The Doorway

They stood in the doorway with the sun coming in. Her leaning against the doormast with her hands in her jean pockets and looking outside into the distance. He had his arms crossed, back straight against the open door and one foot on either side of the entrance. He was looking down and breathing in slowly, intentionally.

Olanna, their (was she still ‘theirs’? who did she now belong to?) grey and black cat, gazed at them lazily from the table by the door. She was clearly confused by this seeming stand-off and what seemed to be tension in the air. She offered a few quiet meows to break the heavy silence to no avail and resigned to silence. She watched them silently.

He sighed heavily and opened his mouth to start apologising and she flashed her eyes at him so he snapped his mouth shut.

“Don’t. I am not sorry”, she said, trying not to sound as angry as she felt. She wasn’t angry at him. She was angry at herself, at life, at this moment for losing him.

He looked hurt nonetheless. He was desperate not to hurt her but he needed to go and it just… they both knew it didn’t work. Surely knowing was supposed to be better? Pulling the band aid quickly was supposed to be better right? Why didn’t it feel better? He bit his lip trying to find the strength not to cry. He could feel a sharp pain in his chest. It was all he could do not to gasp for air. She had described his love like a light that had shone on her scars and made her feel seen and whole even with her broken in full view. Seen. It was the first he had heard that at 1am that night as she dozed off in his arms and her braids on his chest. He did see her. It was easy to recognise the same hurt in another. Didn’t similar souls find shelter in the same places? Had our fathers not left the same mark? Yes, he saw her. The crying, the laughter, the joy, the expanse of love she so clearly held. To love her was to confront yourself uneasily, to debate what it meant to love so easily and to reevaluate what the hell it meant to love before this very moment. This is why this so fucking hurt. To say he was broken would be an understatement but this was necessary.

“I am trying…”, he whispered. She turned away from him slightly and took a loud breath in. In looking into the house she saw him all over their damn house. Fuck, not theirs. There wasn’t a theirs.

She understood what he was saying. Logically, clearly, she understood the words and what they meant. The story they told however wasn’t computing. How is this happening? How had she allowed so much feeling so that this moment, that had a part of her heart being cut open, could happen? Why was she so angry? This was so unfair. So deeply unfair, to have mined for this for so long only to have this moment. She held onto the doorpost to catch herself from feeling dizzy. Jesus, she wanted to hate him. Why couldn’t she just hate him? Why did he have to be the softest part of her heart?

“I know you are… I want you to be…”, she sighed the words out. Not having his voice around. His hiking boots no longer by the door. No more random rap music in the shower. Missing his smile as he dozed off. Losing the bad jokes that made her roll her eyes. The loss of the poetry of his words when he was overwhelmed by emotion and she smiled at him. Her eyes were filled with the tears of what this future would look like and it was cold. It was the loneliest she could imagine. This was heartbreak.

Olanna walked out into the garden and sauntered between them, through the door. She meowed again, bored by the seemingly lack of movement of these two. How was she to know the walls were falling in?

“I should leave”, he said firmly, uncrossing his arms and putting his hands into his shorts.

“Yes.” she said, despite everything she wanted to say. She was drowning in what she wanted to say. She had never drowned in an ocean like this.

Neither moved from the doorway and the dusk light was starting to come in between them. Finally a force makes him take another breathe and step out of this time warp. He stepped into the garden and, when the cold air hit, he realised his jacket was still inside their house (theirs? hers, his, the?). He decided he could get it when he came back with his boxes while she was out tomorrow. At this moment, he couldn’t go back. She was still leaning against the doorpost, looking into the oncoming darkness in the house. She didn’t want to cry in front of him. He walked down the path and looked back only when he heard the blue door close.

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Stretches of sea

Been reading a lot of Nayyirah Waheed and am playing with formats and wording and thought processes. I am in a romantic nostalgia these days. I don’t know how long it will last but am riding the daydreams, loneliness, sweetness and bitterness of it all so bear with me.


Stretches of sea

I do not think there were seas

Harder to traverse

.

Lonelier in their waves

.

Broken along the shores

.

Than the one that stretches between us now

.

Ships as different as day and night

.

Where your warmth is not next to mine

.

.

Where your laugh is a memory

.

.

Your hand is a ghost on my skin

.

.

And your kiss is a dream I once had…

.

.

I do not think there were seas…

.

.

,

That drowned me like this.

Comets

“That’s the thing about fathers, right?”

It was weird to talk about something so heavy here.

The weight of a father was deep.

There was something about it that defined you.

