It’s been a while since I’ve come to see you.
I’m really sorry. I’ve been busy…Okay scratch that: I haven’t. I just didn’t know how to face you, I guess.
I know that I’d probably disappoint you because it seems nothing has changed since we last met.
I’m sorry I did what I did. I had to, you see. There was no other option. And in the end, I walked away. I’m sorry.
I can understand if you don’t want to see me again or hear from me but I had to face you. Even if it’s just one last time.
We’re best friends.
I can see you looking at me now with your limpid eyes and even though they are full of love, there is sadness in them. Almost as if you can see through my pretty words and explanations, to the real me inside. I love that…and I hate it. Maybe that’s why I walked away. I couldn’t bear it.
I think…I am going to change the subject to something a little lighter.
I still enjoy an odd drink every now and then. My new favorite is 33 Export Lager. Very smooth and best when chilled. I sound like an advert, don’t I? Anyway, I kept it for a special occasion. Today, actually. I brought some for you. And don’t look at me like that because you know very well you liked sharing a drop or two with me back in the day so here…have a few.
I just went for a job interview. I really hope I get it…with the economy being what it is, I don’t know. I applied as an assistant in a private veterinary practice. How’s that for irony? I was told they’d get back to me by the weekend but I’m quite sure they like me. I pretended to be more confident than I actually am. I scammed them. But then everything is a scam, abi?
You’re awfully quiet. You have nothing to say? No message to pass to me?
Won’t you say something? Anything?
Our friendship started when I was 10 years old. I’ve known you for over half my life. You never lied to me. You were always there for me and I remember when Auntie Bose said that maybe you were a spirit guide from the ancestors sent to ‘guard’ me. My parents laughed it off. Remember that?
I know you do.
That day I left you, I just couldn’t bear it. I had already watched you suffer so much in your last months. And I was so torn up inside my father had to make the decision for me. He put you in the car and, even though he never really took part in your care from the time I was 12, he made an exception and carried you because you were too weak to climb in. I couldn’t bring myself to touch you: not because you disgusted me in your pain and weakness, but because I thought that somehow, I would feel your life ebb away; the warmth disappear from your limbs.
I will never forget how you looked at me. Same limpid eyes: love, sadness, loyalty and understanding…glazed with pain.
Dad drove away as I struggled to hide tears. Then I went inside and cried. When he came back you were wrapped in a blanket. He asked me where we would bury you and I said we wouldn’t. I said we would cremate you and spread your ashes in the ocean. Mummy and Daddy looked at me, then at each other. Daddy nodded and told me he would get someone to do that.
Cremation is a very un-Nigerian thing to do, I know. And there were a few people who objected and talked to Dad in soft tones, thinking I wouldn’t hear them.
‘But Doctor…this is not a normal thing…’
“All this nonsense? From a grown man? Just because of…’
But it didn’t matter to me. What did they know? People so occupied with putting a façade of ‘bravery’ and placing walls around themselves. They would never understand. You were my best friend.
But in the end I still left you. I couldn’t bear to watch you burn to ashes so I turned and walked away while Dayo did the deed. And even when Dayo called me and told me it had been done and he had your ashes in a clean jar, I couldn’t really face it. I told him to keep them in the garage until I was able to face this day.
And here we are. It’s been 5 months and 4 days. You were my best friend for 18 years. An entire lifetime. Through all the wahala, you stuck by me. Our friendship was not the usual ‘Naija’ thing but I’m okay with it. I have nothing to prove and having you in my life made me a better person, I believe.
So this is it. Here we are. I’m holding a jar with your ashes and standing in front of the ocean, waves lapping about and my toes in the sand. It’s a quiet stretch of beach and it seems fitting.
There’s a couple walking hand in hand. I know they are trying to pretend they aren’t looking at me; thinking I may be mad, probably wondering who the hell I’m talking to with a jar in one hand and a 33 Export Lager in the other. It’s fine though. They don’t have to understand.
So, goodbye, dear friend. I’ll do this now, then take another swig of my beer in honour of the good times.
You were more than just a dog. You were and are my forever friend.
Written by Sifa Asani Gowon.