Heart of Arts

The Feud

Toyin Falola

Friendship carries meaning. It is not merely a relationship between neighbours, though it could exist therein; it is not merely a relationship between roommates, though in that proximity you could also find its warmth; it is not flimsy, neither is it to be discarded on a whim. As an African proverb says, a friend is someone you share the path with. Thus, as it is with this notion of friendship, this character, who I will call Settledeen, fell in step with Arrival-Carry in the early days of their admission into the university. Little was unusual about their friendship as, save their courses of study, both were in tandem on many points. Settledeen was as much the sports talent as he was an academic, same as his friend, with both possessing the ability that is so unevenly conferred on man — striking a balance between the profound and the barely consequential. One is tall and the other is short, but both similar in stomach size,

In their carefree moments, they could be heard arguing loudly about football, lecturers, protest, food, and, most of all, the women they crossed paths with. They could also be found striding down their university roads at night, their laughter barreling past passersby ahead and behind them. Such was the nature of their friendship that even amongst that close ring of friends, they were a tightly woven pair, frequently in the know of some obscure joke they had come upon alone or separately and often by instinct rather than design, unwilling to relate them to none other than themselves. The Tyson”, a convenient moniker they had come to be acknowledged by for their acclaim in politics and activism, were also guilty of leaving their female companions in doubt. On more than one occasion, either could be caught electing to confide in the other, even when proximity to their love interests dictated otherwise.

But the path was not always paved for the young men. Talented as both were, a fortune in its discriminatory fervour sometimes pitched their interests against each other. A scholarship they had jointly applied for was bagged by one and lost by the other, financial setbacks that were not mutually felt, meltdowns from general life crises, etcetera, etcetera. Suffice it to say that the trajectory of both was never designed to be without stress. Arrival-Ccarry, in particular, ran into fewer troubles than his friend on the financial front, having both the luck of a relatively comfortable family and an army of older siblings with liquidity to spare on their promising brother. Life in its fickleness also happened to smile more favourably on him as though he was equal in talent and enterprise to his friend; his rewards were noticeably constant. For instance, Arrival-Carry ventured freely into new opportunities with minimal strain, while his friend would often be stuck with one entanglement or the other. This is not to say that Arrival-Carry did not go over and above to help his friend. In fact, sharing a brother-like relationship, it was hard to distinguish which belongings were whose whenever both happened to share the same space. Also, unsolicited monetary inputs volunteered to aid the latter.

So, it became that against the tide of affection pushed the steady realization of imbalance. This emerged with age as the veil of exuberance gradually began to lift from Settledeen’s eyes. The difference in realities became bolder when, upon graduation from their Alma mater, Arrival-Carry eased seamlessly into the labour market. His kinship network came through again with a juicy role at a notable firm. On Settledeen, life cast a briefly unfair gaze as he underwent the rigour of applications and several interviews to get through. His qualifications did speak for him as he was employed with fine compensation. However, the duration for which he had struggled was all the fissure it took for the embers of resentment to rekindle.

Although Settledeen was in complete acknowledgement of his friend’s sympathy and help through the years, he also could not help but be bothered by the inequity of fortune given their roughly equal talents. In every instance, he had to beckon on Arrival-Carry for help or feast from the generosity he was able to afford, and his esteem was pricked a little sharper. On most accounts, they had been good, but in the important moments when they had committed to the pursuit of a greater goal, and Arrival-Carry had gained the better lot, Settledeen was often saddened. His was a life of persistent sweat and toil. His friend’s almost the direct opposite.

Photo Mike Tyson – Source Marca

As such, when fate conferred on Arrival-Carry an early stab at a postgraduate degree abroad, Settle Deen hurt, though he would get the chance too. When fate decided that Arrival-Carry was to transition to a role in a multinational following his postgraduate degree, Settledeen suffered again. And when Arrival-Carry purchased his car and a house with fanfare, Settledeen, as always, was subjected to emotional throes. Each success widened the gulf in Settledeen’s mind till he finally began to withdraw from his long-time friend. His heart froze every time he heard that Arrival-Carry had accomplished something or embarked on some new project. Anyone who knew Settledeen well enough could observe the tight lines of displeasure streaking across his face whenever the conversation shifted to the other member of the Tyson team. During the worst occasions, he would snap at the offending person, who was unfortunate enough to have mentioned his name or outrightly ignored calls from his friend. At first, Arrival-Carry did not think much of it. After all, their lives after graduation from the university had often been disrupted with one burden of adulthood or the other. But even he began to recognize it slowly: the cold surface upon which his jokes landed when he now spoke with Settledeen, his clipped tones, his zealous preoccupation with excuses that kept him from being able to spend time, and the subtle withdrawal from visiting landmarks in Arrival-Carry’s life such as his house or joining rides in his sleek, modern car. Worst of all, Arrival-Carry was abreast of odd rumours; stories said to have been told by his biggest confidante and actions that were anything but in favour of their relationship. Despite the signs, he remained ambivalent about it for a while; however, time and the benefit of the doubt seemed like the least presents he could offer Settledeen at that point. He took Settledeen’s microaggressions in stride, accepting humourous occasions when his friend had seemed gleeful about slight upheavals in his life.

