Before the pandemic, I lived in New York City. On one of my mom's visits, we were sitting side by side on the subway heading downtown. I think we were talking about what to do about dinner that night. Suddenly she turns and asks me, “so, how many men have you slept with?” I'm used to questions like these coming out of the blue. Luckily, she says it in Greek. I began to argue with her, also in Greek, in a half-empty subway car, in the middle of the afternoon… about sex. Particularly how it wasn't really any of her business. “You came out of me,” which is her argument whenever I ask for privacy. Which I'm certain is a Greek thing. “Just tell me that there have been men!” She shouted. Was she asking if I was a lesbian, or if I was a virgin? “It's just sex, it's like a sausage going in and out, it's no big deal.” She was calling me a prude. “Okay, please stop talking, I have had sex,” I might have shouted in English, my mother then sighing in relief and going quiet. I would be remiss if I didn't say this is how most of our conversations go; me exasperated and mortified, she going silent or moving on to some sort of small talk. Our relationship has always been a tug and pull, mainly between my mother's traditional Greek ideas and values, and my yearning to be just like any other American Girl. My mother only come to the country in her early twenties, newly married, and not knowing one word of the language. Even so, she adapted to some American thinking and raised her three daughters with notions of getting an education, being independent, and never having to rely financially to anyone; especially a man. But some of the greek traditional ideas leaked through now and again. And then the entire world stopped. I was in New York when the pandemic came to the United States. We quickly became the epicenter of the crisis, sirens wailing at all hours, make-shift hospitals being pitched up in Central Park, and millions of people all around us completely devastated. It became too much for me. I started having panic attacks, not sleeping, and worrying about how I was going to survive. New York is expensive at the best of times, so I decided that it was best to move back home to save money. So I'm back in my childhood bedroom living with my mom and our cat Violet. I'm 30. I quickly had to set some ground rules. See, mom doesn't really know what a closed door means. She comes into my room without knocking. This would not work if I was in the office in the middle of a zoom meeting or filming a self-tape or writing. So I had to explain if the door is closed, you cannot come in. No, you cannot come pee while I'm showering. Have I mentioned my mom is bad with boundaries? She thinks I'm messy because I leave plates in the sink and she has accused me of loving Violet more than her. We've had a lot of difficult talks. Some even about sex. I told her about a guy I invited to stay over after we stayed out really late; how he offered to sleep on the floor and that nothing had to happen. “So he slept on the floor, did you give him enough blankets?' “No Mom, he slept in my bed because I wanted to have sex.” My mom shuttered. “I thought you wanted me to tell you about this stuff?” “Yes, but not all at once, Niki.” She's learned about online dating which she calls appointments for sex. Which I encourage because it's hysterical. On our family trip to Greece the summer I was 13, my aunt, my older cousin Eleni and I were sitting in a cafe. A really obnoxious sports car drove by, I think it was lime green, and my cousin said how much she liked it. Without a second thought, my aunt told my cousin, “if you marry a rich man maybe he'll have a car like that and you can ride in it.” I was shocked, so I asked my aunt, “why couldn't Eleni get a car like that for herself?” She looked at me with pity, “that's harder for girls to do.” My mother would never have said that to me. If I wanted a fancy lime green Ferrari she would say, “you'll have to work very hard.” I realized how different the two women were. My aunts do not know how to drive a car, they don't own their own property, do not have a bank account separate from their husbands, and don't work. Leaving in her early twenties made all the difference, not just in how she carried herself and lived her life, but how my mother raised her daughters. I'm brave because she was. I'm moving back to London in September and my mom is not very happy about it. She's just always going to worry about me when I'm somewhere alone with only me looking out for me. That's just the way it's always going to be, because I'm her kid. We keep having our hard talks, she keeps walking into my office without knocking. But we make sure we have an outing every Sunday, and she makes me laugh because she's the funniest person I know. And we talk. I haven't told her how many men I've slept with but I put the dishes in the dishwasher now. She's still learning about boundaries. And that's okay.
