How to maintain friendships

Friendship is like the muscles of our body. Lack of use makes the muscles weak. They sag, get out of shape and make us feel dissatisfied in the very long run. Unless one is a hermit living out his or her enlightenment dreams as a recluse somewhere with the lack of a mirror and death of desires, then having well toned muscles is not a problem. One can live with it. Old age is another time when muscles sag unflatteringly and that is understandable. It is part of an irreversible process, but even then some exercise which again is good in the long run can be done to make daily life more comfortable. The heart muscles get to pump blood better and one does not need to be out of breath ever so often. In any case, a little bit of exercise does no harm and muscles which can bear the rigorous routines of daily life are welcome. This is the same thing with friendship. It makes life as a whole bearable. We learn from friends, they pick us up when we fall and we do same for them. Iron sharpens iron and we become the better for it.

Friendship like love at first sight goes through stages. The first stage where our eyes and hearts are welcoming, our intellects light up because we , like C. S Lewis get to exclaim “ you too?!” . This is the stage where we discover things we share in common with people and decide we like them. Then comes the stage where things get normalized. We get to dig deeper into each others lives and share more intimate parts with them , hoping that they would not betray us. We share laughs and cry tears together and generally are there for each other. This is the stage of vibrancy. This is where friendship best flourishes and it is this place that the grass needs to be tended to make it forever green in our sight. The last stage is the death of a friendship. This happens because of so many reasons. Neglect, betrayal, growing apart because they did not grow together and so on.

How then should friendship be kept alive? Purpose. That’s the key word. In a consumerist society, I think purpose is the one thing that can be fed on to get positive results. Common goal is very important to keeping friendship alive. Friendship , true friendship is work. You need to receive and give, maybe not always in equal measure , but there should be frequent exchange if one’s friendship means something to you. A one- sided exchange leads to the going out of the last spark of life. Create time to indulge in things you both like. You like to read? Exchange books, talk about them. You love God? Help each other grow. Encourage each other in the Lord. Meet regularly and pray together. You have kids? Encourage and nurture interactions between them. Keep the integration going. Keep the freshness blazing. Don’t pull your friend down.

The idea is that we are not under any obligation to remain the same people we were five years ago, five months ago or even five seconds ago. Many friendships have fizzled because of the perceived betrayal the aggrieved party feels because this or that friend has not remained the same. This is ridiculous because change is the one constant thing in life. We should create space for people we call our friends to evolve out of preconceived boxes we have placed them in. We should in essence allow for differences in outlooks and opinions. We should respect our friends when they prefer chocolate to vanilla (using a simplistic example). As long as our fundamental beliefs or ties that bind us and made us attracted to each other is unaffected and as long as we do have a common link to enjoy each other’s company, then friendship can be nurtured over long lengths of time.

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WHY YOU NEED TO INSULT PEOPLE MORE OFTEN

Because peace of mind is highly overrated and because “ into pieces” rhymes just fine, we need to learn the subtle art of insult. Life is more interesting with a little action and drama now and then. Once in a while people need to be reminded that goats exist and they could actually be one , even though they look like humans. Sometimes our sense of perception can be messed up and we need others with clearer vision to see things for us so that we can be counted into the number as the saints are matching on. I mean the number of “ baboons” , “ apes”  or whatever delicious name our thrower of insults deems fit.

Now imagine you are driving in Nigeria and you happen to hit a woman’s car, break some things and generally just ruin the paint work. Imagine you are sexist and think women should not be seen on national roads, poor things, always so slow to catch up with their driving. What is the best thing to do? Right. Call her a bitch and tell her she is fat. If she insists that it was your fault for trying to cut in traffic, tell her a piece of your mind about what you think about her husband and his bastard children. Curse her past generation and remain in that spot until provoked to the point of physically assaulting her. That is obviously the way to go.

What happens next? You bet! A fight ensues and you will be arrested. Prison they say is quite interesting and can be likened to a vacation. It is there, after losing some teeth of yours and having a black eye or two that you might come to your senses about how many days you have missed from work and how much this court case would regrettably drag on, that you might reconsider how much restraint on the tongue is actually helpful.
In the meantime however, you can appreciate the benefits of insulting people. One of which is : Do not insult people.

