Thursday, November 24, 2016

You Never Unlove People

You never unlove people. You don’t wake up one morning and find you no longer love the person you once loved. It doesn’t happen when you give it a month. Or a year. Maybe not even in a lifetime. 

You will always love the people you once loved. Memories of them, all of them, will gather into what looks like a road trip you meticulously planned but never took. Something both familiar and alien. Those gathered memories will run parallel to your every day life. In some ways they will seem to grow, evolve, as if they were a living thing. In other ways they will seem cartoonishly stunted. But mostly they will seem to mock your real life with the unspent possibilities they always hold. 

You never unlove people and they never leave. No matter how far they travel. No matter how emphatically they rejected you. No matter how unthinking and cruel they were in the end. No matter how misguided the whole venture eventually came to seem. If they once came in, they never leave. You never unlove people. 

What happens is that you come to terms with the futility of wanting them. Or perhaps, the futility of wanting them exhausts you. One day you wake up and you know this: given another chance, I am too exhausted, too beat, to show up for the job. 

This isn’t a tale in which I tell you how to deal. I haven’t the faintest idea. Maybe you don’t deal. Maybe the cynics are right, after all; we are dying everyday. So those memories; ghosts of parts of you that are now dead, are dead cells off your soul. But unlike dead skin cells, there isn’t an ointment to oil them off you. There isn’t a set of rituals to implement and eventually check them off as resolved. Maybe you just find a place for them somewhere inside you. An urn, for all the loves gone futile. Maybe you curl the rest of the journey around them. I haven’t the faintest idea. All I know is that is that you never unlove people. You don’t. I don’t. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Silver Linings: Four Books That Have Given Me Life, This Heartache Season

This is my earliest memory of reading: I am 8, 9 or thereabout. It’s probably the long school holidays, at the end of the year. I just completed P.4. Could have been P.5 or P.3. The contextual memories are fuzzy but the immediate experiential ones aren’t. The specific moment I remember is this: I am lying on the grass in my grandmother’s large compound. Somewhere beyond my head, my cousins are playing football; our family on one team, kids from the neighbourhood on the other. Their play sounds riotous and fun, but I am crying. I can hardly see the page of the book I am reading but I am reading anyway and making myself cry even harder. The book is David Copperfield. My grief? His grief. Why are adults so cruel to a child? I just cannot; as we say these days. From the back end of the compound emerges my grandmother. Somebody probably noticed my crying over the days I have been reading the book and ‘reported’ me to her. Now, she watches me silently. Only one of my eye half sees her silhouette. I can’t tear myself away from the book and my associated grief to fully look at her. She watches for a while, makes up her mind about something and leaves me alone. 

Later that evening, she had one of my cousins write an explanatory letter and a few days later sent me back home to my parents with it. That was okay, though. I finished the book before she could find a trusted traveller to take me along with them from Mubende to Kampala.

My cousins wrote that letter in a team. One that included my big sister. Of course they embellished it. Have you been a child given a chance to tell on another? My mother was pretty upset about it content. “Why would you misbehave so badly at my mother’s home. Grieving for days like you had been orphaned. Do you really hate your grandmother that much? The woman who gave birth to me and looked after you during the war and when I went back to Busuubiizi college? What kind of ungrateful child are you?” Imagine then, how deflated she was when I explain that it wasn’t about me. “It is just that in England, there is a boy called David Copperfield who lives with his mother and stepfather and they really mistreat him. They even locked him up in a dark room. The stepfather beat him and his mother let him do it because she wants him to love her and now she no longer loves her child and yet she is the one who gave birth to him.” 

Long story short, my mother explained that stories are just made up but acknowledged that it is legitimate to cry your heart out over them. As a teenager, she too had cried her eyes out over Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine. Then, she came to the completely logical conclusion that what I needed going forward was more books. Before I could complete primary school, I was reading Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino, a text she had been assigned at university.

I have told the above story before. What I have never explained about it, is what got me reading a book when a kid, even the socially awkward kid I was, would have been out playing with the others. Play, not books, is why we all loved holidaying in the village. Those endless options for hiding places in games of hide and seek. That fat cousin, who always ended up the seeker because even if she found your hiding place, you would outrun her, kick the tin into a bush and go back into hiding before she retrieved it. No, that wasn’t mean. Those were the legit rules of the game. 

Yeah, so why was I reading a book instead? Because my big sister had stopped loving me. My big sister used to be divinity itself. In my eyes, of course. The eyes of a little girl whose big sister made the prettiest banana fibre dolls for her, warmed her bath water and cooled her tea. I don’t know why my big sister stopped loving me like that. One day she was my protector, caregiver, best friend; and the next she was a mean person who didn’t choose me for her side in kwepena, and walked to church with my cousins, leaving me far behind. I mean, dogs could have eaten me off that village path and she would not have even noticed, given how far ahead she was. Change is cruel, and that particular holiday is when I first noticed those changes in our relationship. So, I turned to a book. 

I still turn to books to when I am in pain. If pain is the cloud, the great books to it leads me to, are silver linings. I have been in pain lately. Heartache, again. As it was in the beginning, although of course, this time it involves a man. Following a two year entanglement in a loop of confusion that tripped over itself at every turn, we stopped.  We stopped because we each deserve; if not better lovers, better lives. And because that’s just my level of maturity, the end, is exactly when I fully recognized how utterly in love, I had been all along. 

Initially, I was pretty sure heartache would leave me blind. Every morning, I would wake up to discover that fog was the new atmosphere. I could barely see the floor my feet landed on or my face in the mirror as I brushed. If I squinted tight enough, I could see my skin; a grey featureless thing. But I didn’t go blind. Indeed, through the tears I could clearly make out words in books. So I read books. As it was in the beginning. 

The books; the silver linings:  

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis
This came to me through my book club. My book club of 13 of this country’s brightest, most fiercely feminist women. This book club is for me what church is for a nun; a watering hole for my soul. In A Grief Observed, Lewis mourns the passing of his lover and wife, H. It is a beautiful, beautiful text. I am atheist. Lewis was religious and so is his grief. You would think that would present a disconnect for the atheist reader but it didn’t for me. He steps away from, navigates through and succumbs to pain, by intellectualising. That certainly is something I can relate with. Where he intellectualizes and questions his God, I intellectualise and question what I hold sacred: my belief in the fundamental good nature of human beings; of myself as one of those human beings. But, perhaps the biggest gift this book gave me was the passage below. 

