The end of this love story, ironically, comes with the same tragic simplicity as it had in the beginning.
Our interaction again mediated by an app and a Smartphone; his perhaps newer, and mine jaded from four years of tiring use, judging by the number of the times it goes off.
The lecturer, one of those perpetually amused scholars who seem to have perfected the art of existing in a chuckle-filled bubble, is scribbling three words on the whiteboard:
Peas. Peace. Piece.
“When you say something as a communicator it is very important that your meaning doesn’t get lost in phonetic translation. You must always be heard.”
I think about my not-so-classy ability to babble when I feel passionately enough about something.
I think about him, starting to slowly drift away from the class and into my self-imposed emotional prison.
I think about the beginning of this one sided love story, no doubt scripted by some sadistic celestial being.
It was lighter in the beginning. So much easier to float into the illusion and allow it to seep into me.
We met in the dark; chaperoned by an impartial full moon that glossed over the limpness of Nairobi at rest. I, struggling to stay awake through the night shift by penning another blog post filled with wounded words, and he perhaps simply using social media as a cheaper source of sleep induction.
It was a brief interaction that night. Two strangely similar souls linked by an app as disinterested as the moon that neither were watching.
It was a time when darkness was a central theme in my life. I worked at night, and there existed an even more sinister gloom within me. I often held court to this darkness, enticed by the idea of escaping all the pain in this world and giving in to its nothingness. I am not sure what kept me standing at the edge…never brave enough to jump into it.
He wrote me that night. And in the weeks before I saw his face, or spoke to him, I heard his voice.
It was sound of liquid dominance. Each word anchored against moderated breath; syllables languidly streaming over the rocky bumps of my brain, into my ear and permeating every nerve in my body before nestling at the foot of my gaping heart.
Just nestling there, so certain in its authority.
It was in the way he chose his words…sentences cut with an accurate blade; graceful subjects leaning into delicate verbs. Leisurely seducing and marrying adjectives with sinful symphony. It was in the simplicity of his engagement; enough self-deprecating chivalry to give the eyes a glimpse of humility, enough confidence to assure the mind that it was in the presence of an intelligent soul. He was astute enough to be ambiguous in conversation. Such that one would never accuse him of anything really; his words meant everything and they meant nothing. That trait; that sensual ambiguity, was the hook that drew me to him.
I became enslaved then, by the idea of him. Knowing even then, that he would break my heart, but drawn still like some hapless moth to a promising flame.
“You must choose your words carefully. You may never get another chance to express yourself again,” says perpetually happy lecturer.
I rub my latest pimple. Painfully perched dead center on my forehead. On cue, it starts throbbing.
“You must at all times say exactly what you mean using simple words.”
So I think about all the synonyms that I have used to tell him that I love him still. That I love him frightened. I love him raw. I love him irrational. I love him wrong.
I think of my familiar synonyms of love in the time of social media: desperation in a drunken audio text, the humiliation of an answered phone call, the stinging silence after two glaringly clear blue ticks, the trembling tweets. Tears that defy waterproof mascara and care nothing for the dignity required of a supervisor who seems to be sinking lower and lower into the ground no matter how high her heels, the frozen fingers and quivering lips pursed on a slim Dunhill; menthol temporarily burning away the prickle of rejection. A solitary Facebook emoji with a tear running down its fearfully yellow face, a playlist that starts with Brian McKnight asking whether or not he still thinks about her in the six months eight days twelve hours that he has been loving someone else, or Lady Antebellum justifying why she is up at a quarter after one, or Sam Smith begging him to leave his lover for her or Az-Yet declaring that it’s time to end the story or Emeli Sande vowing to break the law for him and Babyface, sweet, poignant Babyface, lamenting on how their feelings are now just words without emotion, and asking what if he was wrong about her, what if she was meant for him?
I think about how I should have told him last November that I loved him, and I wanted my chance with him using simple words. Not hinted. Just said it. How when he said he was scared that he had nothing to offer me, I should have thrown myself on the floor and insisted that he was everything to me.
