This is how it goes.
In the pocket of a pair of jeans last worn when the sun was working overtime instead of kicking it under a duvet of cloud and drizzle, you find a receipt for a Belgian waffle and the memory of the way he drenched his in chocolate and licked the remnants from his fingers clubs you over the head. And just like that, you’re spiralling; dumping the jeans on the floor and walking out of the room like it’s on fire.
The other day a song that the two of you sang in voices borrowed from cartoon characters carried through from the television in the living room to the kitchen where you stood. Your hands stilled over wedges of sweet potato and you were caught in that space between a smile and a sigh, where the flashback is almost exquisitely painful. Like poking a mouth ulcer with the tip of your tongue. You open your mouth to sing along but your voice isn’t having it and dies in the back of your throat. You go back to chopping vegetables and play like your knife can slice the music notes in half.
So you go on a few dates with the intention of moving on. This is what single people do and let’s be real, you miss the feeling of being a little bit adored. You know winter’s idling outside the door getting ready to kick it down and you’d rather have the option of a human hot water bottle to press frozen toes against than not. There is a boy with pretty eyes and prettier lips who tells you jokes and touches your arm; and there is one with better skin than you who seems interested but who you offend by bugging him to divulge his skincare secrets. He huffs and cuts his eyes at you while you rummage for a pen, unapologetic as fuck. Sometimes there is an unmistakable spark that you swear you’re prepared for. But when it comes, you pooh-pooh it then snuff it out. You accept kisses dusted against your cheek before you turn and delete the number out of your phone.
The clichés pile up on your doorstep and after stepping carefully over “there’s plenty more fish” and “if it’s meant to be,” you sweep them all under the rug and forget about them. They mean next to nothing anyway.
During a bout of cleaning, you pause to secure your headwrap and you spy a couple of photos and a forgotten birthday card. Punches to the gut don’t get more painful than when they are immortalised in grinning teeth and intertwined fingers. You slip them first into the black bag in your hand and then later into a paperback on your bookshelf all the while swearing you’ve gone beyond the point of trippin’ over your ex. And you carry on cleaning, using Pledge to scrub out the what ifs that have bloomed on every surface. Later, you make sure you don’t cry.
Sometimes you dream of him and that shit is so vivid that you wake with your heart beatboxing in your chest and you think “damn. Not quite there. Not yet.” Then you wonder, as you rub sleep from your eyes and beat your ‘fro into submission, if “there” exists and if it does, if you’d really want to become a resident. That would mean sacrificing the warm feeling (like a bellyful of Sriracha) when you think about the first time “I love you” was uttered (you were wearing a red sweater and mismatched socks.) Or the first kiss that left you lightheaded (you worried about whether or not your tongue was doing enough moving and not lying in his mouth like some terrible dead thing.) You decide, as you tug on your tights, that you don’t mind the idea of cruising down Nostalgia Boulevard a little longer. On the way out of the door, you switch your heels for some kicks.
This is the look of things months after the fact. You walk a maze and play hide and seek with your emotions. Sometimes you scold yourself for dwelling or rehashing over and again in your mind but realise that this is what they call “normal”. You reconcile yourself to the fact that perhaps there will always be part of you that stands on tiptoes and peers over the wall you’ve erected to keep the past out and you make peace with the fact that that is not only OK but expected.
The next time the pretty-eyed boy calls, you pick up the phone.
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Stereo. 20-something aspiring bon vivant. London based. Exceptionally Nigerian. Partial to snark. My default setting is "wry". Jeans and blazers are my uniform. Landlady. Speed reader, tuneless singer, hoarder of words, drinker of Schloer; I am suspicious of most people, have zero tolerance for tomfoolery, have a vast DVD collection, worship at the altar of Al Green, own too many bottles of nail polish, have small eyes, small ears and giant hair and owe approximately 86% of my awesome to the Parents Typewriter.
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