He supposes that our beings are each a sphere or globe — unimaginable, eternal somethings, but the part of our beings that we share with others, as in love, are circles (circles are slices of spheres). Grieving the loss of love (in his case to a lover’s death) he writes of: 
“Two circles that touched. But those two circles, above all the point at which they touched, are the very thing I am mourning for, homesick for, famished for. You tell me, ‘she goes on.’ But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back. Be a circle, touching my circle on the plane of Nature. But I know this is impossible. I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace. On any view what- ever, to say, ‘H. is dead,’ is to say, ‘All that is gone.’ It is a part of the past. And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time itself is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where ‘the former things have passed away.” 

Now, of course, the man lost his wife so I am not going to compare my own failures in love to his grief, but I found a lot to relate to in how religion fails to console this very religious man. Our life tools, whatever they might be; humour, writing, philosophy, god-belief, etc; gathered and tested over time to keep us from despair, have a way of abandoning us when we are at our most desperate. You can measure the depth of my pain by inability to write, even though in the first place, I write for the craft’s therapeutical powers. I imagine religious people love God at least in part, for how he lends them power to overcome. Yet here is C.S. Lewis writing, 

“Talk to me about the truth of religion  and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions ‘on the further shore,’ pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the spiritualists bait their hook! ‘Things on this side are not so different after all.’ There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored. And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.”

Oh, sigh… How badly, I want “the happy past restored!” How many midnight entreaties I have spoken into the empty air! Even knowing the futility of it all. Even doubting that the ‘happy past’ ever existed as I remember it.  There is a lot in that book. You should read it. 

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknovitch
Ms Yuknovitch was a screwed up, screw up. With an alcoholic mother and a physically and sexually abusive father, she started life off with all the disadvantages you need if you are gonna be a loser. And she set right onto that path. She could swim like a fish and that got her into college on full scholarship. She quickly went on to lose that scholarship — because of rage channelled into drugs, hyper sexuality, alcohol and other damaged daughter things. Before she was 30, she had gone through a divorce, had a still born child, seen both sides of several  rehab doors, and she wasn’t anything like done with that self destruct road. 

This book, this memoir, is an invaluable gift from a damaged daughter to all of us who have picked up a cocktail of damage along the way. It doesn’t tell us about healing; because we, the damaged, are not guaranteed to heal. But it tells us about being. It says there are places for us anyway. Spaces that might even bring us healing. For her, and I suspect for me too eventually, that space is creativity and its intellectual circles. 

However, in the immediate, when my misery sought company, this book was like whispered code from my secret self. A self I suppress, so that I can have a functional level of self esteem. A self I hide from others, such that they may respect me enough to: hire me, report to me, have an intellectual argument with me, have fun sex with me without being burdened by my histories. A self that has learnt to never show up, until, of course, I am driven insane by circles touching mine too close, too well.  Abandoned daughter; not someone you can just want. Illegitimate daughter; an apology. Sexually assaulted girl; good for the body but not for love. 

I want to paste here, all the passages that speak to damage but I’ll exercise some self restraint. 

“This is something I know: damaged women? We don’t think we deserve kindness. In fact, when kindness happens to us, we go a little berserk. It’s threatening. Deeply. Because if I have to admit how profoundly I need kindness, I have to admit that I hid the me who deserves it down in a sadness well.” 

And so of course, we don’t know how to accept kindness or generosity. 

“You see, it is important to understand how damaged people don’t always know how to say yes, or to choose the big thing, even when it is right in front of them. It’s a shame we carry. The shame of wanting something good. The shame of feeling something good. The shame of not believing we deserve to stand in the same room in the same way as all those we admire. Big red As on our chests.” 

I wanted this book to adopt me because this book understands and accepts. 

But you? Read this book because Ms Yuknovitch uses her body as a literary canvas and she isn't "what you'd call a blushing flower." She has loved women, men, athletes, scholars, professors, painters, musicians, writers, losers, the works. She's been going at it like a rabbit since her early teens; alone, with single partners, in groups, with a woman professor who used to lash her vagina and preferred to be called Mummy. She's done it all and it's written on the page in delicious detail. Go live. 

I Didn’t Do It for You by Michela Wrong
After The Chronology of Water, I was ready to step out of myself. So, on to political history. I Didn’t Do it for You is a 100 year history of Eritrea, right up to 2002. If you are going to take a crash course in the history of a country, I say 395 pages of fast reading is quite a bargain. These 395 pages, I dare say, are also the best Michela Wrong has written yet, not counting the novel because it is fiction and I haven’t read it yet. I have read all the others, or at least started to and the obvious difference with this one; is how fast it goes along. Perhaps because she is going towards fiction writing as a writer, this book animates the events better, sets scenes more vividly, and plays characters off each other more dramatically. I am still reading it and I do actually sneak an hour off work, here and there to get a chapter in. The general arc is that the world  really screwed Eritrea over and over, but that’s a familiar African story. The plot twist in this case is; Ethiopia. As in, an African country colonized another African country. Very recently too. And with all the unashamed zealousness, deceit and brutality of every colonial power ever. It’s definitely worth getting into those details.  Also, it really made me regret naming my child with a nod to Haile Selassie. Going forward, I am going to have to tell people that I named her after Eminem’s daughter. 

The Bin Ladens by Steve Coll
This book isn’t about Osama Bin Laden. It is about the family he came from, an assortment of millionaire characters so eclectic and amusing, the pages of the book are a reality show. There is the patriarch who proposed to his four western girlfriends at the same time, in the same room, helpfully elaborating that he would build them a four house compound in Saudi Arabia and each house would fly the flag of the wife’s country: like a UN compound. There was the brother who used to hire a top range Mercedes Benz on rainy days because his Rolls Royce just didn’t deserve to be burdened through the rain. Then of course there was Osama Bin Laden, investor in international terrorism, lover of loud explosions with a penchant for making and watching videos of himself. Steady handed brothers who built and maintained a business empire through the worst international PR disaster imaginable. Women as varied as the world itself; pilots, businesswomen, housewives, a struggling, but hilariously high maintenance, artist on first name terms with Paul McCartney, of the Beatles. Reading this book was so much fun, I, for a while, took to waking up at 4am to get chapters in. Its end felt like a break-up. But for a change, a break-up I can balm with a quick replacement; I have two more Steve Colls on my shelf. 

