#15 Abada Street/Uche

Legend as it my father became a member of the elders guild of our illustrious village when he was ten years old. Our village was ensconced in the vast hill tops of the South eastern part of Nigeria. The main stay of our people was cassava. The elders guild was made up of a representative of each of the twelve families who owned the largest cassava farms. Each family usually put forward their most successful son, which of course translated to the most successful farmers. My grandfather, Aduba represented his family. My father was his first child, they were seven children in all. But his position was indisputably the most important, by virtue of his gender and position. In a world that was fiercely patriarchal, everything in their home revolved around Aduba and his first son, Azuka.

My father was a dynamic speaker. It was said just before his birth, my grandparents were visited by the village dibia. There was a prophesy. The baby would be a son, one whose words would be spooled like that of a masterful spider spinning a beautiful web. He would be a great leader.

He spoke so eloquently, with fire in his belly. His voice was strong; his speech precise, concise…beautifully crafted. His teachers called him the ‘master’, his parents called him their ‘gift,’ his peers always shouted ezeokwu k’aneku! at the delivery of any rendition. His father presented him before the guild after his tenth birthday. Many of the elders expressed their reservation but their objections were overruled by their king. When my father was given permission to address the guild, he spoke on the beauty of our great village, on its potential and its heart…the people. There was no sophistication in his presentation. He was after all a child. However, there was sincerity and a masterful looping of his words, the elders were completely bowled over.

The inclusion of my father started a trend. A member was only replaced at death. However, after Azuka joined, that rule was reviewed. My father was raised in an unusual family, for that time, that terrain. His father was a staunch ‘traditionalist’ who had absolute faith in his dibia. His mother a recent convert to a foreign religion. My father said he learned religious tolerance from his parents. Despite their different religions and modes of worship, he never saw any tensions between his parents. One day, he wondered out loud why his father allowed his mother practice a different religion. His father dismissed his concern with a wave of the hand, he stated: she is the same woman, she hasn’t changed. When she stops cooking my onugbu soup and refuses me entrance into her chambers, then I will torch that church she goes to. He never compared but celebrated each person for their creativity and individualism.

My father despite great success in the metropolis kept gravitating back to the village. He ran a printing business but couldn’t resist lending his voice to the political terrain. And it was that voice, that great voice that led to his murder, their murders. Mine was a charmed life. Or so I thought. I was an only child for so long I assumed there would not be another. I do remember a sense of loneliness for a short time but my mother’s commitment towards me was so absolute, I couldn’t imagine sharing her with another. Then, one day I overheard her saying a prayer. She was on her knees by her bed, her head on her pillow and though her voice was muffled, I heard her quite clearly. She was praying for another child. I was almost twelve. I tip toed back into my room and from that day on started praying also. I wanted her to be happy.

When I came home on vacation from college a few days short of my eighteenth birthday and noticed her extended abdomen, I remember picking her up and spinning her round in the garden. She screamed with laughter. My father had his glasses on the tip of his nose, sipping his Guinness. She was the most beautiful pregnant woman I had ever seen. She took me into her room and showed me the beautiful clothes she had bought for the baby. A baby. Finally, after so long. I took her into my arms again. And that was how my father found us. Her head was nestled on my chest, her arms around my waist, my arms wrapped around her….as much as her distended abdomen could allow. He laughed. Uche and his mother. We stayed in the same position. My sister was born a couple of weeks later. Adaeze.

When my grades were released that session and I did poorly in three courses, my father’s disappointment was disconcerting. I remember I sat with him in his study and I could see my mother breast feeding my little sister in the garden. Adaeze’s lips were firmly fastened on my mother’s right nipple, her beautiful dark head cradled in the nook of my mother’s arm. My mother’s eyes were firmly on my sister’s face. Such devotion, such intense devotion. Uche why are you not doing well in school? I told my dad in all honesty I was distracted. I was like a kid in a candy shop. First time I was having easy access to the opposite sex, parties, alcohol….I was loosing a sense of myself but at the same time, I felt I was discovering who I was. My father listened to me without interrupting.  When I was done, he said something I would never forget. What you lack my dear son is singularity of purpose. You are fixated on too many things. Focus on one thing and then you will excel.

