Sometimes, friendships don’t find you until the right time.

A and I met on Twitter the way most people do; through a shared interest (our love for books) and mutual friends. We had been following each other for years and replied to each other’s tweets often. She was a writer and a reader like me, and we were a potential friendship waiting to happen. At some point, we exchanged phone numbers in hopes of fostering a deep friendship, but it did not happen.

I have two distinct memories of our friendship prior to 2019- a phone call where we talked about our love interests at the time and co-writing a blog post titled Two West-African girls talk love. From these interactions, I knew we would be really good friends but for some reason our friendship remained taxied on the runway. We would say things like “we should schedule another catch-up session” but we never did.

Making friends as an adult is hard. Making friends as an adult through social media is even harder. I have found that friendships require intentionality, the right timing, shared interest, values and consistency. In real life friendships, you could get away with a combination of different things but for friendships born on social media, in my opinion, you need all of the above. Social media friendships can be difficult to get off the ground, you know. You exchange phone numbers, talk for about a week or three and then things start to fizzle out. It’s no one’s fault really, friendships can’t stay surface level for too long, one person or something has to move the friendship deeper and sometimes that never happens or sometimes it does, a couple years later, like it did for A and me.

One evening in July 2019, A and I had the dinner that plunged our friendship deeper. I had just come back from Europe and was spending a week in the States before heading back to home. I texted A while I was in Europe to let her know I would be in her city and that we should grab lunch or dinner. It would be our first-time meeting in person. She was thrilled and in what I would now call true A fashion, she had a list of restaurants I could choose from but highlighted one that had delicious frozen margaritas and if you know me, you know I’m always down for a good cocktail.

A and I connected right away. I often get a bit nervous about meeting people for the first time because sometimes online connections don’t translate in real time. Sometimes, things get awkward before they get effortless. With A, things were stellar right off the bat. We ordered cocktails and enjoyed a three-course meal while talking about everything from work to love to degrees to writing. It was the perfect evening. It was an evening so perfect, we decided to meet up the next day. A’s job was and still is very demanding but at the time, I did not realize what a sacrifice she was making by leaving work early to spend time with me. This was when our friendship really took off.

I did not know it then but I was about to walk into one of the most difficult seasons of my life and A would be a key player. In about a week, I would get a promotion at work, I would need to ramp up my studying for the GRE to apply to business school and I would be working on my passion project, Rari. At first glance, these look like really exciting things and they are but my God, the work it would take to succeed at all these things would drain me. In the middle of all these, A and I would get into the habit of sending daily voice notes and these voice notes would not only accelerate the getting to know each other phase, but also become the soundtrack of the coming days especially the hard ones.

There is a quote by Gabrielle Zevin that I love so much: Sometimes books don’t find you until the right time. It is a quote I wholeheartedly believe in because I have found it to be true in my life. There have been times when I have picked up a book and found myself unable to connect with its content and so I put it back on the shelf. In a couple months or years, when I return to that book, it is exactly what I need to be reading in the phase of life I am in or because I have grown enough to value what it is offering. I feel this way about the timing of A and I’s friendship.

At the time when A and I got close, I was waking up really early to get to work at least an hour before my start time so I could get some studying in. I was juggling the crazy demands of my new role at work, studying for another three hours after work and working on promotion/content creation for Rari. I was exhausted and stressed. A had been through studying for the LSAT and bar exams so she had a lot of experience with standardized tests. Everytime I would take a practice test and my result was below my desired goal, A knew exactly what to say to keep me above water. A’s lifestyle worked for me. Her late nights at work gave me someone to text or voice note when I was frustrated and on the brink of tears. And when she was stressed about her work or personal plans for the future, I would be right there with my voice notes encouraging her or hashing out possible solutions. Our friendship was an anchor. There were nights I was so tired, I did not think I had it in me to study for another minute but I would think of A at work at 1am and say “If A is still working at this time, I can study for one more hour.” Some days were so excruciating but A was the perfect person to inspire me to keep moving.

