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Beyond reach

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

You made him leave his relationship of seven years, even if you did not know it.

For, when you met him, he did not look taken. Even his belly laughter, it was not of one taken. If anything; it rung with the sadness of a lover abandoned on a hill of empty promises. The look in his eyes was not of content; it was of a wanderer trying to locate a home in a valley of anarchy and desolation.

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Also, there was no ring on the finger. Not even the faint prints of a ring that was but now was never. It was clean. You smiled when he asked if he could take the seat opposite yours at that restaurant.

His groove – for that is what you call mannerisms – was not even of one taken. He offered a conversation and resuscitated it whenever it would stray into the valley of death. He was a man, and a gentle one, at that.

You were taken.

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You gave your number freely. It was even hard for you to realise that you had given your number, your friendship, into the hands of a random stranger.

He was not to be a random stranger anymore. In two weeks, you had become the best of friends. Long late-night phone calls. Forwarding each other memes (yes, there goes the sign of budding love: forwarding memes). Meeting up at that restaurant for lunch.

All this while, he carried himself like every other single man: Likeable, available, funny.

Then, that day struck.

He was gloomy. Few words. Little bites into the food. Seemingly absent.

“What is the matter?”

He said no. He was alright.

But you were old. You knew alright people from a mile away. He was not alright. He was just acting alright. When you pressed deeper, he said he would tell you. Over the phone. It would be the session for that late-night long phone call.

In the night, he opted never to delve deeper into it. He just said it was some stuff bothering him but he would come out alright. He said that he always did.

Did it leave you thinking that it had something to do with a woman?

No, it never did. For, as far as you could acknowledge, he was not involved with anyone save you. That, maybe, he could be gay or bi and struggling with his own sexuality? You did not think of it. For, when it came to love it was about you.

But, there was another woman. She was the cause of headache for that day.

He never told you this, and you might never ever know, but he had a long running relationship. Chaotic, yes, but long running. Because sometimes people gravitate towards chaos. Or actually fall for it. In one moment, they complain about it and wish for ways to rid it off them; in other ways, they adore it.

Chaos is, many times, like abuse. Chaos is abuse.

That morning, she had announced she was leaving because “the relationship was not helping her grow”. If you had gone to him that your partner was seeking an exit because the relationship was not making them grow, I would think he would ask if the relationship was fertiliser – or rainwater – to make anything grow.

But you had no one – if we exclude him. And it was his story. Nobody cracks jokes over the funeral of their own beloved.

In the night, she had dropped him a message. Brief. Yet invigorating.

“Hey, I still love you.”

It was that which made him consider not telling all the details. Even if confusing, for a chaotic mind that text was enriching. He started feeling better. And good. Thus, the heart laughter on that call.

But long into the depth of the night, his mind started that inimical sojourn: Reminding him of the things he wanted to forget, the things he has to process but is afraid of confronting, and all that jazz that moves a man to action. He decided he was not responding to her. He was blocking her. And, that would be it.

He did.

Then, texted you. That message you woke up to, smiling.

“I love you and I want you…”

Those heart emojis that punctuated it to a fullness left your heart full. He had said the words, finally, with certainty. You typed a response but it was not until after an hour that it was ready for sending:

“I love you too. I am yours.”

All that hour longing for something that basic. But that is what love does to its prisoners. You were one.

A question lingers on the mind of every teenager: What is the next step when you finally agree that your feelings are love, that you want each other, that you are now an item? The answers vary. For you, it was him walking you back to work, and waiting for you at knock off, and walking you home while genuinely inquiring about your day.

On the other hand, an angry woman was fuming. In days, she was to get angrier. Then, shocked: That thing a warder would do when they realise that their favourite prisoner is now free, beyond their reach.

She came to know about you. Or just some details about you.

Then, she brought the blame on your door. That you are the one who collapsed their union. She referred to the Bible – the book most of the downtrodden find solace in. She said you are the Jezebel. An evil woman with claws long enough to tear into the strength of time and familiarity.

All this, you never knew. And you might never know. He protects you. When she texts him from some private number, which is her hobby, he just quietly deletes and blocks it too.

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