Focus, I did. I focused and excelled in my academics. My parents were happy, I was happy. The world stopped spinning. I finished school and was able, through my father’s influence to get a much coveted internship with a successful minting company in Benin Republic. I returned to Benin, even after the mandatory NYSC. It was there, I got the news of my parents murder.

The loss left me a different man. My sun and moon were gone. I have gaps in my memory about that year. I believe I went into survival mode so as not to loose my mind. It is true that what doesn’t kill you, definitely will make you stronger and develop spiritual muscle. My sister became mine to care for. That responsibility I embraced with what was left of me. I truly believe Adaeze gave me singularity of purpose, again. My father and mother left enough in the bank for both of us apart from a vast wealth in real estate. However, by virtue of the way they died, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the Southeast. I continued to retain the same lawyer my father did but kept my distance. I moved to Lagos and secured a good job with the sister company that employed me in Benin Republic. Adaeze was my only stay. The first year was the roughest. She would wake up screaming:  fire! fire! fire! Her eyes open but not seeing. In the morning, she would have no recollection of the night before. It took a bit but gradually we both started to heal. It hasn’t been easy but we are both going to be fine, especially my sister.

I promised my father I would focus on one thing. I would focus on passing on the legacy my parents gave me to Adaeze. That, was and will, remain my singularity of purpose.

 

# 15 Abada Street

Ours was a simple life. My older brother was my primary care giver. Though, if I want to be honest, we took care of each other. Nnayi ukwu  was what I called him-as a mark of respect. He made sure I wanted for nothing. He has been taking care of me since I was seven. Our parents were killed during a very dark time in our history. Elections were looming back then and father was a very strong voice for the opposition. The incumbent chairman of our local government fearing that he would loose the elections had put a bounty on the heads of all those who would scuttle his mandate. Our house was set ablaze while my parents slept. They were burnt beyond recognition.  My brother had recently been deployed to Benin Republic  by his company. I was spared because I was on admission in the hospital. My aunt, my mother’s sister had spent the night with me. If not for malaria, all four of us would have perished in the fire that killed my parents.

After my parents were buried, my brother took me with him back to Lagos. We had a total of eighteen years between us. I was born just before his eighteenth birthday and named Adaeze, daughter of the king. My parents had waited long to have me. My father despite societal pressures never took a second wife, or a concubine, as is a common feature when no other baby was forth coming after my brother. My brother always used to say, our father never took another wife not because he was so in love with our mother but because he was a stubborn man. My mother was not his parents’ choice but he went ahead and married her anyway. He was a principled man, he danced to the beat of his own drum. Marrying another woman, or taking a concubine would have put a blight to all the battles he had fought and won over marrying our mother.

My brother and I lived in a three bed room apartment, on the first floor. We had only two neighbors. Alhaji who lived above us and Mama Flora who lived on the ground floor. My brother was a private man. He wasn’t married and I worried about him. Apart from myself and his friend Ojugo, he had no other permanent fixture in his life. Every Saturday, he would insist I try on all my clothes, while he sat on a stool sipping his Guinness. If a dress appeared just a little tight; a pair of trousers an inch or two above my ankle, he would put them in a little pile which he gave away and replace them immediately.

Alhaji was a dark man who stood a good head shorter than my brother. Apart from his cook, who doubled as his driver, he lived alone. Nnayi told me he had a house with three wives and many children. However, after suffering from a heart attack for the second time, he had abandoned his house to rent an apartment, far away from his crazy family. I found that funny though, considering he was the author of the madness he was trying to escape from.

Mama Flora was a short, skinny woman with a big mole that stood perched on her upper lip, the mole looked like a fly. Every time Mama Flora spoke, it looked like the fly was about to crawl into her mouth.Mama Flora’s husband was in Abuja; or so she tells everyone who cares to listen. I have lived with my brother since I was seven; I am now fourteen. I have never seen her husband. Nnayi says she isn’t married but ashamed to say so because people will not respect her. She has one daughter, or so she says; I’ve never seen her daughter, either. She rents the salon in front of our building and spends a full hour praying in the loudest voice before opening. She sprinkles water from her church which has been blessed by her pastor in her salon. She is always very nice to my brother. She makes my hair without charging him but my brother always insists on paying her. He will squeeze money into her hand, she will smile coyly and say..”Oga Uche abeg na, leave the money..” But he will make sure she keeps the money. I used to ask him why he always insists, since she likes me. He will throw his head back and laugh. Adaeze, my little one, what she wants I can’t give biko.

