Adrift

No shores to see,
horizons stretch forever.
Sailing so long
in circles.
Longing for calmer seas
…hope is all that is left,
and doubtful.
Tired of these dreams,
desire to be without desire,
to just fade into the ether.
Broken wings, falling,
sinking.


“I wish he could see me like this.”

On Christmas Eve last year I was talking to one of my aunts as we were getting ready for the annual dinner party. She helped me with my shirt collar and my tie (the second time in my adult life I wore a suit). We took turns fussing in-front of the mirror, pulling at this thread and that, tucking in a hair here, brushing down another one there and just having a gran’ ol’ time. As our conversations seem to go, we got chatting about our love lives (or rather lack thereof), and she stopped and said,

“I wish he could see me like this.” High heels, black dress, coiffed.

That statement grabbed me, forcing me to see its depth, to embrace its profundity. I replied,

“I wish she could see me like this.” Suited up and polished, dapper AF.

Those simple words pretty much summed up what we were both, I imagine, feeling at the time, our shared experience as far as our (un)romantic (nonexistent) relationships were concerned.

Silently, secretly, “I wish he could see how beautiful I am. I wish he would acknowledge me.”

Secretly, silently, “I wish she could see how beautiful I am. I wish she would love me.”

Whenever I find myself doubtful about a person’s thoughts or feelings, I remind myself of that moment, and I remind myself it is not up to me to make them see me how I want to be seen. That would be manipulative. The best you can do is be completely honest and open and allow people to come to their own conclusions. You can only do (show?) so much. And, ultimately, there is nothing wrong with not being seen, not being recognized by other people. We do not cease to be who we are, become less valuable, because no one has acknowledged us. There is an elegance and serenity in being lost within the noise and the humdrum of life and living, living lost until the ones who can see do see. You may as well enjoy the silence.

Strangers


She is reserved and quietly bubbling with verve, a tightly-coiled spring just at its ‘springing’ point. I wonder what would tip her over… over to my side. She is pretty, quietly and powerfully. I wait for eye contact. Dark soulful eyes, earnest. We have seen each other a few times, mornings mostly, on our ways to work, or probably school for her, I imagine. No other spaces, the back is squeezed, she sits next to me and stares ahead for a minute, then she rifles through her handbag. I politely look away. A crumpled fifty comes out and stays in her left hand. I wait for a chance for eye contact. Tightly-coiled spring.

We get going, jumping and bumping. Her back remains straight, perfect posture, one of those well brought-up children, those of the fork-and-knife and no-elbows-on-the-table types. Her arm brushes mine as she straightens herself, so slightly, and I can almost feel her on my bones, being as close to the surface as they are. Her skin is warm and soft; dark chocolate milk. I would not mind getting warmer. Wide-eyed and apologetic, she quickly turns and says sorry, twice, rapidly; muffled gun shots. I smile and wave my hand, “De nada.” Eyes straight ahead, back straight. Tightly-coiled spring, explode in my direction.

She gets off before me. I stare after her. What excuse have I given myself today? The same one I have been giving myself these past months: I am not ready, I have to get my shit together first. Will I ever be ready? Will I ever be ready to not be a stranger again, even to myself? Maybe next time… maybe next time I will say hello, maybe next time I will not wait for eye contact, maybe I next time I won’t wait for anything. Maybe…


 

“What happened to us?”

“What happened to us?”, She casually asks. (She pleads.)

“What happened to us? What happened to us.” He has asked himself this infinitely, he is asking himself this even now. He has given up getting an answer, any answer.

“Nothing happened to us.”, Answers he, innocently. Almost too innocently and quickly. His calmness betrays a dangerous turmoil within himself, a seething near-hatred that she would even dare ask that, after everything he had done.

“We used to talk more, we used to laugh more, together. Remember that time…” He has stopped listening. He is in the moment, the pain, the memory and fantasy of what was and what could have been, and nothing else matters.

“Hmm, yes, yes! That was so much fun! Wah!” His words taste like wet cardboard, not that he would know, but he somehow grasps that that is how insipid they are, like wet cardboard. A smile that does not reach his eyes plays on his lips. She is completely oblivious. How can she not be? She is in the moment, she is trying to grasp at a past that is only good for cloying love stories, the kind of past only a young writer could draw inspiration from.

“Are you okay? You seem distracted, well, more than usual.”

“Niko poa, stayed up late watching The Matrix, and this coffee isn’t kicking in yet. I should complain to the manager, hii kahawa ya leo doesn’t have that bite.” He laughs as he says this. She shares in the laughter. Oblivious, still. This coffee doesn’t have that bite… You don’t have that bite.

“You’ve watched that movie so many times. Hauchokangi?!”

“Hiyo movie ni mambo yote. It explores the concepts of what is real and the nature of reality in kick-arse ways, literally kick-arse.” The pedant. It was only a matter of time. She is used to him by now, in fact he is somewhat attractive. That intellect, somewhat clumsy when it yearns for attention; it was the first draw. It feels novel now, fresh and welcome, like that first time. She will not be here for long, though, she will not be here long enough to get irritated by it.

“Let’s go to… and have a drink.”

“Erm, sure.”

It is Sunday evening, that sexy hour between eight and nine, and the music is better left for a Friday night. For  a moment he plays with the idea of walking up to the DJ and asking him to reduce the volume. He laughs gently as he tells her this. It is the first time he is laughing genuinely since they met (re-met?)

Tonic water for her, double-vodka and Sprite for him… No, just bring a cold Tusker Malt, thank you. I have to pay first? Kwani you don’t trust me? Seductive smile as he asks the waitress this. Maggy, with a y. She notices, then she looks away. The depths of the rabbit hole that smile took her…

They talk about their dreams and their plans, and invariably end up at the beginning.

“I don’t make plans any more.”

“Why not?”

“Because plans don’t work out. I’d just rather go with it now.” Because I am tired of giving the gods a reason to laugh. A long silence follows.

He continues, recklessly now, “I had plans once upon a time…” She catches the implication in this, the accusation and the hurt.

“I’m sorry.” She means it, and it hurts her that he has still not completely forgiven her and let go of his anger. He did not hear that. The song has just changed to something with a deeper bass. That cool guy facade is fast falling off and he is struggling to keep it in place, so he leans back and narrows his eyes, to keep in the tears. He is still crying after all these years.

Fuck, what is wrong with me?!”

yvruT-yspoT

Fighting with myself,

I’m losing.

(I’m winning).

I’m dying.

Aren’t we all.

(I’m alive. I’m living).

Love eludes.

Love surrounds.

(Love is what you make it).

Drowning in despair.

Hope is somewhere near.

(You can’t stop. What other choice do you have?)