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You Have to Read This Beautiful Birthday Ode By Somto Okereke to His Friend, Roy



rhoiy-1477006073309My friend, Roy is turns twenty-three today. He is becoming on one hand, one of those Nigerian men who like to talk about politics –  because of the sad realisation that it is a defining factor in how their lives play out.

On the other hand, he is becoming the unconcerned Nigerian Man who is bothered about his writing. This version of Roy that I have to live with, would have been startlingly enough. This version of him that calls me “Bobo” and nothing else  – on days when no other words could suffice would be adequate enough to last me a lifetime.

These are not the only things he is becoming.

He is becoming a satisfactory friend; well versed in playing this game of camaraderie –  knowing when to stoke the fires with twigs and when to simply watch them die.

Yet somehow, I think that he has always been a satisfactory friend, and that wakefulness to a certain trait does not necessarily mean it has been absent.

Because of this… because I know that Roy is  like a story an author writes that flows endlessly –beautiful from beginning to the end. He is a story whose first line is as stunning and meaningful as the last full stop.

Because I know that it is he, alone who recognizes when I need silence, recognizes how it is sometimes a lot more powerful than actual words and he who listens to me chatter about things as trivial as my new hairstyle, I am thankful for him.

I am thankful for the graceful way he talks about books, the vivaciousness in his voice when he says, “Bobo, I have too many tabs open in my browser, too many things to read” or that he has, like every other time, gotten a book he will not read.

This vivaciousness which I have come to learn that is not alone present when he is excited – as with everyone else – the vivaciousness that is at hand even on the darkest days, days when he says “I am not sure why I am sad” or “I’ll be fine” because there is never a time Roy isn’t alive.

I have become accustomed to waking up to his morning messages popping as a chat head, a “Bobo, Awayu?” or “Nna, Good Morning!” on jollier days, and to hearing his silky voice asking an excited “How are you?” over the phone, devoid of splendour or finery, but bestowed with the choicest of all loveliness, the beauty of little things

And with Roy, everything is bestowed with this beauty. There are days when we are wheeling shopping carts along the aisles in Circle Mall that would matter to no one else, deliberating what to buy and what to not. And other days when we are lazying about instead, looking at a movie. but not necessarily watching it. We’re taking brief walks and talking about Adichie , and yet somehow these days have managed to matter in equal measure, so that there are no better days. With Roy, every day is a better day.

About things like this, about friends who eulogize their friends in blog posts, Roy would “Awww” and then send me a link. He would talk about it with me on the phone later, I know – about how I do nothing nice for him and I would tell him it is because he is an idiot, a stupid twenty-three year old – I always remind him of this – struggling with writer’s block because with Roy, charming words do not do.

They are perhaps too regular to explain how I really feel, and so we become like the Nigerian Mother who teaches her daughter to call her vagina “that thing”. We mask the things we want to say, the things we do not have words for in comfortable clothes.

But we are fluent with words too, maybe too fluent with words. I like how, he, in a world dedicated to choking our existence somehow manages to squeeze out compliments; how he says, “You’re an amazing writer” or “I am reading you” at the oddest of times. I like that, with him, life is a complete model, overflowing with details, verdant and lavish. We are spectators to this model, passing pop corn in paper bags to each other and simply enjoying the show. I like the calm about him, the uncanny stillness that teaches me that apathy is sometimes a virtue.

Even though I am terrible and self-differing, and the moving parts of my soul are sometimes worn out from grinding against each other and are at loggerheads. Even though one day I am the nice friend who wants to talk, and on the other, I am the reserved one who has curled himself up, unprepared for the grind that is life and who finds fault with everything, there is a soothing comfort in knowing that someone has come properly suited for each of these days.

To laugh about a friend who uses old English expressions and who says ‘she is writing an “Obituary” when she means a tribute’, to listen when you say, “Deadlines are creeping in on me”; to not impose solutions, but to offer them, on shiny silverwares designed with love, to serve you choice and solution in one meal.

And the last time we are together, when he says “Come with me to the airport tomorrow” and I turn down for peculiar reasons He alone understand.  I realise how a friend who understands, is quite frankly the best gift one could ever have.

I realise too that I have this gift and I know, in that moment, that I never want to let it go.

I would tend to its little garden and prune its leaves. I would offer a pat on the back when it’s choking on a meal and still feed it in large chunks. And when it shivers from a cold, or jerks from a chronic cough, and threatens to leave, I will remind it of how it came to be in the first instance.

Because Roy is like a parcel given to one by their dying parent; a package that comes only on special delivery. He is something one should never lose.

So, Happy Birthday, Bobo. You are a man comfortable in his definition of himself; a man who has learned to tether life to his rules. You are a man clutching to his fickle resolves, unpredictable, but clutching anyway. You are crossing above them to the greener side haltingly, with the hesitance of one stepping over a faulty plank, but you are moving nonetheless.

So, I am grateful that you move; that the man you are, can weather these storms and somehow dance in the rain. I am grateful that he can survive the burns and make art for his scars. I am grateful that the man you are is tough, in an amazing way I think only I know. You are tough.

