Manu - Four Years Later

Manu - Four Years Later

I know this is weird; sitting on my bed, facing my mirror, and pretending or wishing that it is your face I see in the reflection. I know this is weird; talking to you as if as if you’re still here. As if you’re still breathing. As if you’re still with us, still looking after us as if you give birth to us those many years ago. As if our breathing already affects you if we do not call or text you. As if those are the very things that gave you peace.

I know it is weird that I am still unable, four years later, to talk about you in past tense. It is still very difficult for me to speak about you without my voice breaking. Without my eyes clouding with tears. Without everything in my body losing sense, and without me willing to die just so I can see you for, maybe, the last time.

It is still weird that every time I am speaking about grief and death, you do not cross my mind because my brain still believes, still wants to hope that you’re alive, and all these four years of darkness are just a part of a bad dream that will soon come to an end. 

But grief, I have learned, is unforgiving. It is relentless in its chase for our hearts. It does not give us time to move on. It does not tell it’s brother ‘life’ to hold on a bit so we can get a hold of our light. It does not give us time to do anything apart from think about you over and over again. And even in the thinking, grief reminds us that we shall never ever again see you. We shall never hear your voice, even though that is the only thing that could keep us sane during difficult days. 

Sometime last week, something in my mind, something in my body, something in my brain just stopped functioning. Suddenly, I was getting anxiety attacks. I was finding it hard to fall asleep. I was waking up quite early because there was no sleep. I was restless. I was on the verge of getting a panic attack and it was weird because it has been more than a year since I had a serious anxiety attack. It has been a couple of months full of rest and calm and serenity.

Suddenly, in the course of last week, nothing made sense. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything but pace around the house. I desperately needed someone to talk to, in truth. Someone who deserved my truth, but everything was falling out of place. 

I couldn’t hold a conversation. I have left tens of people on ‘Read’ on my phone. I have been seeing messages from people and telling myself, “I will reply”, but I have not got into it, and I don’t think that is something I’m coming to do in the near future.

I have postponed doing everything that brings wellness back to me: I have not done my laundry in more than a month. I have not had the will to live. I struggle to get out of bed and into the shower.

Then, suddenly, Chris called me.

I do not know how he works out his magic. I do not know how he gets to read my mind. I do not know if it’s your spirit, and I really hope it’s your spirit, that seeks to connect the two of us. I do not know why he called me on that specific day that I was wondering what is wrong with me. That specific day I wanted to switch off my phone because the noise was too loud in my head, and I badly wanted silence.

I do not know how he does it, this calling of his, and calling, and calling even though he knows how much I hate phone calls. As if he can see that I am lying when I say “I’m okay.” This asking, and asking, and asking whether I want to say something that is stuck in my mind but I don’t have the words for.

So when he called last week, I struggled to ensure my voice doesn’t break. We like to joke that  you were our parent, and now that you are gone, you left him under my watch. And I’d hate to break a heart that belongs to someone who looks up to me.

So when he called, I struggled to maintain a clear voice only for him to mention that your anniversary was coming up.

Then, suddenly, my heart went calm, like everything was falling into place. All the voices in my head went quiet, and I realized it was you, or I hope it was you trying to remind me that, “I am still here. You do not get to forget me like that. I don’t disappear like that and you move on with your life like I was nothing.”

I don’t know why it took me that long to realize that this was the month I got that phone call I will never forget. That phone call that, to date, that birthed my aversion for phone calls. I tell people all the time not to call me, but maybe because they do not realize the level of anxiety I have, they will call, and call, and call, even though they know I’ll not pick up. Because, somehow, I am yet to grow past that day in April 2022 when Chris called me and said, “I am so sorry whatever I’m going to say is bad, but there is no better way to say it. Manu is no longer with us.”

I remember as if it was yesterday. I remember the breaks in his voice, a voice that, unlike mine, is usually full of joy, laughter, hope. Full of all the good things that life has to offer. But on that day, it was just that one sentence, a little breaking of his voice, and then everything went silent.

I remember, in detail, my confusion when he said I needed to inform the rest of your friends about your passing. I wondered why I had to be the one to bear this bad news that I was yet to process. Why was I the one to break people’s hearts? What of mine? Who would take care of my heart after repeating those words ten, fifty times?  Would it make it hurt less? Would I accept it faster?

Now that I think of it, I realize how bad it must have been for Chris. Now that I know he was with you in hospital. He’s the one who saw your doctor’s reports. That your heart was on the brink of letting go. He’s the one who saw all that first-hand and still managed to talk to you and joke with you, and just let you know that things would be fine; the doctors just needed to keep you for a little bit longer.

When I talked to Chris last year, I could feel the hope in his voice. I could sense the hope that he still looked up to you, even when he spoke about you finding finally finding peace after years and years of toiling. That you had settled, and everything was coming out so brilliantly for you.

Then suddenly, all that was just dimmed in that one phone call.

When thoughts like this come to my mind, I keep on wondering what I could have done better for you. What I could have done to make you maybe stay longer. Or whatever I could have done to make your stay here happier. Maybe I should have picked more of your calls. I should have said ‘yes’ more often whenever you asked me, “Can we go out? Can we go and take a stroll on the beach? Can we have a look at this project together and see where you can fit in? Can we speak about your hopes and dreams so that I see how I can help you? Is it okay if I if I do this and this for you, just like that?”

I wish I could have said ‘yes’ more often to all the questions you had about life, and love, and all the messy in between. It hurts that I I maintained radio silence even when you needed me the most. I assumed we had more time. I knew we had more time, and I hope we can do this in a better way in our next life.

But this is for all the times we had on the floor in my house because I had nothing to my name apart from a mattress. For all the days you bought everything, came to my house, and said, “This is enough food for a whole week and if you run out of any of it, let me know.”

This is for all the laughter we shared. For all the times I came to your house because everything was falling out of place and I didn’t know where to go. For all the million times that you offered no just material support but also emotional support.

I do not think I have had, in the longest time, someone I could just sit with and say nothing, but still be very comfortable in our silence. I do not think we ever argued even once; not about the big things, not about the small things. We were always so cordial even in our disagreements. I would say ‘no’, you would say ‘no’, and nothing would change between us, and is the one thing I miss about life with you.

So, on this fourth anniversary of your death, I hope for nothing but joy and calm for you, wherever you are. That you continue looking over us, and sending us warmth and love and protection.

Until we see each other 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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