It started with a glass of wine. Funny, with me it always starts with a glass of something. Since I figured out how to induce this mania, I know how to get lost. It is addictive. When the world is too much, I know my escape route to the dangerous side and I will not remember it.
So it began with a glass of white wine. I had vowed it would be, “just one,” because I had to get back home soon since Mother was out of town. I usually gauge my mood levels to consider where on the scale my mood is and whether or not it is a good idea to drink, but not this time. I was trying to forget to remember, so I refused to think about it. It was obvious I was on the slippery slope, especially after the conversation I had had the other day. Two days ago to be exact. I had done it, finally, I had put it all out there and told him I wanted to be with him. “If there is a chance, let us do this”. “I’m seeing someone else…”is what I got in return. Just at the moment, I thought to myself, when I am brave, this is how the universe repays me?
But I was calm; breathing, in and out, right from deep down in my stomach and exhaling. I walked away. Today, I put on something nice. My new fad is African print so I wear a pair of high waisted shorts in print, a vest and a cute jacket. My make-up is on point and I set about making my way to my favourite bar. I sit on the high stool by the bar and promise myself- just one glass of wine. That is the clearest memory I have.
I am dancing. The DJ, whom I know, is playing some good house tracks and I move, my body is lost to the music and I am unafraid. I see friends, old and new. Conversation flows. I can hear my high pitched laughter fill the room and I think this is it- this is the life and I am living it. My mother is calling. I put the phone back into my bag, none of that tonight. I let the image of her calling, worried that I have not gone home yet float away to that unknown place I have thrown all my worries to. What I see, when I look in the mirror, or feel myself viscerally, is an amazingly beautiful dancer- all eyes on me. The women are jealous, the men want me. I’m in love with life. But in real life, all I am is a broken girl in a manic state skirting dangerously close to the edge of recklessness. I’m walking at the edge of the cliff and the pain deep down inside could cause tears for thousands of eyes. So I choose to keep going, higher and higher, until I am unaware of anything except for the most base of emotions. And these I act upon.
I wake up in my friends bed, she lives in my ex boyfriend’s house. I do not know how I got there, it should be about midnight or so. I can hear voices outside the door. ‘She is here? Ok, just keep her in your room’. Vaguely, I can tell they are speaking about me but I am not aware of my surroundings or the situation. I get up from the bed to go to the lounge. There are lots of people. Most I recognise and greet, although I do not know what I am saying. It seems as if my mouth is bypassing my brain. Beer. There are cans of beer on the table. Nothing I usually drink so I settle for anything. There are a number of girls around. The kind I usually despise, even though I never admit this to anyone. I am working on embracing them but to me they are the embodiment of self hate. I find myself in conversation with one of them. While the other girl seems to be particular irritating on my eye- I am not sure if it is the style of the weave, which looks rather asymmetrical or the tight vest through which her love handles are bursting, grasping for some air, I assume.
I see him, he is there. I do not know if we have even had a conversation. He goes to the bedroom. I follow behind. There are two girls and another guy. He gets into the bed where both of the girls are. I watch through the slit of the hinges, meaning not to be spotted. They close the door as I walk away. I try to socialise once again but I fail to get that image from my mind. So I march up to the door. I try to push it open. It’s locked. I figure I will just have to knock. But my presence at the door must be felt, after all, this is me and I came for a purpose right? Although I am not clear what my purpose is. Get him, get him, get him, get him. I remember. I thump on the door with such umph the police would be envious. A man answers the door and I somehow manage to communicate that I am looking for him. Words. I am not listening, I am talking. Frustration. A beer falls to the floor. I can see it froth up before it slowly turns into a golden liquid spreading across the floor.
There is a hustle. She is holding me from behind, twisting my arms. I yell and thrash for her to let me go. No one touches me, you do not touch me. Let me go. This is between him and I. He needs to talk to me. I need to talk to him. I shake her off. My bag flies into the shrubs just outside the verandah. I cannot see. I can see my surroundings but I cannot see, I cannot perceive. He is angry. I do not understand why. I do not see his anger nor can I relate it to me. As much as I am there, I am not there. Mania. Fying high above myself, observing yet even then my sight is narrow. I follow him outside, shout and scream about being heard. The sun is beginning to rise. “I respect you. I respect you” he says. He walks back into the house, I follow him inside. I refuse to go home. I am determined. He must see me. He must want me. He must choose me. Like a puppy I follow him up and down. “You have to walk me home” I keep declaring. I find it fascinating somehow. I am inciting a response. Anger, frustration is better than no response at all. He gives in and walks me home. At the gate he tries to say goodbye. I refuse to go until he talks to me. Words slip out, once again they seem to bypass my brain. He takes a walk, I follow behind. He sits down, I wait. He shouts and is stern, I snicker. At least he is still here, I think, even though he is mad, he is still here, with me.
