Last week I got wind that my friend was unwell. I called to wish her quick recovery, but also to tell her to hold on a little longer, if she was keen on dying, because if she died, chances are I would not be among the 15 people present in her burial. On the second ring, someone with a masculine voice answered and said, “She can’t talk right now, can you call back later, please?” I said sure and then waited for a minute before calling again. “Who are you?” he said he was her boyfriend and kwani who was I? I said I am her friend and then hang up. I knew I left him with more questions than answers and was waiting for him to call back and say, “Ati you are her friend? What kind of friend, if you don’t mind?” and I would say, “The kind she can’t fart in his presence,” and then we would have a brawl over the phone which would end with him threatening me and I would say, “You can’t do me nothing, bwana, kwani who do you think you are?”
But he did not call.
Later that evening my friend called. She sounded weak but insisted she was feeling better. I wished her the best, and then asked about the guy who answered her phone. “Is it true he is your boyfriend?” she laughed and said, “Yes, but can we talk about it on another day?”
That other day happened to be yesterday. The reason I was surprised she had a boyfriend is that late last year she went through a breakup. Her boyfriend of two years had called it quits, saying he did not see where that relationship was going. He had tried his best to see the future, bought different eyeglasses and even went hiking just so us to have a better vantage point, but the future of their relationship was foggy. He could not see and he was sorry. If there was anything he could do to see the future, he would, but there was nothing he could do. My friend could not believe it. They had been at it for two years. Everything was perfect. After two years of dating, she thought they both knew what they wanted but turned out she was the only who knew. Because they lived together, he packed his bags and left, leaving behind a broken woman with a broken heart in a big house with lingering sorrow.
Her world was shattered.
The thing about breakups is that you think they have to be messy for them to hurt. You think something grand must lead to a breakup for it to matter. That you should find your partner on top or under someone for you to feel betrayed. That you should find suggestive photos in their phone of knickers lowered to the knees captioned, “Come help me out of this,” for you to take offence. The same way when you tell your friends you quit alcohol, they all lean in and ask, “What happened?” because you cannot quit alcohol just like that. They expect a story of how you woke up next to a granny after a night of partying. Or how you urinated on an AP officer thinking he was a tree branch, and he clobbered you silly. Or how you sent your mother a photo of your nini and woke up in a WhatsApp Prayers Group with your pastor as the admin. Something excessive must have happened for you to quit alcohol and, no, finding Jesus does not count.
But a breakup is a breakup and it will hurt, even if it’s someone simply telling you they don’t see a future with you. In this melee, she declared she wasn’t going to love again. Fuck love. Fuck relationships. And fuck Bravin, her ex. I told her, “You will love again,” and she said over her dead body. But I knew she will.
I told her love is like a poor man’s menu. You might have variety in that menu, one meal better than the other, but in the grand scheme of things all meals in that menu have high chances of giving you kwashiorkor. A rich man would not even consider feeding his favourite frog anything from your menu, but every day you scan your menu and pick a meal because you have no other option. Love has no better options.
“Everyone you fall in love with is capable of hurting you. They might do it differently, but they will hurt you.”
“Not if you take your time.”
“To do what?”
“Study the person you are falling for.”
“Good luck with your studies. Also, do you know you are very much capable of getting attracted to someone else just because you can, and not because your partner has disappointed you?”
She wanted to deny, but we both knew I was right. So, anyway, I tell my friend to nurse her heartbreak and get back in the dating scene when she is ready because her idea of not falling in love again was the same as that of a drunkard swearing never to drink again after waking up in a ditch, right before deciding it was time to toa lock. She swore she won’t.
But now she has.
“You were right,” she said. “I never thought I will meet someone this sweet but I have.”
I told her I am always right, except when I am wrong, which is never. They have been dating for a few months but she is keeping things chini ya maji because she still fears for the worst.
“Look, to enjoy love is to be foolish in it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Being too cautious might save you from heartbreak, but it will stop you from having fun.”
I turned into a relationship expert and we talked about love and how you should never, ever, treat love like a science experiment. Just dive into it. Make the best out of it. Have sex in the parking lot. Write poems if you can. If love wins, fine. If love ends, sawa. Because love is a poor man’s menu, and no heartbreak hurts less.