Kidnapping wisdom( Humor)

The old man kept repeating that in all I do I should get wisdom and I should get understanding together with it. Reflecting back, I realize how much we have overrated the voice of the elders. Wisdom was a little boy, my neighbor’s son to be precise. I was a trained kidnapper, slightly off balanced in my head and we needed money. After hearing the old man speak that day however, I realized that destiny had been settled. I would kidnap Wisdom and look for the other one he called “ understanding” . I felt it was unsafe to ask the old man if he could prophesy the location of the appearance of a person with such name. Why? Because at this point, the old man who was also a preacher in the church I found myself in that day, was giving the invitation for people who needed to get both wisdom and understanding to come to the front. He was planning to pray for them. I might have joined. I mean even I thought some words of prayer might help with the kidnap. That day though, I left the church to kidnap as quickly as possible.

I kidnapped wisdom and took him to a forest. Saying “ I kidnapped him” might be the work of pride and excitement, because  I did not do this alone. We were a gang of six members. We took him to a bush and called his parents to give us six million. Even amongst us, we find the amount funny. The economy was bad, the parents of wisdom were poor and the voices in my head kept asking me “ but what about understanding?” . Where could I find such a person to kidnap?

On the second day after unfruitful talks with Wisdom’s parents, we lowered our price to make it affordable. Some of the guys who made up the gang complained bitterly that it had not been worth the stress. We has gotten ill in the bush because of drinking untreated water.  As I was sleeping and resting from the effects of the diarrhea I had suffered, I heard shouts from the tent in the bush we had set up. The police had found us out!

I heard Tunde, the leader of our gang scream the words “ abeg , abeg, you no understand! Abeg, abeg!” . A police man was hitting him on the head. We had been busted, but I began to see things in new light…

Maybe we should not have kidnapped Wisdom was the thought that kept revolving in my brain before I blacked out from a slap from a policeman. All I know is “ He was not understanding”

Rosie

 A drop of rain fell from the new crack in the ceiling and landed in the middle of her forehead just like the dots Indian women had .She let it roll slowly to the corners of her right eye and onto the pillow. Another drop hit her more fiercely this time as the rain was falling more intensely. She understood that as a command from the rain drops to get a basin to collect the rain water. She would also need to shift her mattress to a new position in the room. She did this briskly and then changed her clothes. She put on a dark, blue sweater and black jeans, got her umbrella out of her handbag , turned off the lights and with one brief look to see that all was tidy , she shut the door and went out into the darkness.

Her shoes were covered in mud but she kept walking. She paid the cab driver at the junction and got out as one who knew where and what it was she was looking for. Her handbag almost fell into a pool of water and stumbling over the logs of wood that had been put to enable people cross the gutter, she saw the hut. It was decorated with red markings on the door. She felt her hair rise on her skin even though nothing looked extraordinarily out of place there. This was it. This was the place she had been searching for.

Someone coughed behind her. Startled, she turned back to see a dark man holding a torch. He said nothing for some seconds as they both stared at each other. She stared back boldly, fiercely as if to inform him that she knew what she had really come for and  was not turning back . She would not be threatened because she had thought this through.

He walked to the front of the hut , wordlessly opened it and beckoned to her to get in after him. He closed the door only slightly . There was a lantern in the middle of the floor in a white circle drawn with chalk. Some feathers which looked as if they had been dipped in blood were hanging from a rope at the center of the room. There were odd shapes of bones on a small shelf by the side and drawings on the wall of strange looking figures. Then her eyes saw the basket and she let out a gasp. The basket was filled with human fingers.  He motioned for her to sit down on the floor , ignoring her shock.

“ When you are done, you must bring the spittle. That is my payment” , he said without any enquiry of her reason for coming , and as if they’d been discussing all along and had reached a mutual agreement, he stretched out his hand and dropped a container into her right hand.

“ Put it into the food. He will foam up and that is my payment.” He said and then began to laugh in a sick way. His body convulsed and the cool headed man he had been some minutes ago disappeared .

“Now, go!” he screamed and  held his head as if he had a splitting headache. She rushed to pick her bag up, careful not to hit the container , her heart pounding, she rushed out wondering if she was really going to do it .

The next morning, she dressed up very carefully. The man who had made her barren for life was coming to see her. She put the two rolls of moi moi carefully in a newspaper and into her bag. She heard the knock on the door  and went to open it. She already knew who it was as she had heard the sound of a car  honking at the kids in the compound to create space for him to park.

“ Good evening Rosie” he said. He could see that she was ready to go out as had been planned. He’d found her on the street selling moi moi a week ago . Encouraged by the sermon on restitution and  feeling sorry for making her life miserable during the days she’d worked as a maid in his home, he’d searched for her to apologize for the maltreatment. He didn’t know however that the abortion had made her barren for life.

