Brake, or Break!

Brake, or Break!

My mother calls me on a random Tuesday at 7.37 p.m. I continually press the volume down button on my TV remote because Fally Ipupa has been blasting continuously for the past few hours; partly because I am in love with his artistic prowess, partly because there is a construction site right outside my door, and the knocking and building doesn’t stop until well into the night. Mainly, Fally Ipupa has been blasting continuously for the past few hours because my heart and soul have lost peace, and I am trying to find anything that can rid me of this misfortune; something like Fally Ipupa’s voice.

When I get back to my phone, the call is disconnected and any further attempts to call back are met by an irritating, ‘the number you have called, is currently busy.’ My heart wants to race, a little bit, because she, my mother, is never busy on her phone. She, like me, hates phone calls, unless you are her daughter, or you send her large sums of money, monthly, without fail. My heart wants to race, because my head starts thinking of all possible scenarios that could have occurred.

Ha someone kidnapped her? Doesn’t she have enough money for ransom? Did someone snatch her phone?

My heart wants to race, but there is already too much pain, anger, and helplessness therein, so it just sits still, and my fingers find their way back to the TV remote, and onto Fally Ipupa’s voice.

When she, my mother, calls a few minutes later, I leave Fally Ipupa alone and rush into my bedroom, banging the door behind me, and whispering into the receiver: “Hello.” 

Phone calls with my mother almost always have the same scenarios. If she starts off the conversation with a sarcastic laugh, then she is coming with hot gossip, and is prepared to leave me in stitches. To this age, I think the greatest bond between a mother and daughter is their ability to gossip. It is a disservice to not be able to gossip with your mother. Because who else saunters into you bedroom early in the morning and  says, ‘najua hujaamka bado but hii haiezi ngoja. Umeskia ati….”

When I pick up the call, she, my mother, offers apologies first, saying, ‘nlikupigia nikaona hushiki haraka nikadhani uko kwa street.” I do not know why she, my mother, insists on calling town, the streets. Maybe I should tell her what it means in Nairobi when you say ‘she is in the streets.’

She, my mother, talks soothingly, obviously out of gossip. She asks whether I have eaten, and when I say no, I can sense she wants to fly through the phone and cook for me. It is the thing with mothers; taking care of children, even when they are fully grown and out of your house. Because in being a mother, your sole responsibility is ensuring the child you birthed is alive, and well, and at peace. It is filling your heart, body and soul with anxiety, so the child you birthed lives in peace. And this is the very thing that makes me never want to birth a child. To never want to be a mother. Because I am too selfish; I want every good thing for myself. Because anxiety leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Because responsibility for someone else, apart from myself, is so much a foreign concept to me.

But she, my mother, wears this motherhood crown efficiently. So when she asks why I have not eaten, I tell her I have been sick. That two of my wisdom teeth have been sprouting, rendering my gums and jaws too painful to bear. Birthing tonsils in my throat, accompanied by a wash of bacterial infection.

I tell her that my body is filled with tablets, and anything else close to food makes me nauseous. I tell her I am struggling to recover my taste buds; because I am sick of my saliva tasting like yellow medicine.

However, I do not tell her that it is the emotional l pain that is draining me, even much more than the physical pain. I do not tell her that my heart has been racing, almost daily, and ridding me of sleep. That even solitude has refused to take this pain away, so I have almost always cried every time my person said the words, ‘Now I need to leave. Si I see you kesho?’

I do not tell her that I have fallen out with two of my closest friends, recently, and the aftermath is proving to be harder than I initially thought. That even though I look okay on the outside, and life is going on as usual, my heart and soul are in pieces.

Why? Because these are people I called home. These are people I could talk to about anything, at any time. Because these are people who have taught me about the sacredness of friendship, almost to the cliché ‘friends who became family’. 

Because these are people I have written about, before, so beautifully it almost brought me to tears. These are people I could do anything for, without questioning, because if roles were reversed, they would do the same for me. These are people whose names have been imprinted in my heart for such a long time now that it is impossible to mention their names without a twinge of hurt cruising through my veins.

When the first fallout happened, I talked to my other friend, Kaley, who kept telling me, ‘ It is a small storm this one. You shall weather it; both of you. Hang in there. There is hope. All shall be well.’

But I hate living on hope. Hope breaks my heart more than the pain itself. Hope makes souls miserable. Hope rids you of sleep, and fills you with anxiety. Hope has you standing on a string, struggling to maintain balance. Hope is like a gun placed on the back of your neck, and you have no idea when they are going to pull the trigger.

So I tell Kaley that no, I am not torturing myself, waiting for someone else. Her jaw drops when I tell her I want nothing more out of it; this fallen friendship. I tell her it is the way life is; you lose some, you gain others. I tell her I have been here before; this space of banking on hope; and it did nothing but hurt me more and more.

“How do you do that so easily?” She asks?

“Do what?” 

“Let go of people so easily. Doesn’t it hurt?” 

“It is the way life is. With time, you get used to the hurt, and then it stops hurting.”

When the second fallout happened, I crushed right on the onset of it. I remember sinking in my chair and asking myself so many whys. I remember staring at their phone number, my thumb hovering over the ‘delete’ button. I remember trying so hard to fight tears, and managing the lump in my throat.

Why? Because this has been one of the most beautiful friendships I have ever had. Because this has been a friendship based on clarity, trust, vulnerability, and quest for niceness and goodness. Because this has been one friendship whose doors have always been open and ready for me, no matter the time. This has been a friendship that has understood my silence, and my quest for darkness.

Because this has been the one friendship where I run to every time my heart begins racing and anxiety fills me up. And now my heart is racing, anxiety is having a field day with my body, yet the doors are closed.

And when the hurt became too much, I reread every beautiful thing I had written about them before, and my heart calmed on the realization that this was beautiful, even if it has come to an end. That I have lived, and loved, in equal measure, and nothing can take that away from me. That I still carry within me a part of these people; a part I can never rid myself of.

That it is this thing called life; it happens, and has to go on.

So when she, my mother, continues to beg me to at least eat something, I know this empty feeling will go away, sometime, and set me free. 

And even when people text to ask, “Haiya, today is Thursday, why didn’t you put up a post?”, I suppress the urge to throw a huge brick on their faces. Instead, I reply with a calm, ‘I am on a break.”

Because I know this storm will pass. Because if I do not brake early enough, I might break, again.

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Meet Eunniah Mbabazi
Eunniah Mbabazi is an Electrical and Electronic Engineer with a deep passion for books and literature. She has authored Breaking Down (a collection of short stories), If My Bones Could Speak (a poetry collection), The Unbirthed Souls (a collection of short stories), and My Heart Sings, Sometimes (a poetry collection). She has also co-authored Kas Kazi (a novel) and When a Stranger Called (an anthology of short stories).

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