I have often thought about suicide. How people decide to finally end their life, especially by jumping off a building. The courage it takes to take that final step before letting yourself go. Most days when I have such deep thoughts, you’ll find me on the rooftop of a building looking down. If you look carefully from below it’s easy to assume that I’m suicidal.
If you have lived in Nairobi though, you probably know that life isn’t like the movies. People don’t care that much about what other people choose to do with their lives. This is why I was so shocked the day I was peacefully staring at the city and a random man rushed towards me.
“Please don’t jump!” He said as he pulled me away from the ledge.
I felt the need to tell him that I wasn’t planning to jump but decided to wait for “the pep talk”. You know the one that people say to get you to view life differently and change your decision. Instead, he looked at me and handed me a packet of Skittles.
“I didn’t know what to say next. However, whenever I feel bad my sister always gives me a packet of Skittles. They make life a little better in that moment,” He said.
I won’t lie, that was the cheesiest thing I had ever heard but I loved Skittles so I took the packet from his hands. That small act of kindness led to the beginning of an amazing friendship. We ended up talking for two hours and by the time we parted, I had enjoyed our conversation so much.
The funny thing was we didn’t even exchange numbers, on another random day we found each other on the same rooftop. Like me, he was also a great sucker for a good view and deep thoughts. And from that day on, James became a huge part of my life, my best friend.
Most of the people in our lives never believed that a man and woman could ever have a bond like ours. One time my mum even told my relatives that we were both friends because one of us was secretly in love with the other. Typical Nairobi mindset. James and I had been there for each other through different seasons of our lives, especially relationships.
Being an extremely good-looking man, James always attracted beautiful but sometimes intense women. Just because he was my friend doesn’t mean I never noticed how handsome he was. However, I had never thought of him as a potential for me. He knew way too much, and, in my view, he made up for the female best friend I never had. Anyway, back to his relationships. James always found himself dealing with intense women who would go to any extent for his attention and approval. One of his exes hit another woman with a bottle at a club just because she was admiring James. So, to be on the safe side I always tried my best to keep my distance.
Due to their demanding nature, James could never maintain a relationship for longer than five months. For that reason, I never once thought that he would ever end up really liking someone until the day he fell for his supervisor at work. Jeanette was stunning like the women you see in magazines stunning. One look at her and you couldn’t even guess that she was in her 40s. Jeanette had recently lost her husband and so she wasn’t open to being with another man. Furthermore, James knew that the only way things would ever work out was if one person decided to quit their job.
Given that his salary was good and his working conditions were favourable, there was no way he would ever leave his job for a woman. James decided the best way to deal with his feelings was to bury them and move on. This was better said than done.
Working closely with her made it difficult for them to maintain a working relationship and with time they ended up sneaking around. This went on for four months until one of the other employees caught them messing around in the washroom and reported them to HR. Now that they had been caught, they were offered two choices. To stop fooling around and focus on work or to quit.
James thought about all the moments they had shared and realized he had fallen in love with her. So, he stepped up and said he would let go of his job if it meant being with her. Jeanette on the other hand was not ready to leave her job. They were given a final warning and sent off. James knew he couldn’t deal with nursing a heartbreak while still working with her so he decided to quit.
The thought of having to start looking for a job while forgetting about Jeanette weighed him down. So, like a good friend, I stepped in and offered a shoulder. After one month, James started to accept the situation and move on with his life. Our lives went on as normal but just when you think the worst is over, another problem arises.
James and I had formed a culture of staying in and playing games on weekends. Our favourite being Monopoly. To make the game interesting we would invite a few of our other friends. During one of our game nights, we heard a knock on the door. James stood up to go open the door and found Jeanette holding an envelope. She handed him the envelope and left immediately. He opened the envelope and found an ultrasound baby photo.
After the month he had, this was the last thing he needed. However, given that James had grown up without a father he knew he had to step up. Jeanette was an independent woman who believed that she didn’t need a man to raise her baby. Even so, James was always prepared to make her pregnancy journey more bearable.
The two would go for checkups together and he would offer to take her home. To ensure she had all she needed he went back to the company he worked for and begged for his job back. Luckily, they accepted and he started immediately. James let go of all his clubbing habits and focused on Jeanette’s health. He always took it upon himself to do her shopping and would even offer to cook for her on weekends. Jeanette slowly started to warm up to the idea of them being a family. However, she knew that James was only doing this for the baby.
In her seventh month, I ended up having to move in with James for a short period. My apartment required fumigation and since my parents lived far, he was my only option. James, being the loving best friend he was, offered me his second bedroom. In the morning he went to shower as I was making breakfast. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and to my surprise it was Jeanette.
I had never had the chance to meet her and so it was exciting to finally see her in person. On the other hand, she wasn’t that pleased to see me.
“Hey, do we have an appointment today?” James said as he walked down the stairs.
“No, I just wanted to run a few things by you,” She replied while still staring at me, specifically what I was wearing.
I had formed a habit of walking around the house in a short and vest. James and I had become so comfortable around each other that he didn’t seem to mind.
“Okay, come in. This is Liz, my best friend that I am always telling you about,” He said.
“Nice to meet you,” I said as I extended my hand.
“Likewise,” She said as she walked in and made her way to the sofa.
I wasn’t one to cause drama over petty jealousy so I closed the door and went upstairs to give them space to talk. An hour later, she left, and I noticed that James didn’t give me the 411 as usual. Anyway, I went about my business.
