It’s the AFCON 2015 final, my sister and I tune in to watch the penalty shoot-out; defending champions, Nigeria, failed to qualify for the competition so the tournament really was of no interest to me (patriotic to Nigeria and not Africa ba?). Anyway, Cote d’Ivoire are the new champions of Africa and Andre Ayew of Ghana was inconsolable. It was really sad and while my sister and I discussed Ayew’s touching breakdown, I remember my phone (I had been tweeting about the penalty shootout earlier and got caught up with Ayew who remains handsome even in grief, chai!), I’m absently scrolling down my BBM contacts when I see TJ’s picture up on a dear friend’s dp. Yeh! It’s Tunji’s birthday I think but as I check my friend’s status to confirm, I see “sleep well brother”.
I’m in pain. I can’t explain it but it hurts, really hurts. I have known Tunji for almost eighteen years, we weren’t close but he kept in touch. He left for America after secondary school and was in touch via Facebook. I am capable of being lost in my world, being with people for long periods without getting to know them and moving on when it is time to move on. I say that I am minding my business but am I really? I am asking myself questions and I am worried that in a bid to respect people’s privacy, not be nosy, not to pry, am I crossing the line to becoming blind to others?
In almost eighteen years of knowing Tunji, I honestly cannot recall a moment we hung out or had a conversation that stayed with me but when I learnt of his passing, I just broke down crying. Tunji wasn’t someone I’d categorize as a FRIEND, he was just a secondary school mate but he left an impression, he was involved in our lives in his little way. The yearly birthday messages, the comments on your picture or occasion in your life, his constant smile. I remember the first time I took note of him on Facebook; he had posted some pictures of his sister and her family. They radiated so much love and peace and all had dreadlocks – husband, wife, and a cute little baby boy! They seemed very arty, like Bob Marley meets Chimamanda Adichie kinda thing. I remember saying to myself “I’d like a family just like that”, plus I have always wanted to grow my son’s hair, still do. Then Tunji started to grow dreadlocks and I was charmed because it was so unlike his gentle demeanour and personality, I like weird : ). Just before we recovered from the gentle dread-locked TJ, he became a photographer and metamorphosed into one really cool creative individual.
Tunji was in Nigeria January last year, He’d sent me a message on Facebook asking if I could be one of his models for an Ankara shoot and sent his number. I didn’t see the message till days later; I responded apologising and sent him my number, asking him to reach me if ever there was a future shoot. Tunji called me immediately and we chatted about his trip, the shoot and other small talk – it was the last time I spoke with him. My school mate is gone, he had sickle cell and I never knew until after his death. Tunji understood what I am now realizing; that life involves not a lot of time but a lot of relationships. I am ashamed at how selfish I have been and commit to doing better in my relationships not this year, but every day. I will work at this resolution daily; irrespective of how I feel or what I am going through. Thank you Tunji for living fearlessly, for giving lavishly, for loving deeply; you have given me the courage to do same. God comforts and strengthens your family at this very difficult time.