I told A the other day that my MBA is OUR MBA because I honestly could not have done it without her. She was a bright and constant presence every step of the way. I had to write the GRE more than once and when I finally got my desired score she sent the most enthusiastic messages and a voice note saying “I hate that i have to whisper right now because I am still in the office. I am literally shaking on your behalf. This is all your hard work paying off in the best way possible. I am so incredibly proud of you for not giving up and for powering through…” This is the kind of support A gave me. And when the MBA interview invites and the admissions with scholarships started rolling in, just like she said they would, her joy and excitement for me were so palpable it brought me to tears.

A and I could not have found each other at a better time. I needed her and I think she needed me too. I don’t know if A and I will be friends forever but I hope with my entire heart that we will be. I will always be grateful for those thirty minute voice notes packed with solid advice, the delicious cocktails we shared and our epic banter. I look forward to the opportunity to reciprocate the care and consistency she showed me a thousand times over.

How not to feel alone within a love

I
Remember all the honey
thick & smooth against your skin
covered by hands steady from
soothing hard loving into dusk

II
Tell him you feel alone
Tell him fear comes to you like memory
brushing softly against your chest
leaning in if you don’t swat quickly

III
Sit still when he calls you love
in a string of words
that unpack your lonely
and leaves them out to dry

IV
Ask about an already laid plan
Watch the sun come to his eyes
the corners of his mouth shift to lift
his face then follow the tilt of his head
the swing of his fingers
the future is coming back to life

V
Play that song from Inside llewyn Davis
Don’t speak – If you missed the train I’m on
start soft when the chorus comes along
a little louder on the next lines – a hundred miles
remember Christmas – a hundred miles
remember May – You can hear the whistle blow
remember all the honey? – a hundred miles

a nameless thing

There is a name
but I refuse to call it
I am searching for another
but nothing can carry

It is starting to look like loss
like my very being
has given itself to be used
by a thing I do not approve

I forbid it often
I reach far into myself
the self I know can birth victory
and ask Is this who you are?
the answer is No

So I reach beyond the lines (again)
to prove I am who I say I am
It is easy work some days
On others, it is lodged in my throat
like a pill and will not go down

passing through

I heard bullets leave particles as they pass through fabric. They tend to cling for decades or more. The night you left, you shot through fabric on the clothesline with a force that left me breathless. I had been waiting for months for you to come back for me. It rained and parched and bellowed in all that time.

Bracing for impact. Your words rolled off the edge nonstop until you were empty and I was full. Full of questions I didn’t dare ask. Full of questions I know I should have asked. I remember silence digging its heels into my spine when everything was being taken from me. I remember because I was on the floor in the dark and I was shaking from all the breaking.

That didn’t stop your leaving. When has it ever? When has an already bleeding body stopped a bullet from cutting through new flesh? When has it stopped a shoot to kill? The particles revolved around my dizzy bones, seeped into my blood, compounded my love and pinned me further to the ground.

I was never meant to be your home. Twelve months of manipulating a tourniquet and changing bandages and I finally understand that I was somewhat of a lingering, a place to lodge, and you were merely passing through.

Order of Events

At first you feel everything
and then nothing.

Then the most terrible sadness
laced with delicate love.
Then a sliver of hope-

maybe it isn’t as bad as it seems
maybe there’s a chord that fits
enough to make it sound like a song.

some happiness
some sadness
more happiness than sadness
then sadness, far from benign
then nothing.

Anger.
burning through your sleeves
burning down the truth you
desperately want to be true

And then you just want to forget
everything.

even the best memories
even the dearest, most beautiful moments
(of your life so far), you want to forget because

for you, they are creating an even
greater grief- having felt.
having seen.
having been.
but you cannot forget

and that in itself
is a tragedy.

After five on a winter day

We almost miss your anger
when we walk through the door.

The air cracks like a shell
as we busy ourselves unbuttoning
jackets and untying shoe laces.
The air is still cracking
as we oven-roast vegetables
and pan-grill chicken for supper.