Yet, it was all the proverbial calm that preceded the storm as matters would eventually come to a head at Settledeen’s wedding. The duo had always spoken ambitiously about their marital lives. This was in the days when all they had been were two young men on a university campus. Then, in their thoughts, their weddings would be symbolic of the brotherly relationship they had forged, with one playing an immensely significant role in the other’s. To them, not much could be different about adulthood. After all, if they could continue to be friends, then little else mattered. But the new dynamic in their relationship had infused an inferiority complex such that the former’s enthusiasm to have his wedding was coloured by the desire to counteract his friend. Much as both were experiencing a thaw, it was not in Arrival-Carry’s nature to not attempt to offer help, so much that it appeared meddlesome to the disaffected Settledeen.

He channelled his discontent into visibly excluding his friend from the planning of the ceremony and, worst of all, sidelining him from the best man title. All these were received badly by Arrival-Carry, who, mostly aloof to the causal elements, appeared at the event with gifts and good cheer apparently designed to mask his thinning patience with the groom. Herein laid his mistake, for in his keenness to be subtle, he made comments which, to Settledeen’s sensitive ears, appeared condescending to his difficult journey. He confronted his friend backstage, and there, what should have been a civil conversation erupted into a conflict that had the bold markings of pent-up emotions. Arrival-Carry accused his friend of being unsupportive and stubbornly aloof about happenings within his life, which is in stark contrast to his attitude towards him. He was particularly hurt by the rumours of Settledeen’s speeches against him, all intended to smear his person. Settledeen, on his partner, pointed fingers at him for everything else but the feeling of jealousy that had burrowed hungrily into his mind, neither admitting nor denying the deliberate reputational assault on his friend. Back and forth went both in their disgust, one determined to verbally assault a friend for fulfilling everything but the demands of quality, loyal friendship, the other bent on severing ties with the genesis of his self-doubt. To Settledeen, the inference from their most severe conflict in years was simple: Arrival-Carry was too selfish, too insensitive to see beyond his feelings, and to Arrival-Carry, Settledeen had, for reasons he would not explain, embarked on a warpath towards him. Arrival-Carry’s gifts would return with him, as would anger at a comrade with whom most things had been straightforward and without guile.

Still, as it is with friendships, especially of the sort that was built through the years, one would expect both to reunite peaceably. But years of disaffection on one side and a feeling of betrayal on the other spurred detachment on both ends. The perpetual inability of either man to keep from discussing their issues in public, such that it often tended to transmit through the grapevine to the other’s ears, worsened matters even further. Settledeen’s ego was outsized by this time, and he saw no reason why someone who, to him, had most things on a platter should receive his apology easily. Arrival-Carry was generally insensitive and failed to analyze any of these as an imbalance of opportunities between them. Blinded by an overwhelming sense of tightness, he, too, indulged in determined iciness against his one-time friend. No longer could either access the institution of the family on either side nor could the strength of confidence they once reposed in each other be placed in anyone else. In place of fondness and light-hearted memories, each now carried in his heart a stone-cold perception of what had to them and all who knew them had been a stellar relationship.

Faculty of Social Science, University of Lagos – Source: unilag.edu.ng

The story of the Tysons, though fictional, is a template for a successful relationship. Because our lives are typically designed to follow different paths, we can hardly walk ours as individuals without attempting to peer into the next person’s. In essence, we are creatures of comparison. We choose to model our lives after those of people who have gone before because we think that we are likely to find the most fulfilment there or envy the trajectories of people existing at the same time as us because things seem to be working better for them. Still, that is not the most intriguing part. What is worthy of the most thought are the events that play out once two people or a group of people with varying levels of luck and personal achievements intersect closely. Intuitively, that connection triggers primordial human sentiments. And more importantly, it is a burden to manage them dexterously to avoid conflict. What I mean here is that given the existence into which we have all been thrust, we must accept or work to better our fates on the one hand while seeking to maintain sanitary social relationships. Were our fate to be like that of Arrival-Carry in my story, we bear a commensurate burden to apply our actions with sensitivity and understanding of human nature. We cannot live isolated lives; our paths must always cross with others, often with limited choices as to who those may be. The sooner we are aware of this, the better we can utilize emotional intelligence in the management of our relationships with other people.

 

PS: This fictional story was based on a true story narrated to me by Professor Laja Odukoya and Dr. Dele Ashiru. I am grateful to Professor Tunde Babawale of the University of Lagos who attested to two differing stories.

Las Palmas, Spain, May 22.

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