It would have been different, the outcome. Had you been everything you thought you were. I have this memory of us in bed, we hugged, said good night to each other. Lights out. I felt loss, like my insides were gently being pulled out. I turned over to you “I miss you when you’re sleeping. I actually miss you. I don’t understand it.” You looked at me, part amused, part enchanted and pulled me close.
You fell asleep talking.
My throat constricted, eyes filled with tears I thought to myself ‘I miss him when he’s sleeping, how is this a thing? He’s right there, next to me.’ Later when people would ask me how it happened, how I found myself with you, I wouldn’t have an answer.
For one, you were there and I was here. It began with messages, just saying hi, talking politics. Then came the calls. These were not just random conversations. It was never enough to say ‘it was good’ when you asked how my day was. It was you wanting to know every single thing about it.
“So what happened after the lady at the supermarket was rude to you?”
“Why didn’t you send that pitch in?”
“What does that imposter syndrome voice tell you?”
“What happened when you were a child for you to hate your body so much?”
It was as if you had arrived, tools in hand, gently breaking through everything. And it was not as if I was defenceless. I just could not fathom what was going on. Where had you come from? How did this happen? Why did your voice make me want to tell you the truth?
One afternoon in a city different to yours, snow had begun to fall. I ran outside and called you via FaceTime, “I wanted you to see the snow!” It was only later that I realised that my calling you was a reflex, I had not thought about it, the action had just happened. I wanted to share something I was experiencing with you, suddenly life had become a maths equation, plus + plus= always you.
On our first date you wore shades of blue. A leather jacket. One thing about synthetic Leather… the stains don’t stay, they wipe off so you would never know they were there. We went to the cinema, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2018). Later I would read terrible reviews about the film, was it that bad? Well I can’t tell you the plot, or recount even one scene.
What I can remember is the sensation of that leather jacket against my hair (where have you been all my life?)The outline of your face. (Are you art?) You slotting my hand into yours, fingers gently pressing into knuckles (please never let go). The sound of my own heartbeat, doubling, tripling. (Ever felt terror in a good way?) My perfume and your cologne crashing into each other, mixing, merging and creating their own fragrance (Where do I end and you begin?)
I have two different sets of memories. There are the tangible ones like our first breakfast in Java (Fruit salad and cappuccino for me, Malindi Chai Latte and Croissant for you), our walk around town during Easter weekend, the time you lost your temper with a policeman who was ethnically profiling you, and your irritating commentary when we would be on facetime and I would be doing my skincare routine.
Those ‘we would have cute babies’ chat-up lines of yours which I branded ‘pedestrian and cheesy.’ Hearing you say ‘niaje’ to the driver when you would get into a cab. And that time you were late to pick me up because you had walked for miles trying to find a flower stall in order to bring me roses. Pink and Red.
And then there are the sensory memories.
‘Touch can produce detailed, lasting memories’ suggest findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The architecture of your torso. The velvety feel of your neck. That mouth. On Mine. Me leaning against the door. Hit the pause button. Freeze time. There is no need for a ‘what happens next.’
I used to sleep in your vests, it would make me feel close to you when we weren’t together. Now I look back and wonder if I was just delusional, I mean, sleeping in something that was not mine?
Funny thing, I don’t just have memories of you, I have memories of me with you. Writing you long letters in pink ink, looking at myself in the mirror while speaking to you and seeing new expressions on my face, and experiencing my body soften and expand every time I heard your voice.
I have learnt that all the writing, poetry and music in the world put together cannot explain the intricacies and absurdities of what it was like to love you; love became tangible yet undefinable, it was vast like an open-ended sky and a never-ending breath.
‘Some researchers believe love is a natural phenomenon.’
Well, so are tornadoes and they create chaos.
Everything had been fine, even now with the gift of hindsight I stand by that, but as someone wiser than me once said ‘sometimes people will pull the wool over your eyes and the rug from beneath your feet.’
You began to fade away, less available, less transparent, less… you. Every time I asked if something was wrong, if we had to work at something, I would be told ‘I’ll call you later’. Hours wondering about when you would call, why, if you wanted to leave you would not just say it or give me the space to make a graceful exit.
Within all of our emotional anatomies exist bits which are fragile, made up of our fears and traumas, every so often we will reveal these to someone with a trust so sacred. Silent treatment, lack of clarity, avoidance and not being treated with dignity are triggers, please never push those buttons.
“Never ever will I do that,” a code of conduct was set, promises were made. But hey… the value of a promise is only as high as the maker has placed upon it.
For days I stood in ‘no man’s land’ (quite literally… at least I can laugh about it), finally came a phone call. It was over, a myriad of senseless and unclear explanations delivered in anger, ‘clarity’ with extra sides of confusion.
Loss is shapeless, weighty and dense, it swirls within your insides, runs through you at speed, slows you down. Where did you go?
Just weeks later, sat in a cafe, scrolling on the phone, a sip of burnt coffee taken as a post comes up on Instagram. A photograph in which you sit, to the untrained eye it is your face, features and expression, but look close enough and it’s a different version of you. You aren’t alone, thus that one photo provides the explanation which all your broken sentences, unanswered phone calls and long silences couldn’t.
Betrayal is bitter, its hallmark acetous taste is felt every time pain, inadequacy and self-doubt are swallowed. Feelings evolve, heartbreak turns into anger which turns into grief which turns into loss, each emotion colossal and grotesque as they metastasize.
But no storm lasts forever, the damage it leaves behind in its aftermath is never irreparable and nature heals. What remains is a thunderous silence with echoes of disappointment and disbelief, asking the question, were those memories or illusions?