“ Good evening” She replied as she walked out to lock the door. They got into the car and he drove to a quiet place close to the park. The windows were tinted. He finally parked the car and turned to look at her.

“Rosie” he began haltingly. “I am very sorry for all I did to you. Just like I said last week, I have become a born again Christian and I want to help you. I will provide for you and do anything in my power to support you. I will send you to school or open a business for you. Just name it”

Her eyes grew wide but the hatred surged up again. She had not completely zipped her handbag and the moi moi rolled out onto her laps.

“ What do you have there?” he asked. “ oh moi moi” and then he smiled. “Can I have one?”
Her heart began to beat fast as she wordlessly picked it up and gave it to him. It was not supposed to be this easy. She watched as he chewed . He coughed a little and looked at her from time to time as she pretended to wonder about his offer.  What had she done? She wondered in shock at her rash decision. She could always adopt. By now he was coughing more frequently and she began to panic.

“ Water! Water!” he screamed as he fell on the steering. The spittle dripped down but her hands were shaking. She ran out of the car leaving her bag with pictures of herself that she liked to carry around.

She ran…

Strays

To connect dots together, one should have hindsight enough to see the shape of the outline. Which dot should be connected to the adjacent dot? Should we begin from the beginning or from the end? We connect the dots and color the picture and beauty is birthed. Like marriage. Sometimes , the coloring happens outside the lines of the object and strays…

Getting into the arms of another when one is married is not a vow made at the altar. Definitely not on the altar of the church Michael and Jane had gotten married at. Jane’s father would have found the joke too bland to laugh at. After going through all the convincing which included getting Jane pregnant before marriage to prove to her conservative family that an artist son-in-law was what they had been dreaming of all their lives, he was not about to destroy all that with jokes of  having an affair.

But lately , things had been going sour. After the baby, she had grown distant, almost unresponsive. The baby became the  focus of her attention. The baby needed to have his milk, the baby had to have his rash taken care of, the baby had to have his diapers changed. It was his baby. Their baby. He understood that, but it felt as if instead of  a baby, they had built themselves a huge wall.  He helped out with lots of chores to create time for both of them, but she would complain of being tired, redo all he had done as if she didn’t trust him enough to do them correctly. Work made him tired .He was twenty eight and drawing was all he lived for. It was his religion. He needed to have his name known. Not even the remembrance of his father hitting him many evenings and sometimes with his large boots pressing against his head was going to stop him. If anything, it was his driving force. He was not a piece of worthless thrash as his father had called him many times. He was Michael and he would get anything everything he wanted. Anything like Jane.

He was loosing a bit of the inspiration now because of her frequent complaints about his travelling which were related to work.

“ But Jane, this is all part of my job”

“ Right.” She’d said curtly.

“ Come on Jane, we can’t be like this. Can’t you see we’re drifting apart? Let’s talk.” He’d said as he pulled her close. She jerked. They’d not touched each other for five months already.
****************************************************

She had been a student on holiday at that time, studying Political Science. He had met her one day on the street on his way to the coffee shop. She had been taking pictures and looked stunning in her flowing red gown. Like a goddess from medieval times  appearing in modern day earth. Her scarf had fallen to the ground unnoticed. He had stopped to watch her for a few seconds before proceeding to pick it up and they had talked a little bit about photography and why she needed that particular picture for her blog. They had walked in together to have coffee and he hadn’t been wearing a band on his wedding finger.

“ Let’s meet again next Saturday?”

She’d smiled shyly and they had met again and again.

“My wife doesn’t want to talk to me anymore” he’d told Rose one night. They’d been together for five months already meeting more frequently these days.

“ Why can’t you divorce her?” she’d asked

“ I can’t” , he’d replied.

He didn’t want to be like his father. And the baby? His baby. That was why he still stayed. He’d offered counselling for both of them but Jane had turned her nose down  and after attending two weeks, she’d quit going. She’d begun to add weight and was attending more parties her  elite club of female friends kept throwing. Having a child in that group and talking about whose child went to the most expensive school and could do this and that was the topic that dominated their conversations. Jane probably dreamt of when she would join them. She couldn’t wait for the baby to grow up.

“ she’s not the woman I married” , he’d said sighing.

The. Humans.

