I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor man for the alms of my guilt – Ben Hecht.
About twenty years back, I was a small time clerk at the Nairobi Stock Exchange. When I say small, it does not really mean small because every action of mine decided the prices of the company listed. I know it is hard to believe when a beggar says so, but that’s the truth.
Had it not been for this distant aunt of mine, I would still have been working there, probably waiting for my retirement. For reasons unknown to her close relatives and me, my name figured in her will and overnight I was a rich man. She had left me a tea-estate in Kericho.
Now, I am not somebody who ever was interested in another’s wealth. You might ask me, why I beg in that case, but believe me, even today when I spread my palms for a shilling to be dropped, my heart aches. Hence, I refused to accept her legal declaration that I should get the tea-estate. But what can a man do when the whole World gangs up against you. I was forced into accepting the inheritance, but not before I made it very clear to all those involved that I was doing so only because my aunt wanted me to.
With the riches, I also gained some self-esteem and as a result I could not make it to the Nairobi Stock Exchange everyday. I shifted to the palatial house in Kericho, where my aunt wanted me to stay while I took care of her tea-estate. Life was never so easy. I had everything I wanted, except for good friends.
Many would come by, but I knew they were getting closer just so they could have a piece of my wealth. Every good word they spoke, felt like a vehicle they were using to reach out and touch my heart. Every good deed of theirs felt like an effort to make it to my will. Now, don’t think I was imagining things, keep listening.
Over a period of time, I fell out with all my close friends. They said the riches had made me arrogant and stiff-necked. I did not care for I knew friends would come and go.
Even before I knew, more than a decade transpired and the royalty of money started waning. I had spent thirteen years all alone managing a tea-estate. There were people around me, the ones that plucked the tealeaves and the ones that packed them, but we never had any intelligent conversation. Since, they considered me one rung above, it was a lonely existence.
I tried to get into wedlock by advertising in the papers but did not get any proposals. There is something I want to tell you about this newspaper agent – he was very incoherent. When I gave him my photograph, which I wanted him to publish as a part of the matrimonial advertisement, he suggested that I don’t use the photograph. When enquired, he could not come up with a satisfactory answer.
Anyways, as I was saying, I did not get any proposals.
With nobody to share my thoughts I was annoyed with myself. Soliloquies became an everyday feature but even then, I had nothing to talk about. Though I was blessed with the means and the urge to do so many things, I could not. And this weighed me down. I realized that I just existed. So much so, there were times when I was made to think that this aunt of mine had an enmity with our family and this was her revenge.
I was losing my balance, and life no longer was the sweet pie, it used to be. Call it stupidity, but all of a sudden, I had realized the importance of friends. I knew I had been a scoundrel. Being a Libran, I always believed in evening out things, and I decided to go about it as soon as possible. After a lot of trouble, which then made me feel good, I got the addresses of five of my best friends of yesteryears. The easy part was selling my whole property, the house included and convert it into cash.
I intended to distribute my wealth equally amongst my friends and then commit suicide. I was so determined that in a week’s time, I had made all arrangements. Incidentally, the day happened to be the 8th of June – the best friend’s day.
I did not want my friends to have any complications after my death; hence, I mailed them their share in cash and settled down to business. I had already bought a bottle of rat poison that the local chemist had suggested. You being one of those young types might think that I am bluffing my way into your heart, but no, that’s not what I am.
After some whiskey, which I agree I needed to calm down my nerves, I drank the poison. Yes, the whole bottle. I don’t exactly remember anything after that, not because I was in a coma or something but everything happened so fast. I survived the suicide attempt, and was admitted in the hospital. When the hospital authorities enquired about my relatives, I told them that I had none and they could contact my friends for anything. After all, I had made amends. You would be surprised to know that nobody came to see me during my four day stay in the hospital.
As you may remember, I had sold everything that I could call my own in a bid to help my friends. As a result, when I was discharged, I landed up on this pavement.
Quote: Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers – Homer Simpson
#ABigTune: Africa Must Wake Up – Damien Junior Gong Marley & Nas to go out to the disappointing African teams at the World Cup.