Side note to journalists: Steve Coll’s books are the closest thing to a true journalism textbook; they come with about 150 pages of notes and citation of source material to make you hang your head in shame for every “he said, she said” story you ever wrote. Read him. Read every book he ever wrote. It will amount to at least 50% of a masters degree in journalism. 

Ah, Books! Mending my heart since the early 1990s! 

Now, while books can mend your heart; here is something they can’t do. They can’t cure you of love. On that, you are on you own, friend. You and the person you love, if they happen to love you back. As for me, now in the immediate, burn incense and tell the goddess to take over. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Poet and His Muse

“I want a romance so grand, so resplendent, they will write literature about us. I want poetry,” he said. 

“I want the everyday mundane,” I said calmly but with metaphorical heels dug in. 

“But that is what I am leaving behind; a wife, kids and in-laws. The honourable correct path whose joys we exaggerate to convince ourselves that it is worth the price we pay,” he said.

“Stiff price indeed; unified with the people we purport to love. Are you trying to sell me on your merits as a human being? If you are, slow down. You just shot past the mark.” I started to get my sarcastic warrior fully dressed for battle. 

He sighed. “Oh come on. You know what I mean. I have tried this thing. I did my best but flanked. Our kids even love her more and chose to stay with her. What’s going to save me is a shot at something I haven’t already failed at. A romantic, poetic love.” 

“Well, I am not how you reinvent yourself, Tom. I am merely the woman who fell in love with you long before I realised I was something of a vacation rental: a calm pretty resort away from real life. I am only a woman who loves you and wants what women want with men they love: your brood & the chaos of raising it. I want a son & I want to watch you teach him how to polish his shoes. I want you to stall the school van driver while I finish tying up our daughter’s braids. I have imagined it that far. And yes, it is mundane and lovely.” I put so much emphasis on the last word that it came out more like a bite rather than a sentimental thing. 

“But it could be so much better, Lydia. So much less ordinary. We will see the world. We will have all the time in the world for each other. You will write books and I will support you. I will wife you: fetch you tea and make you juice while you dazzle the world with brilliant mind of yours.” 

“Of course. Because the only people who have seen the world were childless. What if, what I want to do with this brilliant mind of mine is biologically clone it? You know Tom, these arguments have brought me to that point that I’m not sure I want all the time in the world for you.” 

“Okay. Time out before we say things we can’t take back.” 

“Fucking, patronising, arrogant pig,” I heard myself say. Surprised at my own anger, I immediately shot him a deeply apologetic look. But his face was expressionless. Apparently, I hadn’t actually voiced the words. I sighed with relief. He reached for my waist to pull me to him but I was too stiff with anger, the embrace was just awkward. We disentangled shortly. 

He moved to his TV unit to pick the movie we had earlier agreed on. I sat at the extreme end of the sofa, taking the popcorn bowl with me as minor punishment for him. He glanced at me curled up in a tantrum, nonchalantly pushed the movie in, hit play and returned to take the other extreme end of the sofa. But then, he changed his mind about the movie choice; changing to an old porn movie. You know the type. It starts with a long shot of a young girl sitting in a park. A creepy, overly muscular man joins her. The camera closes in on him working his hand entirely too energetically. But apparently, she loves it so much that in a matter of seconds, a real geyser of liquid shoots out of her. We always got a kick out of providing commentary to the proceedings: “Well I thought that was squirting but it clearly isn’t because it has left her strong spine-d enough for coitus with that phallus shaped industry grade pipe,” one of us might start it off. Then like kids who only recently discovered their favorite cartoon is an exaggerated tale, we would jostle for who had the best vocabulary for the absurdities therein. 
This time though, when he switched it on, I shot him a look that said, “you are out of luck, mate.”  He read it right and said, “it’s okay. I’m not trying to get laid. I have a headache anyway,” causing me to throw a popped corn at him. Soon enough it was a pop corn and throw pillows fight. Then we were settled in for our movie commentary. 

It, of course, concluded with him reaching into my pants to feign horror with, “do you realize how absurd it is that these terrible terrible movies turn you on.” “It’s never the movies. It’s knowing that at the end of it, you’ll reach into my knickers.”
“I’ll take it whichever way I get it.” 
So once again, he had screwed my mind away from the reservations I had about the relationship. Momentarily, anyway.  It’s the trouble with dating men who have years of sexual experience over you. They also have years of sexual manipulation over your pretty little head. 

When the sex was over, I went to the bathroom and actually cried. I really, really, wanted to let it go. I wanted my life options back. Although I was the side dish he had eventually left his wife for, the holy grail of the side dish life, this didn’t feel like a win. It didn’t feel like the life I wanted for myself was ahead of me. It felt like I had gone from side dish to a treasured trophy but I would never quite be a full partner. A muse? Oh, yes, I was that. A confidant? Yes, that too. An intellectual wrestling mate? That too, actually. 

So, you are going to ask me what more a woman could want. I will tell you what. A woman could want to be a real person. Not just something out of a romantic fantasy, even if she were effortlessly that. A woman could want to be the person you will make your mistakes with. A woman could want to be the one whose life’s regrets intersect with yours. A woman could want that even the unshared hours of your lives reflect on the record as hours that were yours together. A woman could want to be your wife.

So, I picked my knick-knacks out of his bathroom and went to the room in the apartment that had somehow been assigned mine, even though we slept together in his bedroom every night. I threw them onto a shelf in the closet and when back to join him. When we made love again, you would have thought he knew I was leaving. It honestly was the most moving thing that I ever was a party to. How gently he loved. How slowly. How quickly he switched pace to catch up with me when the intensity shot to my brain. How he held me for so long afterwards. It could have been a wedding night. But it was the end. I haven’t seen him since. While he slept, I went back to ‘my room’, stuffed my clothes into his travel bag and sneaked out of that apartment, taking with me his favorite book. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t much fancy the book myself, but I guess I am just not large hearted enough to walk way without inflicting pain. In the dark of the 10th hour of that night, I walked down that fearsome Makindye Hill road until I came upon a bodaboda that sped me away from the insanity of love. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

What Would My Ancestors Think?

