Shifting Gears [1]

shifting gears


Human clay finds its moisture in relationships and will evaporate into dust without them  – Beth Moore


When I arrive at Tamali’s house, she holds my arm and turns me from side to side, and then she sighs.

“How do you do it?”

She knows how I do it. Her eyes sunken, her voice nasal, her walk without bounce; she coughs as she leads the way. The aroma of sautéed bell peppers and tomatoes hits me. On the gas hob sits a stainless steel pot. Underneath the glass lid, I spy something white; rice, pasta?

“Food?” she gestures towards the pot.

“No thanks, I’m good.”

She opens the fridge and brings out Amaris’ cake. I recognize it from the photo she sent me on WhatsApp. The Barbie doll, which sat atop is gone as is half of Barbie’s pink-layered flowing gown. She gets busy with her knife.

“Too much,” I protest.

She eyes me, “You don’t have to eat it all at once.”

Her neck is lean and last week was tough for her. So, I take the knife from her and halve the portion she set aside.

Back in the living room, she offers me the stubby bananas that Kwame brought from Uganda.

“Very sweet. Not like the ones from Costa Rica in Albert Heijn.”

“I’m full.” I bend and hug my stomach.

“You never eat! I can’t count how many of them I’ve had,” she spreads her arms and looks at her torso; “I’m always eating!”

She is not always eating. It is her frustration speaking.

“How did I get from there to here?” She points at a framed photo by the TV and then digs out more photos from the shelf next to the TV stand.

This is what you do for a friend with flu. You stop by her house after work with a packet of Day & Night Nurse and explain how to take the capsules. You eat cake when you’d rather not. You pull your chair closer to hers and hunch over hundreds of photos. You listen as she reminisces about her days at Makerere University and her time in London, the jauntiness of her late teens and early twenties—that period before we tell ourselves, I’ve got to get serious and settle down. You see a girl you did not know, who helps you understand the woman you now know. 

She appraises each picture by size, interrupting my flow.

“Oh, look at this one, I was slim here.”
“You think I look good there? No way, I resembled an elephant.”
“This one was taken earlier in the year. See me in the same dress later that year; the dress is bursting at the seams! What did I eat?”

And you mourn with her, the loss of youth. Because flu makes you delirious. It makes you want your mother who is 6000km away; although you left home at twenty and you are now in your early thirties. It chains your legs so you miss the gym, stay at home and raid the fridge, and feel fatter than you are.

A pathological nostalgia has seized her and you cure it with kindly indulgence, not once looking at the clock. 

I recently read an article about why female friendships are fraught with infighting. Sitting here with Tamali, I cannot relate. Have my friendships always been this supportive?

There was that time Ada stayed over and borrowed my jewelry while I was at work, leaving me a note to dispel panic in case I looked for it when I returned. I stayed mad for months and ignored her overtures and peace emissaries. My anger was toxic, contaminating anyone who would listen. One day she braved my rage and showed up at my doorstep.

“Yes?” I filled the door space, arms folded across my chest.

“I’m sorry. It broke. I couldn’t return it until I fixed it.”

I blocked her advance, spreading myself wider.

“For crying out loud Timi, it isn’t even 24-karat gold. It’s costume; that’s why nobody could fix it!”

“Beside the point! You shouldn’t have taken it without asking!”

She edged passed me, pushing me against the doorframe. She dropped the broken piece of jewelry on the dining table on her way to the kitchen.

“Do you have any food?” she asked one hand on the door of the fridge.

I sighed and smiled. You cannot poison food if you are going to eat and share it. That was twenty years ago. Ada and I are still smiling.

My girlfriends and I congregate around food. We eat; we do not eat. Thighs and hips feature in our extended conversations. Size is important and relative. Beneath this shallowness is affection, deep and strong, binding us as tomatoes cleave to meat in stew.

When I was younger, I made war. Now I’m older, I make peace. 


©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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41 thoughts on “Shifting Gears [1]

  1. Ha! Ha! This is good! Not every writer can be funny and engage with their values at the same time.
    I know the saying about friendship as wealth is a corny one, but I agree, in the sense that friendships of the quality you describe can and do transform the quality of human life.

    I do have one complaint, though: I don’t think I’m given nearly enough credit for the amount of cake I’m willing to eat.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, I was just poking fun at myself – a joke about my bad habit of eating too much cake, and how my friends would hoot and howl if I turned that into an unappreciated virtue.

        You, on the other hand, you DO eat cake out of genuine kindness and love for your friends. I would never laugh at that!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this! I also have friends who cut me huge slices of cake and tell me I don’t have to eat it all at once. 🙂 It’s also a beautiful reminder that yes female friendships exist that aren’t about comparisons or rivalries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this article! Your deep reflections aren’t just reminiscent of you getting “older,” but of you getting a lot wiser too. You’ve always been a brilliant writer, at least for as long as I’ve known you, but your writing has taken on a different quality borne from experience and embracing the journey. Well done, Timi.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So grateful for my female friendships as well. In my culture that I was born in we all bond around food- there is a communal ritual that happens around eating together, even when that means a weekend of indulging in all kinds of yumminess that we’ll later regret after the fact.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Timi,

    Very heart warming.

    It’s nice when friendships make the sweet transition into something so dependable and trustworthy that it can only be described as sistership.

    There is an easy comfort, a liberty to just BE, when in the midst of friends who love us just as we are, warts and all.

    @ “My anger was toxic, contaminating anyone who would listen” and “You cannot poison food if you are going to eat and share it.” XD

    Have a lovely week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha toxic & infectious anger! I am glad for the opportunity to grow.
      I think that we learn how to become better friends as we become more aware and accepting of our own flaws. At least that has been my journey.

      Yes, I like to just BE. I’m grateful for the people who let me be, and then challenge me to be better.

      Thanks Nedoux.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Aaawww this took me back in the days with my best friend Susan who could come to my house when am at work and take my favorite dress without telling me then hours later calls me just to tell me she came to take the dress leaving me all mad at the end of the phone call , few days later she comes with the dirty dress lol.. and then i forget that I was mad and we move on with our gossips and laughter lol .. Beautiful story Timi !! I enjoyed it

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Friendship. Relationship. Having someone to love and fight with. What would life be without it? Empty. Sterilized. Stainless. Silent. A perfect zero.

    Thanks, Timi. For once I actually hope this is a real life story about you. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed human clay finds its moisture in relationships.

      Ah, Odii, on this blog, fiction collides with non-fiction 😉
      Seriously, I wanted to capture the essence of the wonderful friendships I have and one lesson I’ve learnt: as far as is humanly possible, make peace, not war.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The article I read about competitiveness in female friendships got me thinking. No smoke without fire, but the friendships I’ve ‘cultivated’ have been devoid of this… I haven’t always been a good friend, but I’m shifting gears.

      Thanks Adaeze.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful! Two friends that are no longer driving, so I drive a half hour to pick up one and forty-five minutes to take the other one out, have been my friends for a long time, one for fifty-three years and one for twenty-five. Both moved away and we didn’t see each other for twenty or thirty years. But now they are back to live with daughters who work and it’s like they never went away. True friendships are forever and survive the bruises that come with all human relationships.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. … and it’s like they never went away. 🙂 I know the feeling. It’s so wonderful that you have friends to love and enjoy life with.

      I’ve learnt and I’m still learning to be gracious- let it go, apologise first, bandage the wound.
      I’m shifting gears as I grow older. Relationships matter most.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this, namesake. I have always admired those who keep intimate friendships over many years because I haven’t succeeded at one yet, except the friendship with my wife. #smiles
    I enjoyed reading this. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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