“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” ― Federico García Lorca, Blood Wedding and Yerma
There are those who stalk me, both physically and spiritually, those who watch every single step I take and do not forget one single thing I say. These are dangerous people, people who have made it their job to always read every single poem I post on WhatsApp – and I post a lot of poems on WhatsApp. They do not just stop at WhatsApp however; they go on to Instagram and dig out my old man. They bring him into limelight and make a public show of him. These people…these stalkers…these dangerous people.
These people are the reason why I write. They do not cease to amaze me with their high level of dedication and desire for this blog. Some of them even chat me up and send a random text anytime I take a break from here. Some of them try to call but because I am from the tribe that does not pick calls before 11pm, I sit and stare and watch as my phone records their call as a missed call. And then the phone stares back at me with some wicked eyes as though to make me feel guilty.
But I don’t feel like talking, I say.
You don’t have to. They want to talk to you. You should pick their calls.
What if I am not in the mood?
Mood to do what? To talk? To pick a call? To respond to someone’s call? Since when is there a mood for these things?
I cannot talk again because already, I am feeling guilty. This world we live in is terrible. A reader here once called me about three times and I did not pick the call. I did not know it was a reader and I do not do well with strange numbers so I ignored the call and sent a message instead: Can’t pick calls now. Kindly send a message.
The good reader sent a message telling me who he was and that he was an avid reader of the blog. He mentioned something about seeing my phone number on the blog and then deciding to talk. The whole text got me thinking. First, where on this massive space is my phone number? Did my village people put it there while I wasn’t watching? Is this a plot by my enemy to kill me? Let it not be forgotten, please, that my God will not break. And then, what do people mean when they say they want to talk? How can you talk with someone you do not know? Shouldn’t WhatsApp or email be the right platform for such awkward conversations? Conversations that go like:
-Can you hear me? (We both know I can hear you but then, this is 2019 so I forgive you.)
-I can hear you clearly but I’m sorry I don’t know you.
-Oh, yes. I know you. I am Tibet.
-Like, Tibet, the country?
-No, no. My name is Tibet. Tibet Odewale.
-Oh, Tibet (parents who give their children names like this will stand next to the enemy on the judgment day. I mean, what were you trying to achieve naming your child after an awkward lax republic? Such wickedness!)
-Yes. I read your blog.
-Oh, thanks. (Fellow bloggers, help me. Is this the right thing to say when people say they read your blog? Or have I been doing it all wrong for the past three years? Michael? Faith? Joy?)
‘Yes. Well, it is nice meeting you.
The call ends with me wondering when we met. Just now?
But then, I realized that I was actually reading this text all wrong. I was reading from the perspective of a writer and not that of a reader. And then it dawned on me that a careful consumption of all that is on this blog is enough for you to write a memoir about me. So readers end up knowing writers but how on earth will the writer know the reader? I now understood why this reader wanted to talk. He knew me and wanted to discuss what he had read here. But I did not know him so the conversation ended so awkward I do not ever want to remember it. I don’t think phone calls are the best platforms to meet people. Let’s do WhatsApp instead. Or better still, email. Send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me about you, your mornings, you neighbor’s goat, your school, your crush, your lover, your account balance, everything and anything. As long as it is mail, I will always be interested and I will always reply. I have met good people through this blog. Mostly ladies. Good good people. Boluwatife, say hello!
But then, these people, these other people…these stalkers who check on me from time to time do not just call. They also ask questions and perhaps the most asked question by these people is, Michael, who broke your heart? Why are you always writing heartbreak poems? What happened to you?
“…unrequited love does not die; it’s only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded. For some unfortunates, it turns bitter and mean, and those who come after pay the price for the hurt done by the one who came before.” ― Elle Newmark, The Book of Unholy Mischief
Well, we are going to talk about that this coming month. February is for love. It is also for unrequited love. In February, we will talk about loving someone who doesn’t love you back or rather, who loves you as a brother or as a sister. We will talk about those who love you deeply but you have decided to ignore while chasing running birds. We will talk, heartbreak and unrequited love.
