“I’m going to sleep with The Girl From Ipanema.”
I once posted that as a Facebook status update. At the time I thought it was superbly intelligent, a masterful play on words. It was a double entendre I knew a particular someone would not get, and somewhere within me I knew why I was doing it. I smiled to myself, satisfied at this dubious achievement. It is a jazz standard, The Girl From Ipanema, but who listens to jazz? A few months later, between my kisses on her full ripe strawberry-luscious lips and her sobbing, she told me that we could only be friends, let’s just be friends. Tukue tu mabeshte. I expected this. I looked forward to it. At least she was upfront about it, going as far as maintaining a civility that I had never displayed, that even now I feel I am not entirely capable of.
“I’m going through some things. I have a lot on my mind and I didn’t want to bother you with my issues.”
And its myriad of variations, like
“Things have been weird.”
I had this used on me recently and I could not help but laugh. “Riiiiiight.” I could very well hear her purr, her left eyebrow cocked in contempt and a sardonic smile on her face. “This will work. She’ll leave me alone soon.”, I remember thinking at the time. When a close friend is in trouble, whether real or perceived, you do not walk away, you cannot just “give them their space” or “let them be”. I do not know why I thought this was a better idea than just coming clean. When this would no longer do, I went quiet, avoiding all communication. I may as well have never existed, a shadow of her imagination. But, I did, and I do, and whatever happened between us was not a dream. Silence, the last refuge of the cowardly. This tactic is called The Fade Away. These girls know what I am talking about.
I was wrong, and even when I knew that, I knew I was wrong for the right reasons. I was going to spare them the pain, most of it any way, of being with someone who was not, is not I still feel, any where near ready for that kind of commitment. The finger cut to save the hand, as Khaled Hosseini put its. No amount of rationalizing and justification will dull the sheer douchebaggery of what I did. I think to myself, “I can explain.” But no one who says ‘I can explain’ ever gets the chance to explain, do they?
Once, twice, many times, a friend of a, shall I call her a casualty? A former friend? Asked me why I went quiet, why I “broke *****’s heart.” I told her, “Because I could not be the man she needed me to be. I was not even the man I needed to be for myself.” And I still am not. An arrogant and self-righteous conclusion. What did I know about what she wanted and I had not asked her? I know she was not merely curious. She was the messenger.
“She is a fucking mess.”
It was fine when she hinted at it and guffawed at herself in that vivacious yet endearingly self-deprecating way that seems to fill and light up my room even from the distance, then sighed tiredly. When I said it, when I wrote it down, it became a heinous crime. I cannot help but feel that that has a lot to do with her curtness, to put it mildly. What was I thinking? Well, I was not. A cold lesson in eliminating invectives from my vocabulary. Had I used ‘beautiful’ or ‘interesting’, however… As the internets say, le sigh.
The phone call, after two months, or is it three?…
My hands shaking, I took deep breaths until my eyes watered and my vision blurred. If I smoked weed, I would have taken a few quick puffs at this point. I had been pumping myself up for this all day, buying almost a month’s worth of airtime, feeding half into my phone and keeping the other half just in case, regularly patting the pocket I had gingerly placed the spare card in every so often. Hakuna kurudi nyuma. Phone charged and loaded, I took a sip of water from the green plastic cup that seemed to be staring at me saying, “You can do this. You’ve got this.” I puffed out my chest and breathed out slowly, touching the call button, well, hitting it is more accurate, and watching the animations as the screen changed to show that it was dialing.
I listened intently to the faint clicking and distant static, as the vast communications’ circuits hummed connect us. That was probably the most courageous thing I had done this year. First number – offline. I was greeted by the annoying and ubiquitous “mteja hapatikani”, delivered with malicious glee by the somewhat electronic woman’s voice. Second number – no answer after what seemed like infinite rings. Although, that in itself is an answer, is it not?
Hey, I tried, right, what with even the WhatsApp messages, with the smilies and emojis and exclamation marks? I relaxed. I was looking forward to her not taking my call. I was glad she did not pick up, giddy even. I had no idea what I was going to say. My strategy was hope: I hoped that in the chat about the weather, how she was, how I was and what we were both up to, she would pick up the longing, the near-desperation. Take me back, let us go back to the way things were, to the laughter and to how the underwear we love most and hugs our arses just right always seems to be the most torn, faded and old. Remember that one? Ha ha ha!
Bonus (Escape and Ruin)
Friday night, about a month into the new academic year.
The exam results from our department were always pinned on the department notice board at night for some unfathomable reason. No one saw who did it. One moment the board was bare and the next there they were, printed on tiny A5 pages, our names squeezed together. Proceed to third year with supplementaries. I was shaking as I took my phone out and called my father. He sounded relaxed as I relayed the news. Does anything faze this guy? Now that that was done… Staring at almost having had to repeat second year, I downed half a bottle of Kenya King within the first twenty minutes of buying it. Neat, straight from the bottle. I was not the only one. Most of my classmates were drinking to celebrate. I was drinking to numb myself to the feelings of despair and inadequacy. Unfortunately, you cannot drown your demons. They always find a way to swim back up, after having done push-ups and lifting weights in the depths you thought you had thrown them into.
Especially this one…
Inebriated to the hilt, about an hour later, just as I was thinking of staggering back to my room, I thought to myself,
“What am I even doing with her? How about I just break up with her? Yes! That is exactly what I’ll do! She’ll be one less thing to worry about.”
And I did. The one drunken decision I made that I do not regret. The universe even assisted me (read: nearly every one of our year was out that night, except of course the Christian Union members and such, so it was bound to happen that we would meet) because when I turned around, there she was.
“I need to talk to you.”
I led her away from the ruckus, to a darker quieter place and informed her, as best as I could without slurring or falling on her, that the relationship was not working for me. After delivering the news, I remember asking her when she would pay me back. She owed me money, you see. Through my drunken haze, I could see her brain freeze up as she sifted through the multitude of choices of expletive(s) to hurl at me. She said nothing and walked away in a huff. I did not try to stop her or implore her with “We can still be friends”. I was done. We had not even made it to six months. What? Nope, hiyo thao ilipotea hivyo.
What is all this? An apology, an explanation? Both, a fresh start, albeit a clumsy one. I am sorry. I wonder if that means anything after all this time.
And the douchebaggery continues…
Passive-aggressive, indirect apologizing. I am off to drown myself in The Girl From Ipanema. Again. She will not judge me, that one. Really, what remains? I am damned already ¯\_(ツ)_/¯