I remember my first real heartbreak. I say real because before then, I hadn’t really dated seriously. And by seriously, I mean the deliberate act of getting to know a member of the opposite sex with possible long term implications. It was first year of university. We ran in the same circle. I’d had a crush on him forever and I never ever thought he’d notice me or think about me like that. For those of you who remember, I wasn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing then, haha!
He was nice, I remember. That always struck me about him. In the midst of guys drunk on testosterone and the freedom that came from transitioning from the restrictions of boarding school to free living in Molyko (the neighborhood my university was located in), he had managed somehow to maintain a sense of self possession and basic decency. He lacked the arrogance that was the hallmark of boys from his alma mater. He was gentle, easygoing, full of good humor. He was good-looking in that dark chocolatey kind of way…and you all know I love my 86%. I was a goner.
Anyway, I did everything right. At least I think I did. I made it obvious I was into him without coming on too strong. I found every opportunity I could to be around him…which was relatively easy, we hung in the same group. I laughed at his jokes, engaged him in conversation, made eyes, flirted. My friends knew… heck everyone knew. I’d get teased by my female friends and he by his guy friends. It was awkward in that half sweet, half embarrassing way. Deep down, I didn’t think he’d ever reciprocate. He was (and still is) quite a looker and didn’t lack for girls who would have loved a chance to be the special one.
But then he made a move.
I was ecstatic. He’d made a move towards me. Towards ME! It was like a dream come true. I don’t remember the specifics, but the dynamic changed. We were now an item. And it felt good. Good to have someone – someone I actually liked. I had dreams of how we’d get closer, get to know each other better. Maybe become one of those couples who stuck together through the three years we’d spend at uni. The ones who went to “nights” and parties together. Walked to and from class together whenever they could, maybe coordinate outfits for important occasions. The ones everyone looked and thought “Massa…e remain make them marry…”
I had dreams…
So I was completely blindsided when a week after we became an item, I sat in the moonlight on the stairs of the path that led from our school’s central administrative building towards the campus restaurants, blinking back tears and wondering what the hell had just happened. See, it had started out as a walk in the moonlight (see nice right?!) and we’d sat down to talk. And he’d told me. I’ll not go into what he told me but bottom line he didn’t want to continue our thing. I was stunned. My first instinct had been to question what I had done to make him change his mind. But then, it had been ONE WEEK. I hadn’t even had the chance to do anything. He’d gone into his reasons for ending things. Speaking with a brutal kind of honesty I had not thought possible for someone our age. He had laid himself bare, basically given me ammunition to retaliate against his betrayal if I had wanted to.
I actually till this day still admire his honesty. He surely had known what he was about to do would make him look like the asshole of the century (one week in…who does that?) But he’d known in his heart that the relationship was not what he wanted and he’d said so…as gently as he could, apologizing profusely, hoping I wouldn’t hate him. And I didn’t. I did feel betrayed, used even. But also relieved. Because I knew then even as I know now, that it could have gone another way. See, he could have sat quiet and the next couple of months could have played out like this:
- He could have gotten distant, you know, found reasons not to be around me or talk to me.
- He could have made the time we spent together feel like a chore – an item he had to tick off the to do list of his very busy life.
- He could have stopped trying to get to know me as a person. I could have become uninteresting, just another girl, a nuisance.
- Any comment I made on his behavior would have been turned around to seem like I was demanding too much too soon. Or insecure. Or just nagging. Or just being a bitch.
- He could have openly flirted with other girls or carried on as though there wasn’t a girl in his life who might feel uncomfortable or disrespected.
- He could have made being around him so unbearable I felt like I had no choice but to end things. That way, the responsibility would fall on me and not on him. I’d be the break-uper, not the break-upee
But he didn’t. Instead, he took me out for a walk in the moonlight (and effectively ruined my association of moonlight walks with romance) and told me he didn’t want to continue. And through my hurt, through my confusion and anger, I found respect for him and respect for myself. Because you see, while I sat there in the bright moonlight, the crisp Buea night air filling my nostrils, as I struggled to control the raging emotions inside of me by breathing slowly,I asked myself this question:
“Why should I want to be with a guy who obviously didn’t want to be with me?”
And the answer?
So I told him it was OK. That I understood.
And I really did.
That experience has stayed with me since then (I must have been around 17 or so). And every time I find myself in the aftermath of a failed relationship or any other dynamic that hasn’t worked out, I ask myself if I’d been honest with my feelings. And if the person had been honest with me. And then I ask if that was a situation I should have wanted to stay in.
The answers are not always clear cut. But the simplicity of this guy’s honesty and maturity…which really was ahead of his years for the time, continues till today to inspire me to strive for that kind of simplicity.
So, thank you dark chocolatey, cute, brave and gentle boy from back then.
You taught me a precious life lesson.
In response to “Easy” Thank you Viola!
“You live in a fantasy world. One you created for yourself. One where things go according to rules that make sense only to you and you behave accordingly. To us here in the real world, your behavior makes you look crazy. Desperate. Cheap. Easy.”
