Cow music and comatose friendships

I was 11 years old and I had just transferred to a new school. There was a boy in my class by the name of Chittiapa. His second name rhymed with his first and his last name though I will not explicitly state, sounded almost exactly like the following utterance ‘I run away with murder’. For some reason, Chittiapa almost always had noodles. He ate noodles so many times that I have become inclined to believe that at one point, the helical shape of his DNA reflected more of his diet than his genetic makeup. One of his many wonderful idiosyncrasies was that he would often incorporate lines from cartoons he saw on TV in day to day conversation in a way so natural, that he may as well have been the inspiration for some of the characters he mimicked. As I was also an uncommonly weird child, we became friends almost instantly.

More specifically and at that time in our lives, I recall our absurd practice of writing country songs.  An Indian boy and a boy of mostly Arab descent in Kenya, writing songs related to a music genre they had only been exposed to by way of caricatures in animated movies; soundtracks from Hollywood movies starring strange men wearing stranger saucer shaped hats; and simulated radio stations in video games they had no business playing. We knew cowboys had something to do with country music and since the word ‘cow’ was in cowboys, this was to be the object of our compositions – the prepubescent child’s mind works in mysterious ways.

We wrote about cows in the sunset. We wrote about catching cows with horses. We wrote about happy cows. We wrote about sad cows. We wrote about cows that weren’t really cows. We wrote about cows going home. We were also known to be in the habit of writing about cows not going home. Honestly, it was more cow music than country music. We were self-styled poets presenting societal commentary using that magnificent domesticated beast known as the metaphor. To be frank though, I’m sure to the outsider we seemed more like a juvenile pair with a cattle fascinationgreater than country musicians. We were thankfully too engrossed in our art to care. Needless to say, I have many fond memories of our friendship. But these memories are admittedly bitter-sweet.

The last time I saw or talked to Chittiapa was almost two years ago, and exactly two days before he and his family would travel to India where he was to study engineering. I find that there is a certain distance when things like this happen.  Although it plays a large part, it’s more than a physical or geographic distance. It’s this other distance where you each move on with your lives but as you do you also move further from each other. It’s part of life, I suppose. You meet someone, know them for a considerable while and you accept that you may not see them again for the remainder of your life. If you do end up meeting, there’s a possibility that you’ll reconnect. The sadder possibility is that you will not. The inside jokes now elicit only a faint chuckle, the silent moments  between the small talk are of an uncomfortably high supply and the topics for conversation can be about as numerous as the number of people who can correctly pronounce ‘otorhinolaryngology’ on their first try.

Or maybe you’ll find each other on social media and have those peculiarly unscheduled but nonetheless periodic conversations every three or so months. Sometimes these conversations end with a promise by one of the two parties that one day they’ll meet again. The other party will agree and in the true way of the millennial, emphasize their commitment with perhaps a thumbs-up or fist bump emoji or some variation and mixture of the two. Both of them understand the unlikelihood of fulfilling this promise, but this fact is too depressing to acknowledge. On the other hand, there’s this more impersonal way you tend to learn about your long-lost friend.  I refer to those little irregular reunions you have with the friends still capable of attending them. One of you – most of the times it will be you – will pose the question ‘So, where is [insert name here]?’. One or more of you will then probably answer along the lines of ‘Oh he’s working at so-and-so now’ or ‘He lives in so-and-so now’ or ‘Didn’t you hear? He studies at so-and-so now’. Of course, the group doesn’t linger very much on this topic, and very soon the chatter shifts to something more intellectual like how that one attractive teacher at your old school is somehow still attractive or anecdotes from that guy in the group who exaggerates his sex-life a little too much.

I am not sure how to reconcile these realities with my own hope of meeting my friend again. I don’t know. I don’t think we’re supposed to dwell very much on little things like this. You accept them and you move on with life – something I’ve generally become very good at.  This is one of those few times where I dwelt slightly more than usual. Well then, I suppose if you’ve read this far then you’ve also dwelt with me. Thinking of ringing up that one friend who’s working/living/studying at so-and-so? I wish you good luck. Personally, I think I’ll see my friend again someday. It may just be irrational optimism or something resembling those unlikely promises I mentioned before, but I just have that feeling.  If anything, just to write one last song. I even have this amazing idea about what it should be about. See, it’s about this horse who’s been living his whole life with a feeling that he’s different from the others. One day his parents finally tell him what he is. You’ll never guess it. You’ll never see it coming. Take a deep breath just in case this revelation leaves you breathless because the horse is actually…a cow.

  Khalil Badbess

2nd Year Law student