My dear Samira,
I know I said I was fine, but it doesn’t feel that way! You know it. Our paths didn’t cross because there was no reason to, and if we ever did, then there was a reason. I know our paths crossed for a good reason. Hence, the many things I would want to put my heart out for. I would ordinarily not have responded to your last message, but I do this out of the respect I have for you, your quest to finally respond to me, and the mutual promise we had. Sorry, I have not responded ASAP to your text. I take full responsibility. My bad.
Our situation is quite awkward. And it’s painful to talk about it, but talking about it is also kind of amazing. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it means. Certainly, a part of you dies when someone you love dies. But the idea, just the idea that the person you were, dies and to suddenly realize that kid in you is dead—or, at least, he doesn’t exist in the memory of anybody else who is living—is painful enough. That was an amazing thought for me. Even more amazing is the courage you summoned to ask me to quantify in numbers and subjectively whatever investments we shared in the last decade. You know it is laughable, if not a mockery. Remember what we agreed on? Such is where everything, both happiness, and hurt, emanates.
All I ever wanted was a story to be told—our story. How we operated by lamplight under great clouds, where people cut off limbs that gave them the power to move. Some people want to know where their children are and what they are doing. Now, these same people want you to know what they’re going through. They don’t want to live in silence anymore. Silence, they say, is violence. You see, I’m not amazed by what happened, but I’m amazed at how many people have reached out to me to break the silence. I try to read every one of their messages because I feel it’s the least I can do. I can’t respond to them all, but every chance I get, if I’m in a car going from one place to another if I’m sorting something in between, or designing the next training material, I am reading people’s DMs. They are incredibly moving, breaking the silence.
This is what happens to humans; this is what humans do. Part of it is that I’m sort of socially awkward now, so I also have to tell myself each passing moment, “Oh, humans say good morning to each other. By afternoon, they break each other down.” I have long forgotten that if you’re in an elevator, humans say hello to other humans because I’m afraid of the goodbyes. But on a larger level, this is simply what humans go through, and I am not the first human to go through this. My mom used to say to me, “Why not you? If others go through it, then why should you be exempted from this or that?” I am now overwhelmed, to say the least. This isn’t lax self-expression or costive containment. Far from it! It is more like a social arbiter who is lost in a social collision.
My dear Samira, amongst us, we have often maintained that football is an unpredictable game. However, love is more unpredictable than football will ever be. The fantasy of love casts me into my phone’s shadow, each passing second, standing, looking, watching, and waiting in anticipation of your arrival, knowing very well that you are not arriving. Not even a silhouette of you, not a passing scent of you, and even not the silky shade of your turtleneck dress will ever grace my presence again. Never! We all know that it is hard to go into the unknown and return as such. Not the slightest of chances. My good friend often advises that what gives us joy is the same thing that hurt us the most. You have achieved this feat; you gave joy, followed by hurt.
This is how things are destined to be. Yet, I have been struck down, tumbled, and turned by the world’s most flimsy feeling in the most bizarre situation. If you ever see the nervy emotions associated with a football match, you are sure of winning, and however, you’re losing by whatever margin with every attack almost turning into a goal, then you probably understand the nervy emotions of love. That’s what it’s like. You knew what I wanted. You knew your goal, too, and you kept shifting the goalpost from the targeted strike. Hence, every attempt to hit the target was missed completely. My emotions heightened and dropped flatly. Now, since you decidedly want to check on me after you scored your goal, or your own goal for that matter, let me fill you in; my newest hobby is emotionally destroying me a few hours before the start of every weekend.
You shouldn’t be quick to judge. There’s a strange power in grief, too. Grief can either make you or unmake you. For a moment, I felt almost invincible—not in a good way but in a bad way. Insignificant? That’s exactly what I meant. These are the laws of operating inside nature. Strength is not a sole monopoly of one man. Neither is it an individual property to be wielded every time. The universality of such experiences speaks to our humanness, and if there is a mechanism, it resides in our need to connect, to have meaning, and to be relevant. Grief is also the first stage of accepting endings. We aren’t disconnected from living because we are ending. In fact, when I look at ending with a certain posture, it is an indication of post-traumatic growth, adapting, and gaining insight right up until our last moments. In endings, there is physical decline, yet I am very alive, even enlightened, both emotionally and spiritually.
