Darling We Have Arrived at the Crossroadshttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/shayna18.jpg?fit=1920%2C1277&ssl=119201277Adams AdeosunAdams Adeosunhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/adamaadeosun.png?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
Our poet friend wrote that “all fires die-/even ours that we so vigorously swore was hell,” and you texted to tell me that it hurt. I was locked in my room with a different girl who had jumped a ship that sank like ours, you were elsewhere with another man you swore you loved, so my heart hissed and said it didn’t understand. It lied. All its strings had snapped.
When our skin began to roast from the fire between us, gently at first, then violently, we put it out for the last time. But my blood still rages with the knowledge of your body. My toes are a broken compass with the pin stuck in your direction. Our souls twin effigies carved from the same timber. You know me like I know me. I fear I am beginning to sound like a madman. Love leaves us all mildly insane and that is ok. But darling, we have arrived at the crossroads where our paths must diverge; and madness after the matter backtracks into a guileful affliction.
I know it was I who slammed your door on the morning of the day of our Lord and refused to return until our hell turned into a charcoal iron. We had died and resurrected many times before. I once joked that we broke up as frequently as devout Muslims do the Salat. But this end, it is the denouement of all the other ends.
We were dancing in your room on a Saturday afternoon even though we were the worst pair of dancers we knew. Your roommate laughed at our foolery from behind her phone camera. I held you closer and, with the least number of words, we planned an outing in the secrecy between us. We had the efficiency of a cult.
We went away to the mall in the next city, forty-five minutes northwards of our own hibernating town. And when I paid for the tickets to a blockbuster movie even though I had told you I couldn’t afford them, you leapt at me, screaming, happy as a raccoon. Smh for you. The moviegoers in the crowded theater shared a few moments, collectively grunting/howling/clapping/disgusted. During one of them, with a scene of sheer spectacle spread before us, warmth in my chest, head fuzzy, I turned to you and said, “We could get married right now.” Perhaps you misunderstood – I didn’t mean the time and place. I was referencing the love swelling in my heart for you. Smh for me.
That was the high before the low. The anticlimax would arrive in a few hours when we returned to my room, argued about a phone call from a friend of a friend (you said it was too intimate) and a text from a friend requesting for my pictures (you said it was inappropriate). We spent the midnight roaming the short distance between my room and yours where we would ravage each other’s body one last time. When I said I was leaving in the morning, you didn’t ask me to stay.
If our love was a romance movie, the end credits would have rolled way back, before the fights and the distrust and the drama. It would have ended the day you got me a neckpiece with your name on it, marking the borders of my body as your territory. Or darker, with the early death of one of us since we were both suicidal. But all living is a build-up to an anticlimax. We broke the promise we made in the beginning: to stop the moment it got toxic. We had to see our hell to coldness. But living is also done in loops, such that an era continues in the mind, replaying over again as memories, as history. Why else am I reposed in my room, smoke in my lungs, Sia in my ears, replaying our litany of firsts in the rear of my mind?
The first time I saw you, we were about to pick sides for a speech contest. You wore a loose, deep blue blouse, a big, wavy hairstyle and a smile underneath it. When I asked your name, you said –. It was a strange name but I didn’t realize it at the time. I thought it was beautiful. The speech contest held a few days later and now we had to attend the award night and dinner. You because you were first runner-up and me because, well, no reason. We spent the entire day talking politics and literature and history and activism, other people dropping in and out of the conversation at different times. Night fell and we were still in each other’s company. And that was when, swiftly, the earth shifted beneath our feet.
The award ceremony would have 9ice, an A-list Nigerian artiste, in attendance. Neither of us cared for the celebrity so we stood by a fountain with a white statue of a kneeling young woman in the middle and talked through the drama of 9ice’s arrival, through the ruckus that caused him to leave in anger, and the invitation of the police to restore calm to the party crowd. We were only pulled out of the cocoon we had formed around ourselves when a policeman fired a shot in the air. The crowd dissolved, everybody except my nihilistic body running in different directions. You made to jump into a ditch but I, rooted to the spot, not completely aware of the abounding danger, pulled you back. You laughed and rested your head against my chest so that a minute later when you slumped against me, threw your head back and passed out, it was with what I would soon learn was your signature broad smile on your face. We were about the only people left on the scene. I would eventually get used to you passing out on me this way but right now, a girl I didn’t know beyond her name had passed out in my arms, what to do? Yell for help, dummy. Lol.
A boy pronounced you dead and bile rose and rose and rose in my throat and I imagined knocking him six feet beneath the ground but that doesn’t matter now since I didn’t and you would be resuscitated anyways. I wouldn’t be telling this story otherwise because I wouldn’t have been hoodwinked into telling you a few weeks later that someday you’d move my hand to write about you.