How you loved, how you hated,

The taste of your patriarchy.

 

He was staring up at the ceiling.

She stared at his jawline and watched him breathe.

Her braids on his chest.

A fan whizzed round on the roof.

He breathed in her scent.

His hands along her back as he contemplated.

 

“Even Okonkwo was destroyed by the fear”.

Even a man so blinded by strength was steeped in it.

How can two people be shaped so firmly by two different men,

Be lying here in this bed, wound by that singular grip.

Sometimes you wait for someone to see your pain.

Sometimes it is good for someone to kiss your scars.

 

He kissed her shoulder gently and held her.

She giggled at the touch, safe in his arms,

Talking about her father made her raw.

It broke her heart worse than anyone ever had.

Way before anyone ever had…

It was painful to have to  know this man played with the same demons.

 

“I have to leave soon”, he whispered.

She nestled into his chest and closed her eyes.

Her skin was beautiful in the light,

Her moans were musical, even her giggles were trilled the air,

She was soft to touch, honey on his lips.

He laughed as she moaned her desire for him to stay.

But flights wait on no one and he had to go.

 

“I’m going to hate not having you here”.

The patriarchal code for ‘I will miss you’.

“I had fun with you today”.

That stood for ’You made me feel safe today.’

More colonial cipher as the room changed heat.

More secret language came from their lips in goodbyes.

Their clothes became barriers and they stood further further apart,

And time told them that the midnight hour had struck.

 

He held her one last time and she was dizzy in his grip.

“Goodbye”, he smiled.

And as she shut the door behind him and placed her lips on the frame.

She whispered, ”Thank you for seeing me”.

She would never see him again.

Dear Loving

Dear Loving

This isn’t a break-up letter

I promise it isn’t

I am not capable of leaving you if I tried

It’s a ‘I need a break’ letter

‘I can’t do this right now’ kinda letter

This is the letter where I tell you that you are too much

That this is mostly me but also kinda you sort of letter

 

Dear Loving

 

I need to think about myself right now

I tried to hold onto you as tight as I could

I envisioned what you should feel like

I tried to conjure you into existence

So that you would hold my hand like I imagined

You would kiss my shoulder like I dreamt

That in some way you made me whole…

 

Dear Loving

 

I tried to wear you on my sleeve

I thought if I declared you to the world

Opened up, let you in and let you take over

I thought if I was effortless and free that you would embrace me

That you would do so soft and hard and strong and all at once

I thought that you would be there waiting

I thought you were what I needed…

 

Dear Loving

 

You consumed me whole

You burnt wild and I didn’t stop you

I thought that was how it should be

That my whole body and mind should be yours

That I needed to exude you at every moment

That I needed to drown in you in with every breath

That I needed to possess you…

 

Loving…

 

I couldn’t do it.

I have lost control.

I am no longer myself and float outside my own body

I look at it in anger and contempt

It is a foreigner to me, dark, slow, distant

I thought I could carry you and I couldn’t

I thought I could hold you and I failed

I thought you would hold me and you took over

My skin is scalded by you completely

My heart… my heart is so very broken…

It hurts softly like a wound on the mend…

 

Dear Loving

 

I am taking a break and starting again.

Loving, I need to be honest and take the journey back

I need to find the road that leads me to myself

The map that is etched in the scars you left on my back

The road that I allowed you to beat through my veins

I need to go back to when my body was my own

Loving, thanks but no thanks, I am taking my own path

Is your clothing political expression?

This is something I have been thinking about a lot. It was started by a conversation I had with Barbara Walker who posed the question to me – do I wear what I wear because I want to or because I have to?

I was astounded because I had to stop to think.  I wear a LOT of African print. I wear yellow headwraps, bright purple lipsticks, African print shirts, bright jewellery, dresses and trousers. I stick out, especially in certain spaces. I am a clearly dark woman, an immigrant and head to toe in bright print. I recently went natural so I have a teeny weeny fro and I wear huge bright earrings. If I were in Accra I would be underdressed (God bless West Africans) but in the London and Oxfords of the world I know I stick out.

“Why do you wear what you wear?”

So I took a step back. I had not always dressed this way. In fact in law school I stuck to darker colours, was convinced that yellow made me look darker. I feared that once upon a time. I didn’t want to look darker in South Africa – a country that has long issues with colourism. I was darker than most of my local female friends. It was the first time I was envious of my brother who was lighter than me, had unfairly inherited my mothers lighter skin. I became conscious that I was not skinny, I was not light and as such I dressed in blacks and greys. I wore baggy shirts. I didn’t wear lipstick because I thought it made my lips look big and I grew up in a home where single women who wore lipstick had a word attached to them. They encouraged good churchgoing men to sin and as such I struggled with the idea of make-up.

