Of Love and Timetables

Love as and when love presents itself

Love has no rules

I remember being fifteen or so and borrowing a copy of True Love magazine from a friend at school and taking it home for a thorough reading, as well as to add my own dogears to the pages that showcased clothes and makeup I liked. I hid it behind my bed and hoped my ever busy mother would give my room a reprieve from its weekly poke and prod. I recall starting on an advice column where one question concerned the relationship mourning period. I can’t tell you the response that the asker was given because shortly after I began reading the column, my mother walked in on me quietly huddled in the corner of my room and took possession of my contraband reading material. Many Black-Mother-Questions followed.

“Where did you get this?

“What do you know about true love?

“I don’t tolerate this filth in my house”

et cetera.

Mother took possession of the magazine and I automatically forfeited the following week’s pocket money to the owner of the magazine. Also, people stopped lending me things. So, there’s that. I don’t know that I thought about that column again until some time in my early twenties when love and the rules of affection became the primary subjects of all my girltalk. As people, we are raised to consume information and apply it, regardless of its accuracy. Our backgrounds determine how we see and interpret the world. We therefore, have a varying understanding of love and what a healthy relationship looks like. The toxicity of women being raised to be the primary lovers and carers of others has coloured the love lives of women across the spectrum, and far too many of us share scarily similar stories about emotional abuse, or what we have come to describe as simple misfortune when it comes to affairs of the heart. Too many of us probably share the belief that jumping from one relationship (whether exclusive or not) to another is unwise and that the Pause Button must be pressed and held down for *insert arbitrary period of time* before we can entertain another suitor, or other suitors.

So, when is it socially acceptable to move on to another love(r)?

If you had asked me this question when I was twenty two and staring at the bottom of some bottle or glass, nursing another broken heart, I would have told you that I don’t know, but certainly more than a month. And the arbitrary selection of 30+ days would have been born of having heard women from all walks of life preach about respectability and the best means of avoiding the oh so horrendous slut shaming. I would continue to rebuff any advances from boys I liked simply because the rules said I needed to wait. Until I walked into a local pub a few weeks after the heartbreaking took place to find the heart-breaker firmly attached at the lips to a pretty (I mean stunning) girl with whom I had shared a cab a few times after a quiet night had taken a sudden turn and liquor had taken the steering wheel. (Goodness, the betrayal.)

It hit me then that men are not conditioned to pause after the end of any dalliance and that it is their right to satisfy any and all cravings related to sex and attraction, regardless of the time that has lapsed between the ending of one thing, and the sudden appearance of a new option. I’ll skip past the embarrassing shot taking and awkward gyration in between Foosball and pool tables in a poor attempt to remind him what he was missing out on.

*cringes for the ages*

Fast forward to today, 27 years old and a healthy number of notches on my bedpost, I can categorically state that the mourning period preached by all the people is unmitigated bullshit. The idea that everyone in the world’s love life is governed by an identical set of rules which were thumbsucked by goodness knows who is comical to me (now). With the myriad (I’m gesticulating fiercely in my head right now) of relationship dynamics which exist, it cannot simply be true that we ALL are reading from the same rule book. It’s implausible that Simone in Geneva and Khanyisile in Delaware and every other girl whose name is Jennifer, all wait *arbitrary time period* before entertaining the next one. It’s equally ridiculous that even if they do not, that they SHOULD.

Love and attraction are not living breathing entities which operate on a scheduled time table. The simple fact that infidelity is common on earth is testament to the fact that one can be attracted to more than one individual simultaneously. Affairs that exist parallel to marriages for lifetimes speak to the fact that one can love more than one person at the same time. Whether the above are socially acceptable or evidence of our morally bankrupt society is neither here nor there.  One can fall out of love with X today and meet his/her next soulmate by supper time, and it’s nobody’s business whether or not they pursue those feelings.

As an active member of the Twitterverse, I’m constantly crying a little inside at the “advice” doled out freely about how we need to heal ourselves before embracing love. How selfish it is to move onto a new love without closure and intense introspection and and and… Imagine how many of us would have missed out on the loves of their lives had we waited until we weren’t as broken or were a little less hurt by our immediate pasts. How many of us have been carried from the dark place by a little kindness and attention? How many of us have found healing in a new love?

Love as and when love presents itself.