I'm a female manipulator Something I've come to terms with It's easier than you think Call a boy pretty once He's yours forever I feel justified in my behavior Man after man lying to me when I didn't know better I lash out and retaliate after pain I take it out on others But I'm not hurting the ones that hurt me After years of constant disappointment I'm wounded I feel justified in my behavior Because my type is not-great people Almost a vigilante Except I forget I'm perpetuating a cycle People hurt people because they were hurt themselves By someone else in this pattern of abuse I feel justified in my behavior I'm open about this fact Right away I warn that I'm a bad person Run, if you don't want to be led on because of my confusion I don't feel justified in my behavior Some of them are innocent Great people But they give me the attention I so desperately crave So I hold the carrot and push them away with the stick I don't feel justified in my behavior Because I don't feel anymore Any remaining shred of vulnerability, trust, and whatever the hell else Has been stripped away from me I wish I could fall in love Instead of constantly doubting if I even like this person Allowing for vulnerability, even to myself It is even worse to not know how you feel Than to feel it I would sacrifice myself to constant disappointment For even half a chance of some kind of emotional stability I'm consciously aware of what I need to change Except I can't It feels better to inflict some of my misery on others I don't want to process it Relive and put myself through more trauma A knife in a wound can't be pulled out Otherwise you're gone Be patient, wait for a doctor I've been stabbed Some of the wounds so old they've begun to heal around the blade I haven't arrived at the hospital yet Only loaded onto the EMS gurney I'm a female manipulator And I'm sorry for those I've hurt
If you're lying, You are incredulous You allow penny truths to spit off your tongue Into my slot machine heart The rush of a gamble on love, The rush of winning or losing Why aren't you perfect? You showed me you were perfect. What did I do to change things? The wrath of my embarrassment is closing in I thought I'd want you to own my flesh and bone Soul, body, and mind I don't know if I believe you I do know I love you Without you I am not me
I scrolled up to reload my Instagram feed, only to be disappointed by the same post I had already liked and an array of grey, unlit profiles on top. I've officially ticked off one of my ridiculous quarantine goals, which was to swipe past every Instagram story of almost 300 people that I followed. It was oddly satisfying to have nothing left to browse on Instagram, for now, I could tuck away my phone knowing the lives of all the people I knew were as uninteresting as mine was. I switched off my phone and stared blatantly into space. Once upon a time, I would have covered up my feelings with an unwavering gentle smile. Nowadays, I let myself bathe in the complex emotions of the world. My eyes watered after seeing videos of old couples trying to sense each other's warmth through layers of plastic and frowns appear on my forehead when looking at the number of Covid cases rising by the minute. Laughter also came more easily as I realized the foolish beam spreading across my face everytime the leaves rustled to the wind. It was idiotic to bury down these overwhelming but pure emotions. Undoubtedly, I felt more at peace at home. No small talk, forced laughs or lame excuses to escape from social gatherings anymore. My introvertedness loved the pandemic a bit too much for me to admit. Yet, I despised it. The absence of chaos outside was so loud that the storm inside my head raged stronger. I could hear every penny of my thoughts, smell the saltiness of my tears and taste the darkness of my nightmares. It was the quietness of no new text messages, no deadlines to be met, rare greetings and farewells during online classes that threatened my happiness during times I'd thought would be healing. Yesterday, I dreamt of her again. She was holding my hand and wondering if I knew how much she loved me. Like every other dream I've had in the past week, she appeared so gracefully and erased all my worries. Even when dreaming, I knew it was just an illusion created from my longing to see her, but I firmly held onto the vivid imaginary moments of affection. If only we were as close as before, she wouldn't be lurking at the back of my mind. The random conversations we used to have about whether ketchup was better than mayonnaise or what the best Harry Potter house duo was seemed so distant. Everyday, I'd revisit our text messages and reminisce about the light-hearted talks, only to be reminded by the most recent text I'd sent, which she'd left hanging. That was six days ago. Like any other introvert, I prefer deep conversations to awkward chats. Until I found the perfect conversation opening, I held back from texting her. Scared I was, that if the text chain ended abruptly, I'd be even more skeptical of our bond. Would we ever again have those conversations where you simply can't text fast enough or where we keep talking over each other? Whilst waiting on the one person that could make me feel better, I lost touch with everyone else. People stopped asking me how I was doing after my absentminded responses, and for the first time, I felt alone and lonely at the same time. For someone who had occasionally avoided messages for days with no remorse, I didn't fathom how empty it felt to be out of touch with the world. The 'tranquility' of quarantine made my mind run wild with doubts. With no one to talk to, I overthought every detail of my life and visualized the worst possible scenarios from what could only be a perfectly normal situation. If silence had always kept me anchored amongst the fast-paced beat of the city, this kind of stillness rocked me like a ship on the perilous sea. I started to miss the bus tickets that led us to the city outskirts, where birds chirped and flamboyant trees grew as quickly as wildflowers and as passionately as the heat of summer. I convinced myself that I was just trying to escape from the tragic news headlines and my phone, yet, deep inside, I knew I was nostalgic for that one time she coaxed me into hopping on a random bus to see where it would lead us. Our spontaneity had guided us to 'our spot', which we immediately claimed the moment we laid eyes upon it. Maybe, I desired to be my old self again, the one that was so proud of her introversion and wasn't afraid to express her love to those that meant the world to her. The one that wasn't frightened of silence. To the eye of many, introverted people lived through quarantine as if it were their honeymoon, but social distancing tore us away from what kept us sane: stability. To feel uncomfortable in our own skin left our souls homeless. Nonetheless, it got better. The corners of my mouth twitched in amusement as I saw the notification for a new message. It said, "I miss you loads, wish Covid never happened", with a sad emoji on the side. It was the perfect text, for I also yearned to tell her the same.