The air cracks a little more
as I hear her in the darkness
softly tell her mother
she would take away the roof
over your head if you weren’t
blood.

I fall asleep thinking of redemption,
of the ways we could restore,
of things to do to save us,
of how this could be forgiven
but never forgotten.

Seven reminders

1.    You should recognize when love starts to feel like suffering.
2.    Be careful the excuses you make for the one you love. Especially knowing that if your love for them was taken out of the picture, their actions would be unacceptable.
3.     A lot of terrible things can happen when you forget who you are.
4.    So don’t forget who you are when you give love. Don’t forget you can pull the plug if it’s draining you.
5.     Don’t let one cloud darken your home. Remove the broken light bulb. Leave it empty. The sun will arrive any moment now.
6.     Letting go isn’t as easy as uncurling your fingers. It isn’t as easy as releasing your grip. It is a meticulous undoing.
7.     This will take time. Take as much as you need.

the other side of truth

the truth isn’t always something we can grasp.
not because it isn’t real but because
sometimes the truth has thorns that will
journey through your defences. the truth
can in fact call forth blood.

the truth isn’t always kind or fair or soft
but we ask for it
we demand for it
as if it is meant to bring us warmth
as if it is supposed to bring us comfort
sometimes the truth is that lump in your throat
that song on the radio
that hand around your neck
sometimes the truth arrives and we cannot stomach it
because it’s nothing like we have imagined.

sometimes the truth breaks us
into pieces. Sometimes,
it doesn’t set us free.

Survival 101

Perhaps this is why the world refuses to stand still.
Perhaps being in constant motion is the only thing
keeping us from being crushed
by the weight of everything we lose.
Perhaps this is why we mustn’t stop
even when everything hurts
even after the world around us has taken on new colour –
a shade darker that we have ever felt
Perhaps this is when we force our lungs
to hold more air, our hearts to carry
a little more tenderness. Perhaps
the only way we can survive
is by living right through it.

The places that feel

{Listen to audio as you read}

I feel it in my chest mostly,
The loss.
The way it scrubs away
All i have known to be true,
As though the last three years
Have been a chapter from a
Tattered novel in the back seat
Of my father’s 504.

I feel it in my fingers,
The digging,
The longing for fertile soil to take root,
The erosion that overtook all we had sown,
As if we never even stood a chance.

I thought i would feel in my bones too.
The unruly quake that comes from hanging on too long,
From losing something you thought you had loved enough,
The way reality smacks you in the face without warning,
Reminding you that history doesn’t always satisfy.

I feel it in the gulf of my spine sometimes,
My shoulders, giving in to the weight,
The one time you said I was beautiful,
Out of the blue, oh, How could i forget?

I feel it all because when i was 8,
There was a fire
In our backyard at three in the morning,
It could have burned the only home
I had ever known to the ground.
But we woke up just in time to save it.

Two weeks ago,
There was another fire,
One we both take responsibility for.
It started in the walls of our hearts
and travelled to the tip of our tongues.
We woke
when all that remained was the smoke.
Tell me, Do you feel it too?
The heat.
The regret.
Can you taste it?

They used to be boys.

{listen to audio as you read :)}

I wonder about the boys
who wake early to rip the air out of lungs,
Boys, because they are still their mother’s sons,
Boys, because they once sat at their father’s feet.

I wonder what they were like when they were younger,
Did they play football barefeet while the sun kissed their backs?
Did they dance in the rain or play in its puddles?
or run around in singlets and shorts belting out laughs?
Did they bruise their knees climbing guava trees?
Did the northern wind wrap them in its calm?
I wonder if they ever wished on stars
or played police and thief under the moonlight ?

I wonder if they ever thought about the future,
Did they know that they would
One day shake the foundations of an entire nation?
Did they know that they would be the reason why
sons never see their fathers again?
and mothers never hear their daughters laugh?
Did they know that they would,like forgotten treasure,
bury fear in the hearts of the young and old alike?
Did they know that they would stop thousands of hearts from beating?