Take it with both hands and ride the wave until it can no longer carry you.

The Empress.

 

Friday Night Lighting

I like to tell stories about nameless people who live pseudo-mundane lives. Simply because there are days in everyone’s life where they feel boring and uninteresting. Where the most fascinating thing you do is change clothes, and climb right back into bed. Days when nobody says your name yet you are not any less a person. Or relevant. This is a short story about a girl who goes somewhere. But nowhere particularly special. She does some things, but nothing particularly earth shattering.


She walked quickly through the small apartment as she checked to make sure the clasp of her worn watch was properly fastened. Another crack on her favourite timepiece could not be afforded, which prompted her to make a mental note – for the fifteenth time – to pass by the repair shop during her lunch break to have it checked out. As she bent over to check the contents of her handbag, her extra long dark braids fell forward, temporarily blinding her. She cursed as she fumbled with the hair-tie which she kept permanently fixed to her wrist for moments such as this. She tied up the inconveniently long hair with much effort, made another mental note to never get braids this long ever again, then went back to her task. After ensuring everything she needed was in the bag, she practically sprinted out of the house to the waiting carpoolers, three floors down, barefoot, bright yellow heels in hand.

This was her routine. Wake up on time, dilly-dally, cue up a playlist for the day and eventually dash out to her lift of perpetually annoyed travel mates, whom she would further annoy by applying her make up in the car in between begging the driver not to drive too fast for fear of poking her eye out with her mascara wand, and yelling for more volume. And as usual, after half an hour of navigating traffic, they parked in the musty basement of their building, which to be honest, needed to be abandoned before they all were buried alive beneath it one day. Whilst the rest of the passengers disembarked (yes, it is a car not an aeroplane, but when 8 people exit a soccer-mom’s car in relative order, it counts as disembarking), she crouched to buckle each shoe, starting with the left and finishing with the right. When she was done, she straightened up and admired her latest purchase and the way the strappy sandals complimented her bright blue toenails. She strutted (because in 12 centimetre platforms, one can only strut) towards the elevator and squeezed in just as the doors eased shut. As she psyched herself up for the day ahead by imagining a large gin and dry lemon waiting for her at her pit-stop before she headed home, she was vaguely aware of the chatter behind her as well as of the kaleidoscope of smells ranging from what had to be green tea to the driver’s pungent cologne.

The day flew by and before she knew it, she was the waving goodbye to the last of her colleagues from behind a precariously balanced stack of hard cover files filled with manuscripts. She felt across her desk for her now cold cup of coffee and took a careful sip of the awful stuff before turning another page in the book she was busy editing. She scrunched up her face at the futuristic descriptions and forced her mind to imagine barcodes emblazoned onto forearms and struggled to reconcile the use of medieval English with the robot-esque voices now speaking in her head. She glanced at the watch on her wrist and shut down her computer. She softly padded, heels now abandoned beneath her table, to the windows which overlooked a sparkly skyline, and further, the nothingness of the ocean in the night. A light sheen covered the ground below and she immediately regretted her choice of outfit. She focused her eyes on her dim reflection in the glass. The braids she had fought with earlier now fell in an elegant waterfall around her shoulders and down her back. Her black eyes stared back at her underneath layers of mascara, and her pouty lips still bore the telltale signs of the dark plum shade she’d applied in the car that morning. The predominantly red ankara dress she had had made in a kiosk in Ghana by a chatty fellow named Francis, touched her in all the right places without telling too many of her secrets. It fell down to below her knees in a subtle ball gown style. She reached up to the top button which gave the dress some modesty, hesitated for a second, then shook off the uncertainty and unbuttoned it. And then the next one. She reached into her left pocket and pulled out her lipstick and re-coated her lips, then squinted at the girl in the window to make sure she looked presentable.

Satisfied, she walked back to her desk and checked her handbag again before putting her shoes back on and ignoring the slight pain she felt from traipsing to and from the printer and kitchen and bathroom. She did a quick sweep of the office and turned the alarm on before locking the door behind her. She double checked it as though she had not just turned the key in the lock. As she waited for the elevator to make its way up to the 11th floor, she hummed Grandma’s Hands to herself in a bid to calm the rising nerves. Negro spirituals were for some reason, what her childhood sounded like, despite growing up on the outskirts of middle class suburbia in a landlocked country. The unfriendly grouch who sat at the eyesore of a security desk on the well-lit ground floor every week night, rubbed his face vigorously as the ding signalling the elevator’s arrival sounded. The sleep practically fell from his tired eyes as he caught sight of her – all hair and red dress and train of pitch black hair peppered with tiny golden haircuffs. He grunted a greeting and she waved a twinkling goodbye, the light catching the rings adorning her fingers, positive she could see the saliva drip from his mouth.