How when silence floated between us at that dinner table; that silence that comes from fear, longing, sense, and desire at war, when he had broken his habit of restraint and reached over to close his hands over mine in apology for the longest minute. Those hands somehow managing to be firm yet gentle…somehow managing to say yes and no at the same time, how I should have clutched those hands close to my chest and kissed them as feverishly as I could.
How I should have, when he told me that he loved her, just stabbed myself with that steak knife, because he had given me life when darkness had threatened to see me dead in despair. And yet there he was, draining the life away from me by loving another.
How when he hugged me goodbye, that moment when he allowed me to curl my body into his, and hesitated for just a second longer, how I should have clung to him and begged him to show my lips what his eyes were telling me. Because his eyes…there was something in his eyes…but still there he was killing me. Handing me the keys back to my lonesome cage. How I should have found a way to fight for him.
I think about how that would never have mattered because he never could have loved me. I was to him, like the phone I was staring at, jaded. Boring. Stuck in a past that no one but me remembered. Laughable. That stray cat you see on the road, and you wish it well, but you let it die anyway. You don’t want to take it home with you lest it scratches away the perfection that you hold dear.
There are tears in my eyes. I blink like a mad insect caught in the wind.
The class is filled with muffled, little laughs as the lecturer tries to get everyone to phonetically disseminate those three words she has written without success. Evening students aren’t as boisterous as their younger daytime fellows. So many angry bosses precede their trips into these four walls. So many silent screams lace their lips. So many thoughts competing with their quest for new knowledge.
It takes four swipes to unlock my phone because it hates me and has begged me to flush it down the nearest sewer but I am too broke to agree. My fingers find his name as easily as a rat would find cheese. I stare at my last unanswered message to him. He has been so cold and distant in recent months. It is unbearable. Each time his coldness feels heavier. A steel bracelet against my throat. I power down the phone.
“You cannot blame your audience for not getting your message if you don’t pass it well.”
The throbbing in my pimple slides down my fingers and settles at the center of my bowels. He has stopped trying to pretend that he cares. Why won’t I let him?
I power up the phone and slide. This time five swipes. My fingers are sweaty, but they start typing regardless.
I know you don’t want to hear from me, but-
Both my hands go to my forehead. The double throbbing now doing an equal dance at the pit and the tip of my body.
She starts dictating. I power down the phone and catch up. She stops to draw the triangle of meaning on the whiteboard. Thoughts. Words. Meaning.
I look at the phone. Ten swipes.
The throbbing becomes a whoosh in my ears. Just as quickly the online thing pops away. I start typing.
I have so much I wish I could tell you. But I always feel so terrified because of the wall you have placed between us. Terrified of losing you forever. Terrified of this new version of you that doesn’t have time for me. So I babble and babble, and talk AT you and it always takes me hours to realise for every four million words I type to you there are four words sent back, or none at all. Which means you no longer have the energy to do this – whatever THIS is – but my stupid gut tells me that you do care about me, you must in some way love me too? That’s why you can’t even be the friend that I desperately need lately? Because the feeling is complicated but present? I’m not insane, and you feel what I feel too? Otherwise…why haven’t you told me to stop loving you? You must know that I am still waiting…still?
She is dictating again. I gnaw at my nails. They haven’t been allowed to grow since I broke up with a man who would have killed for me. A man who left because I couldn’t – wouldn’t – let this one go. My nails aren’t pretty nails.
I miss you so much…
Hi…how are you?
My fingers are melting. I type quickly lest they refuse to help me before I am done humiliating myself. Again.
I know you asked me to stop apologising…but…
The last thing you said to me is that you don’t hate me. But I promise you, your indifference to me feels so much more brutal than basic hate. So much more intentional, calculated cruelty.
Did you stop talking to me because I said that I didn’t want to be your Whatsapp acquaintance anymore?
Seven minutes after delivery. Nails begging for help.
I feel terrible…I just want to talk to you…to matter to you again.
I feel like you are punishing me for something.
I feel bad. That you don’t. (speak to me.)
Two minutes after delivery. Three minutes. Eight minutes. Phone powers down.
