If I was the marrying type, this is the man I, definitely, should have married. I have never been more secure in a friendship of a romantic nature. This security includes never being insecure about whether he wants to see me when we accidentally bump into each other at a random spot or not-well being insecure only for the first like 10secs until he introduces me to all his friends and actually dumps them to hang out with me (and my friends, if I so please); or being insecure about going to visit him unannounced as he was always sure to wear the brightest smile for me, setting aside all he was doing; never being insecure about not getting a  call nor a text-like we never had to check in like we were on parole-we saw each other a minimum of five days a week anyway; or being insecure about being the only one or not (I knew-vaguely- that he was screwing other people but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t screwing him, and also because he “never treated the one he was luvin’ with the same respect as the one he was humpin’; if ever I was mad ’bout sumn it it wasn’t that, he wasn’t at places where he comfy at, with no Fi and oh no, you won’ see that”. He never told me some horse crap about ‘only screwing them cause I wasn’t screwing him and that he would let them go if I became more serious’; no, what he did was have exclusive friend-to-friend conversations with me with any one of them within ear-shot telling me how all this crap didn’t mean crap. The difference between the former and the later is that one conversation is between lovers (who necessarily need to lie to each other in such a situation to lubricate the love machinery) and the other is between friends (who obviously don’t need to be exclusive).

We were friends. We cared for each other. We understood each other.  He would kiss me and I used to think nothing of it. I trusted him implicitly. He could make me do anything, all in the name of friendship, and I would take him at face value. Once, we were at this exclusive, elitist bar and I asked him for the African shirt that he was wearing so he took it off and said he needed something to wear so I took off my blouse and gave it to him. Then, we realised the shirt was over-sized on me so he promised to get me one in my size so we re-exchanged tops. Then I realised that people were staring because I was sitting on the table top and the evening’s prime entertainment- my bra- wasn’t the most conservative that I own.

[This is where I stopped writing last night. I went and listened to (sad) love songs that could perhaps inspire my writing in such a way as to do justice to what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and I had. ]

I didn’t recognise it as love. I didn’t know that love was supposed to be so effortless. I didn’t know that I didn’t need to be funny half the time, witty the rest, and always smart; I didn’t know that I didn’t have to make a career out of convincing the ‘love-object’ to see past my flaws and love me for who I am inside and out. I didn’t know that someone’s love for me could just be a basic instinct, and not the child of careful reasoning that “though I am African, my English is first-language grade; or that even though I am black I don’t have a chip on my shoulder; or that even though I am short to the point of disability, I don’t let that stop me from ‘doing my thing’ “. I don’t know why he loved me; he tried explaining it to me the day that he put his cards on the table- he failed miserably. Perhaps his love had everything to do with the above but it was so much more. I didn’t feel “African” or “black” or “short” when I was with him, because these aren’t the things that amazed him about me. I just felt like me…whatever that is…and ME is what he loved.

So when he kissed me, I laughed and called it a little fun between friends. And because we were friends and friends trust each other, I believed him when he told me that he was totally into his ex and was failing to get over her. I didn’t see it for that barrier one puts around their heart when they are insecure about whether their love is requited or not. Hindsight shows me that perhaps he was trying to reflect my feelings, that maybe if I see us as being at the same place in life, we can bond on that level. This is what happened: the first time he kissed me I told him that it couldn’t happen again because I was seeing someone. I wasn’t indignant about the kiss, perhaps the result of a mixture of the guy I was dating being on a treating me like crap spree, and my respecting and caring so much about He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named to, indignantly, push him away.I, of course, told the person I was seeing, about the kiss because I cared deeply about him but that’s a digression for another day. Soon after that I stopped seeing the guy I was dating and started hanging out with He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named, moaning about my lost love. We moaned together, each for his own.

During this time, there was casual kissing, sitting on each other’s laps, wining, and dining. It was  a fun period in time, but it came with some schooling too; for example, that you never really know someone/ things aren’t what they seem/ looks can be deceiving etc: He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named seemed happy; he seemed content with our lifestyle. One day he put his cards on the table; how he feels about me, his hopes, his vulnerabilities, all culminating in he doesn’t deserve me, or rather, that I deserve more than he is.

