The Silence Between Us
My phone starts ringing just as I pull my fleece blanket over my naked body, slumped in my living room couch. The vibrations jostle me from my reverie, my heart starts racing, and without even looking at the phone at my feet, I just know it is my mother.
I have not talked to her for two weeks now, maybe. I lose count of these days of silence between us. I lose count of these phone calls from her that I let ring with no answer. I lose count of these days when my heart falls into my stomach every time she calls, and I have to beg my spirit to be still before I pick up.
They are different from my father’s; these days of silence between us. I would go for days, weeks, or even months without talking to my father. Then one day, out of the blues, his name will pop up on my caller ID, and happiness will instantly flash across my face.
They are different from my father’s; these days of silence between us. My father starts laughing the moment I pick up the phone. He might whine, a little, about my silence, but it will still be in the happiest tone, the bubbliest voice ever. So even when he says, “na umenyamaza sana buana,” we both laugh, and I never, ever, have to explain the silence between us.
They are different from my father’s; these days of silence between us. Because when I pick my mother’s call, her voice is almost always the lowest, the saddest, as if something heavy is sitting on her chest. She always asks why I have been silent, in a way that should shatter my heart but instead, brews anger in my chest. So every time she says, “na nilikupigia juzi, jana, hukushika, kwani ulikua wapi?” I just want to hang up and disappear from the face of earth.
But I do not hang up. I stay in line as her words unknowingly brew a storm inside my body, promising myself that this would be the last I take all these from her. This bringing to me only bad news. This finding faults in everything I do; not being in the right career. Not finding a proper job. Not having the right clothes. Not eating the right meals. Not weighing the ‘right’ kilograms. Not taking my now-ex boyfriend back home in the ‘right’ timeframe.
I hate how she does this every time she calls. This slipping my now ex-boyfriend-almost fiancée-almost husband’s name into every conversation. Did you talk to him? Did you ask for his opinion? I am having this fundraiser, tell him he is invited. When are you bringing him back home? Unajua mkikaa sana shetani ataingilia.
I hate how she does this every time she calls. This imagining, and believing that everything of mine revolves around this man I no longer even know where he is. How she does not stop to wonder why I never respond whenever she mentions his name. How I brush off these conversations with a quick, ‘I need to get back to work’, because I cannot be taking ten steps forward in my healing, only for one phone call, lasting one minute, to drag me back twenty steps.
Sometimes, when I talk to the friend of my heart about this silence and passive aggression between my mother and I, they hold me close, brush my hair to the side, look into my eyes, and in the softest, kindest ways, say, “Is it possible that she does this because she is too afraid of you ending up like her? Maybe she wants to live her dreams through you? Is it possible you know of this possibility, and that is why your heart breaks every time she calls?”
I have spent these days of silence between my mother and I in happiness. In calmness. In finding my true voice. In waking up every morning, grateful for the steady beating of my heart, and the leap of joy in my spirit. I have spent each of these days living in the moment, letting happiness massage my back, tickle the soles of my feet, and kiss the warmth of my lips. I have spent each of these days allowing myself to just live, without worrying about tomorrow.
So when my mother’s phone call comes to me just as I lay my nudity to rest, I now understand why, lately, bouts of sadness have been choking me. I have been fighting tears, and my heart almost begun palpitating again. I now understand why I have been overwhelmed, constantly tired, on the brink of hurling my body against walls. I now understand why I have been speechless every time the friend of my heart asked “What is happening? Why are you overwhelmed?"
My heart and soul must have seen this silence between my mother and I coming to and end, and it was dong everything it could to prepare me.
I hold my heart in my palms as the phone call goes unanswered. I pull the fleece blanket over my head. Just then, the phone begins to ring again.
My best friend is calling. I let it go answered. My other best friend calls a minute after; I hang up and ask her to text me….the message does not go through. My best friend calls me, again. I hang up, lie I am in a meeting, and ask her to text me.
“Your mother is looking for you…”
I leave the phone on my seat, walk to my bedroom. Dress my nudity into warmth, just as the friend of my heart knocks on my front door.
Then, as if on cue, calmness returns to my body. Happiness curves a smile on my lips. Gratitude fills my entire being, and the leap of joy finds its way back into my steps.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the reason my mother is the only one who does not know I am no longer seeing the man she so adored.