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.

 

Forgotten Summers

never more than this

Excited, she wrapped a dark brown sarong around her waist and paired it with a matching vest. 37 degrees outside meant it was impossible to wear much else. She yanked on her only thong – a pink lacey thing that cousin Nathi had smuggled her during the Christmas holidays. She had spent an hour wondering how she was supposed to wear it as it sat in between her but cheeks in the most rude manner. The thing rode up her buttcrack and annoyed her to no end, but the smut she and her dorm mates read under the duvets with the lights from the screens of their contraband cellphones after lights out told her that this is what men liked.

They had slowly progressed from stolen kisses behind houses after parties to similarly stolen caresses in corridors or outside each other’s gates. Family friends. Nobody would’ve suspected anything untoward was going on when the phone would ring and he would asked for her after politely thanking her father for the lift home earlier that day.   “Never more than this”, he would whisper, whilst lifting whatever t-shirt she was wearing that day.

She made short work of the one and a half kilometre walk to the dams and giggled as he sauntered up to her, gave her an aggressive kiss, circled her waist as he always did, and pressed her smaller body against his. She imagined one day she would enjoy the exchanges as much as she enjoyed the way his hands felt when they slid into her panties. She grimaced inwardly until the exchange was over. She’d gladly endure this to feel that pleasure. It was the height of summer in her second last year of secondary school  and sun rays were dancing in between the trees, dappling the undergrowth and the well-worn footpaths. Her pulse quickened as they approached ‘their bench’, forcing her to direct extra effort at answering his questions about her day.

The bench was a solitary one, placed there as if for sneaking lovers who had nowhere else to share their secrets. It was positioned in the most confusing manner, facing neither the water nor anything else worth staring at. The shrubs and trees that surrounded the space served as a private enclosure. He gently but emphatically pulled her onto his lap, straddling him, face to face. Her resolve to breathe easy failed. Dismally. If her dark skin could blush, she was sure she would be the colour of the slightly ripe tomatoes weighing down her mother’s plants in the garden. He tugged her head down and kissed her again. She counted in her head as she waited and like clockwork, 22 seconds later, his right hand snaked into the parting which opened over her left thigh and stroked that soft place. Gently at first, then with a strange urgency that he had never exhibited before. He didn’t even notice the pink underwear she had so deliberately donned to impress him. He tilted her back and reached into his tracksuit bottom’s waistband and pulled out his ‘friend’. She had never seen it before and almost fell off his lap at the reveal.

He must have sensed her fear and withdrawal and quickly rubbed her lower back and whispered the familiar “never more than this”.

When she felt the sharp pain she knew what had happened. The fog of confusion and pleasure immediately cleared and she jumped off his lap and battled with the tears and the knife of betrayal slowly twisting in her gut. Her heart. He mumbled what could have been words of remorse or comfort, but she heard nothing through the roaring in her ears. She pulled her underwear into place and as she raised her hand, saw the evidence of her trauma on her fingers. She wiped vigorously on the flimsy material which clothed her as he stood up and righted his trousers.

“You should go home.”

She did. He walked with her in silence until the entrance to the nature reserve and disappeared the way he came. The cars driving past were a blur. The barking dogs which yelped from behind high gates and walls did not register. Even the customary catcalls from the neighbourhood gardeners did not make her skin crawl the way they usually did. The tears had long stopped as she entered the house. The renovators were still busy so she could not shower for at least another hour. She changed panties and wrapped the soiled lace in newspaper and plastic, the way her mother had taught her to wrap her blood every month and deposited it in the outside bin.

As soon as the last visitor had left, she took a tepid shower and checked that she was clean a thousand times before shutting the water off. As she applied Vaseline to her skin, she looked into the mirror, perhaps expecting to see signs of what had happened to her. She saw nothing. Her forehead was still slightly round, made interesting only by her widow’s peak, the only thing her mother had passed on to her. Her black eyes, deeply set, still twinkled with the youth she had felt slip away on that bench. Her teeth were still evenly lined in her mouth and when she smiled, she was still the prettiest girl her father had ever seen.

