Sunday, November 7, 2010

Byway Memories

Albert and me, summer 1987
Funny that I just stumbled upon this a few days ago. I wrote the following blog entry four years ago today - November 7, 2006 - in an old blog I kept for about a year in 2006-2007. It is something that really captured a piece of me - a major scene on the byway that is my life. There are people and places and times that are big in your life - that shape who you become and hold on to you forever. This was one of them.

Albert Nzaro (written November 7, 2006 - as it was, no changes, even though the writer in me wants to make it better)

Its after 1 am and I really need to sleep, but I'm awake. I worked on this proposal until 3 am yesterday, then got up at 7:30 and was at it, working from home, until 3 when I went to vote, then raced downtown for a 4:00 meeting that went until after 9!!! I have so much work to do, but I am too tired to do anything but look at funny sites on the internet.  Now I have started googling names of people I have known in my past, just for the heck of see if anything comes up.

There is just so much information out there - its crazy.  Have you ever googled your name to see what you can find? It is weird. I have found people from my past.  That is weird too.  I just googled an old love - Albert Nzaro.  I was so in love with him back in college...back when I was around 21.  I thought I would marry him and live in Nairobi, or Kampala where he was from.  Those were fun, crazy days. 

Albert died back around 1997.  It is so weird to lose someone who was important in your life, especially when they and you are young and feeling indestructible.  He died of AIDs.  Another statistic in the disease that has ravaged Uganda and many other countries in Africa.  Not only is it weird to find out that someone you once loved has died, its even more bizarre to discover they died of AIDs.  It was so sad.  And how ironic.  His father was a doctor and one of the top people in the country fighting AIDs.  He always taught his children to be safe.  But Albert...he was a lover of life.  He was always the life of the party. Everyone loved him.  So many women wanted him. He was a good catch.  Attractive, intelligent, funny.  He had so much potential. I will never understand why and how he could have wasted it. He came from a good family. He had opportunity.  He wasn't stupid. So, why, why was he sleeping around Kampala when AIDs was ravaging the place? 

It hurt so much when he died. It hurt to know that he died such a stupid, stupid death.  I remember receiving the phone call from a friend who knew someone who knew him. She didn't know what he had meant to me.  She passed the message on and I went numb, started sobbing and handed the phone to Bik because I couldn't speak. I mourned so much. I grieved so much.  We hadn't spoken in years by then, but I still always imagined returning to Kampala someday and having him in my life as a friend.  When you are that age, you really can't imagine death.  Its funny that I am sitting here tonight and he suddenly came to mind. I haven't thought about him in a long time. There was a time when a day didn't go by that I didn't think about him.  I used to cry a lot over his death. The loss of young love. The loss of innocence.  The lost of what could have been.  He was so vibrant and full of life.

I had to grieve alone. No one over here in the US had known him. I wasn't able to go to Kampala to attend the funeral. I wasn't able to connect with old friends who had shared with me what it was to know him. Back then we didn't have the easy communications of the internet, cell phones, skype...And I have never been back to Kampala since I last saw him in 1994.  So, there is this part of me that has always still hung on to his death. I wait. I wait for the opportunity someday to get back to Nairobi - to visit the old haunts we shared for more than a year. Back to Kampala to visit his home and his family.  Back to visit old friends who knew him well  so we can share stories about the great man that we once knew. Back to visit his grave.  I have always pictured that trip. I picture going to visit his grave alone. To sit there and cry and release and grieve. 

I have a photo album filled with photos of that man that I loved.   Scenes captured from long ago, when we were young and life stretched before us endlessly.  Happy pictures of us together everywhere. Running all over Nairobi, all over the University.  We took trips to the coast. Days and nights in Lamu.  We climbed Mt Kenya together.  We traveled by bus across to Kampala. We traveled down to southern Uganda so he could show me the place where his family came from. We crossed the border into Rwanda and had a coke. We didn't have visas, so couldn't really travel there, but the border guard let us go across the border to a shop to buy a coke. I have a picture of the two of us standing under a big sign that says "Welcome to Rwanda."  We are young, fit, tan, with huge smiles.  We were in love. The world was ours. I cherish that picture. I cherish those memories.

He played the piano. He loved classical music.  I had never really listened to classical music until I met him.  He was studying to be an architect.  We used to study together in his room, me sitting on the bed reading while he sat at his drawing table, drafting designs for hotels and hospitals.  We would listen to mix tapes and smoke cigarettes in that ratty little room at the University of Nairobi. 

On weekends we used to go to Uhuru park or sit outside for hours at bars drinking warm beer and playing scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.  We used to do the word jumble and the crossword puzzle together in the daily paper.  Days were full of classes, nights we went drinking and dancing. There was endless time to hang out and just be.  We were inseparable. 

He was so tall and skinny and dark.  I was so blonde and fair. It caused a lot of attention. We didn't care.    He had the smile of the Cheshire cat.  I captured it in pictures.  Every once in awhile I will see a man who resembles him in some way and I catch my breath.  The memories were so hardwired. It happens less and less as the years go by, but it still happens.    Knowing him..being with helped shape who I am today. He was and will always remain an important part of my youth.

I used to Google his name and there were a few articles about a business he had started in Kampala after he finished school.  He was active in the community.  Kampala is not a big place and he came from a good family. He was known.  As I said before, he could have and should have been a part of the new generation there. And he was for awhile. But the lifestyle there got to him and it took him away.  I Google him now and all that remains is a link to the high school he attended in Uganda with a list of those who have left us.  And that makes me sad.

So, next year it will be ten years since he passed. And almost 20 since we met.  Time.  I know that I will get back to Kampala someday, and I will have that moment I need to grieve.  In his homeland. The place he once shared with me. There is no rush.  The memories will not fade.

I will always love you Albert.  You remain alive in the memories of all the people whose lives you touched in your all too brief, but vibrant life.

Climbing Mount Kenya, February 1987. I turned 21 during the weekend of that hike.

1 comment:

  1. Wendy,
    These photos tug at my heart, too... I loved Albert so much, too, in my own way. Thank you for sharing this. The photos show both of you exactly as I remember. love love love,