I attended a friend’s baby shower the other day. The theme colour was white, and gold. Every lady at that party, about 25 of them, was dressed in white, accessorized in gold. The balloons were white n gold. The chairs were white, covered in gold satin.
The party was happening in the backyard of the mother-to-be’s parents. It was a great party, even though I didn’t know half the people who were there.
When the program had ended and everyone was allowed to mingle, eat and drink, I saw this gorgeous babe sitting alone having some snacks while busy on her phone.
“Hi,” I approached her.
Startled she turned and looked at me, “hi.”
“Do you mind if I sit here?” I asked, pointing to the seat next to her.
“No I don’t mind,” she smiled, a clear sign of friendliness.
I sat next to her. She had been busy on her phone when I approached but now she locked the phone and put it in her purse.
‘Excellent!’ I thought.
“Nice party,” I started, the cliché way.
“Yeah it is, I love the theme and the mother-to-be is really glowing”
“Do you know when she is due?”
“Yeah, she is due in three weeks.”
“How come they don’t have a gender reveal party?”
“The couple prefers to be surprised when the baby comes.”
“How do you know her? If you don’t mind,”
“Oh, she is my sister’s best friend. See that skinny girl talking a lot next to her?” She pointed towards the only pregnant woman in the vicinity, with a slender young woman next to her. They were talking close to each other and laughing loudly.
“That’s my sister,”
“Oh, they seem to be very close,”
“They are very close. Agnes is more of a sister to Angie more than I am,”
“Oh, I actually thought you were new to these people like me, that is why you are sitting all alone in such a fun event,”
“Don’t get me wrong, I do love such settings, plus Agnes is like a sister to me,” she paused to collect her thoughts. “It’s just that I am not in the mood for small talk.”
“I am sorry then for interrupting your moment there.” I started to leave but then she stopped me.
“How do you know Agnes?” she asked, “because I have never seen you before”
“My cousin Ciku, over there, see the one with the thigh-high slit on her bareback dress,” I pointed to a chunky young woman, with a big afro that matched her personality. Her hands were all over her face doing gestures as she told a story to a group of beautiful young women. “ She invited me.”
“I know Ciku, she has been to our home I think once or twice before, with Agnes.” She says in agreement.
We ended up talking all afternoon. A very interesting young woman with a more interesting story.
It has been two weeks since I first met Ann, the lady from the baby shower. Remember her? Yes, that one. I called her two days ago and planned a date with her. She sounded excited about it, so we agreed to meet in tao and have lunch together. The place we are meeting is on Moi Avenue. A nice quiet Café that serves the most delicious butternut soup I have ever tasted.
I sit in a corner and wait for her. Ten minutes later, she wafts in like a breeze. Lean with smooth curvy hips, she is wearing pale orange coveralls that hug her curves well. I can’t see her feet, but from the way she walks, I can tell she has flat shoes on. Walking towards my direction, her face oozes calmness with a hint of nervousness.
“I am so sorry I am late,” she hugs me.
“You are not so late, I just arrived like two minutes ago,” I lie to make her calm.
“Still I should have been here at exactly 2pm,”
“It is okay, I am not complaining,” I give her my best smile that seems to work.
A waiter appears behind me and we order our food. When he leaves with our orders, Ann and I continue with our story from where we had left two weeks ago. Ann has a very interesting story.
“I met Lydia (we will not use her real name) through a former colleague. We had worked together with this colleague for two years when she started dating a South African guy. The relationship went well that when she got engaged, she decided to look for a job in South Africa.
On the day of her farewell party, I saw this extremely outgoing and stylish girl who had an American accent. From the way she talked, I could already tell she was street smart. I liked her immediately, but I didn’t say anything, even though we spend the evening dancing a lot and having so much fun.
At the end of the party, at around 11 pm, I decided to leave. When my Uber arrived and I was walking out, my new dancing partner came up to me and asked where I was heading. When I told her, she said she was heading in the same direction because she was spending her weekend at a cousin’s place. We took the cab and struck a conversation. It turned out we hang-out in the same Nairobi circles, we just had never met before. So we exchanged numbers and she promised to call so we could hang out.