Mama Flora says her church is very powerful, her pastor sees visions and prays away evil spirits. And so, that morning when I had a nightmare, a bad, bad dream that covered me with sweat and I shivered with a fever; my brother was very worried. He sat me up and fed me akamu, which came out of me after a minute. I couldn’t go to school, that was obvious.He had to go to work but couldn’t leave me. He tried to call his manager but network was busy. Eventually, he went to Mama Flora. She told him not to worry, she would take care of me. My mind was in a haze and I shivered more out of fear than because of the spike in my temperature. Every time I closed my eyes, the dream seemed to replay itself in my mind. Mama Flora stayed with me, she closed her shop and made me breakfast. Ada, abeg na…eat something. I kept my eyes fixed on her mole, as she bent over to give me tea to drink. I saw there was a single hair strand growing out of the fly -of -a-mole.

I told her about my dream. My brother was on his way back from work, his car was caught up in traffic. I was on the side of the road, trying to reach him. I kept on walking, then running, never catching up with him. Then, all of a sudden from the corner of my eye, I saw a big truck appear, it headed straight for my brother’s car….hitting him head on. I started to cry. If anything happens to Nnayi, I don’t know what I will do. She pulled me close and comforted me. Don’t worry my Adaeze. I will tell my pastor. Don’t tell Oga Uche o. She called someone on her phone and within thirty minutes, he had arrived. A tall skinny man, I didn’t think it was possible for a man to be that skinny, but he was. He prayed with Mama Flora. I can’t say for how long they prayed but I know after a while, I felt better. They sang some hymns after  praying, I tried to join them but my throat was parched. By afternoon my brother had called six times. I did not tell him about the man, Mama Flora said not to.

By evening, I felt much better. I had eaten twice and kept my food down. I sprinkled the water around our apartment. The water the pastor brought for Mama Flora. When Nnayi returned from work, he was so happy to see me. He lifted me up and hugged me. Touching my face, checking my temperature. Nne, don’t scare me like that again. There were tears in his eyes. After, a week I told Nnayi of the pastor. I told him, I promised Mama Flora not tell him. I was afraid he would be angry but he was not. In fact, he seemed relieved. He told me Mama Flora had told him and he was waiting for me to tell him on my own. I was confused. Why didn’t she want me to tell you then? He shrugged. Maybe she wasn’t sure how I would react. But her heart was in the right place. Forget it.

One day, I came back from school and met her plaiting the hair of a young girl half my age. She looked exactly like Mama Flora. “Come and meet my daughter, Adaeze”. Flora was a skinny one just like her mother. She scurried off the small stool she was sitting on. “Good afternoon Auntie”. I hugged her. So, she had a daughter after all! I spent a lot of time with her daughter after that. She was enrolled in my school and so we walked to school together. It was Flora that told me her Mother’s story. Her father, Mama Flora’s husband had abandoned her mother shortly after her first birthday. He had absconded with another woman to Abuja. He had recently been arrested by EFCC. Her step mother had packed up everything she could lay her hands on and called Mama Flora to come and pick her daughter. She said her mother wept with joy when she saw her. For as long as she could remember, she had wondered about her mother.

One day, I hope Nnayi ukwu will start to like her. He still shakes his head though, telling me: Adaeze, my little one, what she wants I can’t give biko.

 

A tribute to my mother.

It was a routine procedure. The doctor had assured me, the night before. He told me not to worry.”Your mum will be out of surgery in no time”. That day was anything but routine.

The last quarter of that year had been blighted by series of hospital stays, health challenges you tried to shrug off; challenges that hung over us like a dark curtain. I didn’t see it coming, none of us did. You were our oak. The strong beautiful tree that cast her branches for our shelter. The one whose strong roots gave us stability, our quiet place of abode. And so, when my oak began to quake, in denial-I refused to see the signs.

The night before the surgery, I arrived late…..visiting time was almost over. We exchanged kisses and I started to tell you about my day. You seemed strangely disconnected, pensive, as if your mind was else where. After a bit of small talk, you handed me your bible and told me to read to you Psalm 109. My stomach started to knot with fear. The contents disturbed me. Funny thing though, when I was done you seemed more cheerful, more connected. When I bent over to kiss you goodnight, the strange disconnect had descended, again.