I wonder if they pray to God at night,
Do they ask for forgiveness for taking away his children’s tomorrow?
Do they know there are people whose knees are sore from praying
that life cuts open their hearts to put the same amount of pain they have put out?
Do they know we are still waiting for our girls?
The ones they took in broad daylight from their school
and that their mothers are left with sobs knotted in their throats and sand in their hands?
I want to know because we have wailed and prayed and marched,
and all we have left are hissing lungs and faint breath,
We are tired and shaken,
afraid to leave our houses,
afraid to go to bus stations or malls,
afraid to even visit the house of God.

You know,
they used to be boys; our boys,
until they waged war on us,
They used to be ours
until they stained our streets with blood,
Now I wonder if they know a bomb lays where their hearts once stood,
I wonder if they know that beneath the mess they have made,
lay our brothers and our sisters,
limbs ripped off, flesh hanging loose,
beneath the rubble there are no tribes or religion,
no northerners or southerners, only children.
God’s children.

Rethinking Failure: It isn’t shameful

(Obviously, there are some failures you should be ashamed of. Especially, those you could have mitigated but hear me out.)

I think that somehow, our society has found a way to stigmatize failure. We all grow up hearing, seeing and thinking that failure is the worst thing that could possibly happen to us. Ask anyone, “what’s your biggest fear?” Most will say “failure”; that used to be one of my biggest fears too. I mean, it seems admirable that i want to succeed but if my fear of failure inhibits my ability to actually commit and work hard at the things that I love then we’ve got a problem.

You know what I think should be stigmatized? Not trying. Putting little or no effort into creating the life you want for yourself because you are afraid you will fail. Refusing to put yourself on the road to supposed “success” because you are so clouded by what will happen if you fail. And what if you do fail? You wouldn’t be the first to fail at something. It is impossible to go through life without some form of failure. Failure is one of the greatest teachers…one of the greatest pathfinders. Allow it to give the toughest backbone.

I should add that I am fully aware that failing/losing can be very painful but it is only temporary. Soon you will move past it and onto the next thing (I’m not just saying this, I’ve had my fair share of failures). One of the beauties of life is being able to look back at your failures and seeing how high they have taken you, because I honestly think that failure is a building block (a very solid one). Failure is not shameful, stay away from anyone who make you feel like it is.

I sincerely hope I can teach my children that there are many things worse than failure..things like living with regret and wasting the only life you’ve got, things like the waiter getting your order wrong when you’re in a hurry (and really hungry) and things like someone frying/eating your last plantain (the worst actually).

Like Roy Williams said “Make Peace with the possibility of failure and amputate your sense of shame.” This is one of my many life-mottos.

“May you live all the days of your life.”
May you live the best life possible.

This is how we learned to love

I know that life was hard for you
And maybe you didn’t know better.
I know that to you, Love meant
Wearing your masculinity like a shield,
Exuding strength and sometimes yelling at your wife,
Nobody taught you how to be gentle,
Nobody taught you that love could be soft and vulnerable.
I see how hard you have tried to defy history,
But we both know how hard it is
To teach an old dog new tricks,
If it is any consolation (at all), I hope you know
I learned the depth of unconditional love
By loving you.

What the world doesn’t tell you

They don’t tell you how much it hurts
when your heart is ripped from your sleeve,
Or how badly your teeth chatter and body shivers,
When you put yourself “out there” and a storm comes.

They don’t teach you how to deal with
the ache of misbelonging;
the pain of rejection;
the soreness of losing;
They don’t tell you because maybe telling, is not enough.

They don’t teach you because you cannot teach a person
how to deal with pain they have not endured,
They don’t tell you because
the warmth of belonging;
the joy of acceptance;
the fulfillment of succeeding; are all incredibly satisfying.
And really, what kind of life would you be living
if the fear of failure bound you by your feet?

I promise you,
If you can just get off the floor after a bad fall,
If you can dust off the dirt and
Find peace as your bruises heal,
If you can come to the understanding that
Nothing will teach you as thoroughly as experience will,
You will find flowers growing on the path you once walked.