“And you watch movies made from these books…and in this one, a man literally unwraps a woman like a candy. She turns and turns and twirls until the removing is done.”
You set your phone to sleep after thirty seconds of inactivity, and with a touch of the power button, a collection of cliché wallpaper quotes cavort your screen. There’s a message from the stranger—someone who lost his way in some other life and who you allowed to stay for one night. But he’s taken over your apartment now, burning through your personal space like wherever it is he’s come from, helping himself to a part of your territory. You want to scream at him, “Get out! And take your damn clinginess with you!” But at the same time, you want to be civil about things. It is bizarre how you still want to be urbane when he wears you out. How he repulses you. Makes you feel claustrophobic even from a distance. You’re exhausted.
Haven—one word to describe this thing that receives you, body and soul, asks no questions and takes you in plus your exasperated moans and whining of an ugly day. Darkness, dirt, infertile daydreams, all in, until you pass out on the soft cushions and warm blankets, and into the past.
5:30 PM. You know what this means. You know where this place is. You remember the tarred road. You smell the wind and the fish it carries from across the street. Five more minutes.
5:35 PM. You sit in an Audi. The tension reveals strangers and inhibition. You’re in the passenger seat. You’re down. Now you’re climbing an outdoor stairway, your eyes roaming in their sockets catching the unfamiliar. Your heart too is pounding in your chest – an excited kind of pounding. Soon, you’re miming off-key with one audience. He’s seated at the end of the room. He’s boring through your mind. A thick self-consciousness embraces you and you stop. Your audience moves his turn. “Poetry sounds stupid with my name,” you say. Yet you love the cabaret and how the spot is yours. You close your eyes. You see the letters of the words holding each other.
7:00 PM. You talk about books and dead authors. And you watch movies made from these books, only you think the movies are teensy inflated, and in this one, a man literally unwraps a woman like a candy. She turns and turns and twirls until the removing is done. You are both tickled and the wine has started gathering in your brains. You imitate the man and the woman. You, the woman, the candy, you turn and turn and twirl until your unwrapping is done. He eats.
7:40 PM. He leaves riddles and fairy tales in your mouth. You leave some of your magic in his bones.
Headache. Afternoon naps do you no good. You wonder why you still take them. Your phone’s wallpaper is a bright red telephone booth in the middle of nowhere. Phony quotes dance along the screen. You’re not about to be coerced into fake deep thinking, yet. Your dream slowly comes back to you. You’re disgusted at your mind’s adeptness to recreating your missing and at your heart’s ability to forget pain so easily and replace it with longing. You remember a scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. You need to erase him. First things first, you saunter across the room and pick up all his stuff. There are two sweaters you love. You hold them close and inhale. You wonder whose smell you are hoping to catch since your own body has known home in them. You deliver the memories in a box and set them on the floor. You catch a blinking on your phone. Your phone’s wallpaper is now the Eiffel Tower. Beneath it, a quote about opportunity knocking makes you sick. Partly because it is overused and gives no real motivation. Partly because the stranger, again, is sliding into your space, this time with an email. You wonder what it will take before he gives up. You wonder when his 5 AM, 10 AM, 3 PM, and 7 PM texts will stop. You close your eyes. The last thing you see is your box of memories sitting on your hard floor like an old lover. But is it not? Reality fades, memories take dream forms.
“You have come back to this place,” he says.
“For healing, yes.”
“You’re giving me a second chance,” he says.
“You count wrong. This is the third.”
“How so?” he asks.
“Second chances are not fussed over,” you say.
You hear words. One distinct voice. Rhythm. Rhyme. Metaphors. There is your poet. His words hop into your ears. They flood your mind, your heart. Whatever he is reading sounds like a love letter. You won’t wake up now. You hear music—you’re learning how to dance standing on his feet. His long arms envelope you.
The music still plays, yet you don’t lose yourself to it. You are too awake, too conscious of your flaws. What do you look like right now, dancing? How is your body coping? You’re clumsy. He holds you closer. You each inhabit your thoughts. The silence in the room is loud—louder than the music playing.
The first thing you see is a box—your box of memories. You turn away to face your matte painted walls. There’s a strong urge to touch your phone as if you are waiting for something, someone. Your phone’s wallpaper is an ancient building with a quote about memories and the past. That’s it; life must be playing a silly joke on you. Your phone rings. The stranger is calling. You turn your phone face down because the ringing annoys you. You snort at your luck. There’s really no freedom anywhere for you. Not in your dreams. Not when you’re awake. You remain in sleeping position and feel yourself drifting again. Those pills won’t let you off easily.
You hear yourself screaming. Both of you screaming. He says you’re imagining things. You call him a liar. “I have been such a fool,” you say. There’s a lot more talking. The words fill the room up to the ceiling. You walk into the bathroom and lock the door. You open the tab and let the water flow. You sit on the toilet seat, a dead look in your eyes. Water hits your feet. You rise, walk to the bathtub and lie in it. You hold your breath under the water. Maybe you will disappear, along with the pain—turned to water. Buried things eventually become one with their surroundings. You hear your name, then a banging.
The stranger texts goodnight. A second message arrives. The stranger hopes to speak to you tomorrow. He says he will call at 7 AM.
You’re staring into his eyes. They’re shimmering like he’s got tears in them. You hope they are really tears. You pray they fall. This weakness should be his, too. It will console you, strangely. Give you some power to wield. But those are not tears. Whatever they are, they don’t fall.
“Will you stay?” you ask.
He doesn’t speak. He looks at you like a helpless little thing he doesn’t want to break.
“Stay,” you say, and fall asleep in his arms.
You wake up in the middle of the night. The other side of the bed is cold and empty. Somehow you know that this is where the story ends, yet you ask, “What kind of a coward leaves a woman in the middle of the night?”
Three years of moping around is enough. Three years of waiting is as much as it is necessary. The wallpaper on your phone is a river snaking its way through rocks. Beneath it, a quote says: Life doesn’t get easier, we get stronger.
You get out of the bed. The box of memories won’t carry itself out.
About the Author:
Victoria Naa Takia Nunoo is a Ghanaian writer and poet with a recent bias towards reading African Literature. She currently lives in Greater Accra, Ghana. You can connect with her via Twitter or Instagram @naatakia.