She stepped into the kitchen and started helping usisi with supper. She played the old radio which sat in the corner next to the bread bin loudly, the way she always did and laughed when usisi cracked some joke about her grandmother’s antics. Like she always did. And the next day, she woke to make breakfast for her siblings, like she always did. She continued with her life that way the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

May My Love Stain You

I’ve gotten so caught up in contributing to this manuscript that I’ve abandoned the blog again. And the vow I made to post more often. A friend asked me why I had stopped posting yesterday. Well, maybe not a friend yet, but someone I would like to call friend one day. After a moment of “should I post something from the work in progress or something fresh?”, I decided I should do the latter.

I had a thought last night about the way I suddenly found the warmest of love in a place I wasn’t looking for it. Suddenly. And so soon after letting go of another. One day we’ll talk about all the feelings that came with that.

This thing has no rules and my heart doesn’t take orders.

I love hard. This is something which I have learnt is true for both my romantic and platonic relationships. If my heart opens for you, it will go the whole nine yards for you. It will also break a million times when our time is over. And, as someone who can count the number of actual (read official-he-asked-me-out-and-I-said-yes-I’m-your-girlfriend) romantic relationships I’ve have had on one hand, I don’t say this lightly. This thought isn’t fully developed but, I mean to say that I don’t often love this way, I guess. With security. Yes, I’m 27 going on 40 and I have limited experience at relationshipping, and discovering just how much I can love and give and labour emotionally is such a journey. Always discovering something about my heart and mouth that makes me pause and say, “dang, you’re something special”.

And I am. Lord. I am.

I have been mistreated.

Taken for granted.

Emotionally dragged from pillar to post.

Misled.

Lied to.

I have had my self esteem pounded into the ground the way I imagine one pounds yam. Properly.

I have had my friends wipe my tears in the dingiest of bathroom stalls in equally dingy bars in the wee hours of the morning.

I have been publicly embarrassed.

I have been ghosted.

Questioned my self worth.

Had my intelligence thrown at me as a reason for the abuse I was receiving.

A whole lot more I assume, because Poesville is a place we all have the co-ordinates for and it isn’t just a little town with a corner-store and the one ageing church. It’s a sprawling, ever evolving metropolis, with an efficient transport system and bustling Visitors’ Centre. Some of us have permanently reserved seating there in the VIP section.

But there is one thing about me, perhaps as a result of the many times I was in a place of uncertainty, or because it’s just the way I am. I never want a person who enters my life for the purpose of love and affection, to walk away questioning whether or not they were ever truly loved or cared for. I drown my lovers in it. I make sure that my affection is pouring out of them even though I am the vessel.

Sounds overwhelming doesn’t it.

But imagine never worrying that your heart is safe. Never wondering whether your human supports your breath. Having a permanent cheerleader. A place to take your life off safely. A resting place where it doesn’t matter that your flaws are under the spotlight and your nakedness is, you know, naked. I’ve spent the last few years of my life searching for this feeling and somewhere along the way, when I realised that we are too human to be able to offer this in its entirety, I resolved to be the best safe place for everyone who took a step in my direction. No matter how tentative. I refuse to be the reason someone walks away and intermittently asks “what if?” about me. Well, I don’t want that question asked because I was evasive. Or lukewarm. Or swung back and forth like a pendulum.

Sometimes it’s beautiful and rewarding. Other times it tears at my own heart to build the other person. But I’ll gladly empty my cup to spare my loves a loveless existence.

Bittersweetness and full hearts.

The Empress.

Puzzles

How does he make you feel?

Her: How does he make you feel?

Me: Today? Today he made me feel like I was the only spot in the world where the sun shone.

