I Am Now Bullet Proof
I AM NOW BULLET-PROOF
Why did I say those words?
Why did I tell her that it was over between us?
Pulling each of these syllables like as if I was pulling the rose’s blossoms and the unfortunate thing was that she had over-lived a definite six months in my life but an unwritten life at that.
Celine, and that was her name and nineteen ninety one that was the year and she was my first cut into the treacle world of relationships. During our form fours at Nyatate secondary school.
We were so much in love!
So I am walking with her everyday from school.
My adoration for her is dentistry; she stills the bombastic and heartens my heart with a love like a map to a new country. This is how I am thinking of her and feel about everything. She is small, fragile and light in complexion. She comes from an adjacent village to ours. She is true, good, faithful and loves me good! She is warm, balm, and benediction and loves me with a love so searing, so brave and so honest. She is each note, tune and every sweet sound in my heart and her love is a tracing around my heart. Since praise is a language too difficult to separate from love and when Owls hoot we call their hooting a call for forthcoming grief, I am feeling it is a call for love. I also feel that I love her but the unfortunate thing is that I have also learned how to speak of love in place and think that is the thing in my heart.
The thing that I love her is the only thing that I know but I am also dealing with teen things. I am still too young to really analyse what is in my heart for Celine. I only know that I like it very much to be with her but I am also dealing with the fact that my mother and father sat with me after our first term results and they were not impressed with me. I have barely made five passes with just about average passes in each subject. I am number six in our class and eleven overall in the form four classes. They have told me it is because of my stupid relationship with Celine that I haven’t done well this term but I also know it’s not because of her. I have been too playful this term only that my parents do not know about that because I have been playing at school. They tell me if I fail my “O” levels I will amount to nothing in life, that we will amount to nothing with Celine and that I should first concentrate on my studies. I have listened to them but I also know it’s unfair to Celine but there is nothing I can do about that.
Something must have changed over the time we were in love. Something just didn’t make sense somehow for sometimes she wanted me to be soft and some other times she wanted me to be hard in ways that I did not know how to be. When you are in love and closer to your girl she would try to transmute you to a molecular level. I also knew I could snap easily and drastically at the first sign of contamination. Something must also have been telling me that it was time that I moved on otherwise I couldn’t have listened to and accepted my parents’ wishes. It must have been like a sensation of something that had crossed the river with me or the tingling feeling like you were exploring an old stream with a new boat, or was that my ego just running ahead of time or I simply had a heart like a squatter camp.
What was it? Was I afraid of failing my final exams?
I dropped her in the beginning of our second term. She couldn’t understand a thing about it. I didn’t even have a good reason. I couldn’t tell her my parents felt that our relationship was affecting our performances at school because I also knew it was a lame excuse. I told her that I just wanted a break. I didn’t even know why I needed one because it was not as if we had been spending a lot of time together.
It’s very very painful for her. For some time she refuses to even say hello to me or just acknowledging my hellos or even me at that. She avoids me at every cause and I know I have hurt her but I do not know what to do about it so I concentrate on my studies. The midyear exams I am number one in our class and number two overall. My parents are pleased with me.
Did I feel dissatisfied with her? Did I feel undeserving of her love? Was it something said, done? Did it have anything to do with something I can’t really express, something unfathomable yet it was so instrumental in making me feel the way that I did? Can I say anything to pacify myself of the blame? What can I do to undo the wrong that I might have done her? Could I go all the way back correcting that wrong?
Every relationship is like a window, framed and contained, with its fixed view. It all depends on what gives you pleasure, that is if you like to look in through the windows or out through the same windows. Looking in through the relationship or out through the same relationship.
I have come to realise that I like both ways of looking at it.
Once a relationship is over I have liked to look in through that relationship so also out through that same relationship.
And even though it seemed like it was a lot too late and a lot of things might have changed between us but I did go back on that relationship, some five or so months after we had disbanded it.
