Storms Are Meant To Pass | For Mimilo | Joshua Omena
New friends are like unnamed lands. And we are ever curious. We want to explore these places – know the vastness of their plains, the darkness of their caves and the scent of their air. And then we mount a flag there – claiming them as our own; conquered in love. Till we wake to see that people are not places. Places don’t walk away. People do.
It is 3am and I am writing about a friend that left. She is sleeping in faraway Addis Ababa and by sunrise, she will be on her way to Windhoek.
Friendship is a weak place – especially for two people of different sexes. There could always be attempts of trying to be careful, to define the limits and cage certain expressions. But with Mimi, I did not care. The first time I sent her a message was to ask for a favor. I had just written a story and I needed another eye to read it. At that same time, we were both participants of a virtual literary writing workshop on body – hosted by Tj Benson. And I noticed how she quickly referred to wine at every opportunity during conversations at the workshop. Mimi would later tell me that wine is a better way of calculating time. “Pris, I want to spend five bottles of wine with you”.
As I got closer to Mimi, it became clearer to me how symbolic alcohol is to her. It is a reflection of her strong and intoxicating spirit. And she would taunt me at every chance about how I don’t drink. Wine just always had a way of intruding our discussions.
“Omena, how you de?”
“I dey like dele jare. How are you?”
“By how many bottles?”
“‘Wine isn’t measured in bottles, it’s measured in time”
“Mimi, but tipsiness is measured in bottles
There is always this uncertainty that follows Mimi. Like she could disappear at anytime. At Ake festival, I kept checking for her. I did not see her when she arrived. Kenzie (Mimi’s mischievous friend) walked into the hall, rubbed her hands together and gave me her signature “I am thinking of a million ways to kill you” stare – and I was standing at the back, near the entrance of the hall, talking to Jerry Chi. Soft hands then covered my eyes. I felt them and I knew they were Mimi’s. It was not just the hands that gave her away. Mimi smelt of something vintage, like someone I once knew when I was younger.
So when she hugged me that day, I felt like a child. Hugs were important ways I and Mimi communicated. It was like she was letting me in – into very reserved places. And she would whisper into my ears. Audible sometimes, incoherent other times. After we hugged, she told me why they were late. Then she promised to see me later in the day. I did not see her till the next day.
Mimi often spoke of death with boldness. I am quite a coward. I would personify death or hide him under grand metaphors. But Mimi spoke of death like she was teasing him.
“Mimi, I really should stop using death as an illustration”
“how do we speak of life without death? The two cannot be separated”
“Let death be the elephant in the room”
“Continue in your denial”
“We can’t acknowledge everything, can we?”
“It’s interesting, the things you would choose to not acknowledge”
“We were taught to fear death, to do anything to stay alive”
“To fear the inevitable, Omena?”
“Well, we Africans are survivors and we love ignoring elephants”
She knows she is special. And she wraps her arrogance like a string around her middle finger. It is defiant how Mimi attracted attention to herself. Almost everyone thinks she’s amazing and she told me that the attention only makes her more arrogant. More stubborn. Mimi could be sweetly stubborn. That is her language of freedom. She does whatever her heart says especially when it means ignoring your opinion totally. When she cut her hair, I felt it was Mimi just trying to flaunt her freedom to everyone around her. But she told me over a can of Orijin that a woman cuts her hair to start again. What she never told me was why she chose to dye it with a somehow reddish color.
The day I told Mimi about my late parents, she acted very calm and asked what happened. We were at the usual place at Yaba. Mimi was the queen of Yaba. She knew it’s streets, the bars and Kam’s house. But there was this particular bar that played eighties and nineties songs in the evenings. That was why she loved the place – the songs. On Mimi’s birthday, I met her and Oke at this place. She was looking very pretty in a gown and black coat. That was our first meeting. We laughed and ate the cake a friend got her. She had just gotten a job and that was her second day. And you could see the glint of adventure in her eyes when she spoke of her new boss and the office. A week later, we met at the usual place and she spoke about how she could not even last a week at a job. How she always ran and it was already seeming like she was doing this every year – like as a cycle, a pattern.
The usual place has I and Mimi’s stories etched on its walls. The air in that small bar at Yaba carries the memories of our silence and sounds of our laughter. And it was there she told me about J, the crush that had her all feeling things. She intended to keep his identity from me but I later learnt his first name – Joseph – thanks to a careless Whatsapp status.
Mimi wore her ‘Naijaness” as a crown. It was another proof of her status as a royal citizen of the world. She loved Lagos. She believed that Lagos should be the capital of Nigeria. That a capital should be very rowdy and almost chaotic. I haven’t seen anyone that loves Lagos for Lagos like Mimi. And Abuja disgusts her. “The city is too pretty” she said. But she did not call Abuja pretty the way she called Toochi pretty. One night after an event (Cogitations which was hosted by Caleb) at Yaba – I, Mimi, Toochi, Ono and Chika walked the streets of Yaba like drunk models. Toochi with his hair braided and his neck adorning a perfect stoned neckpiece, made sure every eye noticed this little band of nitwits. And Chika’s laughter was like cymbals clashing in an empty space. Mimi, Chika and Ono were actually drunk and hungry. We ended up in a bar and I remember staring at Mimi while she ate chicken from a disposable pack.
She had told me some days before that she would be going back to Namibia. Mimi’s brother – Mr. S – who is the principal king of her heart, had convinced her to come back home. Earlier that night, Mimi had talked about the possessiveness of love. And I knew of her love. She is a very jealous soul. Who she loves, she keeps like a possession – like a collector’s most precious item. And I stared at Mimi with the eyes of a soon to be abandoned lover. I understood in that moment what she meant when she said love is selfish.
In three months, Mimi found a way to dig into the archives of my history and leave strong memories there. I sincerely don’t remember not knowing her. Some friends are storms – and what is the earth without the rains. But storms are meant to pass. They wreck beautiful havoc that seems to go on forever but that’s just impact, not longevity. It feels sad watching her as dark clouds move towards the south. Till another summer of rains, I will leave this place exactly as she left it – in ruins.