Sometimes, as a modern person, I do things that really make me wonder what my ancestors would think of me. Yesterday, for example. It was my birthday. By the way; the first in many years when I wasn’t bombarded by HBD’s from strangers on Facebook. I had my Facebook account deleted. The loudness there, and having so many social connections (exes and their exes!), was maddening. The post Facebook silence is soothing. Yesterday, only people who actually know and care about me wished me a happy birthday. 

One of those people, it turns out, is the receptionist at the spa I go to. She called to wish me a happy birthday. On the phone. As in the voice phone. In 2016. How quaint and sweet! Then, she invited me for a complimentary treatment and afterwards discreetly pinged the spa staff who came over to the reception and sang me “she’s a jolly good fellow,’ in those quiet voices that only people who work in spas have. I will not lie, I secretly hated the last part. I really don’t like people gathering around me and making me shyly fiddle with my phone googling for “how does the ground politely swallow a person?’ But I smiled through it . I get and appreciate the sweet capitalist intention behind it. I will most certainly be giving Soothing Spot, more of my business. 

What I didn’t hate at all, and the thought I had when I started writing this post, was the treatment prior to the singing. The part that had me wondering about my ancestors was this: 
So, I’m lying naked on a table. Stomach down. 
A light weight person climbs the table.  
She steps onto my back. (I am a small person myself. I didn’t even realise there is enough surface area on my back for an adult to stand on. I will apply this knowledge in other use cases, surely.) Anyhow, the light weight person reaches for my arms, pulls them backwards towards her. Then she leans back using my arms as if they were ropes in tug of war. She swings, a little to this side, a little to the other side. She leans further back giving me a sweetish pain in my lower back, embarrassing me with the realization that my breasts are swinging in full view of someone I have no sexual relationship with. To keep a straight face, I try to think straight thoughts like; “today is Thursday the 15th day of September 2016, in the year of our Lord.” 

I guess it’s the "year of our Lord" thought trail, that got me thinking about the years past. I thought of my grandmother and grandfather; farmers who died with calloused hands that worked my lineage out of poverty. What would they think if they saw me this way? Naked before a stranger, apparently getting my life's stresses dealt with. What would they think of the little pains, of my little life, that nonetheless tie me up in so many knots, that I have visited the spa enough times, to earn a special birthday treat? Would they regret all those back-breaking years if they saw that the easy life they earned their descendants is essentially a life of being tiny, whiny and full of self-pity? 

Ah, we are a curious lot, aren’t we? But we are who we have evolved to be. And that treatment was pretty good. Nearly as good as a full bikini wax, even though it didn’t include quite as much sweet pain in embarrassing places.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Now What?

This blog is still in identity crisis. This isn't part of the novel. If you are here for another installment of the serialized novel, keep waiting. One can't rush the creative process. 

Okay, Now What? 

Ten years ago, I used to spend a lot of time in an internet cafe that my friend Ishaq managed at the Faculty of Science, Makerere Universtity. I remember a particular occassion. He was listening to yet another of my feminist monologues; chuckling now and then, as if to punctuate the sentences for me.  Eventually, he looked up and said, “girlfriend; you will die a lonely old maid.” We both laughed. Hard, because we both knew there was a good chance I would.

Ten years now. I am a lonely maid. “Not old, yet,” I like to think. “Not exactly a maid,” I’m sure Ishaq would add. I have  another of my birthdays coming up and as is ritual around such occassions, I have to confront an existential question. This year’s is “Now What?” 

Do I go gently into lonely old maidenhood? Maybe also low-key get my promiscuous groove back? It’s been gone a while. I almost miss it. 

Do I quit being retarded, find a good man, marry him, have a few more kids, make small talk with his mum on Sunday afternoons? 

Do I bury myself in work, make more money than I have time to spend, make my mummy proud by getting that PhD?

Now What? First, let’s go over the options. 

Go gently into lonely old maidenhood
For this option, I don’t need to make any drastic changes. All I need to do it get a loan at 23% interest per annum and spend the next fifteen years of my life building some kind of half-mansion, outside town. I will entertain myself through the years complaining to my peers about the price of cement, thieving builders and corrupt officials in the Wakiso district urban planning department. Around the time my daughter will be entering university, the thing will be livable in. I will have my friends over for pilau and regal them with tall tales about the plumbing and fittings. “My dealer imported that bathtub from China just for me.” “The paint in the kitchen is made in Egypt. It lasts forever. No repainting.” I will lie in that oversized bedroom at night and listen to audiobooks while having low maintenance sex with the aid of my battery powered boyfriends. You are probably feeling a lot sadder about the picture than I am. I can see quite a bit of adventure in building a collection of battery powered boyfriends. If I’m lucky, my inappropriate openness about said boyfriends will reach Lokodo. He will raid my house. I will be on national TV as the face of this country’s sexual decadence. Adventure! I can see it. This is a valid option. 

Grow Up, Get Married
I do actually want a companion so I don’t take this option as lightly as you would think. I want to live with someone who will sleep on the door side of the bed and stop the bullet before it reaches me, in the event that an armed robber bursts in. And, on this front, things have been looking up for me. 
The other day, I was having lunch with a man who used to be what Bukedde would call my muninkini. We were just checking in on each other but he did say; “I want my life to take off. I want a wife. It’s not a big concern but I want it resolved.” That’s an opening, right? A proposal even, no? Similar things have been said to me by other parties in the recent past. I even love at least one of those vague speaking parties. 
I think that if we get me beyond that storybook fantasy, that someone who loves me will actually say as much and then present me with a ring asking for my hand in marriage, we can conclude that this second option is in the cards for me too.

Bury Myself in Work
Here is the thing about love and relationships: I suck at them. I want to be loved in all the ways my father didn’t love me. Of course I can’t say this to the people who date me, because that would be just gross, so I end up having relationships that are just to the left of what I want. What I want is for people to love me and just never leave even though they are not obliged to stay. So, I want to NOT marry these people but have them stay forever just because they love me. Like my father should have done. I also want these people to show me off just because they are proud to have me but be okay with the fact I, on the other hand, have a life that’s doesn’t revolve around them; I want to have my own friends; say their friends are weird and have them smile saying, “you are so cute.” Like the parent my father should have been, I want them to be unfailingly generous and kind in a thankless, lopsided relationship. In a sentence; I have issues. You would think that knowing the folly of my desires would empower me to overcome them. No. It doesn’t. But that government’s fault. It doesn't invest in mental health so I don’t have access to a trained shrink to help me to the other side. As a result, I suck at relationships. Do you see how bad governance has far reaching consequences on the us, the citizens? 