If you have an interesting love story, the kind that can make us cry, laugh, smile and say ‘I can relate!’, send a mail or beep me on WhatsApp – 07037147081. If you want me to mention your name so we can mourn with you or feast with you, no wahala. If you want to remain masked, we will mask you. In fact, even I will not know who you are. So send a message and let’s get this started. We will talk and I will create a story out of your story.
While we are expecting the mails, I am coming for some of you. Faith 1, Faith 2, Boluwatife, Ikeoluwa, come out in the open and reveal why you are always sharing my heartbreak poems? Tell us who plunged the dagger into your heart. Who is the man, the monster or the mermaid? Who did this great sin? Joy, are you there?
Till February, stay safe. Love wisely and be nice. Drop a comment.
Err…one more thing. Michael Tolulope, the writer whose line opened my last blog post has decided to open his heart to us. You see, sometimes in 2017, Michael fell in love with this reader, this critical reader who can judge the beak of a peacock and ask why it has too colorful feathers. He would write about her, tell us about her, smile when we make funny allusions to her. He was in love, Michael. And love is a drug that weakens man. Love weakened Michael. There was no one post that would go without a reference to the girl. That was the time when he was still writing and blogging voraciously. But then, something happened. The rains came too early and they did not prepare for it. So it came, together with the thunder of the evil one. It struck them while they slept and took their love away in the night. They woke up not knowing each other. So, last week, I messaged Michael.
ME. Write a passage about Debby and what she did to you(that was how I started because we writers don’t know how to start proper sentences)
Two blue ticks
ME. I’m writing a blog post about unrequited love. If you can no longer blog, shey you can sha contribute to blogs?
MICHAEL. … But Debbie, its being a while sha. How long should it be?
ME. Owl emoji
MICHAEL. What is this? Who are you gossiping about? (Can I just say I love Michael for this?)
ME. Long enough to be fun and short enough to not be boring.
MICHAEL. Alright. When do I have to turn it in?
ME. (because I am brutal) Tonight. Strike when the iron is hot. I need something true, not perfect.
The next evening, he sends this:
I am travelling but my body is static. From where I stand, a maruwa driver calls passengers heading towards town. He catches me watching and asks if I’m going. I try to nod but my neck is stiff, so I amble to the vehicle and slide in, wordless.
It’s how I am these days, Debbie. Wordless. Reticent captures the feeling more, but you would argue that the two words do not mean the same. You would argue too about speechlessness and silence, how you can stretch silence into a melody, but speechlessness makes your heart grow into a rock, clueless. You would say these with your eyes looking into mine, but a thousand miles away. You would touch a finger to my forehead, sending a spark that would often result in a headache, like the one biting me now.
A girl comes in with an older version of herself. They settle in at the other end and smile when I greet them. The girl says, ‘Good morning sir.’ My face breaks into a grin and she smiles back at me.
The woman with her is her mother. A baby is strapped to her back, and sweat drips off her skin like overripe mangoes falling off a tree. She asks what the time is and while I check, my mind travels again.
It is Friday morning and we are heading to class – you and me. You are striding ahead and I am trying to keep pace, partly because you are reading my recent unfinished story and I want to detail every reaction on your face. You pause when done and say, so why are you stuck?
I don’t know how to bring it to a close.
It’s your job to figure it out.
You could be a little nicer, I say.
You minimize the phone and walk ahead and say something about nice not being for writers. I remember this day – of all the days we walked together and shared breaths and dreamed of yesterdays – because it was the day I talked about love in a specific way. Not in the, I would like to marry a Christian, reader, nerd, with long hair weaved into braids. But in the, Not if we are married, Debbie.
And you know what you did? You smiled, your cheeks dimpling, and said I should convince your Father first.
You did not tell me about everything else that was wrapped in that one statement – leaving, heartache, and a lot of things. You did not tell me I would forget how to wipe away your memory, that I would begin to see you in sunrise and breezes and that your name would melt my heart whenever a colleague talked about oxymoron. You did not tell me, Debbie.
The maruwa is filled and the driver is asking if we all have change. The woman and her daughter nod and look at me. I look away and put a hand out to catch the breeze, this breeze that smells of you.
Now, I am static, but my body is travelling.
“Because what’s worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it?” ― James Patterson, The Angel Experiment
Photo Credit: The Atlas of Beauty