Anniversaries are for Sad things too

Grief will remind you how fleeting life is. Won’t you live?

Grieve, so you can be free to feel something else.

Nayyirah Waheed

Nejma

The above quote has become my mantra. I lost my best friend two years ago, today.

I never fully unpack a suitcase until I have used all its contents, or my mother demands it. She has since given up and lets me trip over it for whatever period I spend at home. I would be dishonest if I did not mention the fact that my suitcase moonlights as a bar “fridge”. You see, my favourite thing to to en route to Africa (read Zimbabwe), is to stroll through the Duty Free shop and buy a few (like 2 or 3, calm down) one litre bottles of vodka. For some reason, the Duty Free store stocks variations that you don’t see at your local liquor shop and this makes for interesting holiday buzzing. Anyway, I’ll purchase those and hide them in my suitcase. This will explain why, during my Africa stints, you will likely find me at home babysitting the same tumbler of Mazoe with tons of ice. All day. I think my family has chalked it up to extreme homesickness and finds it endearing that I love our national drink this much, which works for me. To be honest, I’m surprised inyongo hasn’t killed me yet.

Anyway,  on this particular Thursday morning in January, at the height of summer in Africa, I packed the last of my belongings back into the suitcase I had been living out of for the past four and half weeks. Except for the now empty vodka bottles. Those I stashed into my ginormous “purse” so that I could dispose of them in a bin that didn’t belong to my mother. Yes, I’m 27. No, I will never drink openly in front of my parents. Please stop asking me why. As I packed, I cross referenced with my list. I pack with a list because I’m an adult that needs order. (I can feel the judgment).  Fine, I pack with a list because I’m afraid of forgetting things. As I zipped the bag up, in my mind I scheduled the day’s appointments and calculated the time I would have to say goodbye to my friends before dashing to the airport.

Father had loaned me his car – mostly because Mother doesn’t let anyone drive her car and, honestly, with the calibre of drivers in our household, I do not blame her. I lined up my luggage in the foyer for quick transfer later, and gently carried my handbag and its contraband contents to the car before my mother heard the telltale sound of clanging bottles and ordered me to lie on the ground with my hands visible so she could conduct a thorough investigation. (cue sirens).

This is funny because that is almost exactly how this would have gone.

I had breakfast, (okay, chocolate cake) at Mary’s Corner with a childhood friend who is now married with three children. (Two at the time). The most beautiful boys and a girl. We spoke about how different our lives were and she showed me pictures of her sons in uniform and I had to all but bat my ovaries down. And here I was jetting off to singlehood and general debauchery in the Cape with blessed little to be responsible for. I remember feeling a bit awkward because all my stories began with atrocious giggling due to the the sheer ridiculousness of the tales, whilst hers were homey, familiar and most definitely involved an assortment of baked goods and consistent cuddles. (Sheds thug tear).

I then sped off to the Tin Cup. It may or may not have been before noon, but I was on holiday and as my body was now 40% vodka anyway, who was I to deny my parched throat? I recall sitting near the window with one half of my favourite cousins (yes, twins) downing ciders and eating the fries from his girlfriend’s plate. Side bar – she and I hit it off that day. So much so, that she once carried an order of Chicken Inn (KFC but better) from Bulawayo to Cape Town for me. Legendary stuff. I had a 2 o’clock meeting with Natalie at the Boma (is it still called the Boma? The one at the dams?). Please note, I rarely drove around my city, and I never did it tipsy. So picture this; It’s I.50pm and I have a 3pm buzz going. I’m recklessly racing towards the back entrance to the dams, I keep missing the turn because, well, buzz, and she is texting me like I’m a slow 13 year old. She was so rude to me. I mean, she had no regard for my adultness and general respectability. I loved that. If a stranger ever read our texts, they’d wonder why we even bothered.

When I finally walked up to her table – it really was hers. Apparently she had a corner that she’d claimed. It was by a bench, in a corner, with all the cushions. her slops were on the floor and her legs dangled from the seat. And she’d ordered me wine. Come to think of it, that may be why we were friends. All the wine. But that wouldn’t explain that horrendous Spice Girls performance from grade 4 after that one breaktime. She was Posh spice (of course), and I was Scary Spice (another of course). It went quite well I think, after I’d stopped crying because Joanne had kicked my shins for some reason or the other.

The wine wouldn’t explain NRZ – the rap trio she, Zola and myself formed. Our  one and only hit was a bunch of slick lines spat over makeshift drumbeats to Busta Rhymes’ “Touch it”. Our tag line was “NRZ, keeping you on track”.

Gosh, we were so cool.

The wine wouldn’t explain the break times we spent harmonising to Destiny’s Childand Ne-yo with Zola (DRAMATIC). Or how we slayed our first live performance of Fever at Isigodlo Samakhosi. Or how after that performance, she caught me canoodling with what I can now confidently describe as a “not my type” boy outside. (In my defence, he played the guitar, so, what choice did I have?) Or the way we spoke about that night for weeks afterwards,  because that was how exceptionally boring our lives were.

