It wouldn't be accurate to say we became friends at the Fidelity Bank Creative Writing workshop. It happened after that. How did it happen? Quietly and subtly... the way she approaches all things.
Mnena introduced herself as Jill to the group, but when she wrote down her email address and I saw a familiar name, I asked her if she was Tiv. She said yes and I started noticing her.
Her stories stood out - well written and thought out, and laced carefully with delightful strips of humour. When asked to analyse other stories, as is the norm at these workshops, she would quietly state her opinion. Never loud but not one to be overlooked.
I would later discover that it was not a front. That was who she was, and that is who she is.
In a little over three years, Mnena has grown on me. She is ridiculously smart and witty. And on a scale of 1 to Hulk Type Strength, my friend is an Amazon.
Mnena is the feminist I admire and want to be. She isn't afraid to face her frailties and uses her strengths to her advantage. You won't find her cowering in fear or self pity, but she isn't one to deny the things she cannot handle.
Today, while chatting about someone we both make fun of, she said "Oh I think B* is very smart. She is just dumb". That cracked me up so much, because only Mnena would describe someone that way.
Mnena is selfless. There are so many times she has put other people before herself that I wonder if we who are in her life realize the privilege it is to have her.
Mnena quietness is reminiscent of a steel force. She uses it to her advantage too. You can never see her coming. She takes things and runs with it... not fussy and not dramatic. Mnena is who you should call if you need to bury a body. Her quiet strength is what will keep you from freaking out.
The only time I've seen her freak out is when she got the invite to attend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Creative Writing workshop in 2015. That was a collective best day of our lives. CNA (or Shero as Mnena calls her) comes only second to Hadley Freeman on my friend's list of 'people to meet before I die'. So you can understand why my 'non squealing' friend nearly passed out from excitement.
Mnena allowed me to share that moment with her and I am truly grateful. But I think the best part of my friendship with Mnena is our ability to argue, disagree seriously on issues and come back to a mid point. I don't love Mnena because she agrees with me all the time; I love her because I can count on her to tell me what she thinks.
I love her because she isn't afraid to take risks. I love her because she is brilliant and she takes impressive financial decisions.
Mnena isn't afraid of her sexuality and owns her womanhood. She is a true representation of a strong, smart and staunch woman. She doesn't pander to the whims of societal expectations. In a society where everyone expects you to be of a certain religious inclination, my friend tells you clearly - without fear - this is who I am. She isn't domestic and doesn’t pretend to be. Mnena does not like injustice and is very vocal about it.
She looks very nerdy and reads a lot. ALOT! No, I'm not exaggerating. She reads a lot. It is no wonder that she is such a good writer... but she never believes me when I tell her.
And because this is beginning to sound like a eulogy, I have to end this here. But before I go, I must let you know that Mnena doesn't like talking on the phone.
Yeap, she's a weirdo like that. But she's my weirdo. Don't ask me for her number because I don't like to share my friends.