The following weekend, Jeanette called James abruptly and he dashed out of the house. She had fallen and sprained her leg but luckily the baby was okay. James, realizing that her living alone was a danger to the baby, asked her to stay with him so he could take care of her. That was the beginning of my nightmare.
Jeanette never liked me and so she always tried her best to ensure James and I couldn’t spend time together. Even though her leg was sprained she was always doing the most. She would cook for him every day, clean his clothes and even interrupt our game nights with “emergencies”. She had made us believe she was in labour twice just so his attention could shift to her.
Not to mention all the petty things she would do to me whenever James was not around. I preferred editing from home and so when I would take breaks, she would switch off the Wi-Fi. This would end up disrupting my flow of work. Sometimes she would finish up food in the name of cravings but I knew it was on purpose. The worst part was, I knew that telling James all these things would affect our friendship so that wasn’t an option.
Instead, I decided to talk to her and assure her that if she wanted James then I would never stand in her way. However, I reminded her that given what she had done to him, I had to be cautious and protect James. She took it surprisingly well and agreed to stop being petty which she did.
The two of us lived in harmony for a few days until she pulled the worst possible stunt ever. James had been sent to Nakuru for three days for work. So, he left on a Friday morning after breakfast. Jeanette was still sleeping so I put on my headphones and started working. An hour later, she came downstairs, grabbed the headphones from my head and asked me to make breakfast for her.
“Are you feeling unwell?” I asked.
“Yes, I feel a little tired,” She said.
“Okay let me call Leah to come and she’ll be able to help you with what you need,” I said.
Leah was the lady James would call from time to time to help out with housework. She was also a great cook.
“Why can’t you do it? Leah will take time to get here and I’m hungry,” She said.
“I have work to finish editing. Let me tell her to hurry,” I said as I texted Leah.
“I can’t believe how selfish you are being. I’m not giving these back until you make my breakfast,” She said as she held onto my headphones.
“Fine, stay with them,” I said.
She walked over to the living room, switched on the TV and played music at 100% volume.
“I thought we agreed that you won’t be petty,” I said.
She ignored me.
“Give me my headphones!” I snapped as I tried taking them from her.
We ended up doing a push and pull and she fell on the floor.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” I asked her as I grabbed the remote, reduced the volume and rushed to help her.
She had scrapped her hand on the side of the table and was bleeding. I rushed to look for the first aid kit and heard a knock on the door. Knowing she couldn’t answer, I rushed back and opened for Leah the door then went back to the bathroom to look for the kit.
When I came back to treat her wound, James called me and so I picked up.
“Are you trying to kill my baby?” He asked in an angry tone.
“James cool down, she just scrapped her hand a little,” I said.
“Why were you fighting with her in the first place?” He asked.
“You think I was fighting with a pregnant woman?” I said.
“Take her to the hospital now and you better hope my baby is okay!” He snapped.
I hang up the call and called an Uber immediately. Jeanette ended up being okay and they dressed up her wound. I took her home and went for a walk to clear my head. By the time I got back, I was shocked to find James in the house. They were on the floor and judging from the look on his face, he was about to blame me for something else.
“What now?” I said.
“Jeanette tripped and fell. Luckily, she didn’t get hurt,” He replied.
“Let me guess, you think I pushed her?” I replied sarcastically.
“No but judging by today’s events I can’t completely rule out that thought,” He said bluntly.
“You know I thought the women you dated had issues but Jeanette is on a whole new level,” I said.
“Excuse me?” She said.
“You have been such a nuisance since the day you got here. James, you know me, I would never put anyone’s life in danger,” I said.
“I think it’s time you left my house,” He said.
“What?” I replied.
“I’m not going to lose my baby because of your petty drama. Jeanette is the mother of my child, and I can’t trust her around you,” He said.
“You know what? I don’t have to deal with this. One day you’ll know the truth and I hope you will be able to forgive yourself,” I said.
James ignored what I said and turned to ask Jeanette if there was anything she needed.
I packed my bags, called an Uber and left without looking at either of them. It was unbelievable that after all these years a woman that wasn’t even his girlfriend would make him think I was jealous. My apartment had been okay for a while, but I enjoyed staying with James, so I had never bothered to tell him.
When I got home, I decided to give James space hoping we would be able to fix our issues soon. This was our first major fight in years and although I was disappointed in what he said I didn’t like it when he was mad at me. The days went by, and James never reached out. Slowly I started to adjust to my life without him even though I missed him. After a month, I decided to check in and see how he was doing so I called him. He didn’t pick up my call and never called me back, so I sent him and text. He opened it and blue-ticked me before going offline.
“Guess I have to accept that our friendship is over,” I thought to myself.
A couple of months went by, and I slowly went back to my habit of going to the rooftop of my building. It helped me to remain sane as I dealt with my emotions. One evening I found James standing at my spot in silence. I walked up to him, and we both found ourselves apologizing at the same time.
He told me about Jeanette and how he found out that the pregnancy was not his. To make matters worse, she had been deleting texts and calls so he wouldn’t talk to any woman who wasn’t a family member. I handed him the packet of Skittles I had in my hand. He smiled at me and we both stared at the view. I knew our friendship had been stained and it would take time for things to get back to the way they were. However, at that moment none of that mattered, I was comfortable just being there with him in silence.
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