My stomach, heart and head want to join together in a painful marriage of throbs. I think about how much laughter I cause him, with my desperate texts. I wonder whether there is a special support group in hell for women who just keep falling for men who want nothing less than unblemished women to give their hearts to. I wonder where my soul is. I lost it a long time ago when it grazed against his voice. It must be waiting for me in hell. Saving me a nice corner chair in the support group for the forgotten, the friendzoned and the shameless.
She asks a question. Someone in the back is mumbling an answer. My heart. Jesus. My heart. I drop my pen. Weird smelly dude who made a watery pass at me one time picks it up and I smile feebly and doodle across the top of my page. She starts dictating again. I catch up with the class, fingers swaying across the book. Focus, woman. You failed ageneral course last semester for chrissake. Phonetics will make you its bitch. Focus.
20 minutes. I look at the phone. No backlight. She has asked the class to talk about what they are passionate about. I wonder whether pain qualifies. I seem to be passionate about pain. Drawn out, self inflicted pain.
The phone shifts. Vibrate. I stop breathing. She is passing out the class register as people happily talk about normal human pursuits like baking, cars, sports, world peace. No one talks about loving ghosts. I feel cheated.
One swipe. My phone seems just as eager to see how much booze we will need tonight. Wine or gin, depending on the extent of the inevitable wound.
The message isn’t his. I shift my feet to allow my heart a free-er landing on the floor.
I start typing a response to the sender…my web designer.
His name flies across the top of the screen and I almost drop the damn gadget.
Deep breath. I open it.
I figure it’s for the best. At least for now.
It took the man thirty-four minutes, the same amount of time it takes not one, but several eggs to boil, and to manipulate half my kinky hair into obedient twists to tell me, in simple words, as suggested in the class I wasn’t paying attention to:
I am in love with another woman. That is not going to change. My future does not involve you.
I inhale really hard. The way people do when they get this flood-like sensation in their chest and they are afraid that if they don’t inhale as deeply as possible, they might wail. Like a wounded animal in the desert. I type. Faster. Frantic.
Best for whom?
Best, because you do not want to be accused of encouraging me?
Best, because you are afraid if you do, you just might want to have your cake and eat it too?
Best because you will one day run out of restraint?
I Inhale. Deep.
Five minutes after delivery. Not an iota of a fuck from him.
Actually that is a silly question. I get it.
Three minutes after delivery.
I realise that the man has said what he needs to and he is not coming back. He really isn’t. The throbbing has stopped. Dangerously so. I can’t hear the class.
Five minutes after delivery.
I hate that you are happy and that I cannot share this happiness with you. I hate that I do not know when you are sad. What huskiness means in your voice, husky sad? Husky horny? Husky drunk? I hate that I will never put my tongue against your cheek just to see if it will sink into your dimple. I hate that I cannot forget the tenderness, the safety I always feel when you are around me, or talking to me. That I will never get to know what it is to feel your mouth at the nape of my neck. I hate that I don’t know what you smell like, or whether you raise your voice, or whether you finally learned what a gem of a man you are, that you have never tasted my chicken; the one that takes me two days and a lot of happiness to cook. I hate that I haven’t been to the beach yet because I hoped it would be with you, that I will never know what it is like to be cooked for by you. I hate that I was never good enough to make your heart love me. I hate that your rejection is an indelible mark, a scarlet trophy that I will always carry everywhere I go. I hate that only one person understands why I love you, but even she knows that you are not the man for me. Even she has said you are not worth this. I hate that my love for you is as irrational as it is impartial. And yet it is and will always be you.
I think I get it more than I would like to admit huh? Goodbye is a terrible word.
I hate that I cannot even hate you. Because I am not worthy of your love anyway.
Please…save me from me….love me back.
Goodbye, Adam. And…thank you. For everything.
Class is over. People filing out. My baby classmate. The one whose life revolves around the perfect photo filter is sitting next to me. I didn’t realise that the flood had made it to my eyes. That many little streams of defeat were struggling to join my deflated words on the blurry screen.
“Has someone died?” She asks, her face earnest and empathetic.
I laugh. That faint kind of laughter that comes with the acknowledgement of failure.
“Yes,” I say, “someone has died.”
And I cry.