Emmanuel’s voice violently cut through my window before plopping itself on my chest. His visit was expected, as we always gossiped in the mornings before running downstairs for our usual egg sandwich and pancake. But today…today, I wondered who came up with this stupid idea, anyway. I pulled my braids from under me and readjusted my pillow. If I stayed quiet, he would leave, right?
“My Queeeeeen! Ah, so you want to behave as if you can’t hear me?”
“Emmanuel, relax.” I rolled to the edge of the bed before tossing my legs over and flipping upward to meet my reflection.
My eyes had swelled overnight and had attempted to mimic the processed pink of the rubbery sausages that the kitchen served downstairs. But, who leaves a mirror right in front of their bed, anyway?
I felt around the room for my keys before unlocking the door. I yanked it open and turned away quickly so that he would not see all of what was the night before. So that he would not see my shame.
“Sweetie dahhhlinggg—MAMI BREEJ!”
Emmanuel chucked off his black flip-flops and dumped his weight onto my bed. The old frame creaked and sighed from the sudden pressure.
“Ah, but why is your pillow wet?” he queried; the answer seemingly less important than the discomfort it posed.
“Sorry.” I sat down at my desk, untied my headscarf and looked outside the window. The trees that canopy my balcony looked ragged and bare from the harsh winds and rainfall that replaced the sun of late. How comforting. It appeared that I was not the only one that withered when going through a break-up of sorts.
He perked up and perhaps for the first time that morning, he looked at me. “Mami, you good?”
“Is it Kojo, again?”
I winced, feeling a sudden tightness in my chest. Love had a funny way of doing that, of becoming that much more real, when it hurt.
“Ooooooooooooooh…,” Emmanuel groaned and threw his hands over his head. “As for dis one dier–”
“Its probably over, anyway. So stop. It’s done.”
“What happened, now?”
“Nothing…I’m just so tired of this shit. This is so dumb. I’m so dumb…” Emmanuel looked away and tried not to roll his eyes. We both knew that I would go back.
“But you knew he had a girlfriend—“
“YES. Damn. We don’t need to keep going over that.”
“So then what is it again, ehn?”
“I just…I just want him to choose…me.”
Emmanuel shook his head. “He won’t. Nahhh. Kojo will just be with both of you.”
“You don’t understand—”
“Chale, I’m telling you—just let it go.”
I wish I could explain how I got here without sounding like the very women I criticize. The ones that get so wrapped up in a smile or a look that seemed to promise them a future, that actions, had proven, did not exist. The ones that defended a smile or a look through the very pain that it caused them. The ones that thought love, despite it all, was enough. But I cannot. So, I will not try to.
Instead, I’ll tell you that in the midst of the heat that accompanied the months of my semester abroad, I fell madly in love with a man, that I knew belonged to someone else. And though, a wicked love, it was, there was a time where I would have gladly fallen, and fallen, all over again. Please do not mistake my honesty, for pride or joy. No, that is certainly, not it.
I often still spend my nights thinking of the other woman and what she is like. If she drank apple juice as much as I did, or practiced her dance moves in the mirror before going out at night. If she traced his jawline with her index finger or pulled at the hairs on his chin while he slept. If she and I could have been friends…
…If she loved him as much as I did.
I write to her in my head, apologizing for the pain she does not know yet and for the lies I might have told her, for him, if she had found out. I wonder if she could ever understand that I could never be sorry for loving him, but I would always be sorry that it meant hurting her.
I hope that she can forgive me, as I have finally started to forgive myself. And I pray that she might, one day, see that we actually have a bit a common—after all, in a way, we both know what it feels like to concede an entirety, to a lie.
Emmanuel took a deep breath. “So, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
I would not know for a long time. For the days that turned into months, and the months that turned into a year and a half, Kojo and I continued on in our love saga seesawing between passion and confusion, confusion and passion. Despite my efforts to let him go or accept things as they were, it often felt like I was incapable of either.
This summer, I made the decision to stop speaking to him for good…or at least until I thought we could be friends. Most, if not all of me, however, knows that I could never go back to being his friend; our interactions would be too much of a reminder of the time I knew I deserved better, but stayed, anyway.
I have learned to love again since this experience—a feat that seemed almost impossible just a year ago. The stars have aligned in a way that my path has crossed with a beautiful, and awe-inspiring man who teaches me something new, everyday. I have never met a love so patient, so selfless, so kind, and so unconditional. I look at him and wonder how I got to be so lucky.
I realize that at a certain point, my attachment to Kojo became an unhealthy one that I surrendered all of my power to. I not only allowed it to define me, but I wanted it to. If Kojo chose me over another, I believed that it would, in someway, make up for the fact that I had not already chosen myself. I became so focused on what would be a fleeting satisfaction that I lost nearly two years worth of opportunity to really love and celebrate the amazing person I have always been.
I apologize to the other woman that I may never know, for the ways my insecurities and selfish decisions have impacted you. I apologize to the man, who now holds my heart, for the many moments I have made you feel as if you were not enough. I shake my head at the man that I let believe was the source of my light simply because he basked in it. And I laugh, affectionately, at myself for letting someone make me #2 when I am the only choice to make, again and again.
I cleared my throat and blinked back the routine tears. “Anyway—”