And it is one Friday afternoon in early September and we were a month before our final “O” level exam. I am walking with her on our way home from school. I have left my books at school for I would like to return back on Saturday to study at school. There are three roads all through our village, Mapfurira village which is to the north of Nyatate School. We could have taken the one she wanted us to use; the one that goes through the middle of our village but I have refused to use this one because I do not want to be seen by my mother. I also want a bit of privacy for I am still inhibited somehow to walk with her through the village. In my mind I am also fantasising of cuddling her, touching her, so I force her to take the road that passes through the fields and small bushes to afford us some little bit of privacy. I want to be at the margin of the forest and fields, the cleared and the dense, the wild and the cultivated. She doesn’t want to use this road.
She is now quite and a bit troubled and I do not know what it is about that she is now quite about. The sun up the sky is like a dragon spreading its scaly tails, moving like the flight of dragonflies and the shadows on her face floats like broken sunlight. We were barely talking when we happen upon this colourful valley. It is so full of spring roses. It has rained a couple of times this past week so we are surrounded by the fresh bloom of tulips with friendly pastel faces waving like happy children in the spring’s breeze. This place faces a solid wall of trees and I know I couldn’t have painted a perfect place if I were Monet. The idea of privacy is not an issue here but we also happen upon Nyasha. He is my friend and instantly I realise that he is waiting for Celine. That’s why Celine didn’t want to use this road and that hits me like a big wind but I calm down a bit. All along I have been thinking that they were just friends. I had never thought in my wildest imaginations that Nyasha could be interested in Celine. We say hello to him. I ask him pointedly what he is waiting for. He lies and says he is just resting on his way to the shops. To the shops but he is on his way home. The shops are on the other side of the school so why all this way the wrong way? The red blood throbs in my iron head. I am a very blunt young boy so I tell him he could have Celine if he is waiting for her. He refuses and tells us to be on our way. Celine is quite all along and her face is slicked with sweat and anxiety so I ask her to stay back if she wants to. She doesn’t say anything to my reply. I am boiling with anger over her. I know she wants to stay with Nyasha but I have dared her so she is leaving with me.
I am beyond reasoning with her so after we have left Nyasha I start provoking her. She tells me they are not yet dating but this is not what I am listening for. It’s the hurt inside her and also the fact that she is definitely interested in Nyasha that I hear. This irks me so I start calling her names like whore, bitch, stupid, two timing brat and all sorts of other names. She tries to plead with me but I am now shouting hard at her. I can only fuck out of court the unspeakable parts of the goodbye. She starts crying and it makes me feel a bit better. I leave her even as she is calling me back, telling me that we can work things out. I just keep going and I return back to school where I have left my books. I read my books until almost dark but I am not grasping anything. I am just staring at the words, the lines, and staring into windows too. This was the last time I have returned back on a relationship.
I discovered that what was inside and what was outside of that relationship couldn’t have sufficed enough for me and that her love no longer lied inside those windows. I also made a resolve never to return back to what no longer was mine. Ok, call it whatever you want to but that’s what I did and was that because I am unlovable, empty and a fantasizer? Someone must have said those words or they could simply have happened on my mind. I also remembered her younger sister saying to me that Celine had loved me so much but that I had been a pain-some bastard. That they now viewed me with so much contempt, that I should feel personally deserving of it. But I was also surprised when that sister of hers accepted my date afterwards.
She later told me she wanted to hurt me the way that I had hurt her sister. She sure took all the pleasures in making my world such a hell-hole.
This girl hatches for a vengeful relationship straight away and like the sucker for trouble that I have been I fall badly in love with her. With this one I go all the way. Am I unconsciously trying to atone for the wrong that I did to her sister? She likes it. She becomes a woman insane, murdering me every moment she could. There is this Sunday when I bring her home. Father is home from his workplace in Mutare. I have been staying in Harare for a year or so now. I have come for the holidays and we are seeing a lot of the other. Everyone knows about this relationship not that everybody approves of it. This is one thing that is hard on her but there is nothing I can do about it because I can’t let her go.
Part of her heart wants to let me go so as to please the people but another part of her loves me. I know that my parents don’t like this girl but I don’t really care this time.