On Tuesday, he made me feel like it was okay that I forgot my umbrella although the rain was pouring.

He knows I’m a hurricane. And he comes with a raincoat. One of those two piece ones that come with a cap. Kind of like a little yellow fireman.

Her: How does he make you feel?

Me: Inadequate. Like he’s missing a piece of his jigsaw and I’m trying desperately to be it but I won’t fit.

I won’t fit.

Letter to the One who Came after Me

Strange envelopes delivered by even stranger hands

Hi.

I’m writing you this letter to let you know all the things that nobody told me about the heart you’ve stumbled upon.

He likes his filter coffee milky but not sweet. Here’s the catch, he’s embarrassed to say so because he doesn’t want to be made fun of by the barrister at the shop at the corner of Ninth and Main because he lowkey has a man crush on him and wouldn’t want him to think any less of his manliness. So, order for him. And order half and half. No sugar. Giggle to your heart’s content when he orders for himself and curses as he sips until it’s over. It’s how he lives his life – revelling in the pain.

He must learn.

He’s not a morning person. No matter what he says. Let him sleep in some days so he can recharge his bones and reset his soul. He never lets himself slow down and he’ll pretend to be mad that you silenced the alarm when he finally emerges just after noon with clear eyes and a slow smile that can only be attributed to a comfortable bed, or thorough loving, but secretly, everything in him is tingling, and rejuvenated.

Hand him the coffee.

When he comes in after a long day and starts venting, he’s not looking for solutions or participation. Stand there and listen with your eyes on his beautiful face. Let him strip off the weight of the day and hand it to you, word after word, for you to scatter across the floor and shatter into little pieces of frustration he didn’t know he was carrying. Feel every sigh and catch the heaviness that the world stealthily loaded into his system whilst he was busy. Listen also, for the things he doesn’t say. Those have been the straws that broke many a camel’s back.

Touch him. Often.

He is afraid of the darkness and leaves the lights on in every room. You’ll always know he’s at home by the blinding florescent globes that glow from the kitschy lamps he spends his money on after hours spent poring over webpages that promise personalisation and understated elegance. You may have to hide his credit card. The lights chase away a darkness he ordered before my time. We have a sad boy. Had. I had a sad boy.

Tell him you love him, when you do. Often.

Hearts like his exist to be responsible for themselves and are left unsure that they deserve love. Pour it out over him. Drench him with it. Never let a spot dry, even as you chase the sun. Take the love he wants to give but is hesitant to let slip from his closed fist. Pry it open and breathe it in. But. Defend yourself with everything you have, because this love will engulf you and suffocate you. It will hand you flowers and euphoria daily on silver plates and with warm bread on the side. It will let you fly without a parachute and you will be only too happy to spread your arms and follow where it takes you. Be vigilant, or you will wake up like me, a little disoriented and alone, but with the best aftertaste in your mouth – of fresh air and crushed berries. With vague memories of brilliant supernovas and a warmth that you will search for but never again find. It will be the best love you will ever fall into. Never stop swimming in it. Trust its motion, even when the waters feel troubled. Hang onto the rails when the storms come because the calm after that?

The stuff of poetry.

The Empress.

Weigh Them All

Sometimes that’s all they are.
Words.
Nothing more.

Pick a word like you pick a melon. examine its skin. its weight. its viscosity. its sound. its texture. its ability to be juice and meat.

~Nayyirah Waheed

I’m a sucker for long conversations and the exchange of words.

I crave meaningful engagement. Head to heart. The other way around. With mouths and tongues and long text messages.

I revel in the way they travel from the lips of a lover and float in the air to land on my ear. On purpose. I sit in silence as they pass through my brain and resonate after the comprehension. And when they settle on my heart, I anchor myself in the emotions they elicit. I sit with them and think through what they mean to me. What they meant to the lips that uttered them.