Here is the thing about work: I kick ass at it. I love it. I’m good at it. I take to it like fish to water. I can adjust to a whole new field of work in a matter of months and excel at it in a year or two. Seriously. I’m the person who was writing a newspaper column three weeks after I first met my first editor. See my twitter profile. I am all those things and pretty good at them too. Burying myself in work would be the most natural path and it makes financial sense. 

So, Now What? Please don’t tell me the three are not mutually exclusive. Of course, they are. 3 vs 2: You don’t bury yourself in work when your mother-in-law wants a cake recipe for next Sunday’s lunch. 2 vs 1: If you are going to build a half-mansion, you need a job that; allows you time to review architectural plans, quarrel with Wakiso district technocrats over their approval,  supervise the site and successfully sue your neighbor for blocking your access road.  3 vs 1: You don’t make love while listening to audiobooks if you are a grown up married person. I have to choose. But how? 

But there is Option 4: Wait for The One. The thing I love about option 4 is that it is both noble and a cop-out. Exactly what you need to get around all your decision making pain. If I say I am waiting for The One, I am a brave believer in true love. But I have seen enough of things that look like true love that I now believe that if I take this route, I will never actually have to make a permanent life decision. I will wait, and wait, and wait… A decision deferred forever. What’s to lose? 

Thanks for listening. You’ve been very helpful. I now know what to do. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


"Madam, is it you who brought the dead body? You need to go to the cargo terminal." Yeah, that would be me, Mr Airport Man. I am also the person who wants to spit in your face for calling her a dead body but, I'll just follow you into the bowels of this airport. My, doesn't everything in this little airport look as old as I remember it! Sure, there is a thin smear of oily paint over the aged walls, but that is like Shanti body jelly over my grandmother's wrinkled elbows. Hardly, the image of new. 

When Lindsey first joined me in Cairo, we were not what you would call lesbians. Sure,  our significant others had always been sort of third wheels and our friendship had always been the main union in both of our lives. But back then, we hadn't committed the requisite sins to earn us the label. Had we known we would tumble into said sin, maybe I wouldn't have moved to Cairo, in the first place. Cape Town perhaps, as we eventually did. Anyhow, I can't tell you about it all now for here comes Joshua. 

Flanked by three men I can only describe as, Goliath, Badang and their pet gorilla, he cuts the figure of your regular African warlord. Nanti, it is war awaiting us, outside this airport today. He called it "The Fight Against the Primitives," in our WhatsApp chat. The Primitives. I wish I could come up with a name for our side of the battle. "A little woman, her mid-sized brother and their three mercenaries," seems far less inspired.

The Primitives are Lindsey's relatives. From the long distance calls we have had over the last two weeks, I gather they include: an uncle (both of her parents are deceased), an area council member (no blood relation but a relative by geographical proximity and political investment, I suppose) and three other men whose relationships to her are so sketchy, I didn't store the information. They want her body. They want it buried at the ancestral grave site. Initially, I wanted that too, which is why I got in touch with them, but one of them let it known they'll have a mob in place to keep me away from the burial. So, it is war now.  By virtue of the authority entrusted to me by myself, as spouse of the deceased, I am burying this woman in my home country, on a piece of land I can reasonably expect to be buried on myself. Look, Lindsey is dead. What else I am going to do with my life except enter bull fights? This is going to happen or I will die attempting it.

"Go stand with them. Tell them we are waiting for the funeral car to arrive. Angela and I are leaving with the body now. When we reach Kitooro, I'll call Isa to come around with your escape car. Drive to Kyazanga. Make sure the grave diggers are done by evening. Burial is tomorrow. We'll bring the body," Joshua, whispers to our mercenaries. Apparently, Badang is also known as Isa. Goliath and the Gorilla walk away from us, back towards the arrivals area, that lovely piece of real estate where normal people who aren't carrying dead bodies are received. So as not to watch Isa wheel my love, now laid naked in an ice cold metal box, away, I turn to Joshua. "I thought you called it the Fight Against the Primitives. You got my hopes high. Sneaking away isn't exactly a fight." He, seems to appreciate my feeble attempt at humour.  "Hun, we are The Enlightened. We aren't going to fight them with sticks. That's their thing. We are fight them with brains," he says, touching his head with a bit of dramatic effect at the end. "The Enlightened, huh? You've got all this down to a play script. Is this why you are doing it? The drama of it?" Joshua, a real life playwright momentarily searches my face. Maybe she looking to establish how seriously I mean my question. Perhaps he's checking to see how much more humour I can take. My face however, set itself into an expressionless mask the day Lindsey died. He finds no help there. I guess he decides to play it safe, "big sis, I wanted to see you again and if this is the way I get to, so be it."

Isa and his Badang muscles have smoothly slotted Lindsey under the seats of the passenger service Toyota. Following Joshua's cue, I take up a four seater row to myself. Joshua hands me a newspaper and following his cue again, I lie down, holding the paper above my face, pretending to read. The driver, a diminutive man, possibly middle aged or maybe just a man who has lived the hard life long enough, coughs the engine alive and  we head out of the airport compound.

I stopped reading Uganda news about this time last year, when that anti homosexuality bill was annulled by the constitutional court. I like happy endings. I haven't wanted to sour it with knowledge of any new developments. Before the annulment, Lindsey and I had literally lived on the Ugandan interwebs. You would think people like us already knew how Ugandans feel about our sexuality but my skin still crawls when I remember the crass, dehumanising tornado of Facebook and website comments we lived through in those two years. Look, we thought we knew how much our people hated queer folk. Lindsey absolutely insisted on abandoning our children, to spare them shamed association with our sexuality. The morning after that night, long ago in Cairo when I crept into bed with her and she let me, she woke up with a plan so detailed, I was staggered. 

