Monday, August 11, 2014

A Very Short Story: Saying Goodbye

There was a poem I read in my literature class in secondary school, the name eludes my memory, but I recall it was about a man visiting his family upon his death and being surprised at how everyone had moved on with their life. As a fly on the wall, he observed he wasn’t indispensable to his family and that his absence didn’t stop life from happening.

Upon reading the poem, two things stood out for me: The word ‘indispensable’ and the fact that people, no matter their status in one’s life, are dispensable. I know this sounds a little Machiavellian, but hear me out: Assuming we allowed our logical self to control our emotional self, we’d find that our adult existence isn’t dependent on the presence of a particular person. We’re beings capable of surviving independently, not fastidious parasites in need of a specific host to survive. Contrarian as it may seem, it is this mindset that has kept me remarkably lucid at the demise of any relationship.

Not too long ago, I made a painful decision to end a very close friendship. I made the choice because I felt the friendship lacked a certain level of reciprocity. Based on the length and depth of our friendship, I believed I should have been privy to certain information concerning Chudi, especially since I'd considered him my best friend.

Our friendship, as with most close friendships between members of opposite sex, began with a spark romance. I had a crush on Chudi, but fortunately for me, and I say fortunately because I can’t imagine having it any other way, we became best of friends – at least that was the lens through which I viewed our relationship.
Photo: Shayera
During our ten year friendship, Chudi was a friend extraordinaire. He was my confidant and my fiercest cheerleader. When I first moved to Lagos, he accommodated me in his tiny apartment before I found a place of my own. When I doubted myself, he reassured me of my capabilities. And when I lost my sister, he soothed me while I cried my eyes out -  I remember the incident with a smile because there hasn’t been a time I’ve been completely vulnerable with a guy and perfectly unabashed by it. We were so close that I had him approve every potential boyfriend prior to dating them. In effect, Chudi was a man after my heart. But as life rarely makes things perfect, our friendship had a few dark spots. 

There were times Chudi was vague, secretive, and irritated me with his senseless fibs. Every time I asked about his mother, as he seldom spoke about her, he would deftly change the subject. For a while, I tolerated his reticence, but when you’ve been close friends with someone for a while and you don’t know if their mom is alive, or why they went incommunicado for weeks on end, you start questioning your relationship.

One very strange incident occurred a year after I’d been transferred to Kenya. He’d visited Mombasa without breathing a word to me, and it wasn’t until a mutual friend mentioned in passing that she’d seen him at the airport, did he confirm he’d made the trip. Indeed, I was curious to know why he hadn’t informed me, but his answer was “I did tell you”. We both knew that was a huge lie, but I decided not to contest it. Also, when he started dating his wife, he never mentioned it to me, and I only found out through a mutual friend. Again, I inquired and he confirmed my inquest with the words: “But I mentioned it to you”.

Now, if I were 80, I’d have blamed my inability to remember on my senile mind, but clearly that wasn’t the case. What’s more, I have a weird, but good memory for trivia. For example, I can recall the name of my primary school friend’s pet monkey and also the birth dates of the family members of my best friend from secondary school. So obviously my memory wasn't failing me, he was just telling lies. But why, I would never know. What I do know though is the straw that broke the camel’s back, or in this case, our friendship.

I had returned to Lagos from Nairobi for a few weeks after years of being away. Naturally, I was excited to see Chudi and contacted him so we could hang out, but he would cancel plans at the last minute with a flimsy excuse. After making several attempts to schedule a meeting, I gave up thinking that if he really wanted to see me he should make an effort. When he made no effort to reach me, I came to the conclusion that he didn’t value our friendship as much as I did, so I downgraded our relationship from friendship to acquaintance, but not without giving him a piece of my mind. In retrospect, Chudi checked out from our friendship months before, but I was too busy rationalizing his actions to admit the change.

Although I believe in the notion of dispensability, I’d be lying if I said a part of me doesn’t feel upset, wounded and betrayed. As with any great friendship, saying goodbye to what I had with Chudi was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. I have spent countless nights and days questioning myself, wondering if I could have done anything differently. Some days I feel I've lost an irreplaceable chunk of myself. Nonetheless, I’m hopeful things will get better in time. I’m hopeful because I know that the gap that’s been created by his absence will be filled with better memories and friendships if I allow it – and I will.