I am in the high adrenalin of a relationship. My parents try to be polite with her and later sneak to the main house. We are in the kitchen and she is making conversations with my siblings. Later I accompany her back to her place. She starts complaining that my parents do not like her. I lie that they like her fine. She says even her family doesn’t approve of our relationship. She says that her sister is angry with her. I tell her there is nothing I can do about that. We argue. She says we should stop seeing the other and I refuse to let her go. She says it’s over and leaves for home. I can’t let her go like that so I follow her. I tell her that I am not accepting this. I am on my knees and I tell her that I love her and that she loves me and that that’s all that matters. We haggle about this for some two hours and we are standing close to where her village Gwanyan’wanya hugs my village Mapfurira. I tell her that she is not going home until we have sorted this thing and that if she were to leave me I would follow her to her home. She seems to be taking notes out aloud but she realises that I am serous about that so she tells me that I should not go back to Harare the morrow day so that we could sort the problems. She says she needs the night to think things through and I accept her proposal for I know I can’t push her any further than I have done.
The morrow day my parents are surprised when I tell them that I am not returning back to Harare that day. I see her in the afternoon when she is coming back from school. There is nothing we talk of, about that issue. She laughs it off and tells me that she was only trying to figure out how much I loved her. I laugh the things off with her too. Nothing seems the matter with us but nothing improves. We are always fighting after this. It is a game of dress-up with this girl, everything is imagined. She knows everything about me but she still doesn’t show any desire to meet me across this bridge that I am trying to build as if she is waiting to find something else more about me that she didn’t really know about. She seems to know what she would do if she fails to find the things she is looking for. So I continue entering this corner knowingly and its corners that I am scared of after that. I would rather have them planned and straightened, not curvy before I enter them.
But all that I could do then was to push the boat far outer for her. She became the first woman who broke my heart.
I remember the waste of pain that comes with the breakdown of a relationship. Loss looming big like the sun eclipsed by the moon and for years after this it seems to me like there is nothing after the first heartbreak and love. And it is with this girl that I start to want and search for something that I probably thought was there in relationships.
But from that moment onwards I also started to cut sorrows, shaping a shape that I had learned without knowing.
It became to me I could only watch them; one girl after another coming into my life and getting carried away by forces that I did not understand. For there are forces we understand in life and there are forces that we don’t understand in life. They come upon us everyday of our lives. Most of these forces would never try to understand us. They wouldn’t even try to know us, just a little bit to begin with. All that we could hope for is that all that we have given and all that we really are would someday suffice enough to light the way for us in the future.
But I have nothing to apologise to them neither to her and very little to her sister because I have been truthful to myself. That’s what everyone else fails to really understand.
That I shouldn’t have faked on the way that I felt because in the long run it could have helped no one.
But I am now trying to listen to these words and all that I hear in these words are the sounds of the stones that I have struck up in my pathways, now yielding sweet-drink memories. And I know memories selects its own material like some distant editor would read this story and feel that she should cut quite a lot of the crap in this story to make it appeal to a wider readership but I won’t stop re-inventing remembering here if I am going to tell this story of my love of Celine and of her younger sister Angela and of what a verdant field our youths are for writing, ruminating, pleasure… and pain.
One of my best friends openly tells me that I don’t know what I want in life. Maybe that I don’t know what I want in love is a better summation. That is in people loving according to the ancient measure. But is he correct? I could tell this friend of mine that I knew when to accept the limits of those two relationships and that one day I would go beyond them. And he could answer me it is all part and parcel of my not knowing what I want in life and I am not trying to excuse myself of the wrong that I did to her. I am saying that that’s what I wanted to do and I don’t regret the decision that I took because that’s how I felt but I am also saying that I now know that I should live with my heart open to embrace those that I don’t remember anymore and those that nobody else want. I am also saying that now I breathe with the knowledge that the moment you hold them in your heart is always enough to sustain you in the future but I am also saying.
“I am so sorry.”
I have become the bigger person here and haven’t I have managed to open up these memories and enfold them onto this paper. These memories shifting into Shiftshapes on this piece of paper!
Burn this paper if you like, you also burn these memories but I don’t give a damn because I am now bullet proof.