I saw your pix on Facebook, the one which attracted over 500 likes and 200 comments, about 50 percent increase in response over the one you uploaded three weeks earlier. You had the biggest smile on, the magic which pulled the response, I suppose. In spite of my beef for cute guys on Facebook, I just couldn’t be mean. I clicked the love icon. However, there was something about your eyes: they were dark. Not even your flickering smiles could hide the sadness in there.
It’s been over three months we talked; three months our friendship thrived only on the comment boxes of our status updates. Our inbox chats have lost its steam. Although we sometimes set it ablaze with some good humour, that’s all we do: go round a circle of mundane gist without tackling the real ish. Your cliché “I’m goods” trail my “how are yous”, and no matter how hard I probe, I just can’t break through you. The closest I get to your openness is “Tumisi, you won’t understand.” And honestly Nathan, I don’t.
You used to be strong. You used to pull off the tears trapped in your chest and fix them on their glands, allowing them pour. And boy, do they pour! Like a fountain flowing into many streams, they pour. Some poured down my feet. Then the mist clears off your eyes, leaving a spark there. We would share many jokes afterwards, and treat ourselves to bouts of sarcasm. This sadness masked with smiles however, is quite impressive for feigned strength. Pray tell, is this an outcome of growth?
Perhaps, you’ve found peace with the conventional African dude whose idea of strength is a disdain for tears. “A real man never cries,” he’d say, trapping the reality of his plight in self denial. He’d rather drown his sorrows in bottles and kegs than share them with anyone, especially a lady. But this isn’t how you defined strength, Nathan. You taught me that the strongest men are those who allow themselves be vulnerable with their tears- men, who aren’t ashamed of voicing their fears. What happened to your strength, Nathan? What happened to you?
I miss us. I miss how we strip our issues bare and feel no shame. How we’re silently drifting from best buddies to mere Facebook acquaintances is puzzling. And how this acquaintanceship is sloping down the hill where strangers live is beyond puzzling. But I do understand. I understand the issue is not that you no longer trust me with your issues. Heck, I could be the perfect jerk sometimes, taunting you with your tears. But then, you tease me with my care. It’s not like you now fear those moments of vulnerability. Or, do you?
Maybe you’re tired of coming to me every time with nothing but sad tales; tired of feeling like a weakling who can’t get his act up his sleeves. Maybe you’re afraid that someday I’ll smear your rep with some of the shit you’ve told me. Maybe… it’s really not about me; you’re just tired of everything, of going round a circle of issues that my supposedly distant heart can’t comprehend. And maybe… you’re really tired of me trying to understand everything, every time. But know this: I am not tired of understanding.
I am not tired of offering this frail shoulder to your big head even if I’d have to visit a spa afterwards. And nah, I’m not clamoring for your tears; they wouldn’t make me a glass of juice. I understand (yes, again, I UNDERSTAND) the fear of not having it all together, the frustration from observing with misty eyes as an ugly past coincides with your present while racing to your future. You want it to stop- this misery on a spree. So you’re on the run, from everyone and everything non-virtual, chasing after ugliness. But what you don’t see is misery putting you on the run from redemption.
I wish this were only about me, about our unspoken misunderstanding. But it seems there’s a dysfunctional understanding in all of the folks that genuinely care about you. Your real guy, Bawo, mom, dad, and your siblings have all been searching for you since you went on that chase. We want to cheer you on, to encourage this “strong” man you’re becoming, but we’re afraid: you’re being trailed by what you’re chasing after. And not a thousand virtual hypes can redeem you from the psychological and emotional bruises from such pull.
But maybe I really don’t understand this, Nathan. Maybe you’re playing the fool, trailing behind misery in faith you two would be cool. Maybe I’m yet to fully grasp the intricacy of bravery, the determination to lose all in order to gain some. Perhaps, “some” is more valuable to you than all we’re seeing. And I sincerely wish I could see “some” through your eyes. I wish I could look beyond the sadness in there and see a dude inhaling fresh breath from the appraisals from virtual faces, fresh breath he couldn’t get from friends and family choking him with a care that weakens his resolve to combat his fears.
It’s hard to take, but I need to embrace this reality that you really do need space. Yes, I miss us, but you’re all that matters now. If isolation from you is all it would take for you to chase and defeat those demons, then it’s fine. I’ll be here cheering through many doubts, spreading my love over those pics and posts on Facebook. I’ll be praying too, that you’ll know when to sheathe your sword and come home.