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Snakes and grasses

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

There is energy when you first meet. The right amount. You are not left crazy, also not left feeling helpless and hapless. You feel full – not whole, but full. Like from a meal at the right time of the night.

You meet through a mutual friend.

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Let us set the scene: a friend says ‘there is this fella from school that I want to meet with in town at 2, can you come with me?’

You do not really want to go with her but you value the friendship so you agree hoping that by some miracle something terrible will happen before the time and the whole journey will be cancelled. It never happens, the miracle.

You are in town, at 2. Licking on ice cream, snapping for selfies and showing each other people making idiots of themselves on social media. None of you notices him when he stands just by your side.

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When you look up from the phone because somehow your body senses there is an intruder, you are met with his smile: disarming. The kind that males should not carry because, in your words, ‘it makes them look feminine – and sweet’.

For a moment, your eyes lock as you struggle on how to alert your friend that there is someone – maybe the person she wanted to meet with – in your midst. He holds your gaze for some seconds before your friend, let us call her Alepha, notices him too.

She jumps into his arms. You see the arms tightening around her: strong, muscular arms with a firm grip. Ones that can be trusted with a fragile heart – like hers. And yours. You sense the familiarity in their embrace. The kindred-ness, even. You do not feel jealous. However, you feel something.

When he stretches his arms for an embrace of you as Alepha makes the introductions, you feel conflicted. There is that rising sense of annoyance, at them, and there is that excitement when the arms start to finally close in on you.

In sitting down for a chat, you are almost the proverbial fly on the wall – except the wall is your phone. You catch bits and pieces of their conversation, but your mind is off for the most part. They could even be planning a murder and you would not remember the codeword they used, in court.

He would later tease you for just being on the phone but that would be after their catching up, just as you are about to start off.

“What do you think about him?” Alepha would ask, far much away from his earshot.

“He’s fine.”

“Fine? That’s all you can say?”

“What do you expect me to say really? He is good looking with a terrible sense of humour.”

“Wow, terrible sense of humour? You are dishonest. Anyway, how about using him in the plan?”

The plan?

You are this close to Alepha because life has been unkind. There was a day you woke up to a text message that he was out of the relationship and he wished you the best in life. Reason? He said this and that, this and that, which did not make sense considering you had been together the previous day. You had texted back only to end up with a grey tick in your end. Nothing more.

It was to Alepha you went to: ‘I can’t reach him, he has ended things, no tangible explanation.’

“Has he ever done this?”

“Yes. Only this time he has blocked me.”

“Did you fight?”

“No, we parted on a good shot yesterday. It is so out of the blues.”

She called him from her number and when he spoke nonsense, she told you to forget him. And, trust her. She knew how one could heal from such nonsense: get a replacement.

“A rebound?”

“Terminologies complicate things, just somebody who will help you forget him.”

You went on a hunt together. Carefully picking out possible replacements with a goal that should he ever hear of them, his heart should be ripped out of place and most likely come begging.

When she said her friend could be that possible replacement, your heart skipped.

“I thought you guys…”

“What? We are just friends. I know he is single too. I can facilitate everything. The two of you can actually look good together.”

You agreed to give it a try. She would arrange a date.

It moved fast from that date. Where the initial goal had been that you should just get him for some fooling around, it ended up being more than what you had bargained for.

“He was intense,” your own words. “And too full. A love I always wanted.”

When, after you had both accepted that it was a relationship and not some situation-ship, you went back to Alepha to thank her for bringing the two of you together, the only fake thing there was just your accent. The message was genuine and profound.

As she said that she was happy for the two of you, you thought that there was some anger trapped underneath her voice. But, you dismissed it. And you reprimanded yourself for always looking for the negative in situations. Thus, the ‘are you not mad?’ question was not asked. It would not make sense even if you really wanted to know if she was not mad that you had gone against the plan and had gone ahead to steal a friend from her.

However, months down the line when you took his phone and found their exchange on WhatsApp, you wished you had asked all those questions.

And, when after confronting them both – the drama of this is that you created a WhatsApp group – none of them was apologetic, you wished you had certainly asked the important questions and had had that painful conversation.

But, as he said, the joke was all on you.

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