A mixture of things changed me.

Firstly, living in South Africa made me militant. I encountered racism for the first time in my first year at law school. Wait, let me be clearer. I encountered and understood what it was for the first time. It is shocking being a black woman and looking back at your life and realising that certain moments were racist, sexist, sexual harassment and assault and you didn’t actually know it… South Africa was the first time it was openly directed at me. It was the first time I realised it was institutional. It was the first time I realised what terms like ‘systemic’, ‘oppression’, ‘postcolonial’ and ‘decolonise’ meant. It was the first time I learnt the words for so many feelings and I was furious. I mean lie in bed burning at the injustice as any black radical at 18 years old feels. My skin boiled with anger and it was all I could do to stay calm when professors claimed black students were lazy and that’s why so many dropped out. Not because students were fainting from hunger in registration lines but because bursaries don’t pay for food. Not because they were given no support at institutions no one wanted them at. Not because they were forced to be educated in languages that were not their own in a country that was. The fact that there was only one black lecturer at a law faculty in a country where more than 70% of the population is black? Well we can’t help if the right applicants don’t apply, right? I was outraged and what was worse was I stayed silent. I was an undesirable in a country that set alight a man because he made the mistake of being foreign. Buses to Zimbabwe were regularly attacked in Limpopo. The safest thing you could do was smile when someone made a derogatory joke about Zimbabweans or when I was complimented on my English. You ignored if you were the only black person in a room. I was told if I learnt Afrikaans I would be safe from the xenophobic attacks. That’s another word I learnt. ‘Assimilate’.

The thing about oppression is you learn to assimilate. You learn to code switch. You make your words palatable to your oppressor. You camouflage. You change your name so no one remembers that this land you stand on still does not belong to you. You wear the same colours, speak in the same tones and toast with them every time you get a leg up. Biko warned about such spaces. Warned about assimilating and tone-policing as this is what allows white liberals to sleep at night. Because they have found a black body they can tolerate and for that you are rewarded. You are rewarded because your tones are not angry, aggressive or cruel like the other ones. Thank goodness for that! That meant no-one was angry. I remember asking one of my white friends when we would see racial equality in South Africa. She shrugged. She replied it would be a long road and we should all accept that it may not happen in our lifetime. She went further and said that if everyone would wait another 50 years then maybe we would see the South Africa we all wanted…

Fifty Years…

Just like that so calmly, an acceptance that myself, anyone who looked like me, my children and anyone who looked like them must just remain calm and police their anger until maybe their children could be free… For fifty years (ignoring how such a number was calculated because the equation must be hilarious). Can you imagine being told, in a calm air-hostess voice, while you drown, to stop making so many waves? “You are disturbing the other swimmers and a floatation device will be handed to you as soon as is possible but please kindly remain calm.”

So I became militant. I was in spaces where I was the good black, the right type of immigrant and in a space where being in law meant acting, talking and dressing in a certain way. I read everything I could about black consciousness. I taught myself that I was loved. I reminded myself daily that I deserved goodness. More importantly I realised that my entire existence was political. Not by choice. Privilege is the ability to do everything you wanted because of the freedom of choice and to be treated no different for it. Imagine that? Being treated as a human being separate from the political jigsaw a system of oppression had created. The black body I inhabit with its chosen gender and femininity meant that everything I did was a political choice. Where I work, what I wear, how I speak, who I sleep with. And I was in privileged spaces. White male spaces. Spaces where there were too few bodies like mine. Spaces where if you complained or spoke back you were told you are too emotional, too angry, calm down, you cannot be expected to be listened to when you act like this, you have to frame your words better… How did I want to operate? What was I ready to say or not say? What choices did I have to make?

“So do you wear what you wear because you have to or you want to?”

I wear what I wear because I am filling up the space I was told I had no business being in. I wear what I wear to make those spaces uncomfortable. My dress is my shield, my uniform, my expression of my feminine African blackness and a reminder to others of it. It is a reminder to myself to speak when I know I should and to be angry because my anger is bright orange and justified. A reminder that I should stay angry. It is my daily presentation of my authentic self. It is reminder that I am in spaces that dead white men in the ground and faceless people in boardrooms and Oval-like offices all over the world didn’t want me to be in. It is my celebration because everyday they have failed to kill me.

