You don’t notice at first. Especially if the death has been long, lingering, the type where the concerned imperceptibly change from asking, ‘How are they?’ to silent wondering, “When will they die? I’m going to use this mabugo money I’ve saved up if they don’t die soon.”
Now some people say a friendship is dead when the time between the phone calls begins to stretch, when the late night texts on a flitting thought are no longer so numerous, when the first person on the invite list is no longer that friend.
Some people believe a friendship begins to die when you no longer think of the friend and you as one and bonded-your charted destiny in life twinned. When their success begins to raise those first puzzling pangs of, oh God, I actually I’m envious. I didn’t want her to get that! That there is no more powerful friendship killer than when you first begin to take sides and the friend is on the other side and some day, quite by surprise, catch yourself trash talking them, supplying choice morsels you hope will be telegraphed on the gossip grapevine, to hurt them.
The biggest friendship killer many believe of course, right after the sand dividing line of success and failure, is the friend finding a lover, a confidante who will know them (even if you think superficially) in ways you will never know the friend. You may have bunkered together for six years in boarding school, learned how to navigate the older class bullies together or that failing cheered each other after foul treatment, planned and bussed together on first trips out of the country, to see Bujumbura and Kigali, came back and though people talk of the air magic of Dar-es-Salaam, you two have a fondness of Mwanza because of what happened in Mwanza, you know, bonded you together for life-there was a test and your friendship passed. But nothing ends, or tempers down a friendship, like a lover between you, many say.
All the deaths of friendship are mundane. If you were to step back, like an accountant going over the figures of a trembling clerk from out of town at the head office, you might laugh too. At the figure you make, skulking and sometimes letting your rage get the better of you, sounding a cheated on spouse venting for the first time. You feel good but you will feel much, much worse later when it happens all over again you find yourself sitting at a kafunda you frequented for six years together-and promised each other, whenever one of you had travelled, this should be the first place you meet up before anywhere else-they have forgotten again.
No one understands, when a friendship is dying, except you who is losing the friendship. Like dying love, one person loses, the other hardly notices, consumed in their evolving new attachments. You will be typing an email, six paragraphs of breathless excitement into it, when you will realise these details are no longer of any concern to them-this email will probably be marked READ without being read, if there is still any courtesy for the friendship you shared.
Friendships are born and die-and you move on, someone will tell you. Perhaps you will have to read it as a legend on some t-shirt as you are struggling up town in the morning crowd from the Old Taxi Park and it will hit you, right there, like a loose brick pried from the delicate looking five storey building under construction, hurtling through the air with deadly intent to be blasted into tiny pieces in a spot one second ago you were standing. This friendship is over. Stoop in front of Mutaasa Kafeero to ask the woman there to sell you ‘sweet Pepsi’ of 300 shillings and a 500 shillings handkerchief because, ‘The dust of this town, ah!’ its making you tear up.