"I cannot do this to my children. I cannot set them up for a lifetime of shame." 
"Lindsey, they won't know. It was once." 
"Was it?" she shot me the death stare. 
"It wasn't," I repented. "But still, you are panicking too early. Nobody has to know." 
That death stare again. 
"Lindsey," I begged. "This has nothing to do with the children." 
"Angela, you need to shut up," she seemed suddenly weak. "I have been in love with you since I first saw you. I didn't always know what it was, but it was what it was. What it is. Nobody has to know? I know. You know. And yes, it has a lot to do with the children. I am all about my children. My children and you. Now I have to choose. I choose you. You must choose too." 

Now, if you have read those blogs about the retarded dwanzie, so scared of commitment that they chill every emotionally substantial situation by rebooting it to casual, I am that person. I used to be that person anyway. I actually wanted to strike a careless pose and say, "woman, I had sex with you once and now I must choose between you and my offspring?" But that death stare of hers. Plus, I knew it for what it was. I had flown her to Cairo. I had prepared the two bedrooms in my apartment such that the children would sleep in one, and we would share the other. Sure, that's also what you do when your best friend is visiting but I had crept into her bed and, well, the rest of that night is yours to imagine. I still set slightly messed up remembering it. Morbid.  I’m reminiscing about sinning all over my death wife who is lying naked in a cold metal box beneath the seats of the car I'm riding in.

Do you know what I did when I was asked to choose? I made pancakes. I make a mean pancake breakfast, by the way. Okay, right. I am changing the subject now as I did then. Just as well. Joshua is freaking out on the phone. 

"What do you mean they are chasing you? Now? I thought you escaped in the same car you took them to the airport in?"
"What do you mean police pickup? You are telling me they went to the police, reported a case, got a deployment attached to them, while you were still in chasing distance? Are you riding on a turtle?" 
"Did they see the car we are in? Good. Good." 
"But of course, Uganda Police got right on this one. A homosexual is stealing a dead body. National crisis. Sempa, don't drive towards Kyazanga. Take Mubende road. Lose them. Lose them or you are on your own, Sempa. Bwebabakwaata, nze siyina kyembamanyiiko!" 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Miserable Past

“I am just tired of the pain Lindsey and I no longer think that the only way out is through it. The way out is away. Like Kate, I’m going to divorce my family. Quietly, amicably, without undue drama. I’m just going to leave and never return to this country.”

Lindsey sat down and quietly cried with me. We had been here countless times before. I knew, some part of her believed that this was another of those countless time. We would sit and cry. She would be genuinely sad that another year had rolled down and I still hadn’t found the one thing I most insisted on wanting — my mother’s love. But she must have thought that I would go over the bump once again and continue pursuing it. I knew different. I knew that this time I had arrived at sad acceptance. That is why I hadn’t come to her before buying the air ticket. Not before securing a job in a country five nations north of my homeland. It is why I wasn’t telling her any of these details either. My mother may never have come to love me in 32 years of having me but Lindsey had loved me within months of meeting me. She would fight me if she knew how seriously I meant my threat of flight. That’s the last thing I wanted. A fight with my best friend as the last memory of home. 

Several hours later, we were back to gossiping about the men in our lives. Hers, the artistic kind was apparently now searching for himself in new found habits: chain smoking and groping waitresses. He was always a piece of work, that vain man! No amount of failure had dissuaded him of the notion that the world must revolve around his sorry little ass. For the umpteenth time I wondered out loud, why Lindsey put up with him. But I knew why. She held many beliefs that I didn’t share — like the idea that once a man sired your children, you owed him accommodation for all things short of beating you. Her own answer though was, “and who are you to pass judgement, my dear?” And indeed who was I? My man and I were in our seventh year of him being married to somebody who cared slightly more about his shit than I did. We had been lovers before he met her but he had always been loud about his perception that I would never make the kind of wife he was raised to expect. You know, the one that accommodates all of you once you sire her kids? When she first came along, I thought he was only using her as a bargaining chirp. Why else would he have left her love notes lying around for me to read? Bad grammar and a lot of talk about brooding! He was trying to show me that he would leave if I didn’t start leaning towards commitment and family. Not that we weren’t family. We already had an accidental one. Well, it is a long story but he married her and I guess, I just could not be bothered to find a new sexual mate so we kept going after the initial drama regarding his marriage. I wondered quietly, if I would miss him when I disappeared into the world. Probably a little. Most definitely not enough. We went on and on, expressing the same dissatisfactions with our lives that we had never had enough incentive to leave behind. For a while, it felt like I had gone over the bump. Like life would be boring normal again the next day. So much that I started to wonder if I had been melodramatic in the first place. You tell me. Was I being melodramatic? Here’s the story: 

It was a Saturday afternoon. As I sat in my childhood bedroom, a relative of my stepfather came visiting. One of the important ones — a leader in the clan, in some capacity. At family gatherings, people literally line up to introduce their children to him. I only knew him from having distantly observed him at those family gatherings. I had never quite been introduced. In fact, I had never joined the line of family members being introduced. I suspected I wasn’t allowed to. That Saturday, he must have come unannounced. I’m pretty sure my mother would not have invited me over that same afternoon, had the visit been planned. This will all become clear in a second. 

When I heard the hullabaloo of welcoming a guest, I got out of the bedroom to join in. Soon enough, we were taking turns greeting him, with my mother providing introductory context. “That is Nick, your eldest son in this compound. Joshua, he follows Andy whose graduation you came to last year.” Then, “that is Angela. Angela Nambi. She works at Bank of Uganda.” Yes, my mother introduced me as they do when I sit on panels at workshops.

You want to know what that meant? Well, I can explain; I have decades of experience in the nuances of being a bastard child. It meant that in that context, as in the majority of contexts in my mother’s good wife life, I could not be owned up to. I was the illegitimate child, born of sin and shame. Certainly not the child one claims out loud with the same mouth that sings hymns on Sunday. Definitely, not one you own up to before your most respected in-law.

Now you think I am being melodramatic but maybe you should have been there when, at 11, I was asked to stay away from two family wedding receptions for the same reasons. Look here; when I was 12, I sang a solo at the national schools’  festival and caught the eye of a newspaper reporter. As he led me away, Maama stopped us, took me aside and instructed, “if they ask for the names of your parents, don’t answer. The people of Papa’s side will read it and know.” What will they know? That the mysterious child who lives at his house is actually his wife’s child not an orphan benefitting from her charity, as they surely must have assumed. I didn’t give the interview. I was crying too hard to speak. 