Softer?

She hated that she wanted to tighten the grip on his hand
She felt afraid, as though she was being stared at
He smiled at her, green eyes sparkling, joyfully called out to his friends
They surrounded her immediately
Welcome,hello! they cried,
She was overwhelmed in a flurry of people
They complimented her dress, her hair, her smile
She felt like she was being taken apart
She felt his grip loosen as he got swept into a sea of white
Her heart was in her throat as unknown women took her hand
This was a foreign place
She couldn’t breathe here in this ocean
People swirled around, music felt distant and her skin felt prickly
Like it was aware
Like it knew that there was no kinship here
Like it knew the history of blackness in these spaces
Like it remembered there were penalties for this
And it felt hot and her hair on edge
The talk around her felt distant and she tried to catch it.
She felt exhausted.

Do you find it less exhausting to date black men, a friend had asked once
She had to think about it
They lay on the college grass under starry skies
It was the talk of too much cheap wine
She knew the exhaustion of constantly explaining
Having to explain why she was followed around in stores
Why she cried everytime another black child was dead
At the hands of yet another white man
Having to explain that she had once hated her own skin
Because the world told her that there was only beauty in lightness
The exhaustion of blackness and womanhood was traumatic
It was a pain that drove her mother mad
It was something no one really explained to you
And she found a certain solitude in her black lovers
They shared her love of okra stew and oily plantain
Their skin was beautiful in the moonlight
Indescribably smooth and glowing to touch
They knew parts of her that were too painful to speak of
They had been broken in a way that made her weep
They could carry some of the anger
Even then…
Only some…
Do you find it less exhausting to date black men, a friend asked again
No, she answered,
Black men have never given me a reason to consider them my sanctuary, she said,
They have killed me too many times.

She was surprised by her feeling for him
He was tall and his red hair was distracting
It was a weird descriptor but it was
And it made him look paler than he was
He was beautiful though, with all his hair and beard,
Especially in the mornings
When he could barely open his eyes
Her friends would have said that he was ‘white white’
As white as the day is long, they laughed
What on earth do you have in common, they cried
She wondered as well
He couldn’t comprehend how she had grown up
He ran a restaurant, enjoyed cooking and biking
Talked to his parents about sex and politics
He was…gentle
Gentle in a way she could not get her head around
He pulled her to him in his sleep
Did so with intention
He hated if she slept too faraway from him
He reached out to her without warning
Kissed her deeply
In public, in private, in front of friends,
Without…warning…
She had become accustomed to warning signs
She had become accustomed to having to mine for affection
To having to dig through chasms of pain for it
She was so tired of having to earn touch
She was startled by how at ease he was
With how soft he was
He could share his struggles
What a privilege to be so soft
Her brothers had had the softness brutalised out of them a long time ago

She didn’t tell him that she was scared sometimes
The way he stared at her sometimes
The way he would play with her braids
Sometimes, even when he called her skin beautiful
A voice would whisper from nearby history
That is fascination, you know that, it sneered
Like you are a zoo animal, it said,
A creature he has never had the chance to play with, it whispers,
She has to drown it out
It whispers whenever she has to explain
It taunts her when people stare at them holding hands
She hated that she had to grip his hand so tight sometimes
That her skin felt hot as though her belonging was questioned

Have you dated a black woman before, she asked him once
They lay on his bed in his ‘minimalist’ room
That’s what he called his near empty room. Minimalist.
And I mean a dark skinned woman, she clarified
Dark like me she thought
Because it was different, her blackness was different
She didn’t know what answer she wanted
If no then…that was bad right?
If yes then…was it always black women?
Wasn’t that worse?
The trauma of committing this crime!
Of wanting to love while a black woman
It was damn tiring
You spent your life questioning
Nothing could ever be yours because you were you
He looked at her strangely and asked if it mattered
She sighed, tired, needing to find the words to explain
Again

Finally she felt a hand on her shoulder
She was starting to feel dizzy with all these people around her
She looked up and there he was
There was worry in his eyes
Like he had sensed that she was drowning
Let’s go outside for some air, he offered
She was thankful and she put her head to his chest
It was warm and soft
It smelt of quiet
And the voice felt faraway

#YouOkMan?

 

“Please talk to me”

 

His eyes were dry red and he covered his face for a moment before sitting up straighter and pulling away from me. His foot started tapping almost impatiently.

 

I could feel the wall rising. He glanced at me and I could see a fleeting glance of desperation before he stood up and walked away.

