There is something wrong with this story…y’all don’t need to tell me. I know. Lol. I will fix it when my head is a better place.
This one is for the man who is the platform from which I launch every morning…the one who lets me bury my fears in his dreams every night so that I can awaken unafraid when morning comes… Thank you babe; you cannot imagine how much you do by just being you.
The crying has stopped and for that above all else, I am thankful. I thought it would never end. I am beyond grateful that it finally did.
I walk on egg shells, saying little, for fear that my words are catalysts that will set off the time bomb that is the woman I loved.
Loved. Past tense.
If love is now a thing of the past, what then beats against my chest when I catch a glimpse of the worry lines etched on her face? How do I explain the way my heart misses a beat every time she brushes past me? How do broken hearts continue to beat?
‘Which of the books do you want?’ She asks me and I am a little shocked. She hasn’t spoken a word to me in days now. All she has done is cry.
‘It doesn’t matter. You love books more than I do anyway. You can take them all if you want,’ I say, finding that I am even more uncomfortable now than I was with her silence.
Left to me I would take nothing with me as I set out from here but she insists that everyone takes their share of the memories we have made these past two years.
‘I don’t want them all.’ She says. ‘I don’t have the space.’
She wants me to ask what space she does have. She wants me to ask where her home will be. She knows if I ask and she answers, I will be obliged to tell her where I am going as well.
‘Okay then. Take whatever you want and I will take the rest.’ I tell her instead and her face registers her disappointment at the question I have refused to ask.
In the past, I would have kissed away every pain etched in those high cheekbones.
Today, I make my way to the living room where my bags are packed and ready to go and focus on making space in my suitcase for my share of the books. The suitcase came from a set of luggage we purchased together on our holiday in Milan last year. We had stayed with my grandparents on their farm just on the outskirts of the city. It had been our second year anniversary celebration.
Our third anniversary would have been next month. I wonder what we would have done to celebrate if we had made it.
Jamaica? Barbados? Somewhere where people didn’t stare at us as much as they did in Milan?
Somewhere where her dark skin didn’t stand out proudly and where my mixed racial features didn’t seem to straddle the lines, refusing to choose between her and them? I sit on the couch we used to make love on and what has served as my bed for this past month to gather myself.
I could forgive her. It would be the easiest thing; to forgive, to love and cover not a multitude but one wrong that has accomplished what a thousand wrongs could not…
Forgiving would be easy. It is the forgetting that I can’t seem to navigate.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to banish the pictures that I never saw but that I have somehow photographed and photo-shopped with the camera of my mind.
Snapshot one: His full and proud lips sucking on breasts that were the platform from which I launched every morning.
Snapshot two: Her hands working their way through his thick curly hair.
Snapshot three: His burnt brown skin melting into hers so that it was impossible to tell where hers began and his stopped, the white sheets on which they make love looking like a discarded chocolate wrapper. A Mars bar maybe; his brown skin the hard outer covering and her lighter one, the yummy gooey goodness.
It is hard forgetting the how the color of his skin is closer to her shade that mine is.
I need sun screen while she is a daughter of the sun.
She has more hair on her legs than I do on my head.
I am half Nigerian (Yoruba and Itsekiri), the other half, a mixed crop of European heritage- some Italian, some Serbian, some French and so on. Both her parents are Ijebu. She is a mono-tribe, mono-country(Nigerian), mono-racial (black) specimen of perfection. And I? My insecurities show up as freckles…
I grew up partly under the trees of my father’s massive Ikoyi compound and partly helping my grandmother gather eggs from her poultry on the outskirts of Milan. She spent her formative years watching the sun rise over Abeokuta.
I have never fitted anywhere. I was too pale for my father’s country and too dark for my mother’s. So I settled in Brooklyn where even shadows are welcome
It shouldn’t matter but it does. It matters a lot that when she decided to break my heart, she found a man sure, a man with no insecurities written on his skin, a man who knew where he belonged…a man unlike me. Would it have hurt less if it was someone like me? Probably. But it wasn’t.
I cannot forget the color of his skin and so it is that I cannot forgive. There will be no third, fourth or fifth anniversaries. No trips to some island in the Caribbean. No wedding on the sands of Zanzibar. No little girls with her smile and my sometimes aquamarine, sometimes brown eyes. No tomorrow…
‘Here are your books.’
I look up from the nothingness I have been staring into. Her face is swollen and I want to say something to make it alright but pain clogs my throat so I grunt instead and take the books.
She goes back to her packing and I make a decision.
To leave with no goodbyes.
It is Sunday and I am lucky. The subway is almost empty. There is an older woman seated a few steps away from me. Her soft gray features whispers tales of Indian ancestors but her skin has the hue of Africa. She is asleep but if she were not, I would ask her how to forget, how to forgive, how to be comfortable in one’s skin for she seems to have mastered the art, sleeping so effortlessly here, unperturbed by who is watching…
But she is asleep so I let the train as it chugs loudly away from the woman I once called home, drown the sounds of my heart breaking.
Song of the day: Kirk Franklin – Imagine Me