You called at midnight to say “Thank you,” but I wasn’t about to be tricked into love, I refused to save your mobile number. When you texted me after that, though, I didn’t delete it either. Who was I to block a story that was written in stardust?
We flowed with the tide, texted all day and made phone calls all night. Your eighteenth birthday came and I wrote you a poem. Your eighteenth birthday passed and I texted you to be my lover. The text went unanswered but we continued in our obsession with each other, unpacking our history of trauma together, spending time nestled in the security of our friendship in the loneliest places. You had long, thick braids that I liked to fumble with now, a child at her mother’s crown feeling the world for support. You liked it when I pulled them too.
The first time I heard Sean Kingston was after a dinner of rice and stew our mutual friend had cajoled you to cook. We ran errands for you to gather the ingredients for the meal, spread our bodies on the rug in your room to argue, played Scrabble, eaten and it was time to leave. We were about descending the stairs, the three of us because you wanted to walk us, when our mutual friend played Beautiful Girls from his phone – “You’re way too beautiful girl, that’s why it will never work,” – that’s how I knew I loved Sean Kingston. “Who is that?” I asked. Our friend said it was SK. You knew him too. I whipped out my phone and shoved SK somewhere in my playlist.
We didn’t talk about love again until one evening, alone together in a lecture theatre meant for a thousand students, taking turns at reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun aloud to each other, you asked why I wanted you. Perhaps for context, you invited another admirer into the scene. The boy sat at the edge of our private world, distant enough to remain anonymous but intrusive anyway. You cited the boy’s profile – a final year student of medicine – and asked why you should love me, a first year student of architecture, instead of him. The right answer suffused the air between us, a complicit gravitational pull that felt more natural than mechanical: Because whichever way you look at it, you fell for me already.Duh. But I was unequipped for moments like this, my mind closing in on itself, backed up into my teenage nescience, so I sewed my lips shut. I was the most naïve seventeen year old you had ever met, wasn’t I? A proper wallflower. That was why you said you couldn’t be my lover, I was too unsure, too unmoored, for you to give yourself to me. And, I swear, I understood.
When we walked out of the lecture theatre that night, I had a scattered Lego house in my chest. In the days that followed, I would lock myself in my room, bedridden, crying and listening to Beautiful Girls on repeat until the lyrics stuck. For real, damn all these beautiful girls. Sean Kingston must have met a girl like you in his own life.
We became strangers, drifting apart, emptying out the subset where we intersected, meeting only when it was absolutely necessary, with our circle of friends around, scheming for projects that would ultimately fail because we were idealists and our dreams were loftier than our means. We were a relic of a history that never quite ended because it did not even begin. We had awoken from a wet dream before the action sequence started. But sleep can be reenacted, a dream redreamed. That is why we gravitated back to each other, into a concentric dance that sucked us deeper into the centre until there was nowhere left to gyrate. Until we climaxed.
The first time I heard Passenger, I was in my room in a hostel of almost one hundred rooms. The song, “Let Her Go”, intruded on my mind from another room somewhere up the corridor. The solemnity of the music enticed the solitude in my mind, water flowing into water. The lyrics were sadly beautiful but they couldn’t have been the attraction. I was seventeen at the time, too young to have truly found love and lost it. The entire breadth of my past attractions spanned a childhood crush I remembered on and off; a friend I assaulted with poetry masqueraded as text messages for sport when I first got a mobile phone as an adolescent and didn’t have no one to call; a TV presenter my age whose face I ran to see on NTA on the television in my mother’s soft drink store once a week; and a secondary school sweetheart with whom I read novels and shared my earphones, listening to Chris Brown and Justin Bieber between classes. I worked hard at forgetting my secondary school sweetheart the moment we moved to different universities. It could only have been the melancholy in my heart that pushed me to go in search of Passenger’s heartbreak.
I found it on the window sill of the room adjacent mine, in the Java phone of a boy I was acquainted to. My android phone took the baton, shuffling Passenger into a playlist already dominated by Adele, Celine Dion and Beyoncé. But it would be a different song that served as soundtrack to my first real heartbreak later, still seventeen.
I had met a few girls before you but none of them shook me because I was a good kid who had only come to school to study. There is a story I like to tell to illustrate how much of a wallflower I am: While preparing to resume at the university, a relative started to preach to me about the dangers of bad association and my mother responded on my mouth’s behalf. “You really don’t have to bother about that,” she had said. “The boy can’t even make friends.” But I didn’t make you, did I? You happened to me. Like a miracle. An inevitable celestial event. A briefly gorgeous proof that two stars collided a few million light years ago. Stardust.