It is not my right to say that I have come to conclusions about everything in life. However, there is a thing that keeps me always alert about relationships. It is a simple but very delicate thing called trust. There is always a part of our heart that goes with the person we trust to. Here I do not mean only our life partner or friends. Our siblings, parents, blood relatives, and all people we have known for the longest time could be the people we end up concealing our feelings from. Things like we crave to share, meanwhile realizing they will misunderstand us. Ironically, we trust our feelings or thoughts to some strangers on social media by sharing Instagram stories about our state of mind, composing heartfelt posts on Facebook, or via other means of social communication. Some of us block a family member on social media in the first place just because we do not want to explain the reasons why we do not trust them. Sometimes, the people we care about the most turn out to be the people we cannot wholly trust. Just think about it.
Smiling with one knee on the ground, his elbows resting on his legs with his hands outstretched, showing the whole world gathered in this small diner the diamond engagement ring glistering in the bright light before mouthing those four words. "Will You Marry Me Mabel" he confessed. Absolute shock ran straight from the top of my head to the tip of my toes making me rooted to the spot with my mouth hanging open in the most unladylike manner. I am completely blank and thrown off guard by his question that he must have taken my silence as part of the euphoria that comes with such an important question, so he pushed some more. "Mabel, Please Say Yes" Mark's voice pierced through the fog covering my mind snapping me out of that state of silence. I looked down into the depths of those soft black eyes that had captivated my heart from the first moment I met him, pulling me in unconsciously and holding me prisoner even till this day two years later and I saw undying love, devotion, trust and happiness, all playing in a loop as he stared at me waiting for an answer and the whole room faded away leaving just me and him. My heart bleed for the evil I was about to commit to a man who did nothing wrong but love me unconditionally for who I was. A man who took great care of me in my worst days and was my rock and pillar when I needed it. He was my Knight in shining armor, a shoulder when I needed comfort and a soldier when I needed rescue. Being my safe haven will be the understatement of the year, he was a man with a heart of gold and I was about to burn down his world to ashes. The first tear dropped… Springing to his feet, He immediately enveloped me in his arms and cocooned me with his warmth while the reassuring strokes of his fingers moving up and down my back made me calm. "Shush Honey, I didn't mean to overwhelm you with all of this" he crooned softly in my ears which sounded like a lullaby. The time felt right and I want to spend every waking moment of my life with you wrapped in my arms. I am so sorry for springing this on you, I just wanted today to be special and memorable as it would signal the start of our new life together. You are the light of my life Mabel and I want to spend the rest of my days with you. The dam I had been restraining all night overflowed and spilled out… FULL FOLDER HERE.... https://www.dropbox.com/s/lqm3ckkk8rlpdya/TWISTS%20AND%20THORNS.docx?dl=0
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I remember the first time I saw him. I was in his apartment. I was somewhat dating his roommate, and it was my first time at his place. I was sitting on the couch, when he came from behind me. “My girlfriend gets me flowers, and all I have a is a beer bottle to put it in” he joked. He had thick black kinky hair, sharp facial features, scrawny. I instantly fell for his loud objectionable laugh. It's a funky phenomenon, isn't it? Love at first sight. But I felt it. I felt it with him. He was wearing a Cosby like sweater, and baggy jeans. It was the year 1999, and we were dumb but didn't know it. I was 16. He was 24. I had met his friend through work. I was a caterer through a company in town. We mostly did low budget weddings. The food was simple - baked chicken, roast beef, sometimes fish. I was lucky enough to work with a few good friends. We would spend our breaks, flirting with the kitchen crew, and smoking cigarettes in the back of the box truck. We would hike up our skirts in hopes to gain some under the table tips from drunk old party goers. We would sometimes sneak a glass of champagne. The guy I was dating at the time, worked in the kitchen. We only dated very briefly and the only date I remember was a trip to the movies, and to Wendys for a frosty, which was my request - I was a cheap date. He truly was a very nice guy. A nice guy