 

I was trying to control my voice: “Please, please talk to me. Please”

He wasn’t always like this. Walled up and angry. I used to wake up some mornings and he would be lying there watching me. The first time it had been hilarious, like he was curious as to how I could look so quiet sleeping. The next time, it was cute, like he didn’t mind that I drooled slightly in my sleep. After that… It had made me feel safe. It was perhaps when I had been happiest. Knowing I would open my eyes and in that brief quietest of moments with the rising sun coming through our ugly blinds, he would look straight at me with such openness and clarity.

 

He had said “I love you” first. I was surprised. Too surprised to answer the first time to be honest. His breath on my neck as he whispered it. I could hear his sharp intake of breath before he said it. As though he wasn’t certain that he should say it. What does this world do to our men? As though he was opening a door and was fearful for what it would look like once he did. I could feel the hot warmth in my chest. I was elated. I skipped around at home when we parted ways. This is what it felt like.

 

—–

 

I stood up and clutched my hands together, almost pleading. I watched his back. I loved his back, I would draw lightly on it with a finger as he slept. His dark black skin unbroken and strong as though a marked black body was the only way to show it had suffered the world.

“Please talk to me. My God, please”

He turned around and looked at me again. That’s the thing about loving someone. You know them. You know from their breathing whether they are joyous or grieving. You can tell from how their shoulders move whether they feel burdened or free. And I knew him. God, I knew him. I think I knew him better than even I thought I did. I had made the age-old mistake and had built our home in him. I had tied myself to him in a way I couldn’t describe. And as he stood there drowning before me, I could feel my own breath leaving. Being locked in that way cannot be right. I could feel his lungs filling up, blocking his words and steeling his shoulders. He was scared. He was scared and he couldn’t speak.

“Fadzai… I…”

Jesus, he never called me that. Only when we fought and this wasn’t a fight. In a fight, I had a fair chance because I could fight back! Fight for this, fight for us!  This felt like coming to the battleground only to discover that your ancestors had long lost the war.

He hadn’t always been like this. The first time he held my hand in his I knew. He hated public displays of affection. Most Zimbabwean men I knew did as well. As though only women were prone to the desire for the assurances of touch. It implied a vulnerability. It said you were weak to allow someone to be so close to you and that you were foolish to parade it. It said, most of all, – you were human, far too human. There was no benefit to being human in a world that stripped it away before any boy got a chance to decide what it meant.

It had been very casual, buying bread from a store. Suddenly as we walked back to the car he reached over right there in the parking lot as though he had always done so and just took my hand. Just like that. I had felt electricity in the touch, the press of his palm against mine, the heat from hand… You could tell he was fighting through how uncomfortable it made him. His shoulders, which usually rolled like waves as he walked, were stiff and squared. As though he was daring anyone to question the act. I smiled like a two-year-old. He was holding my hand. Something the couples on TV that didn’t look like us made look so easy, was a victory to me. I kissed his hand and smiled.

Lately he had been like this. He spent more nights away then he did at home. He was moody and angry, slamming the tiny fridge door and never speaking in full sentences. He slept with his back to me when he was home. When he did sleep. There had been nightmares, tossing in his sleep like he was running from something. Most nights I would hear him pace the floor of the tiny kitchen in the next room. He had been agitated, like a trapped animal trying to fight off something stronger than he was. He had avoided my glance. I caught him staring out the window not moving several times, his eyelids twitching – as though he was searching for something and could not find it. Sometimes he would squint as though the light was too bright. I no longer saw that beautiful look when I woke up at dawn. Just his back which I had always loved. This from the man who used to joke that our tiny bed was too big because he wanted me by his heart as he slept. I couldn’t remember when he had last held me.

And now he was standing by the window in our home and he was drowning and I was too faraway to help him. I didn’t know how to.

I tried again, I was near begging at this point, I could not stop the tears by now.

“You are hurting and I can feel it and I don’t know what to do. Please tell me what to do”

“I just… I just…need you to… stop”, he whispered, “I can’t… urrrghhh shit.”

I was trying not to panic. I was trying to understand. If this was a break-up why did it feel like he was pushing me away rather than just leaving?

“Ok, I can give you space if you need space”,I said,” I just… can you help me understand? What, what can’t you tell me? Please let me help you”

He looked right at me again and this time I was certain. I could feel it. The setting sun came through the window into our almost empty flat. We had been ecstatic when we bought the table and chairs. We decided against a couch because the space was too small. We declared to the world that we were going to build our dreams at that table and we had stood there looking at the afternoon sun on it’s cheap wooden surface as though it’s light was a blessing of our future.