The following day, I had an important board meeting but all I thought about was getting to the hospital. Hoping I could shake the feeling of unease that had enveloped me from the night before. It was a miracle I made it there in one piece considering I drove like a bat out of hell. You were already in surgery, and so I stayed with Daddy; both of us not speaking. I was speaking to God, making deals attached to your safe and full recovery. ‘I will be a better person, I will……I will……’As if a person’s destiny cannot be truncated by vows. With each promise that left my lips, I felt a deeper sense of despondency. It’s been over a decade and I still remember that day like a disturbing sequence of events I have tried to banish from thought but still replays itself, in slow motion.Then, I saw two of my father’s colleagues in LUTH, neither meeting our eyes. They led him away, I followed closely behind, knowing but not accepting. I heard a deep, curling  scream and wondered who was yelling-then- realizing, it was me.

I have read stories of people describing their days in color: yellow depicts a sunny day; blue relating to visiting a body of water; white connotes a wintry horizon. A couple of people have asked me how I felt when my mum was taken. Black would be my color of choice. For until you have walked that path of loss, the deepest loss- where your heart feels like its been ripped from your chest , where tears stop and all that’s left is maddening screams; it’s indescribable. Pitch blackness, absolute blackness. I remember the following days in shades of grey: Receiving visitors; I was in auto pilot. I spoke, but have no recollection of what I said, or to whom. Rarely eating. Hardly sleeping.

I would lock myself in your closet, cramped in a corner immersing myself in the fading scent of your perfume. As your scent faded, I was reminded you were gone. My mind would drift back in time and I would remember snap shots of memories; vibrant colors that came to the fore, as the darkness threatened to engulf me. Our relationship, a beautiful tapestry woven by a strong bond of love and trust. As a child, you were a disciplinarian, never faltering in your responsibilities. As I hit my teens and the flash flood of friends hit the horizon, our relationship transitioned into one of friendship- a great friendship. A friendship that enriched me with a fountain of wisdom, one I still drink from. You were my confidante. There was nothing I didn’t and couldn’t tell you. You were my compass.

Over the years, l make myself anxious when I make a decision, second guessing myself, not having my compass has not been easy. However, when I get to a cross road I remember your words: A decision made from a place of love can never be wrong, irrespective of the outcome. Love is the litmus test.

As another year rolls around, another anniversary of your transition, I remember the last two verses of Psalm 109: With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the throng of worshipers I will praise Him. For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.

Forged in the face of autism

Elvira  and I met at the beginning of a year long beginners violin class. I had always wanted to learn the instrument but could never find the time until then.She was a bubbly, smiling woman who stood barley five feet tall. A second generation immigrant; her parents originally from Malaysia. The program was three times a week and so,we spent a good amount of time in each others company.Her husband, I rarely saw but her daughter, her only offspring she was rarely without.

Her daughter was a lovely slip of a girl with beautiful brown eyes. She had a head thick with long, thick ringlets; I always wondered how her mother was able to brush. Her daughter was enrolled in a vibrant program which catered to speech, physical and occupational therapy of children with learning and broad spectrum disabilities in a private school. Prior to meeting Elvira, I knew very little of broad spectrum disorders. We spent long hours in each others company. Her spouse had a very demanding schedule and worked long hours, so, she shouldered most of the responsibilities involved with raising their daughter.

She opened the window into her world, initially I hesitated but charmed by her devotion to her daughter; I climbed through the window and joined them….a quiet spectator. I watched her struggle with the emotional and physical demands of catering to her child.

Iman was five years old but her communicative skills was, at best, that of a year old. She communicated verbally in grunts, and was not yet fully potty trained. She had a green marble she could spend hours looking at, holding it up towards the sun to watch the flashes of iridescent light. She would twirl it around on the car seat, roll it on the table during her lunch breaks. If her mother left her with her nanny, she displayed no separation anxieties. However, if she lost her marble she would scream and throw such a fit, you would think someone was trying to kill her. Her repetitive movements: rocking back and forth on her heels and clicking her tongue as she played with her marble made me ask more and more questions about autism. Elvira  supplied me with many materials on the disorder. I watched the Temple Grandin movie and read several literature. I attended symposiums with her on some weekends and my admiration for her grew.

