Ten Years

Ten Years

I see you before you see me. Your red dress tight against your brown skin, ending just above your knees, just enough to reveal the deep scar on your right thigh. You are hiding your eyes behind thick, brown sunglasses, but I do not need to see the scar on your right eyelid to know it is you.

I see you in the way your left arm plays with the loose strands of your braided hair. The way your right hand clutches the black handbag against your waist. The way you move, as if unsure of your next step. I see it in the way the restaurant almost goes quiet, heads slowly turning towards you, whispers starting to break.

I see it in the way you lose your step. The way you begin to turn back, as if you have just realized that this was a mistake. This trying to find me. To meet me. Seeking help to look yourself in the mirror. I see it in the way you begin to fumble with the latch on your handbag.

I call your name. Attempt a smile. Raise my left hand. Motion you to come over. 

I see the shock in your eyes. The way your steps quicken towards me, mouth agape, as if you have just seen a ghost.

You pull the seat opposite mine, push your sunglasses to the top of your head, look me in the eyes, still in disbelief, and say, “You have changed!”

Of course, I have changed. It has been almost ten years since we last saw each other. Since the day that both our lives changed. Since the arms of our clocks started turning in a different direction.

It has been almost ten years since that night I found you in a pool of blood in our tiny, single-roomed house. Since I held you in my arms as you cried for hours on end. Since I dragged you into the shared-bathroom, long after neighbours were asleep, and washed your bleeding wounds.

It has been ten years since I begged you to tell me what had happened to you, for hours, but you only whimpered, on and on, even as I walked you to hospital when the cut on your right eyelid wouldn’t stop bleeding. When the cut on your right thigh wouldn’t stop pulsing. When your speech became slurred.

It has been ten years since you told the nurses that you and I had gotten into a physical fight, and I was the cause of the injuries, just before you lost consciousness.

It has been almost ten years since the police said, “Because she has not officially filed a complaint against you, and she is not dead, we shall not detain you. Unless, of course, you would like to tell us what happened.” And when I shook my head, they said, “You are free to go; incase anything changes, we shall find you.”

And those words have been the sound track of my life for the last ten years. Keeping me awake at night. Stabbing my heart. These words have been a war in the shape of silence, slashing my tongue every time I sit in therapy and they ask, “I’d like us to talk about what happened ten years ago.”

Of course, I have changed. It has almost been ten years since I walked into your house, weeks after you were discharged from hospital. I was looking for answers, but left with eternal wounds, wondering whether there had aways been signs that I ignored. Wondering whether all friendships had this dynamic, where I could be used, abused, and let go whenever you felt like.

But when you look in my eyes and say, “You’ve changed?”, I don’t say all these, because I know you know. Only that I am not that person anymore. I do not look for answers when the questions keep hurting me. I have learnt how to let go, no matter how grounding the attachment feels like. I know when to say NO. I know how to find my voice, the one that used to disappear into the cracks in my throat every time I wanted to speak. I know how to feed my spirit. I understand the power of calmness, and a heart that does not race every time they mention your name.

So when you look into my eyes and say, “You’ve changed!”, my voice does not surprise me when it says, “Yes, I have. Flowers like me, born in earths flowing with black oils and fire, are doomed to death. But sometimes, time does magic wonders and we bloom.”

You avert your eyes, and even without looking at you directly, I know you are tapping your four inch high heels against the floor. You glance over your shoulders, as if too afraid that someone might be listening to us. You turn your head, completely, so that you are facing the waiters. They look at you, directly, but neither of them moves. Neither of them is in a hurry to serve you. None of them tears their eyes from you.

You turn back to me, fold your palms into fists, and say, “I am sorry for what I did almost ten years ago. That throwing you under the bus, without explanation. I should have done something. I should have said something, all these years. But I didn’t, and that’s why I am here. I hope it is not too late.”

My voice tries to disappear within the cracks of my throat, but I manage to whisper, “Why me?” 

“Your father did that to me. I had been going out with him for a couple of months by the time it happened. I wanted more out of it, I loved him, but he didn’t want to break your heart. He only wanted my body. I threatened to tell you about it. I wasn’t gonna do it, but I thought that would make him treat me better. He came to talk things out that night, but when I didn’t budge, it got physical…”

My ears are burning. There is a ringing voice in my head. Glasses are falling and breaking behind me as I pull myself from the chair and begin walking out of the restaurant. I hear you shouting behind me, but it is like my legs do not know how to stop.

Before I pass out, the last thing I see is my father’s slashed face, almost ten years ago, in the cold morgue.


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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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