Dressed in black

I once heard someone declare “Africans don’t suffer from depression” and I remember laughing because my first rodeo with depression occurred the summer I turned six. I’d been playing with some of the older boys in my neighbourhood, suffice it to say that the play was rough, in the process I broke my left arm. While the next day saw me making the much dreaded trip to the traditional bone setter, it saw my siblings visiting a very buoyant uncle. I came home in pains, they came home full of stories of all they’d had to eat and drink. For the next few days, I barely spoke to anybody. Then fast forward years later to high school, where I’d studied hard for a test only to emerge with the least score in the entire class. Feeling low does not even begin to cover how I felt. Or was it the time in college I let some friends cheat off me during an exam, they ended up passing that course while I failed. I envisioned burning down the faculty after that.

dressed in black

But all these instances were nothing compared to the way I was feeling the night I met you, that was my lowest. I’d just watched my ex boyfriend marry one of my close friends. This was particularly painful because I’d thought he was the one and he had acted the same way. I’d watched him slowly back away from me the night he met Nina, my childhood friend who just returned to the country. I know sometimes, that things don’t always work the way we envisioned it but that didn’t stop me from torturing myself with questions like-What does he see in her that he doesn’t see in me? Why wasn’t I good enough for him? How could he have been with me for years and known her only 5 minutes and now they were walking down the aisle?

Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for them, I even smiled, danced and mingled at the reception but that didn’t  mean I couldn’t feel shitty about it. I felt so shitty that I went to the nearest bar to get shitfaced drunk. So I’m sitting there at the bar, swallowing shots and shots of tequila trying not to pay attention to the men gawking at me, I know in their head they’d be wondering why a girl was at the bar drinking by herself. A small part of me had thought I bet if I were a guy, no one would have paid me any attention. Then I noticed you walk in. What caught my attention wasn’t even your 6 foot tall frame, or your dark complexion, but it was the way you walked like you owned the place, the same way I used to walk, years before I started losing pieces of me.

 

I remember that meeting like it was just yesterday. It wasn’t just the fact that you’d complimented my eye colour that prompted me go on that date with you the next day, but it was the way you’d said it. I’m used to people saying “you’ve got beautiful eyes.” So, when I heard you say “the honey coloured swirl surrounding that dark dot makes me think of Nala and her bravery”, I was smitten. The date had gone even better. Right from you opening the door to the restaurant for me, pulling out my chair, telling me stories that made me laugh to when you dropped me off and being a gentleman, making sure I was safely inside before driving off had made me more smitten.

It took some doing but you made me believe again. Slowly, you helped build me up so much so that if I was glowing before, I was radiating some beautiful colours now. I liked the way you tilted your head to the right when listening to me speak, the way you contribute to the silly stories about my friends and the way the song “wind beneath my wings” makes me think of you.

There’s a particular memory that makes me smile till date. You were sulking on your birthday because you thought I’d forgotten all about it. I’d called you up in the evening and you refused to pick my calls. I’d then showed up at your doorstep that night with a cake, an iPod and a speaker playing Sia’s “Dressed in black” on full blast. You’d loved the lyric so much that you’d had it blown up, framed and placed on your night stand. You said it gave you hope for when I’m mad at you. I have to include the lyrics…..

“Dressed In Black”
I had given up
I didn’t know who to trust
So I designed a shell
Kept me from heaven and hell
And I had hit a low
Was all I let myself know
Yeah I had locked my heart
I was imprisoned by dark

You found me dressed in black
Hiding way up at the back
Life had broken my heart into pieces
You took my hand in yours
You started breaking down my walls
And you covered my heart in kisses
I thought life passed me by
Missed my tears, ignored my cries
Life had broken my heart, my spirit
And then you crossed my path
You quelled my fears, you made me laugh
Then you covered my heart in kisses

I was down for the count
I was down I was out
And I had lost it all
‘Cause I was scared, I was torn
And I took to the night
I’d given in to the fight
And I slipped further down
I felt like I had drowned

You found me dressed in black
Hiding way up at the back
Life had broken my heart into pieces
You took my hand in yours
You started breaking down my walls
And you covered my heart in kisses
I thought life passed me by
Missed my tears, ignored my cries
Life had broken my heart, my spirit
And then you crossed my path
You quelled my fears, you made me laugh
Then you covered my heart in kisses

