Sometimes distance was [is] easier than acting, or explaining. – Laura Kaye
In my estimation, I have not done a good job of being a superb friend. I have snubbed phone calls and messages, I have walked away when I could have called out a hello, I have all-out gone silent without bothering with explanations or warnings. I have quit WhatsApp groups, especially the ones where my family members and closest and oldest friends are in. I had skipped events, hangouts and ruracios and such when instead I was Netflix and Chilling or watching the Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon series.
I wish I could say all this makes me a little dull. It does not. A warmly throbbing sense of well-being washes over me when I sever the ties. The silence and lack of distraction, not needing to contribute and engage are welcome. It frightens me how comfortable I am with walking away, with letting people go, ones I shared love and pain.
There are days when I am thrust into a biting melancholy and spend hours tearing at myself, unravelling my already threadbare person. Why am I the ways I am? Even at my worst behaviour I have individuals who take me as is, and embrace the cactus of me.
I have been excused and forgiven in ways I do not think I have the fortitude to reciprocate or display to others. Often, I do not have the strength to love back, to want and to feel, to understand and to appreciate the same way I have been wanted and felt, understood and appreciated.
It could be inertia. Getting off my arse to care, to show more than token concern, is uncomfortable and straining. It could be that this is my style of interaction, putting you at arm’s length and further. But, no. I am capable of great affection. What it might be is fear: the fear to get hurt by getting too close. Maybe that is why I also do not have a sentimental attachment to things. Kama kukaribia watu ni shida, sembuse vitu?
One of my aunts succumbed to cancer about two years ago. The funny thing is that she was not a smoker. It started as a persistent cough and by the time it was caught, it had spread, and she was gone, seemingly overnight. The many chemo sessions did not help. My parents and I went to visit her, well, to say goodbye, and I almost could not bring myself to look at her or be near her. Near death. I walked out of her room after saying hello.
This was a woman I remember as being regal and proud, tall and with long silky hair all the way to her shoulders. She had been reduced to a weave and a wheelchair, skin, and bones, unable to speak and sashay about like the queen she was. However, she never lost the naughty twinkle in her eye, ever intimating a shared mischief with everyone with whom she talked.
I admit I was relieved when she died. There is a particular kind of life that is not life – the pain, the discomfort, the uncertainty and stark inevitability of it all. Brought low: from a woman who got things done, who oversaw and saw all, to an invalid, to always having to be kept warm as a baby and taken care of, whereas she was the one who was always doing the caring. The dissonance was disquieting for me.
Another one of my aunts’ died suddenly from a pulmonary thrombosis. A woman just cannot prosper, eh? She and my Papa were tight. She and I were not, only slightly in the way a cool aunt would be with her nephews, one of the many I was. Not old enough to be, to appreciate a relationship with a liberal, kind, funny and thoughtful much more elderly person, I was busy being juvenile, self-righteous and aloof, swimming in angst and childish insecurities.
I should say all of this grieves me. It does not, not as much as it should, although, who determines how much grief one should endure? Yes, it comes back to that, the fear, of loss, of pain, of letting go. Not the letting go I have intimated, actually letting go: never coming back, disappearing forever. And in my constant distancing, I am pre-empting the last agony, of losing those I hold dear, those who have managed to stay close…