The room was colder now. His figure filled up most of our window and the yellow-orange of the setting sun was struggling to shine in around him. I could barely see his face by now, hidden in shadow. I was barely breathing. All the windows were open but the air was too heavy and the blaring traffic felt like it was muffled.

“I wish I could… I wish I could talk to you…”he said.

His voice broke, almost as though he were going to cry. I rushed forward. Perhaps the most honest thing he had said so far. I just needed to tell him that he could talk to me! I was his partner, I would bear the load with him, was this not what women like me had done for the longest time? Had I not learnt this from my mother and her mother before her and her mother before that? As soon as I moved towards him, his eyes clouded over. He moved closer to the window and he was now a complete shadow against it. His hands up, as though I would hurt him, stopping me in that frightful pose. I froze and the panic was overwhelming. His back straightened and his shoulders squared. He looked away and when the figure looked back I didn’t know who it was.

 

“I will take a few things with me now. I can come back for anything else another time”.

 

He moved towards the bedroom. Our bedroom. I stood there in the darkened room, trying to understand what was happening. He walked back out with a small bag in hand and he looked through me from across the room.

 

“I will call you later. I just…I just need to go” and he was gone.

 

Just like that.

 

It was dark outside now. I didn’t move. My legs fell away under me.

 

Just like that.

A Love Letter

To my body

I wanted to write you a love letter. I wanted to gush about how I have always adored you. A long Shakespeare-like-feel with talk about the night sky, constellations on your skin that twinkle when you move in the light…

I had all the right words but I opened this page and I struggled. I struggled for weeks and was angry at my failure to honour you… Then I realised what was so wrong with my sudden desire to write you a love letter. What was so deeply wrong with writing you a letter expressing my adoration when that had not always been the case. I had not always loved you. I had in fact hated you several times. Who was I to express love when I had not asked for forgiveness for what I had done? How do I even begin to ask you to trust me when I am unwilling to admit the wrongs I had done?

So let’s start from the beginning. I am sorry I hated you in school. I know that is meant to be normal  but I don’t think it should be. I thought you were too tall and clumsy. I hated that I had to wear a bra so early and I felt like my body wasn’t my own. When the tennis instructor stared at me, his eyes drooped low and clouded with an intensity I didn’t recognise at the time… that hot day on the court and I even remember the blue Mazda that drove by on the nearby road. My shorts were too short, too tight, too much of my thigh showed… My 12 year old brain only knew the danger of such a look and did not comprehend where the blame really belonged. As soon as the lesson was over I ran home and I didn’t go back. I couldn’t explain to Mama why. I blamed you because I had been told that it is the fault of women when men lust. When they look at you that way… I blamed you for how you had rushed to womanhood and I had not been given the chance to catch up. I blamed you because your change felt like I was being thrust into danger and that look… that look scared me even if I didn’t get it. And it was never your fault and I am sorry I thought it was. It was always his and has been since the beginning of time.

I am sorry for that day in undergrad when they made us do that residence initiation. That awful day when they made all the young women line up so the men from the other residences could pick who they could ‘escort’ to campus (oh yes, the madness of University of Pretoria, an Afrikaans stronghold). The day when I was 1 of a few black women in a sea of white women waiting to be picked as though it was an honour. The embarrassment of having man after man after man after man after man AFTER MAN brush past me. They barely glanced or met my eyes. They didn’t even see you. They wouldn’t even see you! I was ashamed and I despised you. The first time I truly hated you. You were too dark, not skinny enough, too much thigh, too much breast, too much hip, knotty hair… I cried that night in a foreign country into the blanket my grandmother had given me. I was hurt and angry I was hurt at what felt like something so stupid. And I blamed you. I am so so so so sorry I blamed you. I held this against you for so long and I had no right to. You who had done nothing wrong in a world that was entrenched in anti-blackness and sexism, you were the victim and I didn’t know better. I know better now. My coming to blackness moment was slow and you suffered the worst of it.

I am sorry for every man I let near you that had no right to even breath the air around you. I confused intimacy and desire with fulfilment for a long time. I assumed that if I was desired then I would be fulfilled. What that meant was that there those that should never have touched you that I allowed to. There were those who went on to hurt us because I sold you in hopes of something I could not even name. I did it time and time again and for that there are no words… You are as deserving of desire as anyone else and I am learning that. I am learning to have your consent before I open those doors. Learning to find joy in your desire and satisfaction.