When she arrived at her destination, she pushed with practised strength against the massive wooden door that marked the entrance to a hidden basement bar, three blocks from her office building. She stood at the top of the stairs to collect herself after running like she was being chased by screaming banshees through the old neighbourhood, teeming with gentrification masked as development. Every corner had an artisanal restaurant which charged too much for too little and forced those who worked in the 5 block radius to carry food to their spaces of work or forfeit their housing. Or both.  And if one didn’t watch where one was walking, one could easily find oneself faceplanted after tripping over rubble or an abandoned tool. She took one last deep breath, sniffed her armpits and stepped onto the narrow staircase, shut the door, and made her descent towards the large room at the bottom, careful not to snag her dress on the splintered bannister. The walls on either side were lined with gold and black art deco wall paper which reeked of old cigarettes and reminded her of old movies set in the 1920s.

She pursed her lips and added extra swing to her hips as she pushed through a set of swinging doors and was met with exactly what she expected – Miguel on just the right volume, brown beautiful bodies either swaying to the music, carrying on around tables and velvet-lined couches, milling around at the bar or yelling orders at the friendly (and equally beautiful) bartenders dressed to the nines behind the bar. Her skin pimpled with goose bumps when she recognised a white, hand-stitched Prada purse thrown without caution, onto the floor beside one of the couches closest to her. She resisted every urge to seek out the big brown eyes that belonged to its owner and continued on her trek to the bar.

Fortune smiled upon her and she grabbed the remaining free barstool and dragged it to the far end of the wooden bar. She plonked herself on its shaped seat and dangled her handbag over the damp bar-top. It was quickly taken from her by the youngest of the barmen – a Turkish fellow with an unlikely Mohawk and the thickest eyelashes she had ever encountered. He deposited it under the bar and immediately busied himself with her usual order. She risked what she thought was a discrete glance and the owner of the Prada bag and allowed her eyes to drink in the neatly done high-bun, faux fur jacket and the newly manicured hands which moved as she regaled her group with what must have been an entertaining story. She shifted her gaze back to the barman before she got caught gawking and took a healthy chug of the gin. She leaned over the bar and picked up an extra slice of lemon, plopped it into her drink and nodded at the DJ booth, signalling the short, bearded artist to raise the volume and get the party started.

He started playing one of her favourite mixes – an old school vibe featuring Craig David in his prime and the newer sounds of GoldLink and Xavier Omar. The crowd shook out of the lazy energy that had gripped it and a few “whoop-whoops” were heard as some migrated towards the middle of the room to what had long been designated as the dance floor. She now sat with her back to the bar and her yellow heels swinging. She sipped her drink and gazed out at the show, feeling like a puppet master- controlling her puppets from the sidelines with the music she knew they loved so well.

The night progressed without a hitch and she even sent one of the bouncers home early. As she pressed the brown envelope filled with his wages into his giant palm, she giggled and kissed his cheek. He whispered sexy French things into her ear and she swatted at his behind as he walked off. It was easy to be disarmed by the hulking man – looks and height, married with charm and dreadlocks that looked like the gods themselves twisted them whilst he slept. She was still staring at his back as he swaggered away when she felt someone press up against hers and her skin came alive again at the familiar Burberry scent. She didn’t turn, but rather, leaned into the warmth and started moving to the music. After a brief hesitation, Burberry and heat joined her and two songs turned into four. Hands on the waist and light kisses rained on shoulders. Eventually, they turned to face each other and join the dancers in the middle in sing-shouting the lyrics to a Rihanna tune.