*Ok, let’s just suspend the story while I describe this man*

He is handsome…as Leonardo di Caprio goes. He is ballsy not unlike Clive Owen. He’s got a great, secure job so whenever we were out there were never any awkward moments with the bill like “Maybe I should go for a cheaper option” or “Making a show of reaching for my bag when the bill comes cause I don’t know if its a 50-50 situation or if he needs help with the bill”. But what it is really is his kindness; he never held back anything of his from me. His maturity; with all the guys I’ve talked to, there’s always been an element of game-playing, even with the most open of them. I’ve realised that it’s me; “I” bring that out of them, but He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named never stooped to my level; if I randomly walked into some random place where we hadn’t planned to meet and pretended not to see him because of my own insecurities, he always came to me. He has the easy-going manner of a common man without their lack of perceptiveness; there is a complexity to him- he listens to truly comprehend, and speaks to communicate not just to quieten the silence. He has the sensibility of a poet without the timid air that usually accompanies them, nor their awkwardness in common society. Any woman would count themselves lucky to have him; to r.e.a.l.l.y have him, the woman would need to have a similar predilection.

Story resumes: When we had this “talk”, we both shared some pretty intimate stuff about ourselves but it was hard for me to appreciate the fact that the lifestyle we were leading was not enough for him. It was also hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he wanted something more with me. Besides which, I didn’t think he was the settling down type; I had never seen him settled down.

When we were saying goodnight that night, he asked me to call him the next day. I guess this was like the momentous ultimatum, ‘the ball is in your court’ type deal. I didn’t want him to think I was taking things too seriously, so I deliberately didn’t call…for a month. I went out of reach (I mean, I’m not that drastic. The timing happened to coincide with my having to go out of town for a month for a project I was overseeing). I came back to town happy to resume our freelancing ways so I got in touch with him. He asked me over to his office to catch up. The man had obviously missed me; he couldn’t even wait for evening. Naturally, I obliged. We really did seem to be hanging out. He was his usual sweetness. Then he casually slipped it in there. “Oh, I’m dating someone”. I’ll admit I felt a strange ‘pang’ but it wasn’t like over-the-top heartbreak; I wouldn’t even call it heartbreak at all. It’s one of those feelings that you get when your best buddy, whom you’ve been pancake-daying after Valentine’s with , finally gets a boyfriend, and you are happy for them but sad you weren’t the lucky one. I hear the Germans have a word for that feeling. Anyway, I made a full comeback with all the right questions whose answers I could have given a toss about: “What’s her name”, “How did you meet?”, “Are you in love?”-that one I was interested in. “Yes.” Then he did that annoying thing that guys do; started giving me information I had not solicited for: “I am happier than I have been in a long time”, “I am happier with her than I was with my ex.”

So by now you know that evening didn’t happen; after that, neither did any other evening but two, actually. But there were several things that DID happen:

Some time after this revelation, one of his besties decided to hang out with some of my friends and I. From nowhere, he just randomly blurted, “He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named is happier now than when he was with you.” Awkward silence. Made even more awkward by the fact that we were hanging out with those type of friends that you are not in touch with on a daily basis, therefore, would not know who you hang out with on a regular basis, but are close enough with you to know if, and whom, you are dating. The situation was diffused becaus I genuinely seemed not to know what he was on about and e.v.e.r.ybody knows I am no Julia Roberts; but, of course, I was still questioned about who He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named was. Undoubtedly, I wrote this off as people not really understanding the dynamics of the simplicity of what He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named and I had.

There I was, thinking we would be one big, happy family; maybe his girlfriend and I wouldn’t go as far as to have cooking dates, but we could all go for drinks right? Bar-bar-que Sundays? The following brought reality into perspective: so I was going out of town and needed to borrow his camera. It was after five pm when I asked him for it.

“No problem. I’ll just take it with me to work tomorrow and you can come over and pick it up.”

“I actually need it today, as I am leaving today.”

“Well, I’m actually heading home and then I have plans.”

“Great! I’m actually five minutes from yours so why don’t I just meet you there?”

“No, actually, I’m not staying. I’ll just be in and out. I have to go babysit.”

“Actually, I won’t stay either, I’ll just pick up the camera.”

“Actually, I’m just about to get home so maybe I can help you some other time.”

And sprinkle in a few other incidents I don’t care to write about and the boy has made it, actually, crystal that he does not want me going to his house. Obviously, this puzzled me because I wasn’t quite aware that I was part of his, quote-unquote, past.

So on the last but one evening that we spent together, because both our friends had been whispering, wondering ‘how I was dealing’, I threw it in his face so that we could make a joint statement together about how nothing had been going on with us previously so people could leave me alone.

