I am in the kitchen making dinner. Somehow, you have managed to convince me to do it without throwing tantrums; including the part where I have to make ugali.
“Na ikitokea mbichi?” I ask.
Always, always, ever since we met, you are the one who makes the ugali. Apart from today, when you have said I should do it, and you are not backing down.
Looking back, I should have seen that as the first sign of the beginning of an ending.
“We pika tu. No matter how it comes out, I promise, I shall eat.” You say, and smile in that your way that makes my insides turn with contentment, calmness, and excitement.
It is momenta like these, with complete silence between us (you working on your computer, me listening to this podcast you always ask, ‘na hio podcast ni ya kina nani? Hua unaiskiza na psych sana) that bring forth the most questions to my mind:
How did I bag so much softness in a person? When he looks at me, does he not see this brokenness? Does this silence between us bring him as much peace as it does for me? I ask, and ask, and ask, and just when the voices in my head start becoming loud, louder, threatening to get loudest, you say my name, softly, the letters falling off your tongue systematically, rhythmically, as if I am a song that forever lives on your lips. You say my name and everything, in a whim, suddenly makes sense. You pull me towards you, wrap your hands around my waist, and repeatedly kiss my forehead.
Then, I want the world to freeze this moment. This feeling. This air between us. This closeness. This thing even we cannot describe.
Something pops on my phone, so I begin to read, and my heart begins to skip, first, then its pace quickens, and before I know it, my heart is running. I badly need to breathe, away from your eyes. So I pass you my phone and say, ‘please read this’.
I watch as you scroll and ask, ‘lazima nisome yote?’
“Sio lazima yote; you will know when to stop.”
The silence between us grows tenfold. Even as I serve the food onto two plates and bring you a plate, my hands are shaking. Even when you start eating and say, ‘ah, si unaona umepika tu ugali vizuri,’ my ears and eyes are searching yours, looking for the words you are not saying.
And finally, when you begin your speech with, “Are you sure you did not write this?’ Followed by an uncertain chuckle, followed by another, “I have been meaning to ask…”
My heart stops racing and I turn to look at you, even though I cannot see you clearly through the clouds of my tears. Your words filter through the silence between us, shaking my heart, wetting the ground beneath my feet, undoing the knots that have been holding me together this far, so that I am losing myself, slowly, as we continue to speak, as if this voce is not even mine. As if these words I am saying are not foreign, bitter even to myself. I understand. No, I don’t think so. Is there any other boundary you would like us to enforce? As if I had not, all along, known that this day would come, and these words would be shared between us, and the aftermath would throw me in a hell of confusion and hopelessness.
But it is the way life is; the way we humans live through our lives. Breathing, knowing it will someday stop, but not wanting to worry about the when. Bearing our hearts out, understanding that love is fragile, and sometimes it breaks us in ways we would never imagine, but still covering our hearts in the whispers of our lovers.
It is the way we humans live through our lives; carefully avoiding, ignoring the things likely to question our beliefs, as if by doing so, we buy ourselves, or cheat ourselves into an extra dosage of happiness. Of calm. Of a life devoid of hard conversations.
We are lying in bed when I say I need to go back to my house so I can cry. That I cannot cry when you are looking at me. You tuck my hair behind my left ear, struggle to smile and say, “I don’t want you to cry. I want us to do this in the calmest of ways. Is there anything I can do to make you not cry?”
I want to shout, “Yes, stay!” But I know how selfish this is. You deserve someone who gives you a 100%, and as much as it hurts, I know I will never be able to do that, and it kills me every time I think about it.
But how can you not cry when this sudden lighting hits me in all the wrong places, at all the wrong times? How do I not cry when I am lying here, with you, admitting that I cannot be with you, and this is entirely my fault? How can I not cry when I am letting go of the one person who gives so much meaning to my life. Who questions my every move. Who believes my every desire. Who gives, and gives, and gives, until my heart bursts with gratitude?
How do I not cry when the man of my dreams finally found me, in the middle of nowhere, and became my reality? Reminding me, daily, that I am deserving of everything I ever dream of. Showing me kindness, softness, extravagance, until my soul is bursting with happiness? Surely, how do I not cry when I look this person in the eyes and let go of them, because they keep asking whether I will ever change my mind about having kids, and my answer is always, “I am never changing my mind. I am never having kids.”
How do I not cry when my heart has forgotten how to be by itself anymore? Because you have always been here, with my heart, no matter the seasons. Even when I am throwing tantrums. Or my tongue is silent. Or anxiety is crippling me. Or the voices in my head are keeping me awake a night. Or I am at war with myself?
So when I wake up and you hold me in your arms, probably for the last time, my heart doubles down, as if it wants to disappear into my stomach, because it knows just how difficult my breathing is going to get. How I am going to almost drown in nothingness after this, because I still do not know how to learn doing this living thing without your name on my lips.
But it is the way life is; we lose some, and hope we gain ourselves in the end.