I was eighteen. Depressed and suicidal. I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. So I did what I thought anyone in my position would do. I distracted. I woke up online and I slept online. Well, it wasn’t really sleeping, it was closing my eyes until I was sure no one could hear me crying. And then I cried and watched depressing videos on YouTube, then cried some more. So when you started to text me a lot more regularly, I can’t say I was bothered. I was broken and I needed someone, anyone, to hold my pieces. It didn’t matter how. Fast forward to a few months later, and you were my favourite distraction. Only, we didn’t call it a distraction, we called it friendship. And on nights when we were sufficiently drunk on sweet nothings, you called me the love of your life. It sounded like a lie, tasted like a lie, but anyone who has been tasting blood long enough will tell you just how much like chicken deceit tastes.
It has been four years now; a few broken hearts later and ours is as complicated and confused as it’s always been. I’ve liked other people, you’ve dated other people. You’ve cheated on other people, I have hated myself for being an accomplice to your adultery. I have hated and loved you, mostly at the same time and surprisingly with equal intensity. I have deleted your number way too many times even though I know it off head. I have sent you countless emails with the subject “it is really over this time.” We’ve gone for months at a time without talking. On these months filled with silence, I have convinced myself that I am over you. I guess in a sense, I have moved on. Well, I think I’ve moved on until I hear my phone ping at two am and even without looking to see if it’s you, I can already feel myself falling down the rabbit hole, colliding with regret and self-loathing.
But this is how it ends.
It ends on a cold night in a club, with us deciding to be friends. And not the kind of friends we’ve always been. The kind that can go for lunch and spend time together without breaking any commandments. The kind that can text at eleven in the night without the conversation ending with me putting my clothes back on, and you avoiding my eyes. It ends with us attempting to define our relationship as functional. It ends with one last kiss, one last regret.
It ends with me in the morning, plastered, trying, but mostly failing, to leave without making a fuss. If only these utensils would cooperate. It ends with you walking up and doing that crooked smile and me trying not to fall back in again. It ends with us reminiscing on how fast four years can go when they are filled with sin and impropriety. It ends with me saying a silent prayer, asking for forgiveness for all the times I was too weak to say no. It ends with me trying to realign my confused moral compass, hoping to find the direction of absolute north.
It ends with one last hug that lasts for too long. You say you love me. I tell you to lock that Pandora’s Box. You laugh and get defensive. We are friends after all now, you are allowed to love me. I decide I love you too. I think I even say it out loud. I’m not sure, I’m too busy thinking how uncontrollably I’ve loved you. How I’ve loved you with a love so fierce, it couldn’t be ticked into just one box. How I’ve transposed your face onto every guy I have thought I was interested in. How I’ve tasted you in every lip, every tongue. Just so you know, all those lips tasted like wreckage and melancholy. You always were wreckage and melancholy after all.
It ends with me crossing the street and fighting every impulse to look back. It ends with me admitting to myself that I’ll always love you, even if from now on, I’ll always cross the street to avoid you.
Cover Image credits;
Photo: Nairobi Street Photography by Lyra Aoko.
Place: Kimathi Street