For me, you know my mental fortitude is stronger and more resilient than my body. It is not for nothing that you called me, “the roaming ambassador”. At least, you need an agile mind to always put yourself on the road. I like to explore. It is my innate nature. My roaming cum exploration has exposed me to myriad experiences. It strengthens my mind. What happened, of course, has never happened to me. Though strange, this isn’t different from the others I have experienced. However, I am hurt for one thing. You didn’t find it worthy to inform me, not even a clue when you made your choice, and subsequently proceeded to act accordingly. This is my only worry. My only hurt. Nothing else. Not even your choice.
Remember, I once told you I was scared to fall in love when you were busy stoking this fire. You painted an attractive picture of everything beautiful—a beautiful us and a beautiful future. Even though it was easy to like you instantly, it wasn’t easy for me to fully commit. Not even your thousand-and-one reasons could trigger anything of worth. I did it for the Glory of the Good Lord, for humanity, and for a good future. Look at us now, discussing neither me nor you, but checking on one another.
Of course, we’ve got to check up on each other. What else can we expect? My nature is such that nothing scares me more than getting close to someone or someone loving me one day and deciding they don’t want me the next. Nothing terrifies me more than getting so close to someone and then watching them become strangers. And here we are, strangers! Strangers, as we started and we ended as different kinds of strangers. An identity no one belongs to.
My dear Samira, I believe we all yearn to have an identity going forward. However, for some, it will be a great one, for others, it will be resilience or war; and for others, it will be one of laughter, of friendships, of lessons, of joy, of unlearning, and of moving on. Indeed, I have a certain identity and a certain future–a future of uncertainty and endless battles over starting over. I often prayed to the Good Lord to give me the best. There’s always an uncertain future ahead. The roadblock at the curve, the obstacle on the highway, and even a choke in the throat. Whatever, we move. I dislike standstills.
A certain standstill is a future nobody wants in life—not even the future of ending things, either of great joy or of sorrow; neither one of debt nor recovering from loss; one of newness and failure. But the best version is a future of accomplishment and all the good things that the future brings. I am not sure what this future you’ve left behind will present to me. I don’t even have a clue. But I’m sure it has no resemblance to you. not even your athletic steps or demeanor. Neither your penciled fingers nor cyclonic eyes are in my future. The big eraser has fallen on your name. I am sure.
I know that as people often start their new lives, they are tempted to forcibly put an end to things. They begin to feel they must by all means let things go with the departure of their old lives. But letting go of things and people can be hard. Sometimes, it is much harder than we anticipated. But in our situation, we can give ourselves space and time as we try to learn to be okay with our endings. The ending of us, our relationship, our dreams and goals that didn’t materialize, of hopes we couldn’t carry forward, the ending of our ideas in the middle of the road, and the endings of some of the things we held dearly about us that do not serve us any better.
My very good friend often advises that it is normal to end things. If something ends, accept it and move on. Press the restart button. There are new beginnings awaiting. I still have the “love” of my life to meet. You have to fight to belong to your new community—our new goals, building newer dreams, and all the new things we hoped for in our individual lives. But it begins with goodbyes. Saying goodbye to us, our old friends, old families, and old communities so that we can have enough space to say hello to the newest things, newest ideas, newest community, newest families, and newest friends that destiny exposed us to. In all, we have collectively said goodbye to us, our past, and our story. You quit! I ended! I am still alive and strong. So let’s welcome a new dawn, a newer you, and a newer me.
My dear Samira, I am particularly excited about the hope and promise of the newness that is coming. I am excited to keep pushing for myself and my aspirations as well. I am excited that I will have the courage and strength to use the lessons we have learned to make better choices and decisions in the future. I am excited that I will enjoy more intimate and healthy friendships, and I am excited that I’m working on learning and growing better. More importantly, I have learned not to put all my eggs in one basket. I have learned to empathize, yet place myself more at the center than before, as you would’ve wished. You see, the endings weren’t bad after all. So I hope you do too.
Sheikh Anta Diop, the African literary icon, postulated that if we ever possess the maturity and the wisdom to accept the necessity of choice, of decision, or order and hierarchy, the inalienable right of freedom and autonomy, then, in spite of its tragedy, its exclusiveness, the law of growth endows us with greatness and a new moral dimension. And as the law of growth endows us, so do I endow you. I do know the sun that shines in our hearts leads our paths. RIP is only a word. It does not apply in every situation. Good Lord, help us all.
I know you may not know or hear or see; now you know, heard, and seen. I can sleep now on a Saturday night, feeling fulfilled and relieved.
Al Latif Kambo-Naa