I hope you know that there is enough room in the world to stuff your dreams, enough room to contain them and that they never need to be marginalized, I hope you know most importantly that you are a beautiful thing, an amazingly beautiful thing.

Happy Birthday, Nna!

PS: It took me a lot to not call you stupid in all of what I’ve written above, please don’t make me regret it.


  1. Buchi

    October 28, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Love it. Probably the most well written ‘anything’ I have read on Bella ever! And that includes my own posts here .
    Roy, he didn’t call you stupid, don’t make him regret it! And happy birthday…

  2. DEBRA

    October 28, 2016 at 8:49 am

    This is so so cool; got me thinking about my friends.
    Lovely birthday to you Nna! (Roy). This your friend obviously loves you sha

  3. Ify

    October 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Happy birthday, Roy!! If that’s your pic, you’re handsome and you’re obviously intelligent if Caleb is your friend. And you’re 23. Ummmm, I’m 20. I love Chimamanda too. I could talk politics. We could be friends. Me and you and Caleb. ??

    • Sammie

      October 28, 2016 at 11:50 am

      And you’re superficial

    • Ify

      October 28, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Ummmm. OK. Bye.

    • You Know Who

      October 28, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      ???? Now, how do we go about doing that cos I’m already interested.

    • Ify

      October 28, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      Yay!! Email me. [email protected]

    • Ify

      October 28, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      Yay!! Email me. [email protected] dot com

    • Marlvina

      October 28, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      Ify, now that’s a bold move! ?? Nice one! Roy pls respond. . .

  4. Abena

    October 28, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Roy, you are one lucky friend, happy birthday!

    Caleb – keep writing, I am looking forward to reading your bestselling novel in the future.

  5. E

    October 28, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Not because you said it; Your friend Roy is truly a beautiful thing……he is one fine man.

    Caleb, you write well really. This write up is effortlessly beautiful.

    Happy birthday Roy.

  6. Sonia Paloma

    October 28, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Awwwww. Let me AWWWWW again. This is really beautiful and well put together write up.

  7. anonimo

    October 28, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Wow! Wish I could be Caleb’s friend so he would write as little as one paragraph for me. ???

  8. mz_danielz

    October 28, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Wow, this is lovely.

    Me likey. Happy birthday Roy; remember Caleb did not call you stupid.

  9. Kaay

    October 28, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Awww sweet bromance… nice write up

  10. Pelumi

    October 28, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Awwwww how cute! happy birthday Roy. For a second i thought that face was ethio’s

  11. Ryan Tasié

    October 28, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Caleb, this is beautiful. Have an amazing day, Roy.

  12. Godwayne

    October 28, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Wow. It practically looked as if I was watching a movie with you and Roy starring as the star actors. This ode right here, I may never forget.

    Happy birthday Roy.

  13. Onyinye

    October 28, 2016 at 11:58 am

    This is so beautiful Caleb.???

  14. Roy

    October 28, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Awwwwwwwww!!!! Thank you very much, Bobo. You have no idea how much this means to me. Fewer things seem to make sense these days without you. I am thrilled to be your friend, and I cannot emphasize that enough. Thank you, Caleb. What we have is golden, and you know where gold goes. ?❤?
    PS: I was really waiting to get to the stupid part. ?.
    I love you, Bobo, and words can’t express that enough. And I should stop before I start making an entire post of my own. Thank you.
    Thank you, Caleb.

    • BAE Tinx

      October 28, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      awwww…yall have always looked cute together….wink!!

    • Nv

      October 30, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      Awwww, real life bromance! Lovely!

  15. Marlvina

    October 28, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Wow! Loving every bit of this write-up. This is beautiful and inspiring. Cheers to true friendship! ?

  16. Dora

    October 28, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    If only these THIEVES we call politicians could invest in young brilliant minds and raw talents like this (and hundreds more in our society), Nigeria would be in a better place. Our youths don’t read!!!. It’s all about the money!! May God help this country. Well done to the writer and happy birthday to the celebrant.!

  17. mz_danielz

    October 28, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Our youths don’t read? do you have emperical evidence darling?
    My mother ran bookstores and obtained copyrights to lots of foreign publications and based on my childhood experiences, our youths read ( but I don’t have data so I can’t even say this with too much authority)

  18. Someone Naughty

    October 28, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    This is how I imagine the friendship of David and Jonathan in the Bible. It is golden.

    “I realise how a friend who understands, is quite frankly the best gift one could ever have.”


    These are the friends that make life a lot more than bearable.

  19. Chicadimples

    October 29, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    This is beautiful…. Happy Birthday Roy!

    Can’t stop awwwwing and ohhhhing jare, love love love this!

  20. Cuzio

    October 30, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Gestures like this adds more radiant days to a friend’s life. Nice on Caleb u went beyond bounds to show u ar a real friend. HBD Roy.

  21. Elizabeth

    November 10, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Beautifully written, to a beautiful friend.

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