• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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A friendship so short; a life too short


Good Morning,’ Martha said, as she sat on the passenger’s seat. ‘I honestly have no idea how you got me in because I don’t do lift,’ she said.

‘I honestly would have used every letter in your sentence if not that you hit at them first for I also don’t do lift,’ I responded. We both laughed. In all honesty, I do lift. I target the elderly – men and women. I also do pregnant women. They are like miracles on two feet. They are waiting to happen.

Martha and I were meeting for the first time along Bishop Oluwole Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, that mid-January morning. She had done her job working night shift and was on her way home somewhere in Ikoyi. Martha, a chubby-looking lady of about five and a half feet, worked as a pharmacist in one of the posh hospitals on the Island. Her fair complexioned skin shone brightly under that morning sun. We exchanged phone numbers and thereafter we became friends after several calls. We met up for lunch and dinner. We talked on almost everything. Martha had a lot to talk about. She had her dreams. They were many. She had her plans for the future. And, like all of us, she also had her fears.

‘But I would never wallow under them… no matter thick my fears are, I would rather be pushed by my zest for living,’ she said, sitting across the table and munching away. ‘I learnt a lot from my father, a military man,’ she continued, raising her head and leaving behind the gaze that I knew as her trademark. ‘That man advised us – his children to pick up our fears and give them all some good fight.’

She had only added this bit after informing me she had lost her elder sister a month earlier. Another mishap was to come barely two weeks later. She lost her boyfriend to her love rival. These were tragic events that hurt Martha beyond description. She informed: ‘Tony, I loved my boyfriend and I gave him my most expensive gift – my heart and I came out with nothing.’

‘What were you expecting?’ I asked, just trying to see if she would come out with the sort of response I am used to.

‘I wanted his heart too but he chose someone over me,’ she responded, shaking her head ruefully.

‘Any bitter feeling?’ I threw at her, observing her intently.

‘No,’ she responded sharply. Wondering. ‘But I thought he didn’t have to do that just a few weeks – days after my sister’s passing, after three years together.’

‘I am sure you’d soon be looking ahead.’

‘I am, Tony,’ she informed. ‘And, trust me ‘cause I truly am for I gave my all to it.’

‘That’s the best consolation – our best frees us.’

‘Tony, you know, my sister’s death hurt me,’ she informed. She seemed far away from the surrounding at that moment.

‘I do understand for I have lost siblings – a sister and a brother,’ I announced.

‘Really?’ she asked, looking really surprised.

‘Yes, I do.’‘Tony, I am less than 30 and death that I never thought of as a child is now a very close reality, you know.’

‘It’s one of the pains of ageing.’

We talked a bit more on some issues about life before we called it a day. I offered to drop her home in Ikoyi, but she would rather do cab. We parted. We kept talking on the phone spending minutes. A few times, we crossed the hour mark. Martha travelled home for her father’s 70th birthday anniversary. That visit had its impact on her too.

‘My father cried, celebrating his birthday,’ she informed. ‘He told us in very clear terms that he had done his best in life – he had made some mistakes here and made some good judgements there but on the average, he had led a fairly good life.’

‘So, what is your take from this all, Martha?’ I asked.

‘Tears – in fact, mist in my father’s eyes broke me… for he was a soldier and we grew up thinking soldiers didn’t come with emotions for they were not like other men who hid theirs. Soldiers we knew had none.’

‘Now you know better, Martha.’

‘There’s something better I took… I want to lead a full life… I want to make my own contributions to living,’ she said, sipping from the glass of water in front of her.

‘And?’ I asked, raising my right eyebrow.

‘And, I don’t want to be rich like Dangote or as popular as Michael Jackson,’ she informed, smiling. ‘I want to be me… I want the world to see the real person in me and if I am able, I would love to assist one person find his way through life… just one person.’

‘Not two?’ I threw at her.

‘One is enough… we all need to touch one person each… and that will make a whole,’ she announced.

I could see tears in her eyes. I lost the courage to ask but I knew she struggled with some thoughts. Rather emotions. Negative ones. I couldn’t ask. I chose the weaker path. It was time I pulled the curtains. I did not realise it would be our last meeting. The next day, I went away on official assignments. I was not in Lagos for a few weeks. I only got a text from Martha informing she was on admission in her workplace.

Moments after I came back from Lagos, I dashed to her hospital. A security man looked up and down at me. He seemed confused. He called on another mate. The lad took some cautious walk towards me.

‘The Martha I knew that worked,’ he began.

‘Worked?’ I cut in.

‘Yes, worked,’ he accentuated. ‘She’s no more.’

‘No more, as in how,’ I said. Transfixed. Lower lips hanging. ‘I mean, I am asking for Martha Onalo,’ I screamed a bit loudly. Shaking.

‘Yes, I know,’ he affirmed. ‘She died a few days ago, precisely April 13, and she has been buried.

‘Died? Buried?’ I blurted out. ‘Oh! My God!’

For me, Martha Onalo’s friendship was one so short. And her life, rather too short! Rest in Peace, Martha Onalo.


With Tony Monye