You remember me, don’t you? Well, it’s been three years and I remember you. For how could I forget your infectiously genuine smile? How could I forget the innocence your eyes screamed of?
I don’t remember you as that friend I would have deep discussions with or even just discussions at all. ‘Sasa Vera’ was the best you could come up with. I remember how I used to punish you when I would say more than a ‘hi’, or was it just in my imagination?
I remember you as that friend; the silent friend with whom one shares a lot and yet shares very little.
You remember that time we went to Busia for fieldwork? There was so much fun, people hardly slept in those round little park houses. So much was it; booze included that the next day you could hardly hold a cup of tea. You remember how the rest of us laughed off your hangover and you would still smile with us? This is, sincerely, my best memory of you.
And then the worst happened. One of those nights when nothing much goes on in campus. You decide to go to Target Inn bar for ‘one or two’ just to make campus life eventful and have some comrade entitled ‘fun’. No, you were actually playing pool. Forgive my scanty knowledge of facts. From what I gathered, it was an accident. No, I know it was an accident. You didn’t intend to spill those guys’ drinks on purpose. A fight is not one of the things you’d pick. How now?
Fellow comrades decided to descend on your small frame with blows and kicks. The spirit of comradeship did not really count as your life saving strategy. They were probably dead drunk; the booze before comradeship. I would think it was the booze in their systems beating the life out of you. Just like that.
The stench of death heavily hung in the air. In the dead of the night, as I was far off in dreamland at the comfort of my bed, life was oozing out of your body on the stairs of Kimberly Hostel. That’s what hearsay had.
You were discovered in the wee morning of that Saturday morning. The ‘good Samaritans’ rushed you to the hospital. The last act of comradeship you received. They said you were in a coma for several hours but you gave up the mortal fight. Too much internal bleeding, the doctors said. Your soul gave way.
I’m sorry I didn’t come to your funeral. The escapist in me thinks that if I don’t attend one, it perhaps ain’t happening. Silly? right. I mourned you in a different way, or perhaps I didn’t even know how to mourn you. I am a coward when it comes to these things. I remember sitting up on my bed, just looking at nothing, feeling hopeless that I called my mother,
‘‘My classmate died, he was killed by other students.’’
I wonder if you were smiling in your death. Your last minutes must have been unbearably painful; I did not want to imagine your scars spilling of blood, your blood. Hemorrhaging . How could you have smiled? I would have loved to see you smiling one last time. Just one.
The guys who killed you ran but they were caught and jailed. You know how these legal systems work here, don’t you? I don’t know what happened to them since we left school. Yes, we graduated. It breaks my heart to think of your folks looking forward to receive you after campus only for you to go back home in a coffin! That is not how they prepared for your comeback. That is not what they bargained for. But well, when death calls, it doesn’t offer options. It doesn’t let you, ‘finish your degree’ ‘get ready’, ‘repent’ or ‘achieve your dreams’.
Such is life. Unpredictable; heart-breaking; constantly reminding us of our mortality and powerlessness.
Did you forgive them? Could you forgive them for taking your life so unceremoniously? So brutally?
You’d be happy to know that Target Inn bar was closed down, no? It’s probably a good thing. Too much boozing doesn’t do anyone any good.
If you lived, you would be a young man; vibrant at 27! You’d probably be making the world more habitable with your smiles. You left too early James. But then, who am I to determine whether it was early or if your time was up? Each one of us must have a set clock up there; and when it clicks ‘end’, it cannot be adjusted.
I will always remember your smile. How shy you were. Your innocence. And what we shared in our silence.
Till we meet again, stay with the angels.