Several moons back, as I was leaving work and headed home, I bumped into an old friend of mine, Sam. Dear old Friend. Sam and I were AIESEC Vice Presidents during the same term, albeit at different universities. We were in-charge of the same portfolio at our different universities, so we met relatively often at several events. Sam also went to high school in what happens to be the ‘brother school’ to my former school. (Who decides these things? That schools are now brothers and sisters? Who are their parents? Is Sam, and all other guys from my school’s brother school, now automatically in the friend zone? Brother zone? Does anyone know if that’s how these things work?) Point is, I know Sam from way back!
I bumped into him that day and small talk followed. Turns out he lives in the building right next to the building where I work. Does this make our buildings cousins? As is to be expected, passing promises were made to one day visit, he after all lives right there. A promise which, with no proposed date, I knew would come to nothing.
Then Linda came along.
Linda is another friend of mine made via AIESEC. AIESEC, if nothing else, gifted me numerous amazing friends from all corners of this globe, and then much much more. One Friday, several weeks after bumping into Sam, Linda calls me. “That date that we have had pending for a while, we must make it happen,” she says. So we do. After work we meet up and have several cocktails. Linda is entertaining a couple of German interns and after cocktails, whereas I am ready for my night to end, they are not. They are headed to Sam’s house for food and more pre-gaming before going out, the ultimate game?
I get dragged along, but being utterly unprepared for these events, when we get to Sam’s house, the first thing I ask is if he can lend me a jacket for the night. All I have on is a t-shirt and jeans. Nairobi nights would chew me whole and spit me out with a bout of pneumonia if I went out dressed like that. He lends me a jacket. I promise to get it back to him the following week, by Wednesday. Our buildings are after all cousins, getting the jacket to him would be easy kama ndizi.
The night ensues and then ends.
The next day, at home, Sam’s Jacket is hanging on my cupboard door. I get up and go about my various errands that day. Later, when I get home, the first thing my younger brother asks me is if he can have that new jacket I got, the one he has spotted in my room, hanging off of my cupboard door. Sam’s Jacket.
I successfully fight off my brother, I did after all promise to give the jacket back.
On Monday, in the hot blazing morning sun, as I walk to work, Sam’s Jacket is draped over the already leaden bag on my back. I must get it back to him.
I am at the office well before 8 am and try to call him, he does not pick up. Monday goes by. Sam’s Jacket is now draped over my chair at the office. I leave it there. I still have Tuesday and Wednesday to keep my promise.
Tuesday, I call Sam. This time he picks up, he has already left home. He had to attend a funeral. I offer my condolences. Tell him I will try again the next day.
Wednesday, I call Sam, no answer.
Thursday, I call Sam, no answer.
Friday, I call Sam, no answer.
I follow up with a Whatsapp message, “You are clearly not missing your jacket.”
Blue ticks. No response.
Sam’s Jacket finds a home draped on my seat at the office.
I stop trying to keep my already broken promise. One day, I will. I no longer know when that day will be.
Another Friday dawns. I get to the office nice and early but for some reason have some trouble getting into ‘the zone’. I finally settle on a task to tackle and head to our little kitchenette to add hot water and sugar to my Weetabix and proceed to have my breakfast. (Yes, hot water. Life of a lactose intolerant lover of ice-cream, I choose my battles.)
I turn into the kitchenette, optimistic about the day, and spot the lady who keeps the office in order lying on the floor. It knocks the air out of my lungs.
“Guys, Sharon is lying on the floor!” I wail.
Two of my colleagues have, all this time, been chatting in the lounge, right next to the kitchenette, completely unaware that Sharon lay motionless on the cold hard ground. One of them leaps, later she tells me that before she processed what I had said, she thought I had spotted a rat. How alike we are, rats also haunt me in my wakeful hours.
We get several guys to come carry Sharon into the lounge. We take cushions off the couch and put them on the ground so she is not lying on the ground.
“Her feet need to be elevated though, higher than her head,” someone says.
We take away the pillow beneath her head.
Everyone in the office is now gathered round. Everyone except Salama, his chair faces the opposite direction, his earphones are on, he is in the zone. He remains oblivious of everything happening behind his back. Later I tell him all about it.
“We should call an ambulance.”
“Who knows first aid?”
They are moving too slow for my liking. In my head, all I see is Sharon lying motionless on the ground. My impulse is to check her pulse but I am too scared of what I might find.
Graham goes for his phone, he will call an ambulance. Sharon’s phone, missing in action. No way to reach her next of kin. I run for my phone, I want to call my mother. I key in her number and then hesitate. How will my mother help in this situation? First aid tips perhaps? She is however not the person to call. I instead call our office ‘mother’, Neema. She is clear headed. She will call Sharon’s husband.
“Have you called an ambulance?”
“Yes,” I tell her.
“I will be there shortly. If the ambulance comes before I get there, let me know what hospital they take her to.”
Things quiet down. We wait, watching each other. Fanning Sharon. She comes to, starts to shiver, from lying on the cold hard ground for so long I suppose. I have a thought, ‘Sam’s Jacket!’
I grab it from my seat, drape it over Sharon, rub her back and shoulders hoping to inject some warmth into her. I wonder if she is shivering or having some sort of epileptic attack. What if we are doing it all wrong and making things worse? 15 minutes later the ambulance service calls back to ask if we will pay KES4000 for the service.
* what is wrong with our society? *
Neema arrives, she asks us to cancel the ambulance, they are taking much too long. Sharon has passed out again. We get her on one of our office chairs and roll her into the elevator, to the basement and into a colleagues car. She is rushed to hospital, Sam’s Jacket keeps her warm.
Later in the day, Neema, who rushed Sharon to hospital, gets back to the office. She hands my jacket back to me, Sam’s Jacket. “Thank you,” she says. “It was a great help.”
She lets us know that Sharon will be fine, she just needs loads of rest. Her husband was with her when they left her in hospital. I drape Sam’s Jacket back onto my chair.
The rest of the day ensues.
Another Friday dawns, I attend a Facebook Developers Party in the evening. This Facebook Developers Party takes place at the new iHub, in a building 200 meters down the road from my building, 250 meters down the road from Sam’s building. Our buildings’ cousin twice removed, I suspect. When the relations become this distant, it becomes a task to keep track. After the Facebook Party, I willingly accept derailment. Again, I am not appropriately dressed for Nairobi nights. I think of Sam’s Jacket, draped at its new found home. I pass by the office and get it.
The night ensues.
Monday morning, I do not trudge back to the office with it, it remains on the cupboard door in my bedroom
Almost a month later, this morning, I finally get tired of seeing it out of place, hanging on my cupboard door as opposed to inside the cupboard where clothes should be. I get a hanger and put it inside with the rest of my stuff.
All this time, not a peep from Sam.