“So she *encompassing my friend with a wave of my arm* thinks I’m heartbroken over your getting a girlfriend. Actually, your bestie mentioned something like that too”

*Wait for, “Why would they say that? You and I have always been just friends”*

“Why would they say that? *Excellent beginning; spot-on!* I know that you are happy for me because I have met someone who refuses to let me go despite all my bullshit.” There is nothing else during this whole fiasco that literally shred my heart like that single sentence and the accusatory, mixed with sadness, or despair, and false strength  or what looked like a pathetic attempt at mastering of strength, look that came with it. I wanted to cry. Because, suddenly, I knew; he thought I had dissed him because of his vulnerabilities. The fact that he would think I would diss him at all was suffocating.

I can be gullible. At times. Truly gullible. I believed him when he said he was in love with K; he never called, and when I did or texted him, he would always ask who it is meaning each and every time he got my number he deleted it or didn’t care enough to save it again when I would call after the first erasure. I believed myself when I said the nights out were becoming tedious because I was growing old; I didn’t feel a yearning for him in my heart, or a longing pain, I was just…bored.

I had a friend from overseas- a Potential Suitor, PS, visit me from overseas for about a week and a half and that rekindled the flame between the nightlife and myself. On one of these ‘nights out’ He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named’s bestie happened upon us and of course he kept going on and on about He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named and me, and I didn’t humour him because I was tired of hearing about it. He took it to mean I had moved on to present company. He tasked himself with passing on the news to his friend. As a group, He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named and his friends knew ‘I didn’t let anybody but him’, and all his friends attributed this to his outward characteristics, specifically his skin colour. I did not think ‘he’ s.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y subscribed to this notion, at least not until he felt impressed upon to call me the next day. Finding my phone unreachable, he went as far as finding out who else I was with, their number, and calling me on it. All of a sudden, after months of silence, it became imperative we hang out soonest.

I obliged. He had taught me the art of not gaming so I took his invitation at face value. I always took him at face value. When we saw each other, at the appointed place, he walked over and kissed me. Yes, right there, with my friends and PS watching, he smooched me. Then he took my hand and said he wanted to introduce me to his fiance. I was confused. I knew it was o.k. to kiss when we were just being pagan and indulging in pleasuring each other without the christian commitment polite society requires because nobody was hurt by it-at least, nobody was entitled to be. But is it still o.k, when one is engaged? It seemed to be o.k., after all he was taking me to meet the love of his life. It wasn’t like some adulterous make-out sensation in some back alley where ‘we both knew we were doing something wrong’.

There are things that puzzled me that night, not having the clarity of hindsight. The first being, when he introduced me to his betrothed, I realised he had never told her about me; now, even I was secure enough in our friendship to know that I was important enough to him for him to talk to his girlfriend about me-he had done it before with another girl. I also realised he had gotten her name wrong when he had initially told me about her- one of those, “her name is Hay” when it was really Kay. Once he had made the introduction, he didn’t seem to want to be around her, which he achieved by offering me a drink and proceeding to pull me to a lonesome bar. I put up a pathetic defense saying I should get back to my friends and besides I had left my overseas friend with strangers-though nice my friends may be- in a strange country.

He bought the drink, turned around, looked me in the eye, and said, “So?” And I felt it; that raw basic instinct that may start anywhere else on the human anatomy but always culminates at the heart of pleasure; the valley below. It was the look in his eye. It was the danger. It was the excitement of the forbidden. It was him and I together again, after months of emptiness, in the midst of all that should have kept us apart…but couldn’t. He kept looking at me. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to ask, “what about ‘her’?”but in that intensity it seemed childish, out of place. I had the realisation that his affections for anybody else did not run as deep his emotions for me since the time we had gotten close to present day. I realised he did not care about the consequences.

I knew I would die- lose my soul, my beliefs, my integrity-for that intensity. That pleasure. I took the drink and walked away. Back to my friends. Back to the light. Back to safe mundaneness. He followed me; K followed him. My friends teased me; she pulled him away, seemingly angry about something. PS made some remark about He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named (still)being into me; I made one about him (He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named) being drunk. “A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts,” PS enlightened me.

The throbbing fever in my valley has died down to a warmth since then. A warm fuzzy feeling. Of having been loved. Of having been truly, and intensely loved. Of having been loved in such a way, by such a man; by him.

The only tinge of regret I have is that I did not know I loved him until it was too late nor was I aware that I had that sort of predilection that could have him.

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