How Not To Love

Posted on Posted in Short Stories

I wake up and you’re gone.

Abruptly, as if with a dream. I look for clues. The pillow is damp— a memorialized patch of grey on the white. Sweat? Tears? Dribble, perhaps. You sleep with your mouth open, your lips apart in frozen, erotic astonishment. Or mid-climax? I like watching you sleep your dead sleep, and resurrecting, and walking zombie-like around the room as if I’m not in it. I like watching you go and come through the door…

But now you’re gone.

Your watch is here. On the bedside table. The watch you take off only for sex; as if to lose all sense of time, to make it last forever… But you glance, through the cascade of kisses, at the icy, inscrutable face of the Cartier and go, ‘Two-and-a -half minutes, please. I have work to do.’ Time is money, I know. And that watch, it is just superciliously lavish. This morning, its face is turned towards yours in the small picture frame. Your face in that picture is typically vacant. Except for this dark, sepulchral beauty that it has. Not exactly drop-dead gorgeous, but pretty enough to get you through doors, like a wraith…

I see your book on the bedside table— half-yellow, half-green. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’. The book you’ve been reading for the past one year. A-page -a-night . Bit-by-bit, like bitter medicine. Perhaps, it’s because of your “distaste” for the “self -absorbed tribalist Ibo girl” that wrote the book, or her “unfair, patronizing portrayal of that Miss Adebayo”, or the “contrived pathos of the plot”. I don’t understand.

‘Then why do you bother to read it?’

‘It’s a literary obligation!’

You sound fiercely incredulous, which makes me look even more “philistine” than you actually think I am. “Philistine ” being your euphemism for near-illiterate, or half-educated, or plain, stark unintelligent.

Literary Obligation. I smile my incomprehension. You click your
tongue in disdain and continue reading. You talk about these people— the Miss Adebayo, Odenigwe, Kainene and Olanna, Ugwu, Baby— as if they are our friends and I know them; as if I should know them. But I don’t. I don’t want to! I don’t want to know some faceless characters in a book, the creations of some faceless writer’s
imagination. I want to know you! But you’re always faraway; in a most distant place…

Now you’re gone.

Gone, in your high Jimmy Choos. Yes, I know, because of the space left in the fleet of fancy footwear parked in two neat, lengthy rows by the wall. I know all your shoes… I want to know you.

How will I, now that you are not here anymore.

*****

I used to think I knew you, when we first met. I thought you were a
Communist. Haha. You would rhapsodize about Stalin and the Red
Party and North Korea, Cuba, the Bay of Pigs (“… the ‘pigs’ being the
Americans.”); you had a black-and-white poster of the piggy- faced
Chairman Mao on the back of your bedroom door; you said you liked my “Che Guevera beard”… I didn’t know any of these people. And I thought I knew you.

Then you got this white-collar , suit- and-heels, thirteen-hour, six-zero- figure job in a Capitalist-fat, blue-chip company in the pulsating heart of Marina’s glass jungle. And you became even more difficult, more impossible, to be known. More unknowable. You began to rant about Share Price Index, The Federal Reserve, The Volatility of Our Stock Exchange Market, “the need for an urgent moratorium on foreclosures by mortgage banks in order to save Capitalism from collapse”(!), GDP, IMF, CBN, BLA BLA BLA… And you were dropping fancy new names, too— Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Dow Jones, Alan Greenspan, Christine Lagarde… It was crazy.

Then you began drinking, and smoking (only socially initially, then, alone— hermetically). And you were laughing more, to yourself— HA HA HA HA HA HA— measured, as if you were reading it. I joked about it— “scripted laugh, speech-bubble guffaw.. .” It was funny at first. Then I began to get worried, when I found the pills. You said they were contraceptives. I knew you were “not in the right frame of mind for pregnancy or mothering yet.”

So I believed you.

*

Then I wake up, and you’re gone.

You had dressed up, in your power Prada suit, at 2 a.m., and walked out of the front door, in your Jimmy Choo stilettoes, past your Beemer, into the dead of the night, down the long, cemetery-quiet street, to the end of it…

I don’t know how you got here.

In this white room- — white walls, white ceiling, white floor, even the door is white. And the bedcovers, and the nurse’s uniform. You are in a uniform too; it is white. I am ashamed of my blue jeans and yellow polo. Too much colour. Inappropriate… You are sleeping, your mouth open on the white pillow, dribbling a thin line…
They say there’s a thin line between insanity and love. I don’t know.

I think the nurse is flirting with me, behind the psychiatrist, with her big sleepy eyes. I’m bored. I turn to look outside the window. The sky is white today. Empty.

“Schizopsychosis. A new psychological disorder, that is a combination of schizoid neurosis and acute psychosis, which has just been discovered to be prevalent in desolate, lovelorn females
of a certain age. ..” His voice trails off into the ether.

Schizopsychosis… How come I didn’t know? I must have been trying too hard to know you; I had forgotten to love. Do I know how to?

There are many things we don’t know.

I know how not to love. It is simple.. .

© Olubunmi Familoni

 

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