The wine wouldn’t explain the heart-to-hearts we had in the prefect’s common room (I had to drop that in. Thank goodness I did not peak in high school because, wow). We’d head up the wooden stairs to what I imagine used to be the attic in the house that was now our school administration headquarters.  And there, during our free periods,  whenever we found ourselves alone, we’d share our deepest secrets. And I don’t mean the standard, predictable teenage angst-filled boy nonsense. I mean, there was plenty of that, but sometimes,  really deep stuff. Existential crises and fears of inadequacy. Even then, she was years wiser than I. She gave the most sound advice and to ease the silence, she’d tease me relentlessly about the length of my school skirt.

I remember settling in next to her on those cushions that summer’s afternoon and reading one of her journals. She wrote all the time. So honestly. Some of it left me speechless. I cried. She cried. We then laughed hysterically about the folly of our youth until the waitress side-eyed us from her station – although there wasn’t anybody else there. I remember leaving my wine for her to finish because I’d been summoned by Mother and was petrified of missing my flight and having to explain that I had been side tracked by grapes. I popped some chewing gum to disguise my activities and left. She remained to write, she said.

She yelled out my childhood nickname as I climbed into the driver’s seat. I rolled my eyes and waved from the window as I drove off at breakneck speed. Probably not the wisest of my decisions. My heart was happy.

That was my last memory of Nat. Happy. And Lord, so beautiful.

2 weeks later, I woke up to the news. And my world hasn’t been the same since. Yeah it hurts a little less every day, but it still hurts.

The Empress.

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.

Happy birthday Sunshine

Tomorrow is her birthday. She’d have told me not to get her anything-I asked her every year and the answer was always the same. She’d have said something wise and witty and we’d have chuckled. We’d have then made plans to play in the sun. It would have been lovely.

nat
Thousands of memories. Etched into our hearts. More vivid because you breathe light into our souls.

A couple of months ago, I woke up to the news that one of my oldest friends had passed away. I remember it was super early and I fumbled for my phone in the dark to check the time. You know that desperate ‘please let me have a few more hours’ plea you make when you went to bed late and you knew better but the Wi-Fi was so nice at 1am. My too bright device informed me it was about 5am and I rejoiced at another hour and a half of loving  from my bed.

That’s when I saw a message notification from her sister and was curious as to what she’d message me about in the middle of the night. I remember now thinking I’d check it later and I put my phone back on the table next to my warm comfy haven. But my thoughts wouldn’t settle, so I thought I’d just fiddle with my phone. I read the message over and over for a few minutes. I couldn’t reply. But the more people responded I knew I had to say something. I think I said something short. Then I called another one of my besties. I don’t think we talked. I just cried.

I sat in the corner of my bed and rocked myself. It was a quiet weeping. It was also really just denial. I got out of bed, showered and got dressed because I figured I needed to do normal life things or I’d lose it. In my bath towel, seated on the floor, (my bath sheet is white mind you) I called my mother.

I hardly ever call my mother. She’s one of those no-news-is-good-news people. She’s very practical like that. So when I called her at 7am on a Tuesday morning she answered her phone in a bit of a panic. I got the words out. She called me a liar. I cried some more. Please note, my mom doesn’t like tears but was blessed with a daughter whose tears are just so easy. My water works rendered her helpless. She soothed me and gave me instructions. I carried them out like a good soldier.

After calling two other friends, I steeled myself and went to work. Baaaaaaaad idea. Fast forward two days and I was in a plane trying (and failing miserably) to get the chattiest woman I know to just. Stop. Talking. To. Me. I mean, I had earphones on and I was holding about 4 packets of Kleenex. How did she not get the message?

It’s been a rough couple of months.

2 or so weeks ago I woke up missing my friend. I wanted to be  close to her so jumped out of bed, took a shower and hopped on a train to her favourite beach. On the way there I remember sitting with my feet on the seat and staring out the window, thinking about what we’d take about when I got there. I’d tell her my hair was healthy but the salon ladies keep trying to make me relax it. I also wanted to tell her the boy who hurt my heart didn’t need the hernia I ordered- God was fixing me. She would laugh and tell me it was too late. I figured I’d tell her it’s okay that she’s gone because she was fine where she was and at least I could always come here and catch her up.

I didn’t make it. When the train pulled up to the station, I exited the carriage, but I couldn’t leave the platform. It hurt too hard. All the water in the ocean couldn’t wash away the ache. I didn’t want to walk down the strip and talk to myself. I wanted her. Here. I sat cross legged on the opposite platform and caught the next train back.

Tomorrow is her birthday. She’d have told me not to get her anything-I asked her every year and the answer was always the same. She’d have said something wise and witty and we’d have chuckled. We’d have then made plans to play in the sun. It would have been lovely.

It hasn’t stopped hurting. Grief is a cruel thing because it lies to you about what time does. But tomorrow is like a time capsule, the one day set aside where I MUST be happy for you because well we’ve scratched bridesmaid duties off our list. I’ll smile.

Happy birthday Sunshine. Let your light sprinkle a little joy upon us for a day. Because the day after, we’ll be sad again.

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