I do admit that I was a reader. When I would read I would become so absorbed into the story that I would become one of the characters in that particular story. I would be reading myself into oblivion. It never occurred to me that one day, I would toy about with the idea of becoming a writer, an artist, a creator, one who browses through human nature with great knowledge and equipped with a powerful imagination. And gone are the days when I thought writing was a matter of scribbling or shedding a lot of ink on a paper.
I realised that it was not that easy. I did learn that more often than not, one can imagine a writer knows no rest, for an idea can visit him even in the middle of his sleep, or amidst bathing, breakfasting, a luncheon or in the middle of an interesting conversation. A good writer must abandon whatever they are doing when an idea pops up and quickly jot it down.
Now, I self-proclaim that I do possess the talent required to shelter people’s minds and their whole beings from the troubles of the world. I mean those who have minds that wander day and night without rest, I can accommodate them. I’m a blanket to them when it’s cold, food to those who are hungry and a voice to the voiceless. I’m eyes to the blind and wings to the crippled. Yes, I’m a refugee centre, centred within myself. However, it’s time for me now to take my hat off and give my salutations to you, you Shirleen, my high school girlfriend.
You had the beauty that challenged the beauty of the sun, at the setting of the sun I would enjoy gazing at you, for the sun would make you golden. The way you commanded the white man’s language with such ease was a marvel to many if not all, even when you laughed or coughed many would say you laughed or coughed in English and not Shona; your mother tongue. Then there were those days when we would quarrel and on a certain day you wrote to me telling me that it was over. I read the letter silently and when I finished my knees and elbows became wobbly.
I read and re-read the letter until it had grown dog ears from being over-read because I couldn’t let you go. Losing you was like losing a piece of myself. I couldn’t concentrate on my studies; all I could think about was how I became the person I was because of you. I cried for you, not physically but spiritually, in my heart of hearts. I would shed tears, and they would drip but not on my cheeks but in the heart of my hearts. I had no other way of getting myself to move on from you, so I turned to writing. I didn’t start writing because I enjoyed it but because I believed and still believe that people write to make sense of the things they’re going through and of their lives.
Writing is easier than talking because the paper doesn’t talk back or judge you. I had and still have a love for letters, they are obedient and their meaning never changes. Letters do not discriminate nor are they unkind, they can only be used to form discriminating words and phrases and unkind words and sentences. That’s why I started writing to Shirleen; I needed a neutral and positive way to get over her. I wrote so many letters that they all could fill shelves. First I used letters to form words that begged her to take me back. I bended and twisted those words and pleaded with her to re-activate our love.
I was earnest and honest, but you, you ridiculed me through me letters. You showed your friends the letters I wrote to you. You displayed my feelings and affections to the public and acted like you didn’t do anything wrong. You held your head high like a giraffe stretching its neck to grab leaves of a tree branch somewhere high in the sky. You hurt me, you embarrassed me and you made a fool of out of me. I couldn’t believe that you exhibited my letters around as if they were aesthetic artefacts. I remember that day vividly; I clenched both my hands into fists and punched my chest pompously with great self-pride.
I couldn’t contain myself at the mere thought that a beauty like you considered me to be somebody worth ditching. You used to praise and complement me at my writing but now I wasn’t even worth your time. When we wrote our final examinations we parted ways for good. I felt relieved but I discovered that a huge part of me had gone with you. Most of my friends asked about the aftermath of our relationship and I couldn’t find a single person to borrow a mouth with which to answer such a sensitive question.
You were gone and I wasn’t sure if I would ever see you again. Before you left, you had written me two letters that I kept which grew dog ears from constant reading until they were finally worn out. Remember that day I went to school drunk and tried to fight Tinago who made it clear to everyone, including me, that he was after you. I put up a miserable fight and lost but you thought me so brave and we laughed about it afterwards. Now, suddenly all my feelings for you have cropped up at the mere sight of your face, which I’m gazing at right now.
The look, smell, memory and feel of you has re-surfaced and plagued me. It has me mesmerised. Thanks to technology, thanks to Facebook or ‘the book of faces’, for now, we can talk after ten years of Sundays, after I had given you up on you. Now I’m just about to reply on your very first message wondering if you’ll post this in public too. If there is a man in your life who keeps tabs on you, if there is he’ll be reading this:
…You are right, it’s been quite a long time since we saw each other. It’s now close to a decade but the passage of time hasn’t burnt my feelings for you. You had and still have a permanent seat in my heart. How can I forget someone like you Shirleen? Never will I forget the first time I saw you, you were and still are beautiful. I remember the first day I kissed you, it felt good.
After that, I thought of you more than I cared to admit to myself, you might not believe it if I told you that I thought of you at the most unlikely times. I believed that we would end up like many of the fairy tale stories we both read. I believed that we would stay together forever. But things happened, you left and we both grew up. I still see you as the steady, mature, intelligent woman I knew you would grow up to be, and yeas you are.
I have outgrown my boyish smile and naivety. I’ve also taken many other knocks from life. At first I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. Now that I know the reason you left, to carry and give birth to our child, the letters that form this letter are worth writing. Would you honour me by giving me a second chance, move in with me so that we can start living our fairy tale in tranquillity.
Please say yes.
Still your love