It was the night before the day I got a call from the dentist’s office. My phone vibrated. A WhatsApp message had come in.
The gentle sound of the waterfall at my place felt like a massage on my back, easing my muscles and causing my eyes to go into a natural position of sleep. The neighborhood dogs were walking. I could hear their footsteps.
It wasn’t the kind of text you should be receiving on a Friday evening. It was short: two lines and four words long. It was from Musa’s number.
“His Wife,” read the first line.
“RIP Musa,” went the second line.
I leaned closer to my phone, re-read those words and my mind went blank. I took a deep sigh, deeper than any I can remember ever taking.
Musa came to our neighbourhood in January this year. He was personable, stout, and with biceps that stood out. He took short strides, always had the walk of an accomplished guy. There was refined confidence in the way he moved. And he talked with everyone he came across. Wasswa, the rolex guy knew him. The lady who sells vegetables at her stall by the road knew him. Kids knew his name. People with shops that line the route to our neighborhood knew him. The builders at the new residential construction site knew him. If he stood for chairman LC1, I bet he’d clinch a landslide victory. I introduced him to Mama Eliana, the lady who sells the best roadside fried chicken along Kisaasi-Kyanja road. He became her regular customer.
My first chat with him was on a Saturday evening. We were both from the canteen. He introduced himself, told me he was new to the place. He had moved to Uganda for a new job.
We strolled towards my house and stood outside. We talked.
He dropped out of Medical School because he didn’t feel it. His heart was somewhere else. He was in Med School because his dad wanted him to be there. It was his father’s dream, for him to become a doctor. “My father to this day doesn’t understand why I dropped out of med school,” he said, breaking into a chuckle.
He decided to join engineering school. His father was upset. He completed his undergrad, went on to pursue a masters in computer something and everything cybersecurity. He then got his MBA. None of this made up for his father’s disappointment in him for ditching medical school. He worked abroad in IT and cybersecurity.
Then he flirted with the thought of returning home. Like a woman you fall head over heels for, it was so strong a feeling it became irresistible. So he returned to his home country with a bag of dreams, ready to build a future in mother Africa.
He set up a poultry farm. His chickens were big, first growing and reached maturity quickly. They had the growth rate of broilers and the resistance to diseases of free-range local birds..
“I applied the knowledge of genetics into what I was rearing.”
He had the market. Sales were soaring. Cash was coming in. He was killing it as a poultry keeper, kicking butt at every turn. His market share was increasing. I asked what the secret to his chicken was. He gave me a cheeky smile and didn’t reveal whatever it was. “I did some cross breeding.” Of which particular types of chicken? He didn’t reveal. That was his trade secret. He became the most popular chicken guy in his area, selling hundreds of birds per week. Life back home was nothing short of great. But as he gained success, he stepped on some giant toes.
He had become a threat to the businesses of some competitors. And something happened. He didn’t tell me what it was. His business started a downhill trail. It was like a boulder on the loose. Everything he worked for came to a halt. Dominos crumbled. The chicken farm was no more. He was broke, shattered and angry. So he looked for a job, one in the field he’d studied. He got a it and moved to this country. His life in Uganda had just begun.
Then he asked me about the things I do. I told him many things, including writing.
“Do you have a blog?”
“I used to have one. It’s down for now.”
“For how long has it been down?”
“Over six months.”
He wasn’t amused by my response. He was rather disappointed and launched into a lecture.
“Look, you told me you work for a management consulting firm, right??”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“So, er, do you ever advise your clients to close shop?”
I didn’t respond. What did he want me to say? I looked down to my feet. My sandals were dusty. Towards the hem of my trousers rested sand powder. I folded my arms to my chest.
He asked why I stopped blogging. I gave him a bullshit excuse which I can’t type here because it won’t make sense to you either. It was something to do with time, a ridiculous excuse.
“My point is, there is no need to shut your blog down for that long.” I swallowed. “The only way people can believe the quality of what you write is if they can check out your work online. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve taken ages without writing, don’t ever close your blog.”
I thought of telling him that I used my Instagram and Facebook pages as writing pads during that spell of no blog.
“I’m thinking about starting a new blog.” (This is the blog you’re reading today. I told him I’d manage this one better.)
“What other things do you want to do with your blog? Do you want to place ads on it? Do you want to sell stuff on it? Will you link it to your social media platforms?”
Those were quick-fire questions. He looked on, expecting a response from me.
“I’ll…I’ll uhhmm…,” I stammered. He had triggered me into thinking. “I’ll start over with a simple blog. My priority will be to build content.”
“If you ever need my help, let me know.”
We shook hands. It was that evening in January, after chatting with Musa that I decided no matter what happened, I’d have a blog up by the first week of February.
There were more times we talked. Like the conversation we had about dating and marriage.
“Do you have a girlfriend,” he once asked as we walked from Mama Eliana’s chicken spot.
I didn’t have a girl so I told him there was someone I was seeing. I made it seem as though I was in a serious relationship, one that was a cousin to marriage. Truth is, I was dating someone but there was no name to our relationship. When you’ve been single for too long, you get used to it. You get comfortable. Yes, you’ll like someone. You’ll fall for them but commitment scares your arse like hot chilly. It becomes safer to be in something with no label to it. I was doing well in that department.
He believed in family and marriage. He told me to stay true to myself, to get to know her, to love her and to be there for her for as long as I could. He told me to marry when I felt ready. He believed in humility and honesty.
That’s why when I saw that “RIP Musa” message from his number, a message that was typed out by his wife, I knew it wasn’t a prank. I wasn’t chatting with a dead man. He succumbed to kidney failure.
Our last chat late last month ended with him saying, “Ernest, don’t ask me why.” I was returning from work and he was going to Mama Eliana. He hadn’t gone to work for a week.