Her marriage had not escaped without being singed with fire. The fire of  tension that came with the challenges of caring for a child with special needs. Her husband was a big, burly man with a gentle disposition. He was a great father and husband but they had faltered under the weight of caring for Iman.

She came from a relatively large family. The first of six children, her parents had been delightfully excited about the baby. It was her mother who first noticed Iman had stopped making eye contact at four months old….and then other symptoms raised their ugly heads. She didn’t respond to stimuli and shied away  from being touched. Elvira and her husband were devastated. Her parents kept on hoping, even after the prognosis. She told me she could not afford to hope like her parents did.”I won’t be able to make the right choices for my daughter if I am constantly roaming in the corridor of hope. I won’t be able to open doors for her to walk through”.

In the beginning, she  imagined something twisted and ugly in her DNA had somehow corrupted her baby. She cried till she was hoarse, cursing the body that brought forth her daughter. She had struggled with infertility for several years, you see. Several miscarriages and procedures into their marriage, Iman was born. Her husband tried to be supportive but their relationship continued to spiral. Frustrated in their relationship, he picked up more hours at his job, staying away from a wife he could not encourage, a child he could not ‘fix’ to some how compensate with more income.

She told me how on her daughter’s fifth birthday, her siblings ignored Iman. How they spent the whole afternoon oohing and aahing over her nephew who was a year younger than her daughter. I didn’t know how to empathize without being a hypocrite. One of the symptoms of autism is resistance to affection due to sensory overload. How do you bond with a child you cannot hug, you cannot kiss or show affection to? Difficulty in showing expressions of affection for a third party could be so easily frustrating. I remember a birthday party I attended many years ago with my children where a boy who suffered from some pervasive developmental disorder became disruptive. I remember his mother’s embarrassment, how she unsuccessfully tried to soothe him. I remember the knot in my belly as I tried to explain to my children he was not deliberately being naughty. My relationship with Elvira showed me where my heart had been. It wasn’t nice.

My Elvira continues to care for Iman with absolute devotion.Today, I celebrate her and all parents out there who persist in the face of adversity. Your children may not be perfect, but whose is?

 

My train commute

I am not a fan of reality television. In fact, if I want to be honest, I can say boldly, I hate it and for one simple reason:reality tv isn’t reality. Its censored,edited to cater to the whims and caprices of its audience. If you believe otherwise, then you have been successfully sold. Why would I watch reality tv, anyway, when I can watch real, I mean real reality uncut  during my train commute.

My commute is precious time for me. Its the only time I can hear myself think…and when I say think, I mean the only time there is only one voice…mine, in my head. I am able to read, listen to music but more importantly enjoy the many strangers around me. Most of them bent over: peering at their phones, working on their laptops,some with eyes closed listening to music,a few with their mouths ajar, fast asleep.

During the course of my commute, I have witnessed many an altercation. Is it the man who assailed our ear drums with colorful expletives seriously vexed because his ‘baby mama’ denied him access to their mutual seed, or the two women who pulled at each others’ badly done weaves because they both caught each other cheating…..that particular altercation had to be disrupted by Chicago’s Finest. There has been random ugliness in the mix:once I barely missed stepping on a turd…your guess is as good as mine where that could have “fallen” from. I have met many a curious individuals and had quite a bit of great conversations with perfect strangers during my commute.

Of all my experiences, the ones that usually strike me as bizarre and for the life of me, I can never get used to, are those who ‘lip lock’ in public. Now don’t get me wrong,I have absolutely nothing against public display of affection. But. When two people of either different, or same sex decide to lip lock with such intensity to the full glare of fellow commuters, including children…!It always leaves me flustered, for lack of a better word. I always imagine myself ringing a bell over their heads…..or pouring water from a wide basin, like the one used by my former neighbor Mama Inibong to fetch water back home. But wait, maybe I am too conservative, maybe I should appreciate the reckless abandonment of some folks in expressing themselves….no,I don’t think I can embrace that culture. I will continue to enjoy my commute but fix my eyes on the real reality I enjoy.

