By Mankhokwe Namusanya:
In your handbag, because this is common for women, there are a few things that you do not need. And, I hate to break it to you; you will never use them again. A contact, maybe; some piece of paper, even – or whatever that thing is; you will never use it again.
You, also, cannot put that thing away. You have changed handbags, and boyfriends even, but that thing remains. If anyone was to observe your life and we believed that people should be buried with their favourite thing so that their spirit rests, certainly it would go with you.
With her, it was a person. An old lover. Kind, considerate and harmless.
There was something that she struggled to understand: how it had not worked between them. Because, they were that clichéd ‘made in heaven’ pair.
Where she was loud, he was tamed. In those moments she would be excess in reaction, he would be moderate and thoughtful. Always a step behind her: checking her, prodding her, challenging her.
But it collapsed. Like all things do.
She does not remember whose fault it was. Or, as I am coming to realise these days, those at fault always appear to not remember what happened for a fallout to actualise. That is, if we could choose to suspend the thought that it takes two to fallout.
“But it was mutual,” she says in that fashion of attempting more to convince the self than it is to convince others. However, to prove that it was mutual, she adds that they kept each other’s numbers.
Now, the world has been getting complicated. Each technology appears to be a double-edged sword that simplifies life on one hand and complicates it on the other. Take the phone – and its place in love.
If you have that magical power of talking to your ancestors, they will tell you that back in the day when relationships collapsed, they did. One would get married in a distant village and the other maybe would travel ten days far to the east and settle there. Thus, even with feelings simmering, that was it.
These days, that is less. We stay connected. On social media. Through the phone. Through friends of friends. A long lost, and almost forgotten, lover gets to have a wedding then we see the photos. They lose a parent, we are forced to be quick to send condolences because their WhatsApp status in some ways alludes to our meeting of their parents. We get the guilt.
For her, she says, she had his number because: “Well, it was not enmity. It is not as if we had fought or anything. We had parted because our vision was not compatible…”
It is one of those things that modern realities make us say. Meaningless and void yet sounding sensible when spoken with a polished accent and a fluttering of hands in gesticulation.
In between, they talked. It was not that frequent daily talking. It was talking when the need arose. Once, it was after she had lost a friend. It was a mutual friend. They talked to give each other a shoulder to lean on. They met, but it was within those boundaries.
“Where was your new lover?”
She says he was not a part of this. This person that they had lost – her and the old lover – did not mean much to her new lover. If anything, she was just one of those friends whom he could greet in the streets but could not share a story, or meal, with.
On face value, the whole thing sounds sensible. And, to sound modern, healthy. Because death needs healing from. It is something that we all need to get some form of closure from. Thus, with the other party dead, it is only through others that we can find that closure – others who knew the person.
But that excuse is just another of modern realities. Realities that assume we, as humans, have that capacity to heal. As if our existence is not just of people being open wounds, festering and rotting, in full view of the earth.
For all practical purposes, he was fine with having her as a friend. When she would call at midnight to cry about the new lover, he would be there. Not in anyway being suggestive or intruding, just listening, and maybe taking the side of the other person if it could give her perspective.
It was a comforting, and comfortable, arrangement until he started to demand more.
“It was not my body. Not my love. Not my attention. But my opinion…”
The thing was, he had found a new love that was anything but her. It was a love which just mirrored him. And, nothing ruins people than being with a person who is like them.
“I started to see a side in him that I had not seen when we were involved. It was not necessarily dark, but it was illuminous in some terrible way. This new lover was just getting the worst out of him.”
She is a saviour. She took it upon herself to save him.
From what? Himself and, maybe, the new lover. It did not help matters, or maybe it did for her, that she was not involved with anyone. Her last relationship having had crumbled quicker than it had started.
“I was quick. I knew him better. When I pounced, the game was over…”
The new lover was out of the picture. It was an old flame. They had found themselves, in each other.
“But that man was destroyed,” – or she was – “we just could not tick off. The old problems, seemingly manageable in my eyes, were gone and there were new ones that I did not know how to handle. He was cold, distant, and aloof. It was a dead end.”