I was hopeless and broken
You opened the door for me
Yeah I was hiding and you let the light in
And now I see
That you do for the wounded
What they couldn’t seem to
You set them free
Like a butterfly kissing a child with an eye for the minor key

You found me dressed in black
Hiding way up at the back
Life had broken my heart into pieces
You took my hand in yours
You started breaking down my walls
And you covered my heart in kisses
I thought life passed me by
Missed my tears, ignored my cries
Life had broken my heart, my spirit
And then you crossed my path
You quelled my fears, you made me laugh
Then you covered my heart in kisses

Covered my heart in kisses

Then came the night that changed it all. You had promised to take me to the Terrakulture to see the play about the Aba women riot to mark our one year together. You’d wanted it to be special because you knew my appreciation for history and how I loved it even more when it came to life. I’d taken my time to get ready, new dress, new hairdo, new perfume, the whole nine yards because in your usual suave style, we were going to dinner at a fancy restaurant afterwards. I’d waited for you to come pick me up. 7pm came and went and you weren’t at my doorstep and when I tried calling, your phone was switched off. Initially, I was upset because you could get so carried away with work that it wouldn’t even occur to you to reach out and say you’d be late. 8’0clock came and I became a little worried because no matter how absentminded you tended to be, you knew when to put me at ease. 9’0clock , still nothing from you. 10’0clock, that was when I panicked, I called all your friends, your family members, but no one had heard from you that day.

I opened my phone and subconsciously scrolled to the last text I got from you earlier in the day. It read;

Hi Nala, make sure you look pretty, scratch that, beautiful tonight.

I want the world to know that I’m that lucky.

Love, Your man crush every day(Jay).

I’d smiled when the text had come in but then looking at it again, a sense of foreboding settled over me. I remember thinking, Is this the last I ever hear from him? Sleep eluded me that night as myriad of thoughts ran through my mind. Is he okay? Is he still alive? Will I ever get to feel his touch again? Who would wake me up with freshly brewed coffee? Will I ever wake up to find him watching me like I’m the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen?

I woke up to find my pillow soaked with tears, tears I didn’t know even existed because there’d been so much laughter between us. I did everything humanly possible to find you. I went to your work place and spoke with your colleagues, all they remember was seeing you leaving the building during lunch with two men but no one can say who they were for sure. I went to the police station with your friends and your family and reported you missing. For days and even months after, I jumped each time my phone rang thinking it was you calling to let me know you were okay or to tell me to take the next available flight and meet you up in St. Barth’s-Heaven knows we talked about taking that trip a lot.

It’s been years now sweetheart and I still wonder if your bones are lying in a ditch somewhere or if you are on some island sipping margaritas and living life but knowing you as well as I do, I’m leaning more towards the former. The worst part about not knowing your where about for sure is the inability to get closure. It would have been easier if you had died and we all attended a funeral, that way we can always say he’s dead. It’s awkward when people ask and we don’t know what to say, how do you tell people, “the love of my life vanished into thin air,” or “my son disappeared” or “my brother is no longer with us” or my friend just went away.” We really don’t know what to say each time people ask.

It is taking all the strength I can muster but slowly I am rebuilding my life because I know you would want me to. I am beginning to rejoin society, people have stopped asking a lot about you but I know they still wonder, I too, wonder. Tonight, I’m taking someone to dinner at your parent’s, they’ve become my second family, I guess shared tragedy has a way of bringing people closer together.

Whatever happened on that day would always be a gaping hole in our story but wherever you are, whether here or in the afterlife, I pray and hope you found the peace you very much deserve.

Love always,

Your Nala.

She felt emotionally spent after capping her pen. She closed the journal, tied it with a red bow, walked to the fire place and watched the flames dancing in anticipation like they knew what she had in mind. She stood there until the brilliant yellow fizzled out. She couldn’t bring herself to burn the pages. She walked back to the desk, opened the last compartment, placed the journal, locked it and kept the key somewhere safe. She knew it would make an unbelievable read someday. As she looped her arm through his, she hoped that this time, the universe would deal her a better hand.

Note: Inspired by true events but a lot of creative liberties were taken….

15 thoughts on “Dressed in black

  1. Great piece. if u hadn’t included the ‘Note’, I would have told u that exactly. I really felt it. This is one of ur best write ups. You took me…………………..Great work dear. keep it up.

  2. Zuzh, This is simply one of your best I have ever read in recent times. Beautiful story line and will spiced with personal accounts.
    Well done!

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