Frozen time

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I woke up this morning with the same dreams I had yesterday. The same bank balance. The same bad habits. I had the same shitty dance with my alarm – I squeezed three whole snoozes out of it. And when finally, I crawled out of bed, I was already late. Of course.

But what does it matter?

What’s a few minutes, really?

I slept through my alarm.

I missed a few calls last night.

I skipped Sunday dinner.

I didn’t text Jules back.

I didn’t check on Pasaka.

I didn’t tell Ben that I’m proud of him.

So many things I didn’t do yesterday. It’s not a problem, I can just get them done today, or whenever. No big deal.

Because time is infinite. I get a never-ending sequence of 24-hour blank checks. Mine to do with as I please. No regrets. Right?

Except for the few times, when time shows you who’s boss.

When it sticks you between its thumb and forefinger and makes you watch the playback of missed opportunities.

Like the one, I missed on March 13th, 2017. The last time I ever spoke with Lilian Otieno. I say spoke, but really, it was texting on WhatsApp. Isn’t that what everybody does these days? Text. Text. Text. What with its being free and everything.

We save calls for emergencies and really important stuff. But had I known that March 13th would be the last time I ever ‘spoke’ to her, perhaps I’d have treated it like the emergency it was. Perhaps I’d have shot it to the top of my VVI Things to do. I’d have made it a real conversation. I’d have gone to her house and stayed up late with her. I’d have taken pictures of her remarkable life, the strength I so deeply admired, the way she spoke so freely about things most people would rather hide. The way she just gave and gave.

I’d have hugged her. And then I’d have seen her every day, talked to her every day. I’d have squeezed years into those last six days of her life.

But I didn’t, because I thought, as we often do, that time is an endless sequence of moments.

And then on the 19th of March, at around 4 pm, I learned that I couldn’t text her ever again. I couldn’t talk to her or hug her. I couldn’t be with her in the same room and breathe the same air because she was no longer breathing.

Lilian was gone and that was that.

For months after that, I kept going back to our last conversation. Her ‘last seen’ was frozen at 10:37 am. Moments before she was trapped under the mangled wreck of a matatu. I never could bring myself to delete that conversation. Until the phone conked out and took with it, that frozen time stamp.

A year later, I still snooze.

Perhaps snoozing isn’t so bad, if I’m taking those few precious minutes to snuggle up to someone I love. Perhaps late for work isn’t as bad as late to love, late to encourage, or late to just let someone know that they really matter to you.

This 19th of March, I want to make it, so it’s never too late to do the really important stuff.


Rest in Peace, Lilian.

You gave way more love than you ever got back.

As it should be.

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