I miss you. Feels like winter has decided to visit three months early and I am missing from someone. Like an ingredient misses from your favourite late night indulgence and when you bite into it, you can tell that something just isn’t right.

I need you. Feels like what I imagine cracked lips feel like at high noon in the middle of a desert after days of walking in circles, searching for a way home. Water. Needed.

I don’t want you. Feels like the final hour of labour and smells like the halls of abandoned hospitals in B rated horror movies. Like your screams for help are heard by no-one and there won’t be anyone to catch the fruit of your pain as it leaves your body every single time your hips crack.

I hate you. Smells like burning letters from lovers past filled with sentences that convinced you to cut up half of your soul and hand it over to masked witches who promised you off-white dresses and happily ever afters as you slept.

I lied. Feels like waking up to false alarms on weekend mornings drenched in panic because you need to be somewhere. Anywhere really, where everything sounds real and your hands don’t slip through solid walls and Alice doesn’t have to drink from strange bottles or  speak with white rabbits to make sense of things.

I don’t care. Reminds me of the shade of rejection and features prominently on every seventh page of the book of life. Because how could we be complete if we didn’t hear words that hurt us. Well rounded, they say.

I love you. Feels like a secret message written in clumsy cursive on a torn-off page corner, folded too many times, passed down through rows of curious messengers with grubby hands which lifts up off of the paper as you open it. Warm and innocent. Well,it used to be.

Often, as I sit with the words, I forget to listen for what comes before, sometimes after. And as I am washed in the water that I have chosen to swim in, I forget to listen to the violent downpour that made it. To listen to the gentle rain that drew puddles which grew into lakes that flowed into oceans…

You get my drift though?

That sometimes that’s all they are.

Words.

Nothing more.

And seeking an anchor from well-practiced, hastily uttered speeches is unwise.

 

Soft.

I am not a poet. So this isn’t a poem.

I am not a poet. So this isn’t a poem. This a bunch of sentences.

I didn’t think I was soft. I went out of my way not to be.

The soft ones always have wet cheeks.

I mean, I always knew my heart was soft.

So I built walls around it.

Monstrous walls with lookout towers and lamps made with fire. And wood. And rough hands. Soldiers marched around the walls day and night chanting incantations to keep danger away.

There were dogs too. For company.

Because not soft women keep the company of vicious and unfriendly dogs.

I erected signs with warnings.

The entangled barbed wire was a nice touch.

I spoke in discouraging tones to potential suitors.

I sent them on fools’ errands for geese with golden eggs and little green men with money in buckets. They always came back with dirty knees and empty hands from begging cherubs with crossbows for mercy.

Their cheeks were wet.

Then we would get on carousels and ride until they were dizzy. I’d ply them with red water and rub their backs until it was all out. I’d whisper caution into their deafened ears whilst the wind blew in our direction so only the hills would know to stay where they stood. For fear.

We would climb roller coasters and hold our breath until we plummeted from pinnacles so high we would see stars from closing our eyes too tight.

We would run from clowns who smelt like stale conversations and the tears of women who were blue ticked. We would dance too close to the fountain’s edge and get broke from making wishes in wells with murky waters to water nymphs whose business it was to steal dreams.

I ran a circus, you see.

And when the day was done we would sit side by side next to the only crack in the main tent and watch lovers watch lions, and tigers and bears. I’d let them press kisses and steal the joy  that would bring by sounding the bell that meant my pumpkin was on its way.

And at night, I would clutch my glass slippers and inspect the walls. The signs. The barbed wire and troops who whistled a heads up to night travellers. To make sure nobody had scaled the walls whilst I pretended to be enchanting.

And enchanted.

I would pour the splinters I’d stolen from the crosses the brave ones who got too close now hung from, to keep the fires alight.

Cuddle up to the prickling metal and wait for the next day of adventure. And wonder how much longer my heart could be held by the walls and the wire and the signs and the spells.

I suppose I am soft then, aren’t I?

