22 Feb A Reminder
God Forgives, I do not.
God is God and I am not.
So here we are, standing in this small room guarded by pale green walls. Here we stand with a space between us big enough to house an ocean. In a space where past and present collide; where truths threaten to break free and dormant wounds resuscitate back to life, bleeding through frail bandaids. The room is empty and I feel the ghosts of our past take seat at every corner, cross-legged and eager for conflict like spectators at a combat.
The windows are translucent of a rough surface guarded by dark wooden panels and a dark wooden cupboard stands behind you. It is old and loose wooden chips stick out at the edges, it looks like it has housed many secrets for years and it is wearing out from this burden. You stand opposite me, tall but shorter than I remember. There is a slouch to your posture, not a careless one but one that suggests that you have lost yourself. You are no longer the man you used to think you were. There is a faux confidence in your speech like you are trying to mask the man you have become, forgetting that you were once my looking glass.
I am fine, Austin.
I look out the window and watch the outline of the evening sun prepare for its descent. I feel the room grow darker and the space between us get smaller. I notice you fiddling with your shirt cuffs and I tap my food impatiently.
Why am I here?
I’ve been thinking about you lately and-
Stop thinking about me.
I am seeking your forgiveness, Nifemi.
I hear a crash coming from down the corridor and a bird crows as it leaps into the evening sky outside the window. I replay your words in my head and my chest grows tight.
That’s all I ask. That’s all I seek.
I stay quiet as you go into a speech of what forgiveness means to you. You tell me you are a new man in Christ and you are on a journey of redemption. I stifle a snort, you stutter but continue. You preach that life is too short to hold on to grudges. Your clothes are noticeably oversized, you have lost weight and your cheeks are hollow on a gaunt face. Your adam’s apple bobbles as you talk between quivering lips. Somehow, my gaze holds your tongue and you sound like you are struggling for air.
My response breaks your premature smile and I smile inwardly, pleased at this opportunity to break your heart and dash your hopes just like you did mine. You take a step closer and I take a step back. I try to hold my laughter, so I mumble the word forgiveness a thousand times over. My forgiveness alleviates your guilt, it is a favour to you because while you move on, I am left with the memories of pain and the years of self-harm (physically and mentally). It is your release. You asking for my forgiveness is taking away my right to be angry after I spent years grieving your loss while you carry on with relief, from both your maker and victim. All I see right now are the nights I kept pondering what was wrong with me and why I was not enough. You were a sand storm and a tornado of all my insecurities and fears. Asking for my forgiveness after inciting much self-hate is to absolve you of all responsibility. All you did was take and you had taken more than you deserved and in return you fed me recycled promises- your breath heavy with lies and stained with liquor and the taste of another lover. Here you are, coming back once again to take and I am done giving.
You beg and the desperation is crystal clear in your voice, it rises like smoke in the air but then I realise it is from the fire you ignited within me. I feel anger surge and my body is working up a storm. I want to scream at you. I want to yank my heart out and show you the scars and stitches. I want to break my head open and show you memories of sleepless nights dealing with anxiety. I want you to feel the heat of this hungry fire threatening to swallow me up. You made me feel worthless, like the used gum stuck underneath a battered shoe, like rumpled piece of paper thrown across the room, like the unwanted and forgotten.
Rumours of her spread like a wild fire. The question burned at my throat for weeks because I lacked the courage to ask, in fear that I might offend you. I remember the day I saw her and how my heart broke because she was beautiful and I fell less than ordinary in comparison. So I watched you flaunt her instead of me. I watched you flaunt her in front of me. I watched you bend over backwards, break and build yourself from the ground upwards, just to impress her, and still I held on to you. That was my fault, my mistake and I still have not forgiven myself for that. I felt like I had fought for so long and I deserved you, so I would wait it out till you would eventually come back to me. I decided to give up myself to you. I let you have me for the first time as my first time. I convinced myself that it was what a lover’s touch felt like, even though you were rough and quick, barely able to look into my eyes.
I am glad to say I have come to know gentler hands ever since.
I remember the first time I saw my reflection in your eyes: Inferior, undeserving of your time and attention, a drawn-out plague. So I believed that version of myself.
It’s been how many years now, come on.
You have no right to waltz into my life and dictate how and when I should stop being angry.
I was young and foolish.
We stare back at one another and the room gets stuffier. Suddenly, I am by the windows begging for air and searching for release. The windows are stuck so I crouch down, exasperated and speechless. My words had merged with pain and all I feel is hotness and tightness in my chest. I touch my face and realise my cheeks are wet. I want to scream at you for being such an awful reminder of a place I had never wanted to return to. I had always been unwilling to love, but you had cracked me open in a way I had loved too much, and instead of getting the love I thought I had deserved, I had been fed dog shit instead.
You will never understand the pain-
I am truly sorry.
I look at your face and I am reminded of years of mind games and bitter lies. You never wanted me, but you also never wanted anyone to have me, so you created a game that only you had the upper hand and cheat codes. A game that kept me holding on to air, while you lurked in the shadows. I remember how you told me you loved me and then disappeared for weeks with your new lover. I always heard about the places you had been to with her, but yet I convinced myself you wanted me and you were just conflicted. I prayed that you would choose me but at the end, I was forgotten.
I wish I could give you what you seek; I wish forgiving you could alleviate my pain at the same time… but baby, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
I still struggle to forgive myself, to heal and give myself the love I deprived my body and soul of. You are a trigger, and an awful reminder of who I used to be and want to forget. So, this time, I put myself first.
You shouldn’t have come back.
We both watch in silence and darkness envelopes the room completely.