Kwame and I lived in the same neighbourhood. Our house was just a few blocks away from theirs. Our parents shared a strong bond which dated back to an ancestral union. We were birthed on the same day, except that he gave his first cry before I did. We were delivered in the same hospital, so there were a lot of stories told about our birth. They said my first cry like a cat’s mewl only succeeded Kwame’s by some thirty minutes. They said for some eerie reason our mothers exchanged babies for half an hour as both parents marveled at the little wonderful creatures we were. It was safe to say that we took every step of life’s journey together, our plans, carefully strewn together by Mother Nature. Such was the extent of the proximity I shared with Kwame; one which stretched far beyond the shores of normalcy.
Growing up I took a liking to Kwame. Well, I didn’t have to make a decision as to liking him. It just happened by nature. Retell has it that we spent our childhood years together, growing under each other’s amateurishly protective umbrella. Our parents in their own wisdom, enrolled us in the same school, on the pretext that, in their absence, there was no one best equipped to protect us than ourselves. So even as kids, Kwame always took with unbridled alacrity, the mantle of protection when circumstances necessitated it. He held my arms on our way to school and made sure I never toppled over any punctuations which greeted my way, he threw stones at whoever threw stones at me, and got his school uniformly most often than not, matted with blood stains as a result of fighting on my behalf.
This incomparable show of friendly love, would continue through later years as we made our way up the ladder of life. The same protection, which sometimes went overboard, ensued during our primary school, junior high school and secondary school days. I can vividly remember the beating he received from a bunch of guys in secondary school, whom he took on perfunctorily, for harassing me. After the debacle there were rivulets of rumours around campus, claiming that we were betrothed. The rumour, no matter how vague bore an element of apparent truth, because Kwame showed me so much love and care. Something which made his sister, Esinam, grow rightfully jealous of me. Later Kwame would explain to her why he did what he did to keep me safe and she would stop harassing me. Somehow there was a part of me which wished, I could have listened in on what Kwame said to keep his sister at bay. From that moment onwards his sister and I shared a very good bond—a feminine bond which I couldn’t share with Kwame.
On certain occasions when we returned home from school on vacations, we would do sleepovers. Kwame would sleep over at my place on Saturdays and I would sleep over at his place on all the remaining days but Sundays. Sometimes Esinam would insistently puddle herself in-between us. On those occasions Kwame would mumble strange words under his breathe but would forfeit to tell me when I inquired. He didn’t really take a shine to talking about his feelings. He had a wall carefully built, behind which, he stuffed most of the things he didn’t want to talk about. I knew it very well, so whenever I realized that he didn’t want to talk about something, I wouldn’t give in to the idea of probing further. I liked it when he unilaterally decided to talk about things with me. It made me feel an important part of his life. I loved that. In the midst of Esinam, Kwame would do things which his sister disgusted just to get her to leave. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. It was Kwame’s way of telling Esinam that he relished being with me alone--only both of us, dwelling in each other’s company. Sometimes when Esinam slept early enough, Kwame would wake me and take me out on a walk. We’d clutch our hands into each other as we watched the stars tumble in the sky in a beautiful oblivion. He’d purposely point to a stagnant star, give it a name and brandish me with that name. He would do all sorts of beautiful things which would make me wander off into the fairy land of Romeo and Juliet. I’d imagine him as Romeo and myself as Juliet, and think about all the lovely things they did together. Sometimes while talking he’d turn around and look me straight in the eye, his gaze ever so strong and unfettering, sending cold chills wheezing through me. A thick air of awkwardness would sweep in through us, snapping us out of our momentary reverie. Sometimes I would wish I were in his head to see which fairyland he chose to be in. I couldn’t stop myself from wishing he shared the same Romeo and Juliet fantasy with me. Honestly, I would die for him to share a similar fantasy.
One Saturday evening, I was supposed to go over to Kwame’s for a sleepover but my parents were at each other’s throats so I couldn’t go. I had to stay behind and make sure that they didn’t end up taking a stab at beating each other into a pulp. My father ended up zooming out of the house in dismay as my mother, tenderly and gingerly reverted to a corner and gave way to tears. I didn’t know whose fault it was, and I didn’t really care. All I wanted was for them to stick together. After thrusting the parental pandemonium behind me, I slipped on a black tank top and waltzed outside, sitting on the staircase which led to our door. No sooner had I taken a seat than Kwame showed up in the distance, his snow-white eyes glistening in the darkness. He was such a marvel to look at and his eyes were certainly the cherry on the top. I sighed, relieving.
Just who I wanted to see, I mumbled to myself.
He took a seat beside me and in a heartbeat, took my hand into his. He must have realized I was uncharacteristically down, because what followed up, was an avalanche of questions from someone who really cared about me.
Kwame: “what is wrong with you?”
Me: it’s just mum and dad, I will be fine.”
Kwame: you don’t look like someone who will be fine”
Me: yeah I know, but trust me when I say I will be fine.”
The sheer introduction of trust was enough to defeat his resolve. He gave in, though unconvincingly and begrudgingly. I knew that somehow he was dying inside to make sure I was fine, and I loved it. However it sort of felt like he did it dutifully and not caringly. He just poured a bucket-full of questions on me as though he owed it to himself and the world to make sure I was fine.
I didn’t want that.
I wanted to feel loved and cared for.