As the song seamlessly merged with another, she noticed a slight change in her dance partner’s energy and followed her gaze to the balcony door where two men stood to one side. One wore a fitted, grey three-piece suit that could probably pay to keep the lights on in her apartment for a month, easily. He had the haircut to go with it, and the beautifully maintained beard to go with it. The other wore a white shirt and loosened tie with dark slim-fit pants. His black brogues complimented the look nicely and the matching black tie almost brought out the blackness of his eyes even more. She let out the breath she forgot she was holding when there was a clearing of a throat beside her. She had the grace to blush and offered an awkward smile as an apology. They continued dancing, but not alone for too long. The duo from the door had placed their glasses down and joined them and she was positive there was a connection she was missing.

More gin and slick RnB led to more dancing and eventually, a corner set up with a bottle of Bollinger- the last one to be precise. The clientele was more whiskey and wine than champagne. She silently thanked the universe for preserving this one last one as she made her way back to the table after kissing the Turk too enthusiastically on the cheek when he announced that there was indeed a bottle available. She popped the cork to a rather loud celebration from the threesome facing her. They clinked glasses and made increasingly more salacious toasts with each sip. The bar was emptying as closing time drew near and the music softened. The lights got brighter to discourage exactly what they were trying to accomplish – chasing sunrise in the seats they occupied. The DJ signalled to her this time, indicating that he was ready for his envelope. She excused herself and handled her business. After the last of the staff had clocked out and the floor was gleaming, she paused and watched the corner table argue over what could only be something to do with where they were heading from here. She rubbed her lips together to check her lipstick and satisfied that she still looked good, she crouched to unbuckle her shoes. Leaving them where she removed them, she settled back into the chair she had curled up in before- in between Dark Tie and Burberry.

The sun had begun its ascent into the sky and first rays were peeking in through the open balcony doors. The empty bottle now stood upside down in the ice-bucket next to similarly empty whiskey glasses and champagne flutes. The gentlemen stood up to make their exit. Grey Suit pulled Burberry aside and after a brief exchange, they turned to her and the other one with looks of expectation on their faces. She unfolded herself from her seat and slowly stepped towards Dark Tie. On the tips of her toes, mentally cursing the loss of the height her heels gave her, she kissed him with a kiss she knew he wouldn’t forget and one that she knew would guarantee that Burberry would be here again tomorrow night and perhaps finally allow her to give her the same. As she pulled away, she chuckled softly at the look of what could have been shock or satisfaction on his face. She gave the remaining two a quick hug and cheek peck each and made a beeline for the exit. She motioned for them to follow her as if they wouldn’t know to do just that. At the top of the steps, she turned the key in the door and shoved hard.

Final goodbyes said and after a coy refusal to give her number, she ran downstairs, unfastened and refastened her watch, secured the windows and doors, double-checked the locked the safe, collected her belongings and made her way back up to wait for her requested ride home. All the while planning her outfit for the coming night because, Friday nights like these always led to the kind of Saturday nights which always led to the kind of stories aunties whisper to each other on Sunday afternoons, in deserted car parks after church, where they asked for forgiveness for their sins.

Final Whispers

You deserve to be loved unconditionally, for exactly who you are. I, unfortunately, have conditions…

They stand facing each other in the middle of the spacious living area of his sprawling house in Selbourne Park. The late afternoon winter sun streams in and dapples the room with spots where the leaves of the giant marula tree whose branches grow past the windows, obstruct the sun. She looks up at his dark chocolate face and bites her quivering bottom lip as she waits for him to respond over the faint lilt of notes from Il Divo’s Caruso.

Her mind wanders to the first time he showed her his collection of vinyls. He called himself a ‘modern purist’ because none of the records were older than 24 years. She had laughed at his description and over the months that followed, devoted her time to finding him many vinyls by his favourite artists on her travels. To be honest, she secretly enjoyed loading the Audio-Technica that had a lid, just like her grandmother’s ancient record player had in her renovated home in Glencara, Nkulumane. As a child, she was never allowed to touch it and this was a revenge of sorts. He would watch her unwrap the records she had bought as gifts for him and feel the excitement on her face. He didn’t mind that  she did that, even though he enjoyed unwrapping presents as much as she did, and they would dance to whatever she played as she regaled him with stories of her adventures.

Her thoughts are broken by his usually deep and clear baritone speaking with an odd huskiness.

“I can do better. I will do better”, he says.

