So, it’s your birthday! And not just any ordinary one, you’re forty. I dare not mention your name, or you’ll happily kill me. And nobody will know it was you, they’d think it was Marzik, or Lingani or any of your other aliases.
Marzik! That was one of my names wasn’t it? Remember those characters we created in secondary school, when the others were reading or playing football, or doing something useful. The object of the game was that you’d set a trap, give my character superhuman powers, and I was supposed to escape, or achieve something. In most cases, it was you that gave me the clue to escape, or achieve, or whatever we were doing. Lingani was yours, remember that letter? And you denied it until I asked you in England … but I always knew it was you. You don’t fool an old friend that easily. We’d played too many games for that, I knew your style.
And then, when we got older and I visited your house with supermodel. Your mum started having a go at you, telling you that Ife now had a girlfriend, and what were you doing? And now, it’s you getting married … and me? Tell your mum you won that too. She’d be proud of you, just like I am.
She’s a lovely girl by the way, your soon-to-be wife. I spoke to her several times, and she couldn’t stop talking about you. When I first heard you were getting married, my first thought was “How did she find you, underneath all those layers”. But she did, and now she’s discovered what all the others missed, what warmth lies beneath the many skins, if only they could peel with persistence.
I so wish I could make it to your wedding. I know how you hate these ceremonies. I’d have had a great laugh. And you went and picked Valentine’s day. I can’t help thinking it was well picked, so you’ll have one less ceremony to think of. Even now, I still can’t stop laughing, like we always do. I once told someone that even if I hadn’t spoken to you for a year, we’d talk for hours on the phone and laugh heartily, as though we’d never stopped talking.
I’m so glad I got beneath that first layer. You know, that quiet one with understated superintelligence. The one that gets animated when discussing serious topics, logic, current affairs, or anything else with your very special slant. You’d never think that top layer could laugh, but when you heard the laughter, , you’d wonder when it would ever stop. One day, in 1998, when I’d hoped to get married, we were sitting in your living room, when you read your goals for the year. One of it was to do everything to make my wedding great. I just sat there stunned, thinking, “that’s how highly he thinks of me” and you said it in such a matter-of-fact way, as though it was absolutely nothing to give yourself so fully to my cause.
Remember how in KC you used to be the first to sleep? You were supposed to teach me maths on the day before O levels, and you went to bed at juniour’s lights out. And it wasn’t even laziness, because you invariably got better grades than anyone else (oh, I forgot, I’ve been banned from mentioning how clever you are). How different things are now. I know that I can call you at any time of the night, and you’d be at your computer.
Oh those aliases again, they’ll soon come and get me for all the infringements I’ve committed. How do you manage to be so creative? Your blog isn’t even in your name. It tells the story of several people in a bar. One would even think you were a regular,constantly exchanging drunken banter with pretend intellectuals, … but I know you better than that.
I pray you have a great birthday and a wonderful wedding. And when you celebrate your 40th wedding anniversary, I pray you’re looking forward with great pleasure to the next 40 years. That’ll make you 120, like Moses. You knew that of course, knowing isn’t the issue, it’s believing.
Thanks for never judging me, for accepting my weaknesses and encouraging my strengths. And thanks for the long talks. Sometimes, we were doing the intellectual stuff, sometimes, just laughing like kids. But whatever we were talking about, whatever we were doing together, we always had fun. Even climbing those mountains in the Lake district, doing the scary rides on Blackpool Pleasure Beach, walking through busy London streets, etc.