I don’t know why, today of all days, I have decided to speak to you about things that happened so long in my life. Maybe it’s because I have started believing in the power of untold stories, the power of being proud of picking yourself up. Maybe, it’s because I have finally got the courage after reading similar stories that happened to other people I didn’t even know existed. But above all, writing has always been the best therapy I could afford.
You see, a couple of years ago, I was in one of these things people refer to as relationships. Well, looking at it right now, I wouldn’t label it a relationship or anything close to it; I would label it a mixture of patriarchy, selfishness, chauvinism and insecurity. I would label it a build up of anger, hatred, hopelessness, helplessness and self-hate.
For the longest time I could recall, I dated Nate (not his real name). We were the perfect couple before everyone else’s eyes. We were the eye-candies who knew how to dress, occasionally matched outfits, switched phones to match outfits and when we were all over each other with bliss, we would hold hands in the most primitive way of public display of affection.
I remember going on ‘cheap’ dates and spending evenings in each other’s arms. I remember having ‘our’ song and listening to it every time we had a chance. I remember him daring me on the most absurd things, like dressing skimpy and fulfilling all the sexual fantasies he had in his head. And the saddest part of all, I remember doing all that for him.
I remember googling most of the things he asked for. I remember using his pictures as my display photo all over. I remember the little surprises I threw in for him here and there. I remember his favourite cologne and his soothing shampoo that I trained him to use.
I remember his birthdays.
I remember the birthdays I scraped all my tins for money and bought him everything he ever wished for; those birthdays I wrote a couple of love notes and left under his pillow; those birthday evenings he preferred to spend with his ‘twin sister’, rubbing their bosoms against each other and drinking from each other’s fountains of love as I lay awake in bed waiting for him to get back home; these were nights that in his drunken stupor, would call out to me in the most vague way and say, ‘I am not a flowers person.’
Nights like those, I knew I had made one of the life choices I would live to regret.
I was in the kitchen cooking the first time I found out Nate was cheating. His phone rang and he stepped out to talk to whoever was on the other end. At the end of the conversation, I caught a sound of ‘I love you too’ that didn’t augur well with me:
Me: Who was that on the phone?
Him: My friend
Me: Your friends tell you they love you.
Him: Don’t yours tell you?
At this point, I wanted to burst out at the way he had blocked me away from my friends, pointing out how he thought most, if not all of them were hitting on me. He had developed the habit of walking away any time we met with one of my friends. He said we hugged a little bit too tight, we held on to each other for too long for comfort. He said we looked at each other in the way lovers do. And with time, I had cut cords with most of my friends.
That night I turned my flares up and found pictures of the other woman in Nate’s life; her pictures, her messages, her vivid description of their encounters on this earth; their dreams, hopes and visions for this big world.
I remember the battle that ensued in my head. I remember sniffing the whole night as I nursed the wounds. I remember promising myself that I would leave the next morning. I remember listening to his snores and wishing he would die in his sleep.
But every time I brought up the discussion, Nate always found a way of playing victim. There were times he accused me of snooping around his phone; not being beautiful enough; walking too slowly, being too intelligent and having no room for humility. I remember giving Nate all the thousands of monies he ever asked for, all in the name of love.
And so, I swallowed my pride, and there followed weeks, months and tears full of emotional violence almost culminating to physical violence. I remember the days he spent nights drinking in other women’s houses, then come home as if nothing happened. Other times, he would get angry because I was on my period and wouldn’t talk to me for those days. Sometimes, and those times are many, he literally celebrated when I lost a challenge.
In those days, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t speak to anyone. Who likes shame away?
I remember one of my friends on one occasion asking why I sounded depressed. I don’t remember whatever answer I gave him, but he looked straight into my eyes and said I needed help. I didn’t understand him then, but looking back now, I can tell he saw the pain in my eyes and the hopelessness in my voice. Looking back, I know I tolerated more than I ever should have, stooped too low to Nate’s level of reasoning to the point I started losing my intellect just to please him.
The day I found nudes in his phone is still fresh in my mind. I still see the little girl strapped in a white towel in the first picture, then the towel kept covering less and less of her in the next pictures until she was completely naked. I still remember the calm in his eyes when I showed him the pictures and the reply ‘they are my pictures, not yours’.
