It has been three months since I began telling myself I should call Josh. Three months of procrastinating, and telling myself that I will call some other day. Three months of asking myself why I cannot just text him; the way I do the rest of the people around me. Three months of beating myself on why we no longer talk. Why I am looking for reasons to call him, even when there has never been reasons between us. There has always been spontaneity, and the beauty in surprises.
It is 9.30 p.m. when I finally dial his number on my keypad and as it starts to ring on the other end, my heart leaps into my mouth. I am seated on my bed, my black booty short and an oversized T-shirt doing the most to keep me warm. My hands begin to shake so I find a ruler on my bedside table and hold onto it.
First ring. Second ring. Third ring…
I bring the ruler to my mouth and bite on it. *Damn, this was a bad idea. I should just have texted…*Then,
When I hear his voice, all the worry subsides and the ruler falls from my left hand. A coldness sweeps over the room and engulfs me. I can feel warm tears stinging at my eyes, and I make no effort to fight them back.
“Hey. Is this a good time to call?” I ask.
He laughs. A short but dry laugh. Then, it turns into spams and I can tell if he is not rolling on the floor, then he is clutching at his stomach. I have heard this laughter before, so many times that I can pick it from a pool of laughs. I have listened to it, the laugh, during times when the two of us walked the streets of Mombasa, talking about dreams of our future. I have heard it, the laugh, when I was losing hope and thought nothing else could bring me back to the world.
I have heart it, the laugh, when he came to me and said, “Aki kusoma na majamaa hawajielewi ni ngumu. Now they are saying ati you and I are an item. Eh, you will make people hate me. Ebu agree to go on a date even with just one of them.”
Mid-laughter, he stops to ask, “Hiyo ni swali gani unauliza?”
“You know, it is not right to call people at this hour of the night.” I say.
“Oh, so now I have become ‘people’?”
We laugh, both of us, and even when I say that one day he will get married and I won’t be able to call him past 5 p.m., he says he would really like to see how that goes down. Me calling at midnight, with a soft voice, only for the wife to answer and yell, “unatafutia nini bwana yangu wewe malaya? Tafuta wako!”
I tell him I am calling because for the past three months, I have been feeling guilty for not talking to him. For not reaching out to him, to ask how he is doing. How he is managing to stay afloat amid the drifts of the world. I tell hm that the guilt has been eating me up, so much that it slowly turned to shame, then fear.
And when he asks why, I tell him that lately, since Bree passed on, there has always been something sitting tight at the centre of my chest. Holding me back from making contact with people. Holding me back from cultivating and encouraging fondness. Holding me back from friendships, and urging me to break the bonds before they become dependable. That the thing sitting tight at the centre of my chest, is still the same that is pushing me towards guilt, then shame, then fear, because it keeps reminding me that these people I am taking for granted will not be here forever. That I will wake up one day and they won’t exist, forever. That I will try to hold on to the memories, but they will never be enough. That I will weep for the chances I had to listen to their voice, or touch their skin, but let them pass because ‘there is always tomorrow.’
I tell Josh I am afraid that someday, his laughter will only be a memory in my mind. Its echo will hit the walls of my house, and send me into bouts of screaming. That I am afraid his laughter will one day only be a memory, haunting me to the point of death. That I will think of all the miles of silence that lay between us, and would never forgive myself.
But Josh laughs, again, and calms me down. He says it is the way life is; no one really has total control over it. That sometimes, we let the waves carry us to wherever they want, even if it is just to see what lies on the other side of the canvas. That other times, even in silence, the hearts of those who want you, those who think of you, and those who hold you in high regard, will always beat for you. Their prayers, if any, will always find their way towards your door. Their scents will waft to your nostrils, and their voices will touch the base of your ears. That their words will always find their way to your eyes, no matter the distance.
“Do you think about me?” I ask.
“Sometimes. I try not to.”
He says it is difficult to think about someone, when you know that you miss them. That it is even harder when you miss someone and you do nothing towards finding them. That the hardest thing is to do nothing about finding them, when the only thing your heart and soul want is to set eyes on them. And the whole cycle takes a huge toll on him because no matter how hard he tries, I keep popping up in his head.
My hands begin to shake, again, and when I cannot find the ruler to hold onto, I slip into the bed and beg my voice to remain calm.
“I miss you. I am glad I called. Now, I can sleep without the guilt, shame, and fear threatening to tear my heart into pieces.” I say.
“Do not beat yourself too much. I will always be here; I am not going anywhere.”