“No. My answer is no!” he says. I am in shock. I am still trying to fix it, although I do not know what I am trying to fix because I do not know what I have done. A kite flying lower and lower as I feel the wind slowly coming to a halt and my senses coming down with it. “What am I doing here?”
The chaos, I love it, the drama, I love it. It is the truth I know, the truth I believe. Finally, I think, he has finally come out and told me the truth, the truth I was waiting for. Because somehow it had to be too good to be true. Me? Liked? Loved? Considered? Ha! I pushed him, pushed him hard, till I got what I knew, what has always been the most welcome in my heart, an old companion whom I have lived with since my childhood- rejection. Yes, that I can live with. Love? No. Admiration? No. Being wanted and needed? No. Give me what I can work with. Dysfunction. Yes, that’s mine.
It is my first prize giving day. I am excited. I am getting an academic prize. It is the day everyone’s parents come and celebrate with us. I cannot say the last time I saw mine. The last exeat weekend it was just Sisi Mai Tendai and I. In my child’s heart, I can see my mom and dad strolling through those doors any minute now and when they hear my name they will be so proud of me. I smile inwardly. I have already seen it all in my head. The picnic we will have, the hugs and kisses and maybe, just maybe they will take me home with them in the evening. The speeches have ended and now we have come to the part we have rehearsed every afternoon for the past week, except this time it is really happening. My thrill is mixed with anxiety because I have not seen them come in. Did I miss them? I could swear I was looking at the door the whole time. I strain my neck trying to look behind me to where all the parents and teachers are seated in the chairs, but it is impossible to make out who is who. I settle it in my mind that I missed their entrance and then focused on waiting my turn and remembering not to slouch and to take slow steps, all the while wearing the best smile I could muster.
I have always loved prize giving days. Our people celebrate in such an animated way even for the smallest things. Most of these events I have been to have been characterised by loud ululating, dancing, running across the stage to give your child a hug. On one of my graduations, the Dean had to stop reading out names while a very proud Grandfather recited the whole praise poem of their clan! Another thing I have noticed though, is the virtual silence, or relative silence when there is no one in the crowd doing the same for you. However, on this first big day of my life, I am excited.
That was my cue.
I get up and do everything as I had practiced, carefully. There is applause and I think, surely this should make them proud. I receive my certificate and my book prize and take my place back on the floor. I cannot sit still any longer, my part is done. I just want it to be over so I can see mom and dad, see the pride in their faces. We are showing a play later on and I am the narrator- I really want them to see me in my element. The teacher says I am really good, I hope they think so too. I get lost practicing my lines until the ceremony is over, now we can get up and meet our parents. It is pretty crowded as I crane my neck trying to spot mine. Slowly, people move out of the hall as they find each other. The crowd is thinning, laughter rises as excited children find their parents and embrace. I still cannot find mine. I am one of the only people left inside. I walk outside thinking maybe I had missed them. My child’s heart beat is fast, not wanting to believe it, no, it cannot be. I keep looking outside and walk around the breezeway, amongst the mini reunited families. I keep looking but my heart keeps sinking as realise, slowly, that they did not come. It was my day and they did not come.
There is not much else I remember from that day except the feeling. The feeling from the message I got that day- you are not important. I felt rejected, forgotten. Vividly though I remember a sharpener, yes- a sharpener. In the breezeway there were tables set up with various items of stationery on sale. One item caught my eye- a bright green frog shaped sharpener. I really wanted it. I stood there and looked at it longingly and watched other parents buy it for their kids. For some reason it is that moment that hurt the most. Not that they didn’t see me get my prize, or narrate the play, or bring me a picnic like the other parents did. It is that I was alone and I did not get that sharpener. It is a cruel moment for me- standing in a sea of joy, alone with no bright green frog shaped sharpener.
I don’t know why I think about this moment as I walk home but the feeling is the same, almost déjà vu. I have lost him and this moment it feels like I am staring right at the bright green frog shaped sharpener I cannot have.