How to unfeel brokenness.

You stood about a foot away from him, legs slightly apart, looking into his eyes hoping to see:
a 2 storey-house in the suburbs,
a kinky-haired child
a love that made your ancestors haunt your relatives into blessing your relationship in advance,
or maybe even just a tomorrow.

And you spoke about politics – something about Kimani, the coup in Turkey, Philando Castile and you asked him did you see the fragile, familiar strength in that woman’s eyes, as Alton Sterling’s son wailed right next to her?  He shook his head and said how angry he was for the family and he continued to text as you wondered whether God engraved strength in the hearts of black women, whether black woman and strength had always been synonymous with each other. Because you had seen this scene so many times before: Black woman, holding the world on her shoulders as her world breaks right next to her, eyes full of tears and unrelenting resilience, and the world daring her back to break. You had tears in your eyes, so he asked you if you were okay. You nodded, and smiled, but you wanted to ask him if you too would one day be forced to unsee pain and embody strength, as your kinky-haired child cried right next to you.

You fingered through his case law book and he looked straight past your eyes, to your breasts, his hands grabbed for your waist, his mouth engulfed your lips and swallowed unsaid words, forcing you to coax your mind into stillness. His advances begged you to turn future into present, convert dreams into an insatiable thirst for his dark smooth body– carnal thinking. He pushed you to do and not think, and asked you to be and not dream. He silently persuaded you to be there in that moment with the current him and to forget about any future hims. His eyes told you that this may or may not be the last time, so you had to savor every part of him, even though all you wanted was silence, and two arms around your waist to tell you that you were home. Either way, that was his choice to make and your long stares wouldn’t change a thing.  So you unbuttoned your shirt, took off your socks and clasped his neck in your small arms, and eventually you bent over and grabbed his thigh.

As you stood there, only half enjoying yourself, you willed yourself to promise your soul, body and mind that this wasn’t it  - that you would one day feel: deeper, stronger, safer than the place you were currently occupying in the back of an imperfect mind. A place that opted for a version of you that was only allowed to exist with your legs apart, mouth shut, swallowing deeper and deeper, forcing you to taste your own breaking heart. And when he got off you, his eyes skimmed past your breasts to the creased sheets underneath you - unseeing your naked body. You promised yourself that this would be the last time. You even said goodbye to this room where you’d been introduced to new layers of disappointment and hope so many times before. You slowly dragged your feet over the wooden tiles so that you could remember what brokenness felt like when your feet finally found home.  And as your feet found their way into your black Vans, slowly forgetting the memory of the fragmented floor beneath them, he asked when will I see you again. And as if you hadn’t already said goodbye to those wooden tiles, that brokenness, you said next Friday at 11.

As you walked out of that doorway, he grabbed your face and kissed your forehead, forcing you to reimagine the omnipotent love you had seen in his eyes only an hour before, and so many times before that. He forced you to rekindle all that you had spent so much time trying to erase, all the compromises you were trying to unlearn. And you wanted to tell him. You wanted him to know how wholeness is elusive to you, how you don’t know how to love yourself in his presence, how sometimes you don’t know how to exist around him-how to be woman around him. But then you remembered that there are some stories that reside beneath dark waters, within untreated scabs on the feet of women who are used to coming and going. You recalled that there are some stories which are only told within the walls of lonely nights– the one’s you spend battling your own mind, trying to convince it that it is enough, that you are enough for someone - for yourself. But somehow that message never gets from your head to your lips. So you stood there, between doorway and cab door, between two dead ends, wondering which one would allow you to salvage as much of yourself as possible.

You heard a hoot outside, so you hugged him and said goodbye. As you got into the cab, you cried silent tears, washing your face of any signs of him.  Your father told you that salt heals, and you wondered if it could heal your soul – if it could make your eyes unsee, your feet unfeel, your mind unknow what it is to birth dead dreams. But you reminded yourself that this body, this black woman body has always known how to dream. How else does this world remain uncharred – unblackened?

That night as you greased your scalp with coconut oil, the warm liquid flowing through the partings in your hair, you convinced yourself that you were crying for nothing.

by Mumbi Kanyogo