A while ago, I met a guy I’ll call Bosco. While I hadn’t noticed him, Bosco must have identified me a couple of meters away before he put on a smile, the kind you would wear when you pump into a former friend.
“Ki guy?” He stopped me. I flinched a little before discreetly sizing up the presumptuous stranger, right from his unkempt afro following the visible trails of sweat running behind his ears into his somewhat tired T-shirt. His apparently pre-faded jeans seemed to undergo a second, but natural, fading phase and his dusty sandals testified to a not-so-cushy living. My first instinct was I was having an encounter with a conman. You know, the kind that stop you for your opinion, asking if they should return this envelope full of money they’ve just picked. But on close examination, something about this guy was familiar.
“It’s me, Bosco.” He offered a hand for a handshake.
“Umm…Bosco…Bosco…?” I shook his hand with a little hesitation
“Mwiiri, Nadiope house?” He offered more clues with a ridiculously wider grin.
“Oh, right. Nice to meet you, Bosco.”
“Man, what’s with the suit? Let me guess, accountant, lawyer, banker?”
“Lawyer, actually.” I wanted to follow that with a how about you? but I thought it modest not to ask.
“How is that whole law thing going? Minting dime, huh?”
“Well, something like that.”
By now I’d gleaned the pieces and finally placed an identity on Bosco, but it was not a good one. Quite honestly, I felt a little jittery at the realization. But I was confident because I knew the circumstances were different now. Had there been a pedestal, I would be the one on top of it and him adulating from down below.
I watched Bosco forcing small talk as he smiled like a retard and all I was thinking was; does this idiot really remember me or he mistakes me for his former friend? Does he remember the times he made me fetch him water and wash his cloths, the day him and his friends distributed my grub amongst themselves on my watch? Where did he gather the courage to offer me a handshake?
Back then he was a symbol of terror, people like him showed us the way to Christ, seeking refuge in the chapel where senior ones were not only to be seen but could also be heard.
But here we were 13 years later, in the real world where age advantage and the size of one’s muscles don’t matter quite as much the size of their brain, a world where petty high school popularity peters out for real life likable qualities like humility and resourcefulness. Had he spent a little more time cultivating these relevant virtues he probably wouldn’t have received the apparent lashings from life’s cat o’ nine tails whip, one that’s wielded by that bitch we call karma.
Bosco stopped me because he wanted some money. Lunch, he called it, even if the sun was almost going down. I could tell he needed it, he went on to narrate some long story of how he got into this pitiful state, a story that involved dead parents and other details I honestly don’t care to remember.
I looked at Bosco and I could see the remorse in his watery eyes, like he wanted to say “dude I am sorry for the past. I was a young fuckin’ moron who was swayed by peer pressure and general idiocy.” But perhaps that’s what he should have said instead of assuming that I didn’t remember any of it. I thought of reminding him all these things but I didn’t see the need to torture him anymore than life had.
I riffled through my wallet and picked out the smallest denomination note, which happened to be sh 1000/=. It wasn’t enough to buy him lunch, but it was a lot more than he deserved. It is this kind of generosity that I look back to and say if I ever find myself being dragged away in the opposite direction of the pearly gates, I’ll remind Jesus I helped out an asshole in need.
This reminded me of this really nice illustration by the oatmeal about high school popularity.