• By Abdulrashid Shama



WE ALL HAVE THAT FRIEND WHO LOVES BOOZE MORE THAN WOMEN. Who likes to drink himself silly until eight in the morning.I had such a friend. His name was Martin; and we liked to call him Marto. We were brought up together. We were close friends: BFF- best friends forever.

Marto came from a well-off family, often showered with niceties- he was a Mama’s boy. Marto was  born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father had the right connections with people in high places; so he managed to get him a well paying job immediately after school.

Marto was living every young man’s dream. A lot of people were envious of his lifestyle. But in the meantime, Marto had developed a taste for alcohol. A party was not complete without it. He needed alcohol to feel ok; he needed alcohol in the beginning of the week, in the middle of the week, and at the end of the week. Damn! He needed alcohol every time.

Marto was my good friend and we went everywhere together, even in those poorly lit dingy bars in the estate. I still remember the numerous times we would sit out and while away our time as he sipped his favorite drink. Marto had tasted so many brands of beer that EABL should have made him their official beer taster; he had no stories to share other than of his drinking escapades’. His life started to revolve around bars. Marto was a charming, engaging, irreverent and funny guy with a lot of money; it was not difficult for him to find new friends. He and his boys would always be present at all parties.

He started to get to work late. He was sliding down a slippery slope. I left the city and moved to Marsabit. We lost contact for almost two years, except for the occasional call, maybe. Last year I returned to the city and decided to pass-by him. Time had got the better of him. I didn’t know two years could be that long. He looked tired and resigned, didn’t have two of his front teeth- and seemed twice his age. Besides that, he was jobless or should I say fired. He had moved out of his three bedroom apartment, and now occupied a ten by ten room, a bed sitter as they call it. Most of his friends had disappeared. Nowadays, he sits alone while drinking – I wish I knew what he often thinks.

His lips look full and red; his skin was pale and lighter than those back-up singers in a struggling Kinshasa band. He was on self destruction mode. He was always mteja; he had changed his number more times than a Nairobi street thug, until I had lost track of his active number. He was now holding a kabambe– his last phone lost in a bar brawl.

It was eight in the morning so I guessed he might be sleeping in his room, I decided to pass-by. And when he opened me the door, I was greeted by a wave of bad stench, as if he hadn’t opened his windows for ages. His clothes were all over the place on the floor; his duvet sitting pretty on the carpet- I hope he doesn’t sleep on the floor. His sink is full of dishes; some have mould growing on them. We needed a more serene environment to have our talk, so I requested him to find one, and as obvious he chose a bar. He asked for his favorite beer and took a big sip before asking for a small bottle of spirits which he went on to mix with. I wanted to know why.

He said, “Hii pombe ya chupa siku hizi hainileweshi.”

I requested if we could have a meal and he shook his head, nowadays he doesn’t have an appetite- I guess he runs on petrol.

Anyway, his lack of appetite was not the reason for my visit, so I went straight to the point, “You have changed a lot, you need to go easy on the bottle.”

Then as expected he got all moody and worked-up, he started to be defensive. He said,” I thought the reason of you calling was for us to catch-up and not a lecture lesson… And what happens next if I quit alcohol, go to the humdrums.” Marto seemed to have lost the will to carry on. Sadly, my off days were over and we couldn’t talk much. I had to go back to MBT.

Last week evening I received a call from one of my friends. Marto was dead! He had gone to meet his creator. All of his friends and families had deserted him; he was left all alone in this world. He had no reason to live for and it was better for him to go.

He committed suicide- he drunk poison. He was found in his room with form oozing from his mouth waiting for the almighty to take his soul away. He died on his way to the hospital- RIP Marto.

I know most of you are wondering why I am writing this, I am writing this because alcohol has robbed me of my best childhood friend. What most of us don’t know is that alcohol like any kind of addiction is a disease that requires care and unconditional love. Tough love never works with addicts, what it does instead is push them more into their addictions.

I heard in his burial, they named me as one of his best friends. I wish I could have done more to save Marto, but it’s too late for that now, isn’t it? We all know someone who needs help, let’s reach out and help before it’s too late, and as they say its better late than sorry.

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