 

Fifty shades of madness

My wife has always been a home body. She has two degrees in Biochemistry and graduated top 10% of her class. She is a great companion and the best cook a man could ask for. Which for me is a big plus because I love to eat. She did not want to work after we got married and I did not insist. Her parents initially thought I was the one who wanted her at home but they soon found out their daughter has her own mind and dances to the beat of her own drum. A strong dependable woman, my Ellis. My income was more than enough anyway and so, I was fine with her choice.

I always arrive at home at 5pm like clock work. I was a creature of habit. I always woke up at 5am for as long as I could remember, maybe it was from having a policeman has a father. He always woke me before he showered. My main chore during the week was to polish his black shoes. “Polish till I see my teeth in the reflection”. Which I wondered was never possible because his teeth were different shades of brown. Years of cigarette abuse had done its damage to his dentition.

Back to my wife. My beautiful wife! I always arrive home on time and so when I arrive at home and the familiar smell of various spices which wreck havoc to my salivary glands is missing, I know something is very wrong. I find her curled on her favorite arm chair deeply engrossed in a book. Book?! I try very hard to keep my voice steady. She knows I don’t snack.I always look forward to my meals. “Ambrose…you are back?”She dashes away to prepare my meal. Hours later I wake up with a start to find her reading the same book with her bedside lamp. I remember she didn’t sit with me during my meal earlier on in the day, I recall she has been reading the same book quite intently for a couple of days now. She has always been a studious one, so I wasn’t surprised she was reading but the way she hugged the book, close to her bosoms made me curious.

Fifty shades of grey. What  curious name I think when I see the back of the book. I notice she takes the book to the bathroom, kitchen,salon….’ Whenever I ask what the book is about, she responds with shrugs and gestures to imply its not important but what will lead Ellis to forget my meal was important to me. After she was done with the book, I decided to give it a go. I was surprised my church going, bible verse spewing wife was so taken in on the piece of literature. I asked her what the attraction was, she laughed and said everyone was reading it. By everyone she meant all her female friends, I assumed. So, you can imagine my shock when she told me my mother was actually the owner of the book she was reading. My mother? Reading fifty shades of grey? I picked my jaw off the ground where it fell and faced my plate of food.

 

Breaking Up with Juno(her side)

Preload 12

How did I become this person? I believe myself to be an even keeled woman. A go getter, emotionally stable. I am not the kind that needs validation from a man, or her friends for that matter. But here I am, fumbling in the darkness of confusion, mad at you but if I am honest, more mad at myself. I am angry at what I have allowed myself to happen to me again, after promising myself for the umpteenth time I am not going down this road, again. This road where I loose myself in a relationship and begin this false expectation to a future…. I, only see.

When I met you those two years ago, you were a welcome breeze. A fun, happy go lucky man. I was sick and tired of the older men I seem to attract in my corporate world. I wanted a change. Someone, who I could enjoy a cold beer with, watch sports and discuss politics with. Someone who didn’t find my opinions childishly optimistic. In a world plagued by continuous mass killings, where the news is constantly agog with reports of the death of innocents…everyone I met seemed jaded by their experiences. But you, my fine boy, with the dimple on the right cheek…. you were supposed to be better….or at least I hoped you would be better.

When you took the job you had been hoping for, the job we had been praying for; I was very excited. In fact, I shopped online for a change of wardrobe…. remember, we browsed the web for great deals, together. It was our great break for I had stopped using me, I…somewhere in our relationship, I had gone from using me, I to denote singularity and I was fixated on weus…’ I seemed to stop being me, and it was all about you. So, when I had to struggle to be heard over the clutter of your friends, the responsibilities your job, yesyour job brought into our relationship, I knew I couldn’t do this any more. And because I know you, I knew what would put you off. I couldn’t find it in myself to leave you, so I committed relationship suicide by being everything you didn’t want in a woman: I started to whine and complain.

I knew when my calls were no longer picked at the first ring, I was succeeding. And so when you gave the speech about my wanting more from our relationship,I stifled a sob because you are so right. I want more of you ode not a ring…well, not yet. And so, on the anniversary of our break up, I am right back where I started:in an expensive restaurant, on a date with a single older man, whose eyes are politely bored at my discourse on the middle eastern crises but glued, to my cleavage.