Well, maybe you are right. I am as melodramatic as an artist is wont to be. After all, at the time I was introduced as Angela Nambi who works for Bank of Uganda, it was in fact a thing. My country had just come out of a civil war. Nearly everybody was unemployed and I was a woman with a job. A job at Bank of Uganda. But then again, in the very next breath, she introduced Tom as, “our youngest.”  

Still, I was 32 and trotting towards more success than had been seen by any of my family members (legitimate and illegitimate) in generations. I was a professional woman in an economy so crippled it didn’t even produce soap. Perhaps, not belonging with a family should not have been enough to drive me to north Africa. It turned out, Lindsey certainly thought so. In the months after I left the country, she wrote me a five-page letter detailing all the ways in which I was “narcissistic and emotionally retarded.”

Oh well, think whatever you might of me. I barely wrote to my mother in the years after I left but when she was gravely ill three years ago, Joshua and I started talking again. We've became very closer since. It is profound that he had seen things as I had all those years. He understood my staying away. But now, Lindsey lies in a coffin at the cargo end of this airport. I dragged her away from here when she started talking to me again. But I had to bring her back home. Joshua said I could but it is really, really complicated. I’ll tell you more but first, let me go fetch my love who is cargo now. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Uber vs Isma

I am deeply distrustful of Uber. In just four months of reporting in New York, I covered three protests against them. From my interviews with yellow cab drivers (often immigrants who have seen their kids through medical and law schools working owl shifts) and an Uber rep (who spoke in talking points at sales pitch velocity), I decided Uber was using technology for evil. I came to see the company as the large capitalist who disrupts a little people’s business environment just because its technology can make it a tonne of money doing that. In New York, I never hailed an Uber even once but on the occasions I shared one with friends, the conversations I had with Uber drivers confirmed my biases. They said; the Uber cut off their fares was too high and that by cleverly labelling them contractors (even though they work full time for it), Uber was getting away with not providing any employee benefits.
When I heard Uber was coming to Kampala, I had two thoughts. 1. That I would never hail one because they are evil and I have Isma, my cabbie. He knows my workplace, home, daughter’s school, mother’s home, best friend’s home. Why would I dump him? 2. That Uber would do well in Kampala because small business people here, like cabbies, are the kind who suffer and die silently, knowing there is neither a policy framework nor an invested politician to protect them.
So, on my first trip to my mother’s house ( an 8 minutes drive from my place), I, of course, called Isma. He charged me sh20,000 and I had to talk him down from sh25,000! I have always felt that my convictions in support of small business run really deep. It turns out sh20,000 is how deep they run. I downloaded that Uber app immediately. As if Uber had spied on my latest Isma experience, it charged me 28,000 for the 45 minute ride I took next: to Kyanja from Makindye. Love at second consideration! That my friend, is how Isma and I broke up.
Now, of course, I’m not going to call an Uber to drop Hailey off to school when we oversleep and miss the van. Nor am I going to, when I need her to be driven home alone on a Sunday out, so I can continue on to my date. On those occasions of desperation, I will booty call Isma and use the trust relationship we have built over the years. But, on most days, I don’t even know that guy.
It also doesn’t sound like Uber is terrible for Kampala drivers. Ken who took me to Kyanja said that he works for a boss who has a fleet of five under Uber and is paid sh500,000 a month. He also gets a daily allowance of 20,000. Sounds like a decent job, no? In turn, he said, he made 530,000 in fares the first week he drove Uber; which he must give to his boss (no stories) because the app tracks the fares earned. I thought sh530,000 a week seemed too high to make from fares that low but Barigye explained it this way, “in a special, you get one or two customers a day and overcharge them. With Uber, you get up to 20 customers because the app keeps telling you where to find them.” He picked me from Kisasi and charged me sh20,000 for a ride to Makindye. He used to drive tourists on out of town excursions, doing regular cabbing in-between the tourism clients. He is keeping one of his two vehicles on the tourists beat (with another driver), but driving Uber full time himself.
I am happy. They are happy. And maybe Isma will join Uber too. My liberal sensibilities are sitting easy. But Isma’s partner driver, the guy he sends when he isn’t available, swears to me that he won’t join Uber. “Balina ebyaabwe by’ebaabazza,” was his explanation. Basically, my stories about the other Uber drivers seemed too good to be true to him. He thinks Uber wants them (and us) hooked and will later pull the rug from under our feet . I hope he is wrong but from the Uber fights I have read of or reported on elsewhere, I wonder if he is a cynical but prophetic voice we ought to listen to.
Oh, side note about Uber: From its driving directions, you learn that the roads in this city actually have names. As it turns out, I don’t live along “the road which slopes up from the bodaboda stage at Chocorate City Bar”. No, friend. It is Upper Hill Lane.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What I Learnt From Blogging About Myself

I started a blog about my life (some version of it, really), kept it up for six years and then closed it unceremoniously. The last part, I was told, was an anti-climax so I re-opened the blog. Before we dive all the way back into oversharing my life, here are a few things that occurred to me about writing a personal blog.

1. You can get trapped in performing your own art
My writing was meant to stretch the range of my craft. Yet, it would go into the world and represent itself as a window into my soul, sexuality, personal life or state of mind. Of course, my writing came from inside of me. So it was inherently related to me. Was it strictly a cry for help, an invitation to play naughty or a declaration of battle? Hardly. Yet, when it was interpreted as such, I felt compelled to respond as if it, in the first place, had been. I become a radical advocate for the perspectives I blogged from. When readers reached out, over my often bleak poetry, I took their sympathy. When some people extrapolated from the naughtier writing, I got carried away pushing my boundaries.  I am not entirely sure how to feel about all that but please be kind.  If, in life I imitated my art with you, destroy all evidence thereof. Please. It is the noble thing to do.

2. It improved my writing
Especially in the years when hardly a soul read it, the blog was good for my writing. They say writing is a muscle and it must be exercised. I have never been the kind to keep a journal. I talk to myself, instead. So, blogging was how I exercised that muscle. It improved my writing and perhaps because it did, I started getting some attention. That’s when things got tricky as above and below.