She gently but firmly responds, “I believe that you believe that. But there’s a disconnect between what you say and what you don’t do. I can’t continue to live this way. To have to have a full blown fight in order for you to realise that what you’re doing isn’t enough or wrong or selfish? It’s exhausting. I’m tired.  Actually, I learnt a new term the other day on Twitter. ‘Emotional Labour’. That’s what this is. I’m exhausted from being the one to do all the emotional labour”. Her accent changes as she speaks, the forced Ndebeleness she puts on to convince her peers that she was not corrupted by the British, giving way to a pronounced English accent, the result of the forced migration of many Zimbabweans.

She lifts one hand up to silence him as he prepares to interrupt. He immediately closes his mouth and stuffs his large man hands into the front pockets of his worn but still visibly expensive jeans. He starts rocking slightly, as his body translates his anxiety subconsciously. She stares at him from the middle of the room and as always, is hit by how his presence commands attention. Overwhelmingly so. His height is what initially attracted her to him the first time she saw him. At the European Winter Finance Summit in Austria, four years ago. The odds of two children of Mthwakazi meeting there made it that much more special. His laugh sealed the deal. He always laughs like he has just heard the funniest joke on earth, even when he laughs at her lame knock knock jokes or her weak limerick attempts. That, and his luscious afro.

But she must continue. She takes a steadying breath and does just that.

“I’ve worked too long and too hard to get to a place where my sanity is protected. I’ve dug myself out of ditches of self loathing and never ending heartbreak, for the sake of self-love. Between rehab, this bloody job and my mother, I cannot go back to a place where I no longer recognise myself. Not for anyone”.

Her princess cut, 4 carat emerald engagement ring catches the light as she waves her perfectly manicured hands around as she speaks, sometimes clapping silently, gaining momentum and forgetting her world-class public speaking training. ‘Do not gesticulate so much, it distracts your audience’. Mrs Mangoye’s annoying voice never ceased to grate her ears, but the woman did know her craft.

She continues, “least of all for the person I’d pegged as my ‘forever after’. This should be the last place I find fear and confusion. The last place I find uncertainty. So, I believe that you want do do better, but perhaps not for me. I shouldn’t have to beg for it, and it shouldn’t have to cause you so much agony.” She waves at his face and says “I can see how tortured you get at the thought of spilling all your secrets. So, you don’t want to be better for me, or try for me, and that’s okay”.

She paces across his dark brown Persian rug in her favourite travelling boots, oblivious to his annoyance at her breaking one of his many rules – ‘no shoes on the carpet’, which is usually followed by ‘uMaMpofu will kill me’. He lives in fear of his housekeeper. Everyone does.

She turns the volume down, so she can concentrate on her thoughts.

Another deep breath. “I just hope you can find it in yourself to do better for the right one. Because you deserve to be happy. Deliriously so. You’re an incredible soul, and you deserve to be loved unconditionally, for exactly who you are. I, unfortunately, have conditions and for a hot minute, I thought I could put them aside in the name of compromise”.

At this point, the tears are gushing from her eyes and the forearms of her blue and yellow sweater, emblazoned with her almer mater’s name, are damp from all the wiping. He takes a step forward and makes to hold her and she steps back quickly and shakes her head, her long, black box-braids move as she does.

“I’m not done”, her gravelly voice says. “Being in love with you has been the most challenging experience of my life. I’ve learnt things about myself I didn’t know. Things about the world. About cars and plants. About Thabani’s secret drug store and bottle top art.  About Asian history and about the financial markets and Bitcoin – which I will never use ever again”.

She chuckles and sniffs twice in the most unladylike manner. He offers an awkward smile and rubs his chest, as if to ease a sudden tightness.

“But most importantly, I learnt that I cannot be an open book for someone who keeps their secrets under lock and key. It’s okay that you don’t want to talk about things. It’s just not okay for me. Begging for scraps. It’s been two and a half years and you know me better than anyone in the world yet I don’t know what it is that hurt you or why we can never talk about it. It’s easy when I’m off on assignment, to forget that there is more to us than missing each other or the sex or the comfort of feeling safe somewhere. I want to understand you and you won’t let me”.

He interrupts successfully on his second attempt. “What do you mean?? I’m going to marry you! Why would we get married if we didn’t know each other? You always do this. You get upset over into encane and blow it out of proportion, and come back usupholile. Let’s just skip to that part now”.

She surprises them both when her next words come out at normal volume.