Lastly, I am so proud of you. Proud that you demanded I take better care of you. Proud that you have awed me time and time again. Every time you lifted yourself up the pole. Every time you sweat through a spin class. Every time you wore something because the colour was electric on your skin. Every time you walked away when you knew it was not the burden our soul had to bear. Proud that you would insist that you were more deserving than the treatment I gave you.

And that’s why I love you. Not because there are no stars comparable to you or that your skin glows in the moonlight under an African sky. I love you because this world tried to scar you and you fought back. I love you because you are dark and tall and too much thigh and too much ass and too much hip and clumsy and uncomfortable in the bra most days and sweat like crazy when you climb stairs. I love you because finally seeing you has brought a peace and calm to me that only real love can bring. A peace and calm I thought was meant to come from another and I am humbled that I found it in you.

That is my love letter. The first of my reparations. The promise for better.

Yours

Fadzai

All the women in me are tired – Nayyirah

Damn.

She stood up again. Angry. She felt trapped, suffocated, pacing her room. There was an animal in her chest. She rushed to the window and opened it and was reminded how cold it was. She hadn’t been able to write in weeks. No…it was months now. She stuck her head out and clenched her fists till her knuckles hurt. This was too much. This was awful. Like she was ill.

She turned back to her desk and stared at the screen again. It was blank. Had been for the longest time. At first she had told herself that she was merely spent from her previous writing spells. She HADN’T BEEN WORRIED. Then the itch came. It was hard to describe. It was like… like a tickling in her chest. Like it wanted to feel air. Whatever it was , it was hungry sometimes. It happened haphazardly. That’s how she knew she wasn’t a writer. A real writer. Writers wrote with a commitment and consistency that she couldn’t muster. She lacked the discipline and the desire. Her writing was a desperate escape. It was better than wine sometimes… The Tickle came at very specific times. When her grandparents died within a year of each other. When her father almost went blind. When they stole the breath from another father on the sidewalk. When they took that other father’s life in front of his child. When her lover left her. When she nearly lost her brother…

She shut her eyes and shook her head. Maybe she needed a walk. Yes, didn’t they say inspiration came to those who walked? Or something else equally stupid. Just take a walk. That was the idea. With determination she grabbed her coat and pulled her cap on.

When the Tickling had gotten worse in her chest a few weeks ago she had sat down and nothing had come. Again she hadn’t worried. Not really worried. She had too much going on. Work was stressing her out. He had been fighting with her. Ignoring her calls. Pushing the knife into her side daily. It had been a bad time, that was all. She had pushed past it. She had gone out running in the mornings, stayed later at the office, filled her bed with pillows so she wouldn’t think about emptiness and told herself that as soon as the words were ready they would come out. They always did.

Now she was standing in the street. She was breathing too hard. She was trying to breathe around the ever-expanding lump in her chest. Walk, just walk. She turned left and walked; faster than the peaceful pace she had hoped she would achieve. She had not been peaceful in a while. She had feigned peace. She had forced it out when asked. She had ensured it was an impeccable façade. An award winning act her mother had taught her before she could tie her own shoes. No-one has a right to your tears, said maternal whispers. Some of her most brilliant performances of Peace made her cringe with how well she had done them. Her Act on Heartbreak had been her best work. Even when she literally felt physically ill from his absence, she had thrown parties, gone on dates and even taken on extra work. Is that not how one copes? She could not afford to cope in any other way. Could any black woman? Did they give out those permission slips to people who looked like her? Was there space for that? Can you imagine if all the black women were to unload? Where would it be held? The anger, the joy, the sadness, the weariness. What oceans would take it? Which shoulders would bear it? Her second best performance, Desperate, was marred by the occasional drunken slips she had made where she had been caught tearing at the seams. Otherwise, no one would have known how bad things were at home. How the family was barely speaking to each other. How they barely slept because they were so frightened of what was to happen next. The whole world was frightened. Nothing was really quite right, was it? Everything was burning. The world burnt.

“Watch where you’re going!”

She halted to a stop and a red faced man stared down at her, scowling at her. She apologized profusely and was met with a dirty look of disapproval as he angrily brushed by. Like she did not belong there. There was tons of space on the sidewalk. Yeah, she was preoccupied but he could have JUST moved. Why did she always have to accommodate? Why did she always have to move out of the way? Why was she the one who always always always had to give. Why was she so damned preoccupied!? She turned around and stomped home.