Two weeks later, I received her call. She told me that there was this art expo happening at Rosslyn Mall in Runda the following Saturday and asked if I would like to join her with her friends to the event. I said yes.
We met at the event and I got to be more impressed by her. She knew a lot about painting; expressionism, abstract, modernism, surrealism, you name them.
There was just this one thing that caught a little bit of my attention but I dismissed it immediately as nothing. She kept looking at the older men in the room especially the white ones. Smiled at all of them while complaining of how her shoes were killing her.
After the art event, we became close. We would meet in town to have a cup of coffee before traffic subsided. We would go out on weekends. She is more of a party animal than me. She knows the best places to have a good time the bougie way and she also knows a place to have a good time the ghetto way.
Lydia liked to date guys with cash, especially the older ones, and would not spare a second glance on a guy who looked like he was struggling. I was not dating at that time. Dating was not in the cards for me as I was trying to be stable myself. So for two years, I watched her date different men. Not one single time did she come to me crying about being heartbroken. Her dating game was emotionally unattached so that when the relationship died, it was often of a natural death.”
She stops, when the waiter comes back with our food. He places what we ordered invites us to dig in with a broad smile then leaves.
“Did Lydia ever ask you about your dating life?” I ask.
“Yes, she did ask me and I told her that I wanted to make my own money first before I could bring someone into to my life. ‘Good for you,’ is what she said. But once in a while, she would tell me how I was missing out on the fun or how she had met a man who would be good for me,”
“And what did you tell her?”
“I always dismissed that conversation. The best thing about our friendship is the way we respected each other’s boundaries and also the way Lydia treated me like a sister. There were many times when I was dead broke and she would sort me out without a problem. If we went out and I was short on cash, she would buy drinks and made sure I was back home safely. That is one thing I will always be grateful to her. We became inseparable and we even started discussing money and investment plans.
Two years into the friendship, things were looking up for both of us. I had just gotten a promotion and the money was good. Lydia had started dating this guy from Zanzibar who spoilt her to no ends.”
“Didn’t you ever feel uncomfortable with Lydia’s lifestyle? Because it is very clear that was not your style but you guys were friends, you know the saying ‘birds of a feather…’”
“At, first it used to bother me, but then I felt like I was being judgemental so I stopped thinking about it. That was her life, and I had mine. Once in a while, I would tell her to be careful and she would answer ‘I am always careful Ann, more than you can imagine, but I am never going back to the ghetto life I came from.’ Also, she took care of me more than I did her, so it sounded more logical if I left her to her lifestyle as long as it didn’t affect me.”
“Seemed like a perfect arrangement, what happened?” I take a sip of my coffee.
“She later broke up with the Zanzibar guy, I didn’t know what happened because I never asked. Once when our friendship was still new, she broke up with a man. When I asked what happened, she said she didn’t want to talk about her past. So I stopped asking and let her tell me when she wanted to.”
“And did she ever tell you?”
“Yeah, a couple of breakups brought her to my house angry and disappointed, though never heartbroken.”
Ann takes a bite of her food and chews for a few second before going back to the story.
“So she broke up with the Zanzibar guy and this time it seemed to have hurt her. She swore to me that she was finally over men and was going to take care of herself. Which she did actually. For six months it was the two of us having fun (with other friends once in a while), going to workshops on weekends instead of parties. We even opened an account and started investing in Mutual Funds. Things were going well. There was no man to distract us.
Then one evening when we are having coffee at our favorite joint in tao, she tells me she is meeting her uncle that weekend whom she had not seen in like five years. The uncle travels a lot and has been in London for a whole year. I am excited for her and hope she gets to have fun.
“Come with me,” she asks me excitedly.
“No, I don’t want to intrude to a family affair.”
But she insists so much that I give in.
Saturday afternoon, she picks me up at my place. We arrive in Westlands at this fancy restaurant. The uncle is sitting on the balcony having a drink. A half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels is on the table. Next to it is another half bottle of coca-cola and a quarter-glass of the same drink with cubes of ice in it.
We sit while Lydia introduces us. The man who seems to be in his mid-fifties keeps throwing glances at me the whole time Lydia is talking which makes me uncomfortable. All of a sudden I feel cold and want to cover myself, but I don’t have a sweater since it is a warm day.