 

*ode is Yoruba for fool

 

 

Breaking up with Juno

I got your text an hour ago. The contents are not enough to share. You say I don’t spend enough time with you. You say I spend too much time with my friends, I drink too much….your complaints are endless.

I remember when I met you. I was with my usual crew of friends, you were with yours. I caught your eye across the room and was immediately smitten. I survived your friends’ inquisition and was subsequently enveloped into your crew.

I enjoyed you, I enjoyed us. Your ability to be a guy’s girl.Our first year together went fast, a flurry of stolen kisses and rowdy parties. I don’t know and can’t say exactly when things started to change. I got a great job offer and you seemed excited for me, for us. My new job entailed a longer commute, you seemed to be understanding, at first. I couldn’t make the commute to have dinner with you again on Wednesdays and my weekends with the boys became a topic of great trepidation. You stopped being understanding and started being that girlfriend the guys and I said we would never put up with. But put up with you I did, because somewhere in my subconscious I hoped the girl I fell for will reappear.

Now I don’t pick up your calls anymore at the first ring. No, I wait till it goes to voicemail. I wait to brace myself for the guarded conversation about to take place. You ask me where our relationship is going. I wonder when our relationship became a destination and stopped becoming a journey. A great adventure of sorts, where I stumble on something new, something special. I don’t say much but listen. If I am honest, I know in my heart its over. I don’t say the usual: It’s not you but me. I tell you exactly how I feel. I tell you, I don’t think I am what you want. I have stayed the same but you want more. You hang up stifling tears. I lay on my bed, tired and immediately delete your number, hoping in doing so I can some how delete the past year and a half.

I spend the next couple of months in a haze of work. I join a gym, hoping in pounding my body into shape I can take my mind off the hole in my heart. I know your expectations our relationship become more than it was is flattering for me. That I would become husband material just by your wanting it though, laughable. On the first anniversary of our break up, I was right back where we started: across the room with my mates having a drink and like de ja vu I saw a beautiful woman with her crony of friends; this time…I looked away.

 

 

An Old Friend

Preload 06

Today, I looked up an old friend of mine. We were friends as freshmen in college, twenty five long years ago. The years have flown by so fast. I was sixteen, a free spirit; he was eighteen, cocky, funny with a winsome, easy smile. We were innocent, without the many layers that come with age and blighting experiences.
We had common friends, so we moved in the same social circuit. Attended the same parties, dated each others friends. The beauty of youth minus the pressures of paying bills and caring for children.
We had our futures in front of us. We all had stars in our eyes in those days and the world was our oyster. So, today we spent the morning together. Met for a late breakfast and caught up on the happenings in our individual lives. Our respective spouses were absent, so there was no need to pick topics, looking for comfortable grey areas that would not alienate them.

We talked about an old girlfriend of his. It’s been eons since they broke up but he still wanted to talk about it. I thought that it was sweet. I guess in walking backwards in time to determine what went wrong, we try to fix the future. They were no longer together but the circle of friendship still existed…..some friends closer than others. We spoke about the girlfriends he did away with before finding his missing rib. What made him make up his mind about her and how from knowing what he didn’t want in a woman, he found what he really wanted.

He laughed at what he called my ability to analyze behavioral patterns to the letter; how he could never win an argument with me. I found it extremely refreshing, our ability to communicate with candor without feeling judged. The simplicity and honesty of expressions, not putting each other under a microscope.
Candor is so lacking in our generation. We always feel the need to wear a mask. We hide our pain, anxieties and fears from each other. Always trying to measure up to some high expectations we have set for ourselves. Thus putting pressure on our selves and relationships with our loved ones. We wear our plastic smiles all day……..and when it slips, we rush into the powder room to put it back in place!

After we say our goodbyes, I feel six feet taller. Him, with the same winsome smile, though his smile is now framed with a hoary mustache and beard.
He reinforces my commitment to my special circle of friends. Some are faces from the past. People I used to care deeply about. Circumstances and pressures have driven some away from the circumference, but they remain within the arc of interest.

Old friends are definitely better than new ones. They know your “quirks and twists”. Though you have long months of silence , you pick up from where your last conversation stopped with no hard feelings.They stay true,their interest in you is not feigned.
“An old friend is like wine, its true value is in its antiquity”