I am leaving.
I pick up a piece of paper and my Fanthom ballpoint pen as I shuffle to the kitchen table to write him a note.
“I was meant to tread the water, but now I’ve gotten in too deep.”
“Hi” I begin. It brings back a thought from when we first met. It was at the University, when his niece had introduced me to him as her favourite lecturer. He had squinted his eyes then, gauging and measuring. Then he said hi. And I said hi. The first of many more to come.
I cancel the letters out quickly imagining they will bring back too many fond thoughts of the past. I want to make this simple for him. For us. So I tear another sheet of paper and begin again.
“You give me something, that makes me scared alright.”
“I have not had a better year, than the one spent with you…”
This is true. Not my one year in Jos for service two years ago, or my brief travels to Ghana, Ivory Coast, London, or Dubai throughout last year match the glorious comfort of spending every second of my life with him, thinking about him, talking to him, or even about him… over these past months. So again, this is true. But I really want to keep this simple. I squeeze the paper into a ball and tear out another one.
“I don’t know what the question was, but the answer was you.”
“I stayed up late last night and thought about everything. Me. You. Austen. Katherine…”
I did stay up all night, last night… and the night before, and even the one before that, you see. Austen, his four year old son– amazingly smart, intelligent, and beautiful to behold– doesn’t want me here. Ever since he travelled in with his mum, Katherine, a week ago, I have had to question my place in Derek’s house– more, in his life. Derek had told me about his baby mama drama about a month after we first met, the same night he had asked me out. I had had my doubts then. It was bad enough that he was twenty years older than me, add to that that he had a son. I wanted to butt out from then on– not have anything to do with him at all. But he had kissed me too deeply too soon, and my senses had taken leave of me. He wanted me, I wanted him: our love would conquer all things, I foolishly dreamed. So I moved in with him…
Too dramatic and far from simple, I can’t stand to hurt him. I discard the sheet of paper and tear out another one.
“If you’ll just teach me how to break your heart neatly…”
“I don’t belong here.” I start again.
Honestly, truthfully, genuinely, I don’t. I feel like an intruder. I had seen pictures of Katherine and Austen time and time again in the past months, Derek would share them with me- he is open about everything. They are based in the UK but come spend Christmas in Nigeria, the reason for their visit last week. My first bouts of doubt and re-assessment seeped in when I first met her. Tall, curvaceous, elegant, sophisticated– the only daughter of a well renowned SAN. And there I stood beside Derek– the fifth daughter of a somebody, his hands claiming my non-existent hips as he made the introductions making sure to emphasise to Katherine that we were ‘together’. I appreciated how he owned me before his baby mama, but it didn’t stop me from feeling inadequate, unworthy to be there.
“We all long for something. Midgets long to be long, but I long to belong.”
Austen had stayed over while Katherine drove to her sisters’ on the Island. Just two days after, I remember rushing to Derek in a fit of tears, screaming “I can’t do anything right. He doesn’t want me here. I can’t do this anymore”. He had calmed me then, and told me sweet things– “Marianne, I love you. I want you, it’s you I want. I want a family with you. I know it’s difficult, I know it will take time but I want you to promise me to not give up. Give it some time. Things will be better tomorrow, I promise you”. I had nodded then, and let him kiss my tears away. And we had made love, and it was alright. And I kept trying again, every next day… until my hope gave.
“There is nothing simple about Goodbyes.”
But of course I don’t belong here. I see the condescending look in Katherine’s eyes when she says hello to me. I see the way Austen lights up when they are together as a family on her weekend visits. At the moment, they are out at a Children’s funfair party which Austen had demanded that both Katherine and Derek accompany him to. He had retired to the room, telling me what Austen said, not knowing I had overhead the discussion myself while eavesdropping as I always do. He had come to ask if I was okay with him going away for a few hours, and swore that if I wasn’t, he’d just not go. What? How would I deny that beautiful child a moment he deserved? A moment he owned? I had smiled, and asked him to go quickly and be sure to get me some ice cream on his way back. But I– I don’t belong here, and it’s time to go.
“Or, rather, let us be more simple, and less vain.”
I squeeze the sheet of paper into the bin and tear out another one– the last one, hopefully. I check my bags and boxes again, and scan the house one last time, lest I leave a daunting memory behind. I want to make this as simple as possible. For me. For him. For us. Once ‘m all set, I pick up my Fanthom pen again, and get the note over and done with.
“I left.” I start and finish, a little too satisfied.
© The Short Black Girl, 2016.