For if the very core is gooey mush, that takes a thousand mercenaries in boots and helmets to protect, at a cost that is far too high, what does the shell matter? When my pockets run dry and the walls are tired, and the tears of wet faces have eroded the wire, and the charms I bought from the charlatan float into the air like empty prayers to no-one,  what do I have left?

Softness.

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.

Of Trust Issues and Whirlwinds

This could be Vol. 14

Let me talk to you about trust issues. (Yes it’s okay that Drake is the soundtrack to this, in your mind).

A few (or a lot, who knows really) months ago I had a post-bar heart to heart with my best male friend. Listen, this man is my ride or die and has been there through ALL of it with me, and no, he isn’t one of those “he’s waiting to hit” fellas, “just biding his time ’till I’m ready to see him” fellas.

So stow your judgment. Put it far away.

I don’t enjoy crying. Wait, let me start afresh.


Some women are in touch with their tears. They do not fight their heartbreak and the dark and heavy emotions that sweep over their souls when life makes them weary. They embrace them and make it awkward for their emotionally detached friends (read, me) at 2AM mid unnecessarily deep conversations in public (everywhere there are people who are drinking things). I remember the last time I was that woman and I swore to never be her again. *Laughs in men are trash and wasted make-up blotted away with cheap tissue used in unisex stalls in clubs that have no understanding of the concept of privacy*.

We  embarked on a journey of fearlessness and no tears, my heart and I.

Along the way, we met a girl who made it her mission to dig deep into my life with all her pesky light and sunshine, to uncover the things that I refused to talk about and feel about  and be about. She wanted my tears even more than I did not want them. This is also because I wholeheartedly believe that the only acceptable place to snot-cry is in your therapist’s office because she is paid to see you like that. Yannow?

We had become the one others came to when they needed sense talked into their heads and hearts because all of theirs had been used up by men and women whose business it is to cloud judgment and bang their fists against resistance. We became a towering monument to clear-headedness and strength. To sense and sensibility. To not giving any fucks about love/lust fuelled promises whispered between lovers in the comfort of beds and borrowed couches. To pulling mates out of quicksand-like relationships. To burning bridges whilst chanting warrior songs about being stronger. (These songs may or may not have been by Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson). We could show you the notches on our sword and shield. We did it selflessly, and selfishly. Selfishly, because we did not want to be the only ones standing alone and fighting alone, no matter how determined we were to remain that way. Selflessly, because Saviour Complex. Heady.

Until I met him. I always described him as my CPR. Brought me back from the dead. He rode in on a whirlwind of patience and understanding. Of charm in a language I understood and did not know I craved. Simplicity. He was by no means soft. He was a giant well versed in demolishing monuments like me. And demolish he did. Not with wrecking balls but with withdrawal and unavailability. With little pieces of himself whilst I gave everything. With subtle mind games and manipulative touches.

The trouble with allowing humans to be your lifeline is that they stop being your  lifelines. And you die.

My girl got her tears.

A few days after I burnt that bridge to stay alive, well, after he withdrew the air and theeeen I burnt the bridge, I had a post-bar heart to heart with my best guy friend. Listen, this guy is my ride or die and has been there through ALL of it and no, he isn’t one of those “he’s waiting to hit” fellas, “just biding his time ’till I’m ready to see him” fellas.

And he told me all the things I told my charges. He rescued me the way I rescued them and added me to the notches of his sword and shield. He walked with me through the Heartbreak aisle in the Life Store and helped me pick out the brick and mortar to rebuild the bits of my monument that the Whirlwind had torn down. We reinforced the structure with wariness and hesitation. With bitten tongues and chains to stop Heart and I from jumping too soon. When we were done, he added a big red flashing sign just above the plaque that read:

“This Monument Stands in Honour of A Warrior Who Fights Love”.

The flashing red sign reads

“Beware of trust Issues”.

For My Light and for My Builder.

The Empress.

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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