Back at the desk. This damn desk. The thing in her chest felt like it was actually moving. Like it was fighting to strangle her.  She hadn’t slept properly in weeks. She felt like she was on the edge of tears every time she took a breath. She missed home. She kept dreaming of it. She missed the feel of her mother’s hand on the back of her neck. The way her mother held her when combing her hair. How much light the living room had been filled with at dinner. The smell of her father’s favorite tea. The smell of the spring flowers in her bedroom. Her room. Her room here was too quiet! She stared at her screen and typed angrily. The keys loud with how furious she was:

WHY DO YOU DO THIS!????’

She stared at the screen, even angrier. She could feel the first hot tear on her cheek. Oh Christ. She typed furiously some more. Hyperventilating in desperation. Desperate and click and desperate and click and desperate.

 

Why do you keep doing this!

When your well is dry

When your mine has been looted

Your stolen lands laid barren

Your silver silos emptied

By the men you opened your doors to

By the world you thought to carry

 

‘UUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHH!’ she sucked in loudly and sat on the floor. Her hands were shaking slightly but she could feel something different. The animal in her chest at that moment wasn’t moving. IT WASN’T MOVING. Her breathing was still loud, her chest still heaving but for two seconds she could breathe around it. She shut her eyes tight. No, she would not. She could not. If that’s what it wanted she would not give it. The sacrifice was too high if that was the price to keep that beast asleep. She wasn’t committed enough. She wasn’t willing enough. To put on paper that… it was too much to ask.

She didn’t want to write about how tired she was. About how hurt she was. About the anxiety that slithered in her chest. About the weariness she felt in the world. About the lives that were being taken. About her own loneliness. Her homesickness. About how guilty she felt to feel what she felt when she did not live it. She shut her eyes tightly. She forced herself to try breathe. She stood up and leaned over the desk. She closed the screen with deliberateness; the most steady she had been all day. No, she would not. It stirred in her chest again. She wiped her face. A walk. She would go for another walk. Perhaps to the park this time. Maybe call someone for coffee. Talk about something… something that wasn’t the ache in her chest. She felt it scratch against her ribs, waking up almost. It was fine. Eventually she probably would not notice it…

On BeingSingle

​*took this from a status update I did that several people seemed to relate to so I thought I would save it here.* 
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As part of my usual FB oversharing, got slammed in the face with these two articles by The Get. (on a Monday morning y’all, when I was trying to be great).
I have been single for almost 4 years now. I shouldn’t have to caveat this conversation with I am fiercely independent but I am. I am on a wonderful journey of self-love and self-care, I know this. I am in a place that 2010 Fadzai never thought she could be. A confidence in myself, my body and my abilities that I have never had. But I don’t think I have ever understood how fucking difficult and impactful it is to be single. No, this isn’t self-pity. 
It is the realization that the language of my love is touch and there are occasions that other than the hug from friends I get sometimes, I can go months without being held or touched or kissed. It is the knowledge that if I did’t come home one day it would be hours later before anyone realized that I was missing. It is the knowledge that when I have had a horrific experience or something amazing happens that I actually have to think about who to call. Who would desperately want to be the first one on that list. Yes, I have friends. I know this but shit, its not then same. I have been blessed with friends who had become the emotional support structures that even previous intimate relationships completely failed to give me. I know that I am never really truly alone… But it isn’t the same.
And I have made the choices sometimes of opening myself up to men that deep down I knew were not worth-it or wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if I was found in a ditch somewhere the next day just to satisfy the burning desire of having someone around even if momentarily. And have forced myself, like an addict, to focus on not doing that and having to breathe through the heaviness in my chest at it sometimes.And starting again. 
And society spends all its time telling you to work on yourself. Provide for yourself. Love yourself and you will be fine! Be your own cheerleader! Push yourself down the road of excellence! Imagine how much stronger you are for having been single! Shut the hell up. As though I were not good-enough. As though relationships fall into the laps of only the perfect. Well they don’t because my friends are great but they are not perfect and I watch the stability and balance their partners give them and I go home and do yoga and watch Netflix and remind myself that I am complete and I am whole and I am enough. And yes, I am ALL of those things. I wouldn’t be out there dating and disregarding fuck-boys if I wasn’t. But its also hard and I miss the privilege (yes, THE PRIVILEGE) of knowing that someone existed who could make touch incidental to my life or who could make being held as normal as the water coming out of my tap or sits and wonders as part of their routine whether I am whole and I am happy. I miss giving that to someone and the way I am, full of so much, it is almost like drowning in how much I am… Being single is hard.
http://www.candicebenbow.com/blog/singleblackwomen
View at Medium.com