So I planned on asking forthwith, if he did it out of love or just because he found it a responsibility. But before I could do that, he turned around, squeezed my hand tenderly into his, and stared deeply into my eyes. All I could behold were his whitewashed eyes like a bathed sun. Every other thing blurred away as we held our gaze in a thick air of love and fantasy. I could have swum in his eyes. They looked so perfect, serving as the icing on the cake of very beautifully strewn facial features. My mind wandered off into a fairyland again. This time it wasn’t Romeo and Juliet and their romantic adventures, it was me and Kwame. I found myself lying cozily on a lawn of multifarious flowers, singing a serenade to Kwame, as he made calculated circles on my face with his fingers. Every now and then, he glided his hands down my body, caressing me at places of untold pleasures as I barely held onto the notes of the serenade, which I voiced, almost in a whisper. Still in the fairyland, I turned him over and lied on him beaming with excitement as my eyes made their way to his lips. They were a beautiful red pair which bore such obvious tenderness like a swan. He cupped my face in his hands sending an electricity shooting through me, blurring away every ounce of doubt I had about him, and thrusting me into a dimension of want and need. My lips prowled for his lips as I gingerly lowered my head, nuzzling his nose. He took me in, grabbing my lips with great ferocity and hunger as though he had waited all his life for that particular moment. Our lips made all the necessary conversations and said all the words that we couldn’t say. Our love was showcased by the sheer beauty of our bodies glided together as we both concocted strange words cladded with the tapestries of love. Then out of nowhere, reality nudged me out of my reverie. Kwame, reluctantly and after what seemed to be series of contemplation, walled his head to mine, our foreheads woven together as we exchanged premature breaths. I didn’t know what had gotten over him, and honestly, I didn’t care. All I wanted was his lips crashed against mine, turning my dreams and fantasies into a reality. So I probed my body further, trying to get him to kiss me but he held still, as if something was telling him to snap out of it. After series of failed attempts I gave up on trying to get him to kiss me and awaited his next move. But it never came. He held our foreheads clutched against each other as our breaths died down along with my passion and desire for his lips.
After the thick air around us had settled down and the nightingale had stopped humming its nightly lyrics in the distance, he broke away from me, leaving with it, a burning want I had prioritized since I learnt about my love for him.
In the wake of his not-so commendable act, his fingers found their way into his forest-thick hair, twirling, creating a string of unpresentable locks. Then his breathing increased, echoing through my ears, causing a feeling of worry to wash over me. I edged closer to him and inquired about his sudden change in demeanor but he didn’t mumble a word. All he could muster was an unconvincing nod. So I took the initiative and asked him, staring straightforwardly into his alluring eyes:
“You are getting me worried, come on tell me what is wrong?”
He reluctantly said, in a whisper which bored enough shards to pierce me from all cylinders of life, “I AM SORRY AFIA, WE CAN’T BE TOGETHER.”
Before I could ask him to repeat the words, he stood up and dashed into the darkness like a scared little bitch. I knew he was hurting, and that he couldn’t hurt me on purpose. So all I desired was an explanation but he couldn’t be brave enough to give me one. Instead, he left me lone like a lost dream. He left me shattered and torn and made off with the last piece of want I had in me—which was to be given an explanation for an abrupt end to a relationship which was only successful in the distant land of fantasy. In a heartbeat I garnered every remaining mote of strength I had in me and made after him, my heart trailing dangerously in front of me. I could have step on it and not feel a tinge of pain seeing as I was already broken and torn. As I run after him, dashing past hampers like a panther, an ocean of thoughts came flooding muffled with a huge pang of rage and sorrow coursing through me. I was numb. I could feel it but it didn’t stop me from running after him.
“Kwame please stop!”
I bellowed loudly as tears seethed through my words but all to no avail.
“Kwame please stop!” I shouted again, almost in an undertone as I was sapped off all the energy in me. But it was enough to make him stop. We both stood in our tracks, breathing deeply. He stood a few walks away from me. A few walks which had enough inscription to tell me that there was no way I could reach over to his heart again. The gap between us, as we stood in our tracks was the newly-birthed gap which would lie in-between us from that moment onwards.
“Kwame please don’t do this,” I pleaded as tears took hold of me.
“NO AFIA WE CANNOT BE TOGETHER, THERE IS NO CHANGING THAT,” he said dryly.
Those were the last words I heard as my heart flew open out of my body. He stood there emotionless as tears cascaded down my eyes to flooded streams. He really was breaking up with me. I couldn’t take it.
“It is either you or no one. I can’t possibly be with anyone after everything we have shared over the years. Kwame you own my heart. You own it all. Please don’t do this,” I pleaded tearfully but he wouldn’t budge. He just stood there staring unseeingly at the embers of wet leaves which laid on the ground while I bled out into a ravine of hurt.
“Okay then. Fine.” I said before taking off to a nearby open space where the earth was yanked into two and a fierce waterfall rustled noisily in the middle. I could hear him screaming my name from behind me, but it wasn’t enough to stop me. It was all over. The love we shared since our childhood years had been for nothing. We shared an incomparable love for the better part of two decades only for it to be stuffed into darkness on one night. The same night when my parents broke off. Maybe it was life’s way of telling me that no matter how protective Kwame was of me, I wasn’t ever good enough, I didn’t deserve any of the love I received. So I made it a point to end it all. I run until I got to the abrupt end of the earth overlooking the ravine of water, where I took a stop, stared backward to catch another glimpse at the king of my heart, and then threw myself into the welcoming arms of the valley of water and rocks.