Sometimes I sit on my bed and smoke, and think about the things I’ve seen and heard; think about life, basically.
A man once told me that I’m an idiot for not using my God-given power. I’d asked him for a smoke in a club and he looked me up and down while opening his cigarette case. Oh yes. An ornate thing, red and gold, with white cigarettes neatly side by side on red velvet(een) inside. He picked one up and I checked out his hands. Nope. Not my type. He handed it to me.
“You’re a typical woman. Not smart.”
I took the cigarette, intrigued.
“You’re a beautiful woman, you could get any man in here to give you anything you want, but you’re asking for a cigarette.”
I smiled at him, because he clearly thought he was telling me something I didn’t know.
And then I answered, after taking a sip of my drink, and placing the short glass back on the bar. Yes, the drink magically appears. Deal. I told him,
“What I want from a man, sex can’t buy, because what I’m offering isn’t something money can purchase. So, technically and potentially I could get any man to give me anything money can buy based on the monetary value we both place on my physical assets, except that’s not what I’m selling. What is the cost of a cigarette? A conversation in a bar. What do you get? To talk to a beautiful woman. A fair exchange.” I shrugged. He opened his mouth to speak but I’m yet to meet the man who can stop me in full flow.
“But getting to know me, really know me, and being known by me, spending time in my company and being loved by me? Money can’t buy that. And that’s what I’m looking for: the man who’ll take my loving in exchange for giving me his, another fair exchange.”
He’d been sipping his own drink as I spoke, and now he put it down next to mine, and held out a lighter. I cupped my hand around his and with the other put the cigarette to my lips and lit it. Then the conversation continued. He spoke first.
“You talk a lot. That’s why you’re single.”
I want to tell you about my birthday, because I know you’ll get it. We’ll laugh about it, about the deep pleasures of simple things, of being free; and then we’ll talk about freedom and try to pin down what it looks like. And then you’ll tell me that you’re free, and I’ll chuckle to myself and think -free your thinking. But I’ll not say that out loud because you know, I don’t want to go too deep, because you’re not ready. But I want to pretend you are. I’m ready for the dream to come true -you know it, we’ve talked about it, but yet you’re still not quite ready. It’s going to be a fantastic ride, and I would have been, too (but then you know that); I wish you could come with me. But ke, this is life, and in life shit happens. So I can’t tell you about what I did for my birthday, or discuss the finer points of freedom with you, you’re not here. You’re not here; perhaps you were a dream, a foreshadowing of greater things to come.
How I longed for your embrace.
Yearned and shivered,
Dreamt and quivered.
How firm and how sure your touch on my limbs,
Gentle and searching
Around the hidden places;
You pulling me over
And you pushing into me;
Sighs turning into moans
And the sounds of ecstasy.
You riding me and making me your own,
Taking pleasure and giving the same in return –
Oh how I longed for you,
How I loved what we could have been.
I examined the picture above and I had to admit that that is the image of a mature woman, a grown-up. It is clear that I’ve done all my growing.
I thought I’d be saddened by this especially since I’m currently struggling with other realities of aging (such as salt&pepper hair (you know where!) and stubborn jelly-belly), but the realisation that I am no longer a girl, that I no longer even look like one, and that therefore I can demand not to be treated like one, came at precisely the right moment. Two days ago I had the sort of day that at any other time would have been debilitating for one prone to depression like I am (triggers are real). Incredibly (and a part of me is disbelieving and wary of my response), instead of falling headlong into that dark place (Lake Depression) and sinking unresisting to the very bottom, I asked: heartbreak for what?
The truth, I realised as I examined that image (as one does #leothings), is that I’m grown. Surely the thirty-four Christmases I’ve seen have not failed to impart a few lasting lessons on love and loving?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (but this time with heartfelt meaning): it’s ok not to love someone back, not to want the fairytale trajectory they’ve mapped out, or to want it with someone else (it’s not ok to lie and pretend to buy into the dream, though. Not ok).
It’s ok not be loved back, even though it stings at first. The only alternative is to be lied to, and that’s not ok. Don’t worry, you’ll heal (again) and you’ll love (again). After all, love is the point of life.
It’s ok, it’s especially ok, to excuse yourself from the company of those who take you for granted, who demand emotional support but give very little in return, who treat you like you should be grateful when they spare you a few moments inbetween ‘things of great import’.
It is ok to walk away from situations and relationships that do not grow you. Life is too short to spend it with people who do not value you and have no room for you in their lives. Realise however that there are people who will choose not to have you in their lives in turn. Make no mistake: you’re neither martyr nor saint, just perfectly imperfect human.
It’s ok to hold people accountable for their words and their actions, on condition that you say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you’ll do, too, and offer sincere apologies when life happens. As it does.
It’s ok to admit that you were wrong, and to change your mind, and to allow new information to direct your actions: stagnation is opposite to human nature.
It’s ok to mourn missed opportunity and to weep over failed endeavours and to cry for what might have been.
It’s ok to cry for what might have been.
In the morning put on your game-face and tell yourself that you didn’t live this long and make the choices you’ve made, only to surround yourself with caricatures, imitations and holograms of love. Hold out for the real thing. It’s worth it. You’ll recognise it because you won’t have to beg it.
It hurt me, the thing you did, and left me with shallow’d breath;
You are still standing when for trusting you I am all but dead.
I know not how it was that your presence became the sun of my life
When mine was but the moon of yours,
Cast out and away into the silent dark
But anchored still with invisible cords.
Yet as the good lady and saintly from Norwich did put it:
T’is well, all of it, and doubly:
For if the ravages of life and time should a shadow put between us,
If you should forget my name
And remember no more what I am to you
Nor even what we might have been –
Better that the end come now than later;
That I not wait upon the humiliating push.
Though I must say my farewell I hope you’ll recall
That promise I made that night:
Never before were you so purely loved and never again shall you.
I loved you breadth and width and shadows all,
But you loved only you.
There was a sculpture in the Revenue Hall Gardens koBulawayo called Tired Man. I used to walk from wherever I was in town just to go and look at it. I’d be like -asihlangane eCity Hall, as if I ever had any business being anywhere near City Hall #saladthings. For some reason I always called it Thinking Man. I once got into a very long argument with my then boyfriend over it, because I corrected him when he called it Tired Man. Anyway, I was looking at that picture and trying to caption it for Instagram, and I remembered that sculpure.
Ah, the pain of loving that city. But that’s another story altogether.