who was much older than me, a little rough around the edges, and had a child and an ex wife. Our relationship - or lack there of - quickly fizzled out. Which was fine by me, because remember- I was in madly love with his roommate. Luckily, even though things didn't work out with us, I was able to keep in touch with his roommate via mutual friends. And come to find out, he felt the same about me as I did him, and maybe even more. We spent hours chatting online, through chat messaging. He was all I ever thought about, day in and day out. He convinced me that no one on this planet could love me more than he did. I believed it to be true, because at that time - it absolutely was. But remember, I was only 16. He was 8 years older than me. As much as I wanted him, as much as I craved him - I was too practical. What would my parents say? What would my friends say? No one would would imagine that a 24 year old could genuinely love a 16 year old. So, years went by and I continued to keep myself away. I didn't let myself do what I wanted - I didn't let him do what he wanted. We dated other people. We maybe even loved other people. But we always came back to each other. Years later, I found myself in college. I had a rough night - had too much to drink. I was in the city - he was home, about 30 min away. I called him, I told him to come get me - that I needed him. He said, “listen, you're drunk. You don't know what you are saying. Go home, call me when you get there” I didn't let him hang up. I convinced him to come get me. And he did. He picked me up and drove me to his place. Everything was foggy. I had drank too much - but I knew exactly what I was doing, and I knew exactly where I was. We got back to his place, and I crawled into his bed. He got in next to me, laying down by my side. I could smell him. I wanted to feel him. I loved this man with all my heart - with all my everything. I wanted to show him how much I treasured him, and treasured all our years together. We had never been together like this. And then we made love. We didn't have sex, we didn't fuck, no - we made love. We melted into each other. I told him I loved him over and over, and he told me the same. I had never felt that way before, and I haven't since. Ours is a story that never turned into a story. A relationship never fully realized, always from a distance. But it was ours. He was my secret - a special treasure I wanted to keep to myself. He was all mine. He was sacred to me. Unfortunately by the time I was smart enough to realize this, he had moved on. And though I do not blame him now - I did then. Many years of pursuing a love that wont take the chance proved exhausting. There were times in those first few years, that I would think of him, and my chest would get so heavy, and the tears would swell up. I would find myself feeling like I had lost something that would never be found again. Those ugly words, “the one that got away” would ring in my head. But life moves on, and I have as well. I no longer hear a song and think of him. I am no longer swimming in regret, there are no more what ifs. But I will always hold a place in my heart, body and soul for him, and I hope he is doing the same for me.
Spoiler alert of That 70s Show!!!!!! Last night as I was watching an episode of “That 70s Show”, I saw that Hyde, one of the characters, cheated on Jackie, the character played by Mila Kunis, and I started to think about trust. See, he was one of the characters that I liked the most and I really thought that he was a good person, even though he played and made jokes with everyone. As I watched what happened, I couldn't believe it. When Jackie found out that he cheated on her, she chose to not talk to him and ignore him. Since I started to think about trust in relationships, I decided that if someone cheated on me I would never trust them or talk to them again. However, after watching the episode, I actually believed that Hyde was sorry and what he made was a mistake. And this made me think: should I change my mind or do I still think I shouldn't accept an apology? I always thought trust was something that shouldn't be broken. It should be preserved and nourished. For me, it is not something shallow, it is essential for a good and healthy relationship. So, if I deeply love someone, should I accept their apologies or stand up for myself and leave them? This stayed in my mind and I still can't decide. Later, Jackie gets back with him, and this didn't upset me. But why? He broke her trust but because they loved each other, they came back together. But should I just believe that love is going to fix everything? And how would I live with that thought in the back of my mind? I am still very young so I don't think I will find the answer soon. Actually, I hope I never find the answer, but it feels good to just let my mind wonder.