“How are you Ann,” the uncle greets me.
“I am fine, thank you,” I reply shyly.
“Would you like a drink?”
“No thank you,”
Instead of catching up with Lydia, talk about family and stuff, the uncle keeps asking me questions and initiating conversation. I look at Lydia for help. She doesn’t seem to mind, in fact, her attention has gone back to her phone. Food is brought. We all eat while I struggle to swallow mine with the uncle’s eyes all over me.
“What was that all about?” I ask Lydia when we get inside the Uber heading back home.
“What was all about?” she asks feigning innocence.
“Maybe this is just my imagination, but your uncle was all over me and you don’t seem to have a problem with it,”
She shrugs her shoulders. “Well, he is an adult, I can’t stop him from liking what he sees,”
“So you saw that too? I thought I was imagining things,”
“No I didn’t see anything. But If he is interested in you, would you see him?” she asks her eyes sparkling with mischievousness.
“No, he is way older than my father,”
“Oh come on, it’s just a fling. I don’t think he will be serious about it,”
“I am really not interested, Lydia,”
Fortunately the topic is dropped when Lydia asks to be dropped off in town as I continue with my journey home.
The next morning she calls to tell me that it’s true her uncle is really infatuated with me and would like to take me out. When I decline, it becomes another argument. She tells me how I should trust the man because he is her uncle and she will make sure nothing bad happens to me. I tell her to give me a week to think about it.
“Do you think about it?” I ask. The food on our plates has gone cold, no one is eating.
I have nothing to think about other than I can’t believe my best friend really wants me to sleep with her older-than-my-father uncle. The only thing I think about the whole week is how to avoid this sticky situation without having another major fight.
Friday night, she is at my place hanging out. Remember I told you, she hasn’t been dating or going out since the Zanzibar guy? So she hangs out a lot in my house or asks me to spend at her place. We sit in front of the TV to watch this series, I can’t remember the name, but it’s an older woman pretending to be in her twenties and dating this gorgeous guy. Lydia has been on her phone all evening, answering my conversation in monosyllables. ‘Maybe she has met another guy,’ I tell myself and ignore her. But something drastic happens. She puts the phone down, next to me, stands up absentmindedly and walks to my kitchen.
“I need something to drink,” she says as she walks away.
I look at the phone. The screen is open and the chat she has been having is accessible to my eyes. The conversation is about me. My curiosity piques and I pick up the phone and scroll up.
I can’t believe my eyes. The guy Lydia has been calling an uncle is a stranger she met at work. She has been busy pimping me up for the guy so she could be paid some good cash for both of us. I am shaking all over when Lydia walks back to me and finds me with her phone.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“Lydia what is this?”
“Why do you have my phone?”
“Please tell me this is a joke,” I whisper, all of a sudden I can’t find my voice.
She doesn’t answer my question, instead she takes her phone from my hand.
“Why would you do such a thing to me?” I am still whispering.
“I thought you needed some boost in the financial sector,” she finally answers with a laughter. I think to cover her tension.
“Did I tell you I needed money? I have always told you I don’t want to date yet you do me such a thing,” I am about to tear up by now.
“Well, you have been so uptight I wanted to help you open up a bit,”
“Uptight? Me keeping my values straight is uptight?”
“Oh so now I have no values?”
“You are the one who likes men for their money and not for love,”
“Love will not feed you anything. Those men you dismiss are the ones who have made me take care of you. You know sometimes I don’t understand you, I don’t even believe I am friends with you, you lack motivation, and you are not a go-getter. I have tried helping you get good money but now I am the villain. You know what, keep your mediocre life to yourself I can’t deal with this anymore!”
With that, she walks out of the door and out of my life. That was the most painful breakup I have had. Not even my first romantic breakup comes close to that.”
“I am so sorry,” I tell her.
She smiles, it is okay, it is in the past now.”
“Did you ever talk to each other again?”
“Nope, I blocked her.”
“Wow! That was harsh.”
“Maybe I will one day look for her, but for now, I am not so sure I want to see her.”
We walk outside and say our goodbyes.
Platonic friendships are just as complicated as romantic friendships.