voice, ‘by the way ule kijana wa nani anakuwanga na discipline. Yeye raha za dunia ameweka kando.’ Hehee!)
Or it could be you! You could be that person for you.
As we usher in the new month of February, let us also usher in the spirit of genuine friendship, and of finding a home in someone else’s heart.
May February, as it is the month of love, bring with it the gift of one true friend, for every single one of us.
Psst: It could be you!