This is for you my friend, my muse, the one reason why I still go across town when I’m in Kampala…because you asked. I’m no longer in the waiting room of life.
This was not going to be a blog post. This was not going to be even an ordinary newspaper article in a Ugandan newspaper. Or in any part of the world. This was going to be an apologia, an explanation on why I drink and have been drinking since I was in my teens and I’m not about to stop. Then my birthday happened and to my dismay threw me off course. Birthdays do that to you, I was warned, as you approach 30. It’s worse when you are approaching 40, and 50, everyone should forgive you whatever sins you commit.
I drink Gilbey’s Gin now in memory of one of my oldest friends, among the first to die who brought with him in his end a taste sharper than the whiplash of Gilbey’s on my tongue how short life is. I drink Gilbey’s sometimes when I want to be alone, when I want to remember him and to remember those moments, those seven years of friendship beginning in secondary school into our first year in university. Seven years that began in our senior two and in afternoon and evening parties at his father’s house where first he taught me to drink Gilbey’s.
Did not teach me, showed me a stash of four bottles he had in his cupboard and told me that he had managed to crib those from his father, who only drank Gilbey’s, so now he too drank this only. When he could drink. Or go against all the doctor’s warnings when we all seemed to be having so much fun he did not want to be left out, slum staggering from one kafunda to the next, when we were four friends and the world belonged to us.
Let me tell you about my friend Busingye Edward. I have lost friends twice who should have been my best friends but at the time I did not know they were so vital to me. Busingye Edward was the first and after him, though I had many friends afterwards, I was too much on the alert to enjoy all the friendships that came after him. It was not until another chapter of my life had begun and I did not think there was any possibility of a long life there that I met another friend who was supposed to be my best friend. Losing a friend is like losing a lover. It aches and throbs the same way and years later, you will hear a word spoken, walking down a street see the shape of the back of someone’s head, hear a song and they will come flooding back and no one will understand why you insist on buying Gilbey’s on a Saturday afternoon at Imatongas Mart and remaining home on a night when you would have been one of the honoured guests with The Obsessions in Juba in New York Discotheque, Juba’s first all night discotheque.
It is not that I’m obsessed with the past, held in thrall, and with every future stride, wonder what I’m leaving behind. It is not past adventures, past lovers, past accomplishments, astounding feats of physique and mind matter that hold me but fickle memory and what that robot in Blade Runner blurted, “All these memories will be lost, like tears in rain,” that draws me to reflect and like Be Silent try to hold onto these moments that define us without us defining them. I used to think Caesar of Rome floating down a barge with Cleopatra of Egypt feeding him peaches was different from Sarkozy of France on a beach cavorting with Carla Bruni but I learn now that the faces change, the centuries but never what this thing we breathe called life exposes our hearts too and teaches each of us in their individual life. A human life is a moment in the racetrack of history and I want my moments to live on when I do not.
I have been morbid since I returned to Juba in March this year when everything and everyone said I should not. I mean what do you say when your mother says she once had a dream that her son had died in Sudan, she could not identify which son, but her son had died in Sudan and you’re working in Sudan, have survived more than one death scare and death scare situations happen almost daily and only your caution forces you to walk away and there are things you will never tell anyone back home that you have seen here that you never thought you would ever see with your own eyes? There are a few things you must do but you can never tell the ones who worry if you have had lunch and should they speed express you money until you have done those things. The things that bring you closer to the final shutting of your eyes in dead eyed sleep than you have ever come. But if you survive them, you know you’re going to live forever!
Yeah, I think of my own end and how to postpone that end for as long as possible without discarding the life I lead. Because I know I could never live without an element of danger, I could never live knowing what each day 365 days of my year would be like for the rest of my scheduled life, unpredictability will always draw me but I also want to live long enough to die among my grandchildren like my grandfather did in the house of his only daughter but I do not want his life. I want my life and I want it to be long. I’m praying for it to be long, on my birthday.
Before all this though; teach me to love life more, teach me to relish moments on moments more greedily than I currently do, teach me to say YES more to life than NO.