Social media is good. You can rack up countless number of friends, blog endless stories of your fantastic life and be idolized over your washboard abs by tens of thousands of people around the world. But beware; social media is not the real world. There is a world of difference between the two and only the diligent few have managed to transcend this barrier. Why am I rehearsing this story? I lost a ‘supposedly’ close friend to leukemia a while ago. I wasn’t even aware until one and half years later when I woke to a birthday notification on Facebook for him. I am deeply heartbroken because he wasn’t the social media hook up-turned-friend. We were friends before social media, but as the years flew by, it was on social media and not our hearts that we eventually laid our bond. We were content to scroll through each other’s page and leave a comment here and there but never really doing much to reengage on the physical level. Yet, as I scrolled through his page on this particular day, all I saw were tributes from very few friends and family; none from me, and I am here asking myself where I was when all these were happening.
Ayke was my on-and-off muse with whom I bounced off some of my silliest ideas. You know that one person who manages to bust your bubbles every now and then in the canniest of ways. And yes, we explored. Ayke had a sexual energy brimming full with life. Its crest was a wave of creativity unleashed in the most laborious sweat and passions imaginable. We knew we were kindred spirits from the first day we met on Christmas Eve of 2003, when a mutual friend promised and brought him to my house as “my Christmas present” for a boring day. We met for dinner at Tetrazzini restaurant in Ajao Estate, Lagos and he literally popped out of the box with his striking good looks, intelligence, youth and willingness to open himself to ideas. He had just entered medical school in Awka and even though he told me that he wasn’t interested in keeping monogamous relationships, we kept in touch all through all those years to his graduation and return to Lagos to commence his medical career.
His last Facebook post was barely a year after we last met. I remember I was moving into my new home and he came to help me unpack. Later, as we discussed his new work in Festac and how he was saving for an apartment, I showed him the Boy’s Quarters behind the building and offered it to him as his residence while he continues his medical practice. He turned it down because he felt the distance from Lekki to Festac was a hindrance and besides, he didn’t want to impose on me – his own way of saying, “I don’t want you looking over my shoulders.” Anyway, as he departed that day, I asked him to keep in touch. He never did. I believe we spoke once or twice afterwards on phone but he essentially never did keep in touch. I’ll never know how the months passed so quickly that it took me a Facebook notification after more than one and half years to learn of his passing. How can I forgive myself for not showing enough care when it was demanded of me? What sort of friend am I that it takes machines and algorithms for me to know the happenings in the lives of my friends?
I am terribly upset about the whole event because it tells a lot about my friendships, values and relationships. I am sad that I have been found wanting when I should have been in the front row. I am looking to pay my condolences to his family and visit the grave site, but his sister now tells me that that is impossible because Ayke died young and traditional customs does not see him as befitting to be buried in the family compound. So they hurled him off to be buried in a graceless spot somewhere in Obosi, Anambra State, in an unmarked grave. Ayke, dear Ayke, lies for eternity in a desolate spot; to be forgotten by history, unloved and in company of strange spirits he had no affiliations with in life. I mean, this was a great guy; freshly minted from medical school and looking towards life with verve and ambition. Yet, they have told his story in death like he was loveless and unaccomplished. The grave is our common destiny, may we be deserving of the spot we spend eternity.
God grant me the courage to change because I want to be there for my friends. I have to change for the friendships I thought I have that are not really there. I have to change because I wish to live in the hearts and not the loins of my relationships. I have to change because everyone needs to have his story told by those who know the story well.
I promise to be a friend to my friends – people who have interacted with me, visited me and know me. I promise to be a friend to people who have given their best to get to know me while I battled my inner demons. I promise never to take the backseat anymore in our relationships; never to throw money at your problems or wave aside your fears. I promise to visit you, give you a listening ear and when you are down, give you a shoulder to lean on. I promise never to have my heart so calloused that I will be uncaring to your friendship. Life is transient and we are here only for a fleeting time. I want to use this lifetime to laugh with you, play with you and work with you. I want to take a front row seat in your life, if you let me, to share in your joys and sadness. Let no man tell me a story about you that I should have known but did not. For it is because of you that my life is complete.
Written by Kritzmoritz