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Happy Birthday Manenos - Thoughts and Stuff

Happy Birthday Manenos


Conversations start with either “Sasa wewe…”  or “Nani…” Sometimes, the conversation starts with “I hope you have something important to tell me…”

The conversations can last a few seconds or even two hours or so.

But before I digress…

We all want to have the “kind, caring and understanding, soft-spoken, always there”  kind of friend. You know the ones we keep in our colourful imaginary lists of must-have traits.

So,  I have this friend who’s been growing a little old too fast. The grey hair on her head has been the start of conversations which I sometimes regret why I started. I mean, I keep noticing the influx of the grey hair as if it’s the first time. And this irks her. It happens every time she pays a visit to the many hairdressers she’s visited this year. Most have proven not to be loyal ones. Story for another day.

Anyway, grey hair is a sign of aging gracefully. Some say it’s a sign of wealth. Yeah, she’s growing and aging gracefully even as she’s crossing to the last half of her twenties. And she’s wealthy too.

Let’s start with wealthy.

She’ll take you out for a treat in a Japanese place where neither of us has ever been to and she literally dares you to do anything silly like paying the bill. She’ll take you to this small kitchen restaurant tucked in a street in her hometown after she’s talked to you about it over and over again. In either case,  she’ll make sure you talk about something, and rarely about nothing important.

She’ll make strange and crazy observations about people, things and places and she’ll make sure you pay attention to anything she pays attention to. She’ll tell you about what she read about that week – a book or on a funny blog she came across.

She’ll narrate to you about her crazy week at work, about the early morning car ride to work she had with her dad on Monday to the matatu ride back home on Friday evening. She’ll rant about one thing or the other about work or that lady in the matatu who made the ride unbearable. She’ll tell you about the sermon delivered to the passengers in a matatu by a ‘drunk’ preacher.

She’ll pause. Take a sip of soda or juice. Nowadays she sips and gulps litres of water. She’ll clear her plate and look at yours and take a deep breathe.

“You need prayers,” she tells you. “Shut up and eat”

She grabs a toothpick as she stares across the room, making millions of observations.

Then she’ll say “Kwani ni mimi tu naongea!? What drama has been cutting in your life?”

Then you start talking. You tell her everything. Or sometimes you tell her nothing. Either way, she’ll listen.

She’s a good listener. She’ll stop whatever she usually does on her phone and listen to you intently. No questions. No disruptions. Just listens.

Then she asks you the tough questions. She’ll laugh at you. She’ll tell you how stupid you were when you did something. She’ll seek clarification.

When she gets bored,  she gets distracted very easily. That’s when you should focus on your food or drink and let her shift her focus back to you and your miseries.

Her questions are never the easiest to answer. They’re tough questions that will make you uneasy in your seat. At one point you’ll wonder why you started telling her about your issues. But then the answer will lie in the response you’ll give her.

She’ll give you an advice where she can and ask you to make your own decision ultimately. She assures you of her understanding and that she’ll respect your decision no matter how brilliant or dumb the decision will be.

Then you go for a walk. The early morning walk around Kikuyu town with her taught me that patience isn’t one of her strongest assets. When the departure time reaches, she’ll start off the walk with or without you. You’ll have to run after her. She’ll notice you but she will keep walking. Some people. Sigh.

“I know that this is the only way to make you catch up,” she says, teasingly.

She tells you of stories from her childhood and from the previous week. Interestingly, she’s never claimed to know it all. She tells you she doesn’t know something and tells you the assumptions that have been on her mind all along. She’ll contest your assumptions or answer. She needs a lot of convincing this one. Her kids and grandkids had better be good liars when they get caught. By good liars, they’ll need to stick to the truth.

You can call her as late as she confirms to you that she can take a phone call. Other times, she’ll watch the phone ring and she won’t pick it up. And she’ll tell you that she didn’t feel like talking with you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Then she’ll ask if your house caught fire while she was away. Or if you’re just normal.

Calling her in the morning hours can be a bad idea. Sometimes.

“What’s it with simu za asubuhi?” she asks. “Can’t you text or wait for our usual Hangouts chats? Utangoja”

She hangs up. Then finds you in Hangouts.

When her phone drains the battery, she’ll scream at you, as if you’re the cause for the low battery charge.

“Nani,” she’ll start. “Why are you calling me now? Low charge! I’ll call you”

You laugh at her. She hangs up.

Talking of laughter, there’s a broad spectrum of laughter. Each has its own meaning.

One laughter tells you “Just shut up!”  and the other will tell you “Stop being silly”. A chuckle will be either a sarcastic one or the one that tells you “This is funny, go on”.

A chuckle followed by “Walefa men”  means, “Just stop talking and leave me alone”

She rarely laughs at jokes. Okay, her jokes are weird ones. I can’t remember the last one I laughed to. Weird sense of humor.

But she’s a dependable person. Available in person or on call whenever, wherever. Her cats and kittens know that best. Catwoman. Or cat whisperer. I don’t know. She’s trustworthy. Her cats trust her. Her friends trust her too.

And what’s the point of writing all this? I think she’s turning a little older. She says she turned 26 many months ago. “Age is nothing but a number”. Walefa men.

She’s not all that “kind, soft-spoken, caring, understanding” hypothetical friend we talked about at the beginning. She’s just herself. I’m not saying she’s not kind and all. By all means she is.

She’s a great friend. And this is my way of saying “Happy birthday to you Wanjiku”. Baraka tele in the years to come.

Since she’s a teetotaller and now that she’s quitting all soft drinks and stuff for water, we’ll toast with a bottle of water. If you didn’t read about her migraines, you won’t understand this.

*Fills a 2 litre bottle with water, ready for toasting*

To many more.

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