In the Hands of Safety

In the Hands of Safety

It is 11 p.m. when your phone vibrates against your thigh. You let the book you are reading drop to your chest, pick the phone, and when you unlock it, you see their name on the notifications; they have sent you a WhatsApp message.

Your first reaction should be excitement. They rarely text you, not this late in the night. Every day, you fight the urge to not text them first, because you are afraid you will come out as too needy. They had asked you, four days prior, ‘Are you a romantic, or a hopeless romantic?’ Then, you had typed, backspaced, consulted your heart first, then your mind, then decided this thing, whatever it was, was still too fresh to be laden by full truths. So instead, you sent smiling emojis and typed, ‘If you stay long enough, you will know without me saying.'


You bumped into each other two months ago. You were running away from the darkness that was threatening to swallow you. You were trying to live outside your head. You were looking for little rays of light in other people, trying to remind yourself how it felt when you laughed. You were running away from the ghosts of memory, trying to find your voice again, when you bumped into each other and for a second, almost lost balance. 

You remember that first encounter with pockets of disbelief. You remember their name rolling off their tongue, softly, tenderly, you almost thought they were whispering. You thought you didn’t quite catch it, but was too afraid to look up to them and say, ‘What did you say?' 

You remember them leaning towards you, or down towards you every time you spoke. You remember their hands in their pockets. You remember the subtle pink of their lips. You remember their distant, yet warm eyes. You remember the light in their eyes when you spoke about things that made you happy, or sad, or overwhelmed. Or heartbroken. Things that almost drove you to suicide.

You remember…you remember…you remember…and just when your memory is about to fail you, you remember how easy it was for you to speak with them. How nothing, in that moment, felt too heavy, too dark, too personal to share with this stranger. You remember not feeling any guilt, or regret after speaking with them. You remember, with light in your heart, how it felt normal, as if you had known them for years. As if you didn’t bump into each other; rather, it was a meticulously planned meet-up. 

You remember how, for once, you found the exact words to describe your darkness, and you felt nothing but SAFE.


“Bullet to your head, what is the one thing that is bugging you right now? Or rather, is there anything you’d like to speak about, but haven’t found a way to?” Their WhatsApp message reads. 

You fidget in your seat. The air is suddenly too hot. The candle burning at the centre of your coffee table suddenly loses its scent. You are pacing the living room in your baggy t-shirt, phone in one hand, the other scratching your forehead.

You know this message is not an emergency; you could ignore it till morning and send a curt, ‘Sorry I am just seeing this now’. You know you do not owe them your truth; you could simply say, ‘I honestly got nothing in my mind right now.’ And you know them; they’d not pester you for something, anything. The much they’d say is, ‘Alright, but incase you remember something, you know I am here.'

But somehow, you feel the need, the urge to respond to that message, in full truths. You know that even though there is nothing is particular keeping you awake at night, you know you have been thinking, overthinking, and questioning yourself about friendships.

You want to tell them that recently, none of the friendships you hold makes you feel safe. That you are afraid if you ran into an emergency right now, in whatever magnitude, you’d scroll your contact list to the end, and not find a single soul with whom you’d be willing to share. That you are afraid all these things you call friendships are just loose chippings; going and coming as the wind blows. 

You want to tell them that it scares you how sometimes yo are not afraid of solitude, no matter how lonely it turns sometimes. That you wonder whether this is how it was meant to be; sharing bits and pieces of yourself with people, and feeling a little less like yourself when you walked away from those people.

You want to tell them that you wonder whether you are at fault here; letting go  of friendships that drain you. That only work when you have something to give, and disappear when your well has run dry. You wonder whether there is any sense in trying to cultivate any new ones, whether it is worth your time giving away bits and pieces to new people, in the hope that they will stay.

You want to tell them that you find it hard to exist wholly when pieces of your heart are scattered in this wide world, with people around whom you no longer feel safe. 

You want to tell them how it breaks your heart and throws you into a fit of rage whenever you voice out that you do not have any meaningful friendships, and people turn their heads, scoff, and say, ‘How can you say that? Are you mocking us? You who is over-friendly, speaks to everyone?’

You want to tell them all these, and a lot of other things you are yet to find words for, because you remember that first time, the safety, and somehow, your heart craves just one night of peace. 

Yet, when you begin to type, you lose your flow. Your fingers become heavy against the keyboard. Your overthinking returns, and you imagine there is no point in speaking about these things because maybe in a few months, this budding friendship will have died, and you’d have lost another piece of your heart.

So you swallow your darkness and type, ‘Been thinking of getting a gratitude jar’, press send, bury your phone beneath the cushions, and hope they do not respond immediately.

Then, your phone vibrates, and your heart almost leave your chest.

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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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