I remember the pain and shame I had to endure as he went through my phone in a bid to find similar pictures so he could justify himself. I remember him carefully picking out the WhatsApp chats on my phone, looking for any criminating evidence and finally saying ‘maybe you deleted them’.
My point is, I swallowed all these, spent my days and night wallowing in pain and drinking from my cup of tears. I don’t remember whether I had any close friends. But if I had, none of them knew what I was going through.
And to date, I am ashamed that I didn’t have the nerve to leave.
The day Nate texted me saying it was all over, I did not cry. Maybe because I had cried all my tears during the times I was stuck in that emotional turmoil. I have a vague memory of my fingers trembling, and my heart racing as I read those few words he managed to write after so long:
Him: I was thinking we call it quits.
And that was it.
I had wanted to cry so much, to cry out all the atrocities he had laid out against me. I had wanted to blurt it all out; how he had killed my soul, extinguished my will to live and taken away all my happiness. I had wanted to let him know it was not okay to text a girl who has been through all the bullshit you subjected her through; that it was not okay to leave her via text.
But deep down, ‘okay’ was the only word I had the courage to type. In that spur of a moment, I realized he wasn’t the one for me; and not any amount of ranting would bring back my wasted life. I realized that his heart had always been somewhere else, and there was no point in fighting for it anymore.
I did not tell him of the dreams I had about the two of us. I did not tell him I was scared of facing the world alone. I even didn’t tell him I didn’t know how I would tell people we were no longer together.
I told myself it was okay to be ashamed; it was okay to tell people it was over. It was a shame that would never last forever. I told myself I had a whole world to face, ALONE.
I remember telling my brother Nate and I had broken up, and the look on his face has never left my mind. Even then, I remember him rocking me like a small child, telling me to be strong. And in that moment, I realised I had so much more to live for, even after so much power had been taken away from me.
A couple of years down the line, I still get a strange feeling when I hear his name.
Yesterday, a friend of mine told me she saw him somewhere buying alcohol for his friends, and I really struggled to remain calm. Most of my friends still hang out with him, talk about him in their conversations with me, and I have come to learn that there is nothing I can do about it. I HATE it when they mention his name to me, but I try to understand the fact that they don’t understand a little bit of the shit I went through, and so they would never understand why I would not like his name being mentioned.
I do not know about you. Probably you will tell me I should forgive and those sorts of things you people tell others about forgiveness. But I understand this is about me; about the things I would love to forget but I just can’t; about the people I have tried to forgive but then relapsed just when I thought I was almost winning. This is about trying to forgive myself and building a new relationship with myself. This is about me being me.
This is about battles of the mind; those that are neither won nor lost. This is about a state of mind that dawn anew with every passing day. This is about a human being that trashed your heart and moved on right the next day with one of the people you share most social amenities with.
Most importantly, this is about a creature that trashed your name, labelled you all manner of loser, told you you weren’t enough, you needed so much more; while deep down, he knew he was the one who needed all that.
I remember a month after the break up, Nate came back crawling, begging to be taken back, saying all manner of things of how he misses me, oh he wasn’t in his right state of mind. For the first time in my life, he called me the girl of his dreams, and literally begged for my time and attention. But by that time, my journey to self-discovery had started and there was no way I was letting any other human interfere with it.
This is me saying I am way much better than I was; prettier, more intelligent, with abundant grace and the ability to move mountains. This is me saying that I grew to love myself in ways no one could ever love me. This is me saying slowly by slowly, I have built myself to levels I could never reach with Nate in my life. This is me saying I am proud of the person I am today.
But also, I am not saying I don’t break down at times. I am a vulnerable human being; an emotional one in this case. I do not have the thick skin I should have when it comes to these matters, but I am way better than I was.
Also, a couple of months ago, a friend asked me what I regret most in my life, and my reply was steady; wasting years with a loser. My friend told me I came out stronger, and I am glad he sees it every time he talks to me.
This is me saying there is power beyond the pain, the hurt, the tears and the muddy roads. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s drink to this. Shall we?