Some of you know my homelessness story. Last year, my landlady evicted me on the second day after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that our country had its first Covid-19 cases. I was homeless for 11 days.
I thank God for that humbling and hurting experience. During that time, and subsequently – when folks came through for me – I learnt about true and false friendships. During this hectic pandemic time, I know that a good number of men have gone through the same experience.
I hope you have used this learning curve to understand who is the real McCoy; to differentiate between wheat and tares. I think that, sometimes, bitter stuff happens to us to make better men.
Third night of my homeless. I am out in the cold. I call my best friend, Osiepa*. We grew up together. Attended the same primary school. Hustled together. It’s a friendship of 30-plus years. We have been through all kinds of stuff together. I wanted to let Osiepa know what I was going through so that he would not say that I did not share my pain in case anything happened to me.
We spoke on the phone with Osiepa. I was famished. I think that, that night, I had a four-course dinner. An orange, cut into four pieces. I’m cold. The wind was howling. I hadn’t taken a shower in two or three days. Hadn’t changed clothes in that same number of days. I was stinking, and a skunk had nothing on me. I needed Osiepa to be a friend indeed. We spoke and hung up.
Guilt got the better of him
I did not hear from Osiepa for about a month. By that time, I already knew who he was. Like most men, I start questioning if I reaped what I sowed. Suppose I had been an excellent friend to Osiepa. As men, at times like this, we second-guess ourselves. This is an internal debate that men have if and when our friends do something untoward to us. Like scheming to have us conned of our hard-earned money. Or sleeping with our ex-wife.
A month later, Osiepa sent me 1,000 bob. He followed it with a text message. He apologised. Said he knew the 1k was not much, but he hoped it would help. Well, I may have been born at night; but I wasn’t born last night. I knew what Osiepa was doing. His guilt has got the better of him.
Now, here is the problem. Friendship is not all about money. Well, money will solve problems. But, during this pandemic, a man needs a friend who, when he calls, will walk all the way and spend the night with you out in the cold … and share that four-course dinner with you. Or, will invite you to spend the night on your couch. You don’t throw money at a problem, but love. Money comes after love. Love doesn’t wait four whole weeks to drag its feet to the rescue. Love sends text messages throughout the night. Love calls incessantly. Love worries itself sick for that brother who is out in the cold. Love will break Covid-19 lockdown protocols to reach a homeless brother.
At times, a supposed friend will pull a stunt in one night, which will make you question if you have been living a lie for the past 30 years. Or it could be that, perhaps, there is a new dimension that you are going to, and what has to be separated from tares.
Covid-19 has been different things to different people. Me? To quote Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds’ song, I am learning about “Drama, Love and ‘Lationships”. And it’s a learning that no man could have in any other class but Covid’s.