The word ran through her mind over and over again. A condemnation. An accusation.
It was really strange as people tend to want things to be easy. No one would willingly chose a more difficult path if an easier path was available offering the exact same reward. Presented with an easy and difficult exam, job, task, with the same outcome, everything being equal, most normal thinking people would choose the easy one. Even the laws of nature are biased towards easy. Atoms, after all, always seek to achieve the lowest energy state possible and will do whatever needs to be done to get there…high entropy, low energy, perfect disorder.
It really should, and could, be easy.
It certainly had been easy that afternoon. She’d come back from work, tired, Tired but wired with what she knew was unspent sexual energy. She’d stripped out of her clothes and lay spread eagle on her bed in nothing but her bra and panties, letting the cool breeze from her open window wash over her skin. It was hot outside, but she didn’t turn on the air conditioning. She liked the humidity – liked how it lay on her skin almost like a lover’s carelessly thrown arm. A warm weight, no less sensual for its innocuousness. Her eyes drifted shut and instead of indulging in one of her fantasies which inevitably would have led to orgasm, her mind conjured up his face. Almost instinctively, her lips curved into a smile. She couldn’t help it. The things she felt for him had come easily. And she’d let them come. Even now, the swelling in her chest, the hesitant hope, so different from the cynicism that was her hallmark had come easily, despite herself. The moistening in her loins came the same way too. Easy. She chuckled.
Her phone had buzzed, the sound loud in her quiet room. It was an email from work. She scanned it quickly and after determining it was nothing that needed her immediate attention, she flagged it for review later. She swiped out of her email and did her customary social media check. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Nothing new. Double click, swipe up. She closed app after app which she’d left open on her phone, apps which ran down her battery. It was an old iPhone which barely could hold juice for two hours without dying. The last app was the camera. She couldn’t remember why she’d opened it but instead of swiping up to close, she clicked on it to open.
Send me a picture. His demand from the night before echoed in her head. She’d declined then as she had the first time he’d asked. And the next. And the next. As she’d always done. The thought of that kind of picture of her in the hands of another person was too unsettling to contemplate. She’d told him that and he’d stopped asking eventually. But things had progressed…or so she thought. Now she wanted him to see. She wanted to share. She lifted the phone up and snapped. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then checked. She shifted position to get a better angle, then snapped again. She repeated the process till she got a catalog. Different poses. Different views. All communicating the same thing. All showing her just as she’d imagined they would. As she had feared they would. Open. Vulnerable.
She sent them.
It had been that easy.
The next time he’d asked, she had acquiesced. Easily.
As time had passed and things had become more intimate…or so she thought, the ease had grown.
“You shouldn’t have made it so easy. No man wants easy. You should have made him work for it. Made him feel like what he was getting is of high value. That is just how men from our side are. If they think it’s easy they’ll treat it as such. Easily gotten. Easily disposable.”
This line of thinking had always puzzled her. Why the need to make a man see her value, if he didn’t have eyes to see that value for himself in the way she lived her life? And if he didn’t feel like what he would be getting was of value, why would he pursue? Was she or any other woman valuable because they created the impression of being valuable? Or because of desirable intrinsic qualities whose value was not contingent on accessibility? What was the real attraction? The unique qualities both good and bad, that made her who she was? Or the idea that she was not easy to get? Which really was a mistaken assumption. She was easy, laughably so. But to the right person – or who she believed to be.
What then if the aura of unavailability hid emptiness, boredom, vapidity, shallowness? Was the high value maintained because it was presented as valuable and hard to get?
And if that value had to be created and maintained with carefully chosen words and actions, at what point would it be fine to relax and be messy old self, without the risk of losing value? Where then, did the idea come from that love, the ultimate expression of the value you place on another, meant acceptance of that other, for who they are…not for who the make you believe they are?
And what about when, after the acquisition of the valuable was complete, and then the opportunity to pursue something else valuable – as defined as hard to get – presented itself?
What ultimately was held in high value? The creation which may not reflect reality? Or the reality, which like mother nature herself, simply might just want the lowest possible energy state?
And why treat people like objects? Possessions?
“I say these things to you because I care about you, but you will not listen to me. You are my friend and you have stuck with me through my own rough times. No one will tell you the truth about guys like I will, because I am a guy like them. I don’t want you hurt. But the path you have chosen, the way you want to live your life, the way you give yourself when you like a guy, will result in you being hurt over and over again, because most guys will just not get it. They will not get you. The society we live in will not get you and you will get hurt because of that. You will end up with the reputation of being easy and cheap even though we both know you are not.”
She heaved a heavy sigh. Resigned.
She gave freely. Always had. Probably always would, with the enduring hope, that the chosen the receiver would not only see the fancifully wrapped gift, or get lost in notions of value, but would see the heart of the giver. Her intentions. Simple. Uncomplicated. Easy
Because she was.
And that was OK.
Because things should be. If they could be.
Photo Credit: bebeautifulla.tumblr.com