“You met a boy, didn’t you?” she probed when I finally had some time to meet her for wine at our favourite street corner café the following Tuesday.
“What do you mean?” I croaked.
By then I had opened up a pack of cigarettes, as I usually do when I’m unexpectedly caught in a panic. We both possessed this strange ability to sniff each other out when either one of us had done something that we probably shouldn’t have. Our relationship had become curiously telepathic in that way.
“I mean you met a boy, I can see it on your face,” she said, casually snatching the cigarette out of my hand and taking a glorious drag, “So, who is he?”
I said, “I don’t know. Just a boy, I guess,” in that solemn tone I attempt to put on when I realise a conversation is just about to turn stern and confrontational.
Erica stopped moving suddenly, stared at her half-smoked cigarette bud and decided to ash it. Her eyes narrowed.
“This relationship is not normal,” she said.
“What does normal mean, anyways,” I said nervously, as I suddenly grew unsatisfied with my choice of words.
“Don’t get self-righteous with me. You’re seeing some dude and you think your girlfriend is meant to be okay with that.”
I considered her words for a moment, “I think you’re overreacting. I’m not seeing him, and even if I was I would totally understand if you did the same,” I said, half believing it.
“Not everybody is as carefree as you; some of us actually have real feelings that last longer than 24 hours,” I kept silent for a while, hoping she’d feel sorry and retract her words, but she never did. I suppose her anger had taken up most of her heart space by now.
Erica and I had been passionate admirers of one another for longer than we both care to remember. I suppose you could call us best friends in the way that we understood each other’s neuroses and diminishing psychological wellbeings, and lovers simply in the way that we, well, loved. She was one of those heartfelt promiscuous prowls, and I liked that about her, almost respected it. She was also very elusive, the secretive type. I think I loved her. I would never tell her that, of course, but I genuinely believe I did, which is just as real and true.
A bit of time had passed now and we both just sat there in awkward silence taking generous gulps of wine and inhaling more than we should.
I broke the muteness with a bit of self-doubting truth, “I doubt it’ll go very far, I’m jealous of him more than anything else,” I said, “Or maybe just intimidated. He’s gifted and well aware of it. He lives what I day dream about. I think he’s absolutely brilliant and it terrifies me.”
She kept calm, playing around with our second wine bottle, reading the label aimlessly. And in my semi-drunken state, I took her silence as permission to continue blabbing.
“It’s frightening. Thrilling but frightening. He’s like Andre 3000 without the remoteness.”
“Are you in love with him?” I could tell by the way she suddenly leaned her elbows on the table and compressed her lips that it made her nervous just to ask.
I sat there thinking about her question; I honestly didn’t know anything about being in love. I might’ve felt love for someone at some point in my life but to go as far as claiming to be in love with them was a very tall order for me. So I didn’t know whether I was in love with Don or not. And frankly, I don’t think it mattered at that point. I knew nothing about love, but I knew a thing or two about a thing or two. And what I knew about my feelings for Don was that I fell in love with the way he adored my unkempt, messy Kalahari dry hair, fell in love with the fact that he couldn’t get enough of the feel of my ass on his hands, that he liked the sound of my annoying laugh, and that sometimes I would catch him staring at me like there was nothing that I lacked.
I must’ve zoned out for quite some time because just as my senses kicked in, I caught Erica staring at me in utter annoyance.
“So?” she probed further, “Are you?”
“Why do people always resort to asking about falling in love when a girl meets a boy she likes?” I answered, slurring my words, “That level of pressure ruins even the most beautiful of relationships. Sometimes passion is better than falling in love, and experience better than commitment.”
I don’t know if I believed what I was saying, but I had hoped this pseudo-philosophical twist to the conversation would put her off the topic of Don and me completely. And knowing Erica as well as I did, it worked like a charm.
“Okay, whatever you say,” she said in between breathes of exhaustion and disappointment.
I had failed to satisfy her curiosity into the world of my love affair. For all she knew he was just another penis substitute to gratify my boredom with the modern world and to fulfil my constant search for something new and exhilarating; an intelligent, spiritual and oil-pouring penis substitute, but a substitute nonetheless. I let her think this was true; I also let her believe that this boy I spoke so fondly of was a stranger to her, that she had never met him. I always let her get away with thinking a lot of things.
Tell us: Would you break up with your significant other?