Dear Juliet,

I don’t believe I am writing this to you. This early. Just seven months since I last saw you. Since I let my eyes linger on your soft face long enough for tears to want to rush out. Since I last said I prayer for you, even though my relationship with prayer has always been clouded with uncertainty. One of us always running from the other. One of us uncertain of why they should keep holding on to the other. One of us always, always, running out of patience.

But even before that last day, I had started to pull away from you. To not respond to calls when I knew the caller on the other side wanted to ask me to tag along to go and see you. I stopped responding to messages when asked about you, and abandoned almost everyone who, for one reason or another, couldn’t stop talking about you.

It was selfish of me, this distancing myself from you. I was just beginning to see how seeing you always left me troubled. Unable to sleep for days. Crying in the shower. My mind riddled with endless “why?“s. I had begun to see how I my heart always raced whenever there was an impending visit to your place. How I chose to spend time in your kitchen, preparing unending meals, burning my fingers, just so I could avoid looking at you. 

I don’t know if you remember, I don’t know if you saw it, but the last time I came to your house, I carried with me a bottle of alcohol. I sipped directly from it, my face glued to my phone screen. Everyone laughed at my audacity. Everyone made fun of that moment. But I was rigid. I was dying on the inside. I was hanging on life by a thin thread. I wanted to get out of there. Heck, I hadn’t even wanted to come. I had spent the entire of that day cooking a storm in my house, trying to push thoughts of you farther and farther away. Then phone calls started coming in.

“Where are you?”

“We are almost leaving.”

“No, you cannot remain behind.”

I tried. I really tried to stay behind. To stall so that they would leave me behind. But it failed. So I packed my alcohol alongside a change of clothes and came to your house.

I don’t remember anything from that night, not even what we spoke about. But I remember the next morning, on phone with one of my other friends, them asking, “Why does your voice sound dead?” And I knew then, right after that phone call, that it would be the last I ever stepped in your house.

It was selfish of me, I know. This distancing myself from you, putting myself first. But I had just started going to therapy, and my therapist’s voice was still fresh in my mind: You need to learn how to put yourself first. To put a stop to this people-pleasing tendency. If something or someone makes you feel bad, or doubt yourself, let them go. If you indulge in someone or something, then need to do a lot of work to recover from it or them, it is unhealthy. Cut them off. It is going to sound and feel selfish. They are going to throw stones at you. You are going to beat yourself up. You may feel guilty, wondering how you would feel if the same was done to you. But I assure you, you are the only one responsible for your life. Your happiness. People will always go, whether or not you are there. In the end, when you go to sleep, the battle is only between you and your soul. How long do you still want to keep on fighting with yourself?

So I started to pull away from you. To not respond to calls when I knew the caller on the other side wanted to ask me to tag along to go and see you. I stopped responding to messages when asked about you, and abandoned almost everyone who, for one reason or another, couldn’t stop talking about you.

Normalcy returned. Guilt faded to nothingness. Anxiety became a thing of the past. Life returned to my voice, and everything moved as it was supposed to; smoothly.

Then one evening, as darkness approached, I bumped into one of our mutual friends on their way to see you. They nudged me, and tugged at my arm, almost begged me to come with them to see you. They said you were doing badly, needed adult diapers, rolls and rolls of hospital gauze for the wound on your back, a daily nurse to wash and change your outfits. You couldn’t leave the bed; needed someone to turn you on your side. You…you…you…So I tuned out my therapist’s voice and followed them to your place.

When I think of that night, I first remember the voices that sang in your living room as we sat with you in the bedroom. I remember your voice; pained. Your eyes; almost disappearing into your head. I remember you saying maybe this is how it ends. The fragility of life. The audacity of death haunting you at such a young age. I remember someone massaging your feet because you couldn’t feel them. I remember my blue sweater and you saying, slowly, “If I were healthy, I’d have asked you to give me that sweater. But with which body can I even dream of wearing that sweater?”

That was the last I saw you. Alive, albeit in excruciating pain. Those were the last words I heard from you. 

One week later, they called me to say you had been transferred to a hospice. They asked whether I was in a position to travel to go see you in the hospice. I was not. I couldn’t do it. I was too weak. My therapist’s voice was loud in my mind.

They say you were unconscious when they saw you at the hospice. You couldn’t open your eyes; they had been replaced by whites. Your body had begun to swell. But you were alive, albeit in excruciating pain.

Two days after the hospice visit, they called to say you had passed away.

Hard as I try, the last image I have of you is that of you in pain, and I hate myself for doing that to myself. Hard as I try, I cannot remember you without the pain, and I am starting to think maybe I was not selfish by trying to pull away from you early on. Maybe I was trying to make sure the last image I have of you is, at least, with not so much pain. 

But it is the way of life; we do not always get what we want









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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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