You'd heard him talk about depression. You enter a matatu. He's seated just before the back seat. Your eyes meet, you nod, he doesn't acknowledge. He's looking at you, but he could be staring through you. His face is concocted in confusion. He could be drunk, or high. One thing is certain: he's not okay. Maybe he is a man on the run. Or wherever he's headed, bad news waits.

You alight at the gate of this flawed university. You're there for a conference; you're late. Serious folk don't turn up at 11 a.m. If it were a job interview, you would have blown it. But it's just another damned conference.

The conference will roll on. Self-assured speakers doing their thing. Hot chicks mesmerizing you a bit. A Luo guy trying to steal the show. You, trying to focus but your head going back to that chap in the Matatu.

It was a bored night, around 2 a.m., the scent of sin wafted through air. Prostitute hour. Homeless dogs shagged each other on the street before you. They were going at each other, swapping partners — a mad orgy in the night cold and slight drizzle. Sexual energy is a wildfire, not easily put out when stoked.

You smiled and thought of your previous sexual partners. Where could they have been at that moment? The dogs went away, biting and clawing. You felt your pocket for a cigarette.

You know him, but you're not friends. You don't have his number. He doesn't have yours. Only that you've met a couple of times in circles of banter. You fist bump every time you meet, and that's it. This time, fate has brought you together. You are both causalities of a party gone wrong. You've escaped the madness and now you're standing outside the gate of this haunted house, trying not to imagine what's going on inside.

Weed and booze work in mysterious ways. They bring out a primordial part of people. The guy who never talks to girls, has two chicks on his lap, declaring his undying love to them. The shy girl is gyrating wildly to some shit-faced fella. Some chap is kneeling on the corner, laughing himself sick. You're high. You're drunk, you've been in such situations. There's only one ending to the narrative. You don't want to be part of it, not today.

You're outside this imposing gate. There's a slight drizzle. You light a cigarette and blow away into the night. Your head is running. You're thinking of people, of situations and past moments. Your mistakes come rushing through. But as Rudy Francisco says, 'life is a gym membership with a complicated cancellation policy.' You have to plot for the future because now is gone. Now is a black hole that swallows everything. Now is the mother of tomorrow.

You think of Mugabe. You think of Obama. You'd listened to a speech by a former navy seal. The former frogman was jabbering about discipline, it rings in the back of your head. You need to get your act together. The partying must stop. Smoking must end. No more drinking. And certainly, no waking up in bed with chicks whose names you can't remember. You need to clean up your life.

A body bursts through the gate. He clutches at a tumbler; he takes a swig from it and offers it to you. You decline and puff hard at your cigarette. You want to ask him what he thinks of all this: the constant debauchery, girls and life. Before your lips can part open, he wipes out his phone and makes a call. The fella on the other side is a long-lost friend.

They will talk for about thirty minutes. You won't move an inch. The conversation will capture you by the collars. If he was to walk away, you would tug along. He will talk about depression. How he was in one of the top universities around, but he felt utterly alienated. He just couldn't fit into that uppity no matter how hard he tried. The other students had a shift of tongue that he couldn't fathom. Money was an issue.

Chaps would make plans to go party.

"I have five Grand."

"How much do you have?"

"I have ten Grand."

"Si we then go have a good time and pick up some hot girls."

Such conversations he would only listen in to them from afar. He couldn't contribute in any way. Kennedy Odede of Shofco says that when you have no money, you have no voice. That was our hero. To remain sane, he quit and moved universities.

He will talk more; you will lose track of his words. They will be swallowed up by night. Drifting away in the drizzle. You will feel sorry for him. And you will want to tell him that he's not fighting such battles alone. Most people are looking for the security of belonging, and that's where they go wrong. Because you can never fully belong. And it's always best to be an outsider. You can navigate through different groups easily. But when you limit yourself to one group, what happens when they choke you out?

You will want to tell him all this but you won't. You'll watch him end his call and stagger back into the house. You will wonder what his parents might be thinking. You will want to tell him that identity battles are not won by drinking. That he needs to dig deep. Find the light in his soul that never goes off no matter the tempest.

You'll want to tell him that you've also been there. Flailing and fallen, caught in the quagmire of wanting to belong and then realising that it's not worth it. Being a part of some cool group is overrated. And no happiness surpasses the realisation that you can be perfectly fine on your own, navigating through groups.

You will hail an uber. You won't see him for weeks. Maybe he'd found purpose in his life, you will think. Then you will run into him in the Matatu, him looking sad and lost. As your day will stumble on, you'll pray that he finds his true north.


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  2. suddenly I feel like am the guy.anyway nice piece

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  4. Paints a perfect picture of the current generation.


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