3. You create a first impression that is hard to get past
Piece by piece I collaged a seemingly full portrait of myself. It proved to be a trap. Often, when I meet people for the first time, the novelty is mine alone. To them, I’m a known character or more accurately, one piece of the character. What piece I am, depends on what post(s), they have read.  Jokes don’t land with people who have already decided they loath my feminist ideas. Trying to pass myself off as a fully complex human being with people who come to the blog for those sex posts is like trying to store oxygen by closing my fist. But perhaps the most disturbing consequence is being seen as fair game for harassment online. The trolls. Those trolls. May their groins itch forever and may their hands be too short to scratch them.
4. It may kill your patience for more rigorous writing
As an occupational writer, I used to be able to graciously take two, three, even five rounds of edits and copy reads. Having to research and report before writing was the minimum I could do. Then I started blogging -- typing out 2500 words in a single sitting and publishing it without a second glance. Now, when I have to write for an editor, their comments on my work hurt me.  In an almost physical way. Even just the anticipation of them, makes my original drafts stiff. Oh, and researching before you write… Isn’t that just tedious?

5. It is a real-time invention of your own history
On the occasions when people asked me why I blogged, I would say, “because I exist.” And, I maintain that is a fine reason to. Being as self-aggrandising as the kind of person who writes about herself for six years, I tend to remember all my life experiences as having been truly remarkable. I don’t remember chatting. No, I pertook of conversations that spun minds around. I won grand arguments or brought down the bar roof, trying. My one-off meetings belong in great literature, even if only for their off-colouredness. The interpersonal dramas that I have been party to, will definitely result in interesting scenes at my funeral.
The extent to which my memories of self are accurate, is irrelevant. I wrote them down. My life experiences as I want them remembered; as I want to remember them. That makes them real or at least the most real account of my life out there. A written down account. All other accounts are merely hearsay.  Now I know how all those dodgy people in history tricked us into erecting statues of them all over the place. And I have taken some of that for myself. It should feel corrupt. It doesn’t. It feels very good indeed. I don’t know if you can reinvent yourself but you certainly can invent your history. I recommend it.

Normal broadcasting of intimate details will begin shortly…

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Emily Naluyimba

My girlfriends remember little boys they were 'shy for' in P.4 or shared packed snacks with in P.3. I remember her: Emily Naluyimba. I wasn’t shy for her. I just liked sitting with her, back when watching laundry dry, was an entirely legitimate use of one’s time. What else did one do with a Saturday morning in primary boarding school? Perched on the sills of shutterless school windows, Emily and I, watched other kids gleefully pair up to wring bedsheets; holding the rolled cloth as if it were rope in tug of war. I remember her going on about things I considered nonsense: how SST was going to be much harder in P.5, Jackie’s mother who lived in America, Faisal who gave girls bad touches because he was always in heat. It was nonsense but she was welcome to go on about it for entire mornings. The memory of her voice still makes me think of sunny mornings. 

Hailey and her 'Emily Naluyimba'
I loved Emily. That would be why I sent negative energy, before that was even a term, to the people in her life who were not perfect. I sent hate towards her stepmother who mistreated her (as all stepmothers seemed to do in those days). I sent a lesser dislike towards her little brother for existing and therefore making her responsible for him. When he lost his books, she was responsible for finding them, or crying about it when they could not be found. 

It’s my first of those ‘cry about it’ memories that I hold dearest. Initially, I didn’t even know she had a brother. Then one day, I run into her shaking up a little boy who looked both scared and defiant. She was tired of looking for his books, she said. She was just going to let the teacher beat him up for it this time. He had no defence of himself to offer. They stared at each other for a few seconds.  Then she burst out crying. I was completely stunned. Up until that point, I had not realized that you could deal with your problems by crying over them. Really. The option just had never occurred to me. 

How would I have come to such a revelation anyway? Peer culture was that when teachers or parents beat you, the right way to react was, not to. You held your muscles tight, braved the beating and walked away stoic. It’s what we did. It was pretty clear that those who cried did so only to manipulate the adults into administering a lesser beating. Worth a try, I suppose, but I never saw it work. 

In the house where I grew up, nobody cried. Maybe they didn’t have reason to. I don’t know. I just never saw anybody cry. 

Once, at a funeral in the neighbourhood, I saw a mother cry over her lost baby. But that is a different kind of crying. All I remember taking away from it was the ritualistic dimension. After the funeral, I went home, took my dolls to the back of the house and lined them up for burial. I duly dramatically wept over each before burying it. I was throwing myself about, slapping my thighs, heaving loudly in preparation for the last doll burial, when I heard my mother’s footsteps approach. My instinct was to immediately cut the act and break into song.

So, no. Crying hadn’t occurred to me as a real thing until I saw Emily cry. It was a real gift. After seeing her cry, I started to genuinely cry over my problems too. It is a gift that I have drawn on, countless times since. Through those incomprehensible years of childhood depression, as regularly as I needed to, I found a quiet corner of the school and wept my heart out. Every month when PMS storms in, I take care of it by allowing myself a healthy bawling in the bathroom. On that night when I couldn’t be in the audience to watch my child perform at the National Theatre, I waited for my roommate to fall asleep, buried my face in the pillow and let it go for a good hour. It is how I deal with life’s impossibilities. I cry like Emily would.

Emily was also the first to teach me about heartbreak. It’s funny that they call it heartbreak. The term promises you a particular dramatic moment of righteous pain. Heartbreak is in fact a passive being left behind. It is learning that you are no longer on the same page with someone because your paths quietly diverged at an irretrievable point in the past. It is being made aware of that divergence in a manner too passive for you to push back or reform for. It is hoping, hiding from the truth for so long, that when you eventually accept it, crying about it isn’t appropriate. Heartbreak is an unmarked grave. 

I didn’t think she was gone when she didn’t report to boarding school one term. I thought her parents were just being late. That they would bring her in, the weekend after. They didn’t. Still, I didn’t grasp that this meant I would never see her again. P.6 started and ended. Still, I hoped. P.7 started and ended. It was some time in secondary school that I finally realized that I would never see Emily Naluyimba again. That I needed to find another best friend. It would be university before I would find another truly best friend.