‘i need your help. i am not sure why i am asking. but why all the lies all these years? what did i ever do to you? what did i do to you that would make you be that hateful towards me?’ he put the earphones on and listened as annie lennox sang:

how many times do i have to try to tell you

that i’m sorry for the things i’ve done

but when i start to try to tell you

that’s when you have to tell me

hey… this kind of trouble’s only just begun[1]

the messages had come in in three instalments just between 21:57 and 22:00, but he only saw them at 03:45 in the morning. they had been trying to reconstruct their broken relationship, and things were going tetchily okay until these texts came in, and the elation he felt chatting with her earlier that day came crashing on his congested head as he lay listening to a song he had wished he wouldn’t ever have to listen to again. he recalls how things came to be as annie sang:

i tell myself too many times

why don’t you ever learn to keep your big mouth shut

that’s why it hurts so bad to hear the words

that keep on falling from your mouth

falling from your mouth

falling from your mouth

tell me…

why

why

+

“i don’t think you and i will ever work out – you’re too emotionally retarded.” he watched as her mouth mouth the words, but didn’t understand what she was going on about. the cogs in his head were churning, nothing was happening – he was still processing the conversation from one hour before.

“i am sorry if i sound harsh, but you just kill my spirit each time we interact. it’s like you’re not stupid but dim-witted.” he smiled. he was trying to listen to music on his phone, as he is doing right now, but she was drowning the music with her constant uninterruptable tirade.

“there’s a difference between stupid and dim-witted?” she didn’t hear him. she was going on about her sisters, some ludicrous story about getting into a fight over some man, how the police showed up, and in spite of the presence of blood, the police just told them “sort this out.” she was going on about escapades with her sisters, her mother and family members he hardy knew. she was going on about how she has ocd.

“you have ocd?” she didn’t hear him. the flies were buzzing around in the stuffy apartment partying on leftover food, torn-worn ill-matching socks, glasses with dried up juices, and anything else that hadn’t been put in place for the last three days.

“i’m always arranging things but my sisters are always throwing things around. i don’t know what they will do without me.” a fly buzzed close to her running mouth. he increased the volume of the song playing, she increased the volume of her tirade. she adjusted herself on the sofa, knees into her chest, leaning forward, grinning and constantly pushing her fritzy hair back as she continued her narrative. the day was darkening fast. it was winter. he had heard this series of stories before – many times. he knew what she was going to say thirty minutes into the story – it was like she had crammed the stories and recited them uninterrupted, no matter what he was trying to say, do or listen to. she was like a child in a sound-proofed bubble. she was staring at him but her brain and mouth were not acknowledging him. it was like staring at a live screen-saver.

+

‘hey where has this come from?’ he had texted back.

‘from the realization that everything i’ve ever doubted is as i thought it was.’ annie is serenading his wounded cortex with lyrical pain:

i may be mad

i may be blind

i may be viciously unkind

but i can still read what you’re thinking

and i’ve heard is said too many times

that you’d be better off

besides…

+

“there’s a difference between stupid and dim-witted?” he asked again trying to break the story up.

“yea. stupid means you have no idea. dim-witted means you have all the facts but still can’t process them, at least not at normal speed.” he sat back waiting for her to process the information she just gave him. she was still in screen-saver mode. she continued her story about her sisters and mother … he got up and started to dance.

“are you bored?”

“me? nope. why?”

“you are dancing. reminds me of this time my sister’s boyfriend came to visit. he was here for about three hours and they were just talking and laughing all the time. i wonder what she thinks of us because you’re always quiet.” she laughed and launched into another narrative about her mother. annie is rewinding his memory pains-takingly:

why can’t you see this boat is sinking

(this boat is sinking this boat is sinking)

let’s go down to the water’s edge

and we can cast away those doubts

some things are better left unsaid

but they still turn me inside out

turning inside out turning inside out

tell me…

why

tell me…

why

“do you think we will ever work?”

“i don’t think so.”

“really. shem! but why?” she asked perfunctorily.

“to you a relationship is a contest. i can hardly share anything with you because i have come to realize you are not interested. you’re more interested in what others have than what we have.”

“me. not interested. ao! that’s harsh.” she laughed. “but you know my mother says that all the time. there was this time we were at a braai and she and my sister were analyzing me as usual and she said ‘wena, my daughter, you live in your own bubble’” she laughed.

“they are always analyzing me.” he laughed. he sat back down. she leaned forward, stared at him – a smile on her face. how come annie read the book in front of him so well:

this is the book i never read

these are the words i never said

this is the path i’ll never tread

these are the dreams i’ll dream instead

this is the joy that’s seldom spread

these are the tears…

the tears we shed

this is the fear

this is the dread

+

he rereads her next texts: ‘it probably doesn’t matter now but i had a moment where i felt like i’ve been sleeping next to someone i didn’t know at all … i don’t wish that feeling on even my worst enemy.’ his response had been swift:

‘this is rather harsh. hopefully one day you will come to understand what you truly mean to me. i have resolved to let time be my judge.’

+

“whats wrong?”

“nothing. just trying to joke. you seem down.”

“i don’t feel too good.”

“really? what’s wrong?”

“don’t know.” she got off the sofa, opened the small fridge in the living room and brought out a pack of packaged fruit salad.

“i got this for you. i was at the shops with my sisters and they asked what kind of things you eat, i didn’t know what to say.” she laughed. he laughed, and changed the song.

“so i got you this.”

“what’s in it.”

“it’s a citrus combination – oranges and grapefruits mainly.”

“i have anaphylaxis.”

“what’s that?”

“allergy to citrus.”

“really? shem! so what fruits do you eat?”

“everything else basically.” she opens the pack and starts to eat the content.

he rereads the last two exchanges from her earlier this morning:

‘well, one day i’ll put it behind me but for your future relationships please realize that discovering that your life is not as you thought is enough to kill someone.’

‘don’t worry about it, i just had a moment i’m fine.’

he had waited ten minutes before responding:

‘the very thing that filled me with joy filled me with dread. this was my mistake with you.’

+

“i sent you a text yesterday and you didn’t respond.”

“i didn’t know if it was meant for me.”

“who else would i be texting at three in the morning?”

“besides, i didn’t understand it.”

“oh, it was a response by someone i was chatting with.” she laughed.

“and i was supposed to know that? you start your messaging right at the end and expect me to figure out what happened before.”

this was a constant with her – all her messages started midway or at the end of what she is talking about and they have to retrace, message by message, what happened at the start. it was the most testing texting he had ever done in his life. so, he stopped responding. she didn’t stop corresponding. so he let annie tell her:

these are the contents of my head

and these are the years that we have spent

and this is what they represent

and this is how i feel

do you know how i feel?

’cause i don’t think you know how i feel

i don’t think you know what i feel

i don’t think you know what i feel

you don’t know what i feel

+

he had waited another five minutes and responded:

‘i love you, and hope one day you will, in one of those moments of recollections, come to realize i do. time takes care of everything and i believe in time the love i have for you will rise irresistibly to the core of your reality.’ and then he let sleep consolidate his declarative, emotional, and operational memories of her.

© F-K Omoregie 2016

[1] Lennox, Annie. (1992). Why. Diva. BMG. Arista.