It’s nearly nine hours into a day whose novelty is slowly wearing off, but it’s still three hours into yours. PHCN in emotionally unstable fashion restores power after another brief hiatus, and like a serial heartbreaker cum perennial flirt, you know that they will go away again, but you bask in the fleeting moments, switching on all the (functioning) bulbs and putting your fan on full spin. Half of your heart wants to tell your neighbour to save his hard-earned petrol, but you remember that he did not have your apartment in mind when he did the wiring, and you shrug as you head downstairs.
You hardly set foot to the interlocked floor when two kids call you from the window of the duplex in the other compound; in a bit of coincidence, their ball flew across the fence, and they plead with you to help you get it for them, unwilling to “join bad gang” and do high jumps. You tease them by threatening to keep it for yourself, but you ultimately throw it, to a uniform “thank you Sir”. Your smile rhymes with a widening range of thoughts; you love kids, but the idea of raising a family scares you (heck, you have not even solved the puzzle of keeping steady relationships). You think of Harambe the gorilla and the indictment on that poor mother’s parenting, you travel in your head to Japanese forests where disciplinary measures evolved into search parties for a missing son, and your smile becomes a deep sigh. Not like there has been much to smile about anyways; butterflies cease to float, bees cease to sting, religious tolerance remains a tear-evoking subject in these parts, and the idea of a mature, non-violent referendum seems alien to both agitator and insensitive authority around here.
You take a quick look at your phone. Eight missed calls, five of which came during your sleep, and three which you expressly ignored….not counting the unreplied Whatsapp and Blackberry messages. Marie loves you, though she doesnt always get around to showing it coherently, but her voice would bring back memories and remind you of the fact that she may never be here. Pope is a loyal friend, and he means well, but you dont know how to tell him that you are yet to complete a task you promised to help him with nearly a year ago, and you dont know how the ones you keep letting down still maintain faith in you. Lana drowns you with care, but you dont know what to say to her, plus, you don’t want to interrupt your thoughts.
Kehinde gets mad at you this morning because it took you three days to reply a “happy new month” Blackberry message, and she’s got every reason to be….the only thing she did wrong was try to reach out to a friend, one she shared good moments of serving this ungrateful nation with…..and your idea of a response was to ignore until an angry ping came your way. Why she nor go vex? And no, you won’t sweet-talk your way out of this one. You will just admit that you were being rude……
Like when your father calls more than four times and you put the phone on silent, or when an old high school classmate reaches you on your Facebook inbox and you respond five business days later, or when a colleague tries to make an inquiry and you choose when to respond, reckoning without the gravity of the situation. You know, you know, your communication skills leave a lot to be desired…..
But it was not always like this. You used to be the one who would spend time composing personal Christmas and new year messages to each person on your phonebook, you once spent a holiday profiling each person on your Blackberry contact list, you remembered every birthday, you knew whose wedding was taking place and where. You pretty much used to be that go-to guy when someone needed to reconnect with a colleague he had lost contact with. Then there was also the random prose about a person or two whom you really fancied…..but not anymore.
There are ten thousand excuses that you could give. It would be valid to cite the pressure piled on you by the city; yea, the definition of work varies with each region, like the day Hannah complained of “getting home really late” by 8pm, which is pretty much the earliest time you have ever arrived from work at any of the jobs you have had here. You could talk about “the wars in your head you dont want to drag them into”, making it sound like you are doing them a favour by still considering them your friends. You could even turn the gun on them, blaming them for reaching out at the wrong time, or not being there when you needed them…..
But you never lose sight of the fact that it’s you, it’s really you. The concept of keeping in touch and sustaining friendships has been lost on you, the need to do that random check on the ones around you has been dispensed with, your elder brother’s chat message remains unread even when your personal messages show activity, and you choose when you want to celebrate (with) people on their anniversaries. How about the requests for reviews, pleas for votes or simple likes that you postpone until the essence is defeated? How about the ones you cause to fall for you, and not caring how hard they’ve crashed into you, they suddenly get denied of even your shadow’s presence? Maybe you’re simply a snobbish douchebag, a really selfish user, with emotions like sand, absorbing all the affection without showing any……
Or maybe there is a lot you have had to endure with this dynamic wheel called friendship. Maybe it’s the scars from two major break-ups, or all the unrequited love from moons past, or all the pain at seeing dreams lose their flying power, watching friends soar while you struggled in that mud called stagnation. Maybe it was because many failed to understand you, seeing you as awkward, and you were done explaining yourself, struggling to adapt, striving to be a tad likeable at the very least, or fed up with having people reach out only when you needed something. How about the possibility that on the days when you struggled with your faith, the conflicts in your head clear for all to see, the ones who had moved from milk to strong meat choose to ostracise, cut you off, even use you as an example of “backslidden brethren? ” There could also be the matter of having no one to reach out to on nights when you felt like a rudderless ship, mornings when you felt like taking a plunge from the top floor of Broad Street, the same street whose length you once walked in search of a job in bushy hair and unpolished shoes, the absence of friends causing more darkness than the lack of a bulb in the room…..
So you got used to the shadows, finding home with the loneliness to the point that you made it second nature, and now you couldnt be bothered anymore. You see Instagram photos of your friends hanging out at Vantage in Lekki without inviting you, and you shrug with indifference; you were not going to show up anyway. You no longer feel the need to drop even an abbreviated message on Vera’s wall on her birthday, the same Vera whom you would compose anniversary poems for between 2009 and 2014. Oge, the one whom you (unsuccessfully) wooed for a year in Coal Country, misses you and, aware of your pendulum-like moods, tries to cheer you up, but you’ve nothing to say, and you don’t want to go through the stress of forcing out synthetic responses devoid of any real emotion, so you nod your head to the phone’s ringtone, your mental receptors unable to process the show of care from her, or from anyone else, your emotional batteries drained from chasing fleeting shallow tangibles over the years. You’d understand if they all left, you’d understand if they judged your attitude too toxic for the ties shared with you, for no one loves to be shut out, no one loves to have anyone make them feel unimportant, no one enjoys wasting words (however generic they may be). For the romantic adventures, you are poor at pretending or simulating things, so you know nothing about hanging on to stuck swings, or absorbing faux heat from frozen fireplaces.
You won’t continue to kick yourself though. You know that there are various situations you would have avoided if you had ignored certain inbox messages, you know that there were certain values you wouldnt have flung away and certain habits you would not have picked up if you had passed up certain events and refused to exchange certain contacts. You are aware of the fact that sometimes healing involves a huge dose of solitude, that growing up involves letting go of many things (and people), that those who really love you will preserve a nice room in their hearts for you no matter how difficult you get…..but you cannot keep being a recluse, you cannot keep being a jerk, and you sure cannot keep taking people’s efforts at concern for granted. So you, now back upstairs, toss in bed, clad in only your briefs, thinking of how and whose chat message to first respond to (or not, as you ignore Marie’s call…..again.