Years passed and with the passage of time, our "friendship" suffered change. The change was slow, gradual and subtle, but it was enforced upon us by the increasingly limited opportunity available to us to enjoy the closeness that we once enjoyed and still felt. Perhaps it might have been brought on by a combination of factors: the fact that we both were engaged in full-time careers; the fact that as a family man TJ just could not be there, as he had been before. And I was quite understanding of this too, taking every opportunity when it presented itself, to visit him at his office at Bonny Camp on Victoria Island in Lagos, spending untold hours with him, just being together.
TJ was shortly going off to America on a course and I recall accompanying him from one military office to the other government office, as he did the legwork necessary to put together all of the paperwork for his trip; me dressed in my smart, dark, business suit, him in his even smarter, sharp, Major's uniform, a uniform that caused doors to open with an alacrity that astonished me, whichever door it was that we knocked on.
On the night of his departure, we both said goodbye to his family and it was I who drove him to the airport, where when he had concluded the formalities and was just about to go through the gate taking him air-side, his eyes boring into mine, my eyes penetrating deeply into his, we embraced tightly and passionately, in public! Quite a feat, seeing how stiff and awkward TJ always was prior to that, a proclivity that had endeared him to me over the years. And it is that evening of his departure, which comprises the indelible memory of my "friendship" with TJ.
I use the word "memory" because from the title of this story, it ought to have been clear from the onset that this is not a story with a happy ending. TJ was away for a few weeks and shortly after his return, received a further promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, (he'd been only a Lieutenant when we first met about twelve years previously). I am not sure about this, but I will assume that the promotion also meant that he was qualified for different, presumably more expensive, accommodation, because he moved house. The promotion also led to him being reassigned to Defence HQ, doing more security sensitive work and working long hours, making him quite inaccessible while at work. Thus, not knowing where he now lived, there was a period of about a month after his return that I had no contact with him. Eventually, contact was re established and it was arranged that he would take me to his new place on a date to be specified..
A few days later, while at my work, a colleague of mine walked into my room with a strange look on his face. He started by stating that he had just been to see General Somebody at Defence HQ. Apparently, the General was his client and had invited him to discuss some personal legal matter. While my colleague was seated in the General's office, some underling entered the office and confirmed to the General that the reports were true. Obviously very shocked, the General proceeded to narrate to my colleague the details of the report that he had received a short while ago. One of his senior officers had apparently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, mentioning the name of the said officer. My colleague did not know TJ in person, but he knew of him and knew his name..
According to my colleague, the General recounted that over the previous few weeks he'd noticed a change in this officer's demeanour; he had become withdrawn and listless, something the General thought was rather unusual for this particular officer. After the report of the shooting, it was narrated to the General that the officer (TJ) had discovered that his wife had been having an affair with one of their neighbours. The officer in a blind rage had broken into the home of this neighbour and with his service revolver, shot at the neighbour. He then walked back to his own residence and placing the gun against his temple, shot himself dead, spattering bits of his brain across the wall and the stairwell. And the bitter irony of the whole incident was that the wife's lover survived the gunshot and was taken to hospital.
It is impossible through writing to accurately describe, or convey how distraught I became on hearing this news. Even after so many years, I don't believe that I have successfully in my mind articulated my feelings surrounding this affair. As I said at the beginning, I shoved it aside, choosing instead not to think about it, in the vain hope that the pain would go away. But it hasn't gone away and continues to haunt me. I feel guilt. I feel as if I let down my dear friend. I should have been there for him in his time of distress. I believe that had I been there for him, he would not have taken such drastic action. I would have been in a position to intervene, he must have felt so alone in his time of crisis. He was not one to make many friends and certainly not friends in whom he would confide and entrust such a sensitive matter. He was very proud, but he would have trusted me and allowed me to hold his hand through those difficult times that we must have gone through.
It is about eighteen years since TJ died and I now find myself for the first time breaking out in tears as I type this. Perhaps writing this story was the catharsis that I needed, but if I am to be honest, I did not do this for me alone. I did it for TJ too and to celebrate that wonderful closeness that we enjoyed, that which two human beings can feel for each other. He really did mean so much to me and I still get the feeling that even after all that I have written, I have not done justice to the beautiful thing that we shared. May his soul rest in peace.