About a year ago…
“I see you’re still not sleeping or eating well.”
“Sigh. I don’t think I ever will.”
She stroked my shoulder condescendingly,
“And that’s why you will never get anywhere.”
After all these months, these are the words that have haunted me the most. Said with the flippancy and casual arrogance of a jilted lover, they stung more than I ever imagined they would have. In the ensuing fallout, she was holding nothing back.
“Now I can say exactly what I think.”
“Just because you can say it, does not mean you have to”,
I remember thinking. Then again, she was never one to shy away from speaking her mind. I understood then, as I do now, that that was her way of salvaging her pride, after I had informed her over sour artificial-tasting passion juice that “this is not working for me” about a month before. Furthermore, she was asking for help from a person she did not want to see again soon, me. She needed passport photographs of herself quickly so that she could apply for a job. She was broke, frustrated of staying home and she had watched all the episodes of Bleach, a series I had been promising I would get her during our time together, but ended up getting when we had parted. She did not ask for money, instead she dragged me to the photo studios along Kenyatta Avenue in the Nakuru afternoon sun. Settling for the cheapest one, I waited while she went to the back room. It took all of two minutes. I could imagine her sitting on the stool, pretty and regal, all the while mumbling what I know were obscenities under her breath. She was always like that, everything was personal.
Sometimes, I lay awake, listening to the sounds of the night – the neighbours’ dogs that have sneaked in through a hole in the fence crunching bones we have thrown out, the wind as it whispers in the Casuarinas, a distant clink and rattle that, at the same time, seems to be just outside my window, a fast-moving car with a loud engine, a Subaru I imagine, just from dropping off the weekend riffraff after a night of debauchery – and wonder whether that is what she would have wanted; that I turn out to be nothing without her. I shudder at the thought that those somewhat final words would be so powerful.
In my darker moments, I cannot help but think that this is what it feels like to be cursed, to be damned for some unforgivable sin, and to be doomed to ever wonder whether a particular slight was the one that put you on this deserted path. I look at myself and feel no different than the way I was then. I see no change. I am the same person. But I know I am not, and I know that I have barely scratched the surface of myself. Even with this small enlightenment, I feel like I have been standing still. Each day segues into the other with nary a beat. I closed my eyes shortly and on opening them, it was a new April.
The perfect revenge for her, I imagine, would be for her to be doing better than I am. And, I do hope she is doing well, speeding towards the life of her dreams, not even having enough time to daydream silly thoughts and share them on… it may as well be an abyss. Once, she emailed me to commiserate with a setback. She told me she reads my work and I inflated. What writer does not want to hear that, especially a young one? I felt strongly that was the usual obligatory puff. It was what she was expected to tell me, just like saying,
“I still think about you.”
“I miss you.”
“If you need anything, I’m always here.”
“I still love you.”
I much prefer silence.
Knowing her, and her penchant for one-upmanship, she will somehow get it to me when she meets someone who loves her the way she wants and when she starts climbing that career ladder she so desired. We still have a mutual
messenger friend, after all. And that is what scares me; that she will pick up her pieces while I still struggle to find mine, that I will be that “better off without him” caricature. Maybe I already am, yet the thought that I might not make much of my life is the spiderweb I cannot swipe away that tickles the back of my neck, constantly reminding me of my shortcomings, whispering back to me my failings. I think this is what they, The Ubiquitous They, call karma.