“Why can’t I meet your sister? Who is Mthobi? How come Thabani gets to talk about your secrets with you and I don’t? What were you and your mother whispering about the day I found you two crying? Why don’t you want children? There’s a plethora of things I don’t know and I don’t understand why I can’t know them. You and your friends and family have this secret society and I’m like the stray dog you picked up on Masiyephambili and brought home. I can sit in the dining room but not on a chair. Ang’sakwanisi mina.”

He’s gone deathly quiet. Like he realises that she’s serious this time. These are questions she has never asked because he thought she understood never to ask them. But this time. She’s serious. She’s walked out on him exactly four times since they began their volcanic love affair – the volcano being her. Each time he has waited patiently for her to return from whatever far flung country she jets off to and crawl into his bed at an ugodly hour. Each time he hears her struggle with the locks on his door, curse until she gets it right, place a new vinyl for his (her) collection, on his antique oak side table, offload her luggage behind his bedroom door, strip and promptly fall asleep beside him. It was after the fourth time that he proposed. Mostly out of fear that she would leave forever. A ring would keep her around and so far it had worked.

Each time she wakes in his bed after a hiatus, they carry on as though she did not invoke her ancestors and all the plagues of Moses as she stormed out. And always over his reluctance to give her information she does not need. But this time, there is no yelling or violent packing of hair products and dangerous looking stilettos. There is only calm and steady speech. She is serious this time.

He clears his throat and the words come rushing out like a fountain that was stopped has suddenly been unstopped. He says, “I never want to talk about any of it because it’s about a dark time in my childhood and telling you will not change anything, but if it means so much to you I can… “

She shakes her head again, steps forward quietly and slowly covers his soft mouth with her left hand. Her other hands reaches around and buries itself in his mass of curls. She scrunches them for what is most likely the last time, the way he likes. His eyes close at the familiar tug and his stiff body relaxes. His lips pucker beneath her palm as he presses gentle kisses on it and they stand like that for what feels like an eternity. Her tears subside as his arms engulf her in her favourite hug. He always makes her feel small and fragile although she is anything but. Perhaps he is wrong and she will stay. She likes to tug at his afro before undressing him and taking what she wants. His softening is a Pavlovian response to their regular rhythm. She finally wriggles out of his hug and with one last deep breath, she commits his scent to memory. Sunshine, fresh air and 21 year old Glen Moray.

“It’s too late.”

It’s said so softly he’s almost unsure she’s even spoken. But as she pulls out her battered cellphone and swipes her fingers across its cracked surface a few times, taps it and slips it back into her pocket, it begins to sink in. The suitcase she never stowed in its spot behind his bedroom door. The way she kept her sweater on inside the heated house. The way she kept glancing at her wristwatch as she spoke. The way she hovered near the front door. She never intended to stay. She came all the way from the old flat she refused to sell in Famona, to say goodbye.

“Let me do this. Let me tell you. I can tell you” he says, panicked.

She answers in her new calm tone, “my taxi’s here. I’ve got to go. I’m catching the 8pm flight to Addis. Khonzani got me a press pass and a bunch of one on one interviews with some of the Summit delegates. It’s huge. And I get to bring my own crew along.” Her voice is barely audible as she mumbles the last sentence.

He’s dumbstruck as she reaches out her hand places her engagement ring on the cowhide ottoman near the door. She picks up her handbag and pushes her spectacles further up her nose as she fidgets, waiting for him to respond to the information she’s just dropped and the simple act of removing the only thing left tying her to him. His legs won’t move and his throat is dry. She fiddles with her hair as she waits for something. Anything. After a long moment, she turns and pulls the heavy door open.

She wheels out her suitcase and clumsily piles her belongings into the boot of her taxi. The scruffy driver peers curiously at her through the rear-view mirror as he chews on what is possibly a toothpick from last night’s supper. It takes everything to not turn around and see if he has followed her. To check if he is watching. The dull ache that started as she began her speech has matured and is now a splitting pain spreading rapidly from her heart to her head. She shakes her head and steels herself and all but collapses into the back seat of the car. The driver steals a glance at her, confirms her name and destination. She makes a jerking movement he assumes is a nod, turns the music up and drives away from the rest of her life.

He stares at the front door which stands ajar. She never closes it properly. He begins his wait for her return. He can’t wait to wake up to her warm body and cold feet in the middle of the night. He can’t wait to see what vinyl she finds for him in the music shops of Addis Ababa. He can’t wait for uMaMpofu to complain about umngane wakhe who doesn’t do the dishes. He wakes us every morning feeling the emptiness on his left.