The Human beings were living up to their reputation. If they did not like someone, they wrote about him in the newspapers, if this person was a young thief, they burnt him in the market and filmed it on their devices. Sometimes, they expressed shock over their leaders and drew caricatures to show their annoyance at their facial features or other body defects. They perceived that this would somehow help resolve their frequent travelling outside to other continents instead of focusing on their countries. The root of the problem must be in the build up of a man. These leaders could be racist too and then the humans would create comedy shows around them and write long epistles on social media to talk about it. Whether this was helpful or not is not for one to say. It is just that the humans were doing it all the same.

The humans were suffering from a disease that had always existed but was getting worse as the centuries rolled by. They called it the tolerance disease or the lack of it or intolerance. They couldn’t really agree on it’s definition. Some fractions of human domain thought that being tolerant meant one should never oppose another’s view. Others thought being tolerant meant having other humans validate their viewpoint. If they did not, it meant they were intolerant. Another group felt tolerance meant understanding each others views, proposing one’s ideas , but never imposing . This group felt that laws should protect the freedom of everyone to practice what they believed and not infringe on other’s freedom to practice what they believed. This idea was becoming harder to accept because the intolerance disease was spreading fast making the humans intolerant to this.

The human beings were living like hamsters, recycling their lives over and over again. Changing the world but remaining unaffected to change. They wore new clothes and had new technology but they still remained the same at heart. Culture was good. It made them refined in public, but their marriages were breaking down because that happened in private. Many of them were suffering from disorders because sadness happened not in the public square where an utterance of how fine they were was all they needed to say. They blamed it on the fast life, on civilization. They said it would be the ruin of them. We agree. Not civilization. We think the fast life might be to blame.
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Be kind

I don’t like going out. I really don’t.Chimamada once said that she could imagine herself in her house at Enugu all day long and perfectly happy muttering something to herself. I imagine I would be happy doing that as well as long as I have lots of food to eat and other things human females need. I have been feeling hungrier these days and eating more but that’s by the way. The “real way” is that yesterday I took a bus to go buy some things. Ukrainian buses can be interesting. I don’t mean city buses though. There, you have strangers because that’s how the city is. Village to town buses and vice versa are different however. Here, you meet regular people, your neighbours and your regular bus driver. People exchange news and gossip and so on.

Two years ago, our village bus had a regular visitor. She was always cheerful and kind. Always active cleaning around the ” vokzal” which translates as train station in English. Nastya would always talk about her ” belly” with the bus driver. She would talk with the locals on the bus about her family and other bus drivers and wives. Sometimes she would talk angrily and other times she would smile for no reason in particular. Everyone understood that nastya was mentally ill. Good natured but ill all the same. We were all sad to hear that Nastya had been found dead one day at night with some of her organs missing. I was shocked and sad because I had grown attached to her somehow.

Ukraine is very popular because of it’s drinking culture. Alcohol is cheap here and it’s not uncommon to find women drunk as well. In village buses, having a drunk person can be interesting and that is what happened yesterday. Now , I am not trying to say that drunk people are sources of entertainment. No,I don’t support laughing or making fun of drunk people. I have an alcoholic uncle and I know the sorrow his alcoholism has brought on my family. I am naturally a very curious person even though I don’t talk too much. I watch stealthily because it is rude to stare too much and I listen too.  I am interested in stories you see.

SoI watched her as she sat opposite me on the bus yesterday with a bag of meat on her laps. Her hands were surprising very smooth and looked soft. I notice things like that about people. She had a  face, missing teeth and scattered hair. She looked unkempt but not aggresive. She was drunk.She began to talk to an old lady by her side about dogs and how she likes them. How she is not ashamed that her dog lies close to her. The older lady asked her what business she had with her story , but nameless drunk kept talking. In no time, old lady began to talk kindly to her. I was impressed. She talked when we were all avoiding eye contact and the breath of this drunk lady. She asked her where she lived and who she lived with. Our lady replied she lived alone. I felt sad .

Our lady asked why we all have to carry “хрест” . The word means ” burden”. The old lady replied that each of us have our individual problems. I suddenly felt exposed.I felt like a dirty secret had been let out. I mean I understand that everyone has something they are struggling with, but sitting in that bus I began to wonder about the old lady. I wondered what this kind faced woman was facing and I wondered if the handsome man by my side could see my own burdens. I didn’t want him to. I don’t want to feel so exposed in a bus like that. But there it was. We all have burdens. That’s one thing you should know. You meet someone and ask them their name. Next thing you should register after doing that is that for a fact ,so and so person has a problem weighing them down. We are all humans.

To conclude, I’d just say I want to be like that old lady. I want people to be kind to one another. More happened on the bus that I don’t want to share now, but it gave me lots to think about.