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Nightmares for dreams

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

The name rang a bell. Not so loud, not so intrusive, but still triggering in an affable manner. Then, he went for the photos. The person looked familiar.

There was evidence of age, of course, but the full lips and an imposing nose on the face that was on the profile picture was recognisable. The other photos in the sequence, full and from a distance, showed the body in a familiar pattern. It was her.

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He sent a friend request.

It did not take long for him to get accepted. She had been online – after everything, it was on a Facebook post that she was actively commenting that he had seen the name.

He was hesitant before sending that first message. He took a tour of her Facebook account, making sure that his message would not end up in the hands of a jealous husband. It seemed clear.

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“Excuse me, would you happen to be the Zione that grew up in Matawale?” he texted in Messenger – of course, name and location are not the same.

There were minutes of nothing although it showed that the message had been read. Him, staying there waiting for the message. After minutes, a response: she was the one, and she remembered him as well, it had been a long time, how was he?

There was energy when he responded. There was also energy when she had to pick up. There was energy in the conversation. It was normal.

Long before their paths had branched, they had been childhood crushes. It had simmered for long, sparked by those childish wedding imitations in which they had partook as bride and groom. As they grew up, in the shadows of that experience, they had also found that they certainly had an attraction towards each other. But, at that moment, nobody was ready to pursue that line.

“We were friends, enjoyed being friends, but beyond that then nothing much could be done about it. It was obvious that there was chemistry, but we were both young and naïve and inexperienced,” he reflects of those times.

In their wait for the right moment, death struck. Her father. It was a long illness that ended in the inevitable. In weeks, her family relocated. Their love, experienced yet unpursued, faltered at that. It took time but he moved on like it always happens.

He had forgotten about her, even in the face of relationship failures, until this time he bumped into her name on a random Facebook post.

They exchanged numbers after a chat, and he called in the night. It was a long, lively and healthy conversation – that one you end up with your leg up against the wall as you forget to remember eating. That day, they did not really talk that much about their love lives. Married? No; and you? Not yet. It ended at that as they basically did a catch up.

However, when days turned into weeks and they had agreed to meet, they broached that subject. There was no one in her life at that time, that is anyone who could claim that they were in a relationship because each one has someone always. It was the same for him.

The day they met, it was a meeting of a love unrealised.

“There was familiarity,” he says, “I felt free. And comfortable.”

That space he had felt was denied of him by his previous lovers was finally accorded to him by her. She laughed, hard, at his jokes whom all the others in his past life had dismissed or welcomed with a ‘you think you are Trevor Noah’ side eye. They reconnected. And hit off the ground. A long-distance relationship because she lived in Lilongwe while he was in Thyolo.

However, in love, distance just becomes a concept – or so we are told.

They went on and nearly survived until that time they had a fight. This thing about fights in relationships: the first one is usually stupid, and not serious – just a height measuring contest. However, from there you get to learn the other person better and, if you are lucky, you get to re-evaluate your commitment.

“She had anger issues, serious ones. It took us long to ever get out of that misunderstanding than it ever took me to get over my past lovers,” he disposes off the hyperbole as if it exerted an indescribable weight on him.

And, the other thing: she did not know how to apologise.

I want to say ‘is that not all of them?’ but I remember what we men mean when we say that ‘she does not know how to apologise’ even if she knows how to say sorry – without apologising.

They recovered from that fight but not without bruises. He had marked her as ‘the difficult unapologetic one with anger issues’ and most likely she had also marked him as ‘the dinosaur that does not understand how communication goes in the modern world’. From such labels, relationships hardly survive.

And, theirs did not.

There was no anger, no essay-mses, no demand for explanations, no sarcastic wish of God’s blessings on each other. It was just a call in which he felt that she was off. Then, he said it with a simple yet resigned tone:

“The conversation feels forced.”

“It is forced.”

Then, he hanged up. She did not call back or text. In the morning when he woke up to no text from her, for she woke up early always, he counted his losses. When, after three days, she called and wanted to act relationship again, he was blunt.

“We should not force this.”

Her reaction? Agreed with him.

“Nothing like you just wasted my time?” I am curious.

“No, because there was no time wasted. It was us pursuing a dream we thought there had been. It was having to explore emotions we thought had surpassed time. It hardly works.”

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