She never returns.

Chronicles of Romance Vol. 13

Are we too young to be chasing forever?

*I wrote most of this at 7.13am after a night out. I don’t recall the year. I found it last night and tried to conjure up as much of that morning as I could. I scribbled the ending whilst searching for sleep*

Whenever I talk to men about my singlehood life – often in varied states of  inebriation at the back of badly lit clubs, sitting on overused couches which smell of cigarette smoke – there is a common theme which dominates these conversations. I am asked by one – who has indirect intimate knowledge of how I choose to navigate the minefield of chemistry between two people- only because I am currently navigating said minefield with his ‘home-boy since we were ten’ – “why won’t you date him?”.

In my head a switch goes off and the sudden high pitched scream that pierces the slightly muddled calm in my mind slowly lowers to background noise level. In my head I yell “IT REALLY IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!!!”.  To his face, I say, very serenely, after taking an unnecessarily long sip of my beverage (in retrospect, I probably should have stopped drinking 2 hours prior, but I digress), “I don’t want to”.  I can almost see his braincells misfiring in an attempt to comprehend this simple statement of fact. I sip some more (again, should really noooot be drinking any more). He then asks me (rather audaciously because as already stated, it’s really none of his business)  “why?”.

In my head: I’m tired. My heart is tired. My body is tired. My heart has been riding an emotional roller-coaster (shoutout to Vivian Green) since I was 16 and I haven’t really listened to the bullhorns telling me to get off after each messy cycle. I just stay on when everyone else hops off and pray that there’s nothing left in my stomach to hurl out at the next ridiculous upside-down turn thingie.

Guess what? There’s always more.

It’s almost as if I’m a bottomless pit of emotions. At this point, they aren’t even my emotions anymore because “my” implies that they belong to me and that I exercise some sort of agency over them. Control.

I do not.

They happen to me. Violently. Completely. They overwhelm me and I can never seem to find the door through which I entered when I suddenly become (for however brief a moment) aware of just how far gone I am. But somehow,  I managed to disentangle myself from the last time, unbuckle my belt and run screaming for the turnstiles. I haven’t looked back since.

So, I’m not dating right now. I’m flirting with all the men. I smile at strangers at train stations. I stare too long at beautiful humans during my long commutes. I take tequila shots with long haired vactioners in dingy bars I normally wouldn’t frequent. I dance for a little longer than is appropriate with people whose names I have no intention of remembering in the morning. I kiss boys on steps and laugh when they ask for my number. I take down bartenders’ numbers on serviettes knowing full well I won’t be back. I buy energy drinks for bouncers and laugh at their lewd jokes in exchange for club entry. And when I’m done, I call your home-boy and do a different sort of dancing in the wee hours of the morning. No words. Just music.

He doesn’t need the words. All he wants is the music. And when the ride stops, he’s more than willing to help me off and wave at me from his car. It takes nothing from me but well practised sing-alongs and danceathons. I can still breathe. And see. I’m not trying to claw my way back to the surface and I’m never left shaking my head in an attempt to clear it of the dark tendrils of unrequited affection. I’m not left empty and tired of pulling the reigns of tired horses.

I don’t want to date. I’m worth gazillions more than the boys who proposition me are in possession of. Even together. Do you really think you want to run with me? I saw it in the eyes of those I tried with. The fear. Of being loved too much. Being seen and letting themselves see me. I mean really seen.

I’m a hurricane (irony of timing is not lost on me). I’m not a mild thunder storm in the middle of summer that passes after a bit of pomp and fan-fair. I’ll ruin you. And in the process, I’ll open up and let you ruin me and the cycle begins again.

Out Loud: I laugh coyly and bite on my straw (note, I’ve stopped drinking) in that well practised movie – pin – up – girl way and say, “we’re too young to be chasing forever. Besides, even if he wanted to date me, which I gather is the case, he hasn’t told me. I don’t want to be with a coward. A man who can trace the contours of a woman’s body for years but not whisper his feelings is a man I don’t want”.

The individual in question peeks through the door leading to the hideout at the back and winks. I wink back and point to my watch. He nods and I get up.

It’s time to dance.

 

The Empress

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