by Afam Ade-Odiachi
My friend, the one I call the second avenger, looked at me as we walked to the car after drinks in our local bar and said, “I was just wondering why you’re here?” He let the silence that followed breathe. I was confused at first. I thought it was the prelude to a drunken affirmation of our friendship. It is always nice to hear the people you love tell you how much they love you. I was mistaken.
“You could live anywhere, so I’ve never understood why you’re here.” He continued.
I stopped for a minute, and looked at him properly, straight in his eyes. I imagine that I looked frightened for a second. It was the fear that comes with knowing that you’ve been seen through; that the thing you were trying so desperately to hide has been exposed. Rather than face the truth of his words, I laughed and said, “What do you mean? I’m a Lagos boy. My family’s here, where else would I be?”
His eyes didn’t leave mine. He watched as my fake smile died. He was serious, and I was filled with dread. “You are unhappy here. You get into this depressed melancholic state every week or so. I know that all of us do, and I know that the move back is always difficult, but the frequency with which you cycle is a cause for concern.”
I knew what he was asking but I didn’t want to answer. It is not a bad thing to have a moment of weakness or confusion, but I’ve always felt that any admittance of my failings made me vulnerable in a way I consider unmanly. I didn’t answer. I turned away and kept on walking.
We were well into our silent drive when he brought it up again.
“Have you figured it out yet?” He asked.
“Why you’re here?”
I shook my head. I hadn’t the faintest idea. I knew the right thing to say, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell that lie, one more time. If I’d been stubborn, I’d have said, “I’m a journalist, and one day I’ll be a publisher. There’s an opportunity here for anyone that can see it. I’ll build the blog into a proper platform, and then I’ll grow from there.” It’s the dream, a dream that has suffered from chronic levels of neglect. I hadn’t written anything in two weeks, and he knew it.
“Do you want to know what I think?”
I was confused about this too. Honesty is a perfect cruelty. The truth can set anyone free, but if it’s true enough, it will crucify you first. In an exemplary rendition of cowardice, I said nothing. I didn’t want to be crucified that day. My silence wasn’t enough to deter him from his mission.
“You’ve stagnated. You have all these goals, but you’re stuck, because you’re afraid of what they might mean for your life. I think you care more about other people than you do about yourself, so you never pick you. But, you’re going to have to, because they won’t live your life. You have to realise that doing nothing is a choice. If you don’t choose then life will choose for you.”
I tried to interject but he was adamant.
“That’s why you’ve been unhappy. Anyone can see that the choice life’s making for you right now won’t make you happy. I hate being the one that says these things to you, and I wish I didn’t have to but I must. Pick you, choose you, love you; above all else, above anyone else, make a decision and start moving.”
We spent the rest of the drive not talking. It was a silence of three parts: my despair, his concern, and our future.
When he dropped me off, he said, “at the very least think about it.”
Afam Ade-Odiachi is a writer and journalist, with a passion for story telling. In addition to working as a junior reporter for CNBC Africa, he runs a little blog called theramblingsofamadman-afam.com. He has also served as a content co-ordinator for Mnet’s Stargist.