Long walks- an everyday habit I picked up from my father-are my thought process. My calm down. My pump up. My escape. My whatever-I-need them to be. Growing up, the first place I was allowed to walk solo was to the neighborhood coffee shop. I remember the first sip of my sister's chai from there. Ew. What a weird notion that I would grow to love it. However, as I was frequently in need of a walking destination, I found my space there. (Although, it would be years before I gave chai the second chance it deserves.) Introduced to mocha granitas, coffee disguised in frozen chocolate milk, my current coffee addiction began. This, by itself, is a strange idea to reflect on. What has become so much of my daily routine, my work history, my fascination, and my hobby began with such a simple foundation. Such a seemingly small thing at the time that grew into so much of my life. See, the strange part though, is that the same can be said of my friendships. I know, right? Like I'm really about to compare my growth into coffee addiction to my growth as a human… (I am though, so just hang tight.) One of the most common things I heard as I prepared to leave for college was that I would always love my high school friends but that eventually we would leave each other behind…that my “best” friends would be made in college. Because that's “when people really start to figure out who they are.” Um, okay. I mean, don't get me wrong- I've met several of my best friends post high school. But, the majority of my closest friendships were formed during those high school years, and yes, we spread out far and wide geographically. (And hell, wait do I even know who I am now? Do people ever really feel like they're finished figuring themselves out, and they're just like chill, yeah, done growing, bro?) So, anyways, here's the concept of strong foundation again. As I transitioned to college, my coffee order began to change with me. For starters, frozen coffee was not included in my meal plan. And there were always late nights studying or freshman mornings that required just a little more kick. Maybe my coffee could be a little stronger. A little less milk. In addition, coffee walks remained my escape. And depending on the day, I could jam to the newest playlist my bestie had sent or bring a book and get lost in one of my favorite adventures. All with my comforting coffee in my hand. And eventually, I found love in just black cold brew. What a radical change from my initial order, but the love was still there. The way I came to drink and work with and find comfort in my brew changed but never the love for the brew. So many humans that I love I have seen change their order, their interests, their hobbies, their goals and aspirations, their fears, and their hopes. In those early college years, coming home to an old coffee hangout with a new order, I could only wonder if the relationships I had formed had changed too. It was a hollow fear. Although we were already far from being the same people that we once were, the original love remained. My friendships and my coffee have unquestioningly known the worst of my days. And both have only gained strength through my growth. Now, however, in my late twenties, I would never argue that I no longer know the person I was. The person that somehow stumbled upon those small, sweet moments that turned into the strongest of foundations. I can point out that I am no longer the same, nor am I proud of many parts of my past, but I still know that person, she is a foundation as well, of who I am today. I am often asked when dating to describe myself. To lay myself out on the line. But who do you want to know? I can tell you who I am in this moment, who I used to be, how I hope to grow, and yet, who I am remains difficult to define. I am fluctuating. Mornings that I have work I'm a chug-my-cold-brew-as-fast-as-I-can kind of person. Casual mornings with known or new humans, I'm more of a sit back and sip it kind of person. Often my coffee comes on adventures with me, giving me comfort when I'm lost in a story. Frequently, a coffee means a coffee and walk. Sometimes, it's an oat milk dirty chai kind of moment. And others, it's a black, so very black, add a double shot day. It's a fluctuation. With a basic, strong foundation- my love for the brew. My love for coffee is honest but not always simple. Humans are the same. We're forever fluctuating in who we are, each moment an addition to our own definition. And sometimes, we are fortunate enough to collide with another human, in such a small way and create this foundation for love that lasts through the ages.
I was asked which I prefer- pancakes or waffles? I answer. I smile. I find the bathroom, lean against the wall, and slide down to the floor. I try to fight the tears welling up. Jesus, what kind of reaction is this? I mean the simple answer? Pancakes. Although, I'm biased due to sentimentality. Pancakes are pretty much one of the only foods I've ever known my dad to cook. It was definitely among the first things I learned to make. We were always the first two up, and then slowly, my siblings would join, demanding the batter pouring and powder sugar rights. I never minded relinquishing them. Plus, if I distracted dad by asking him to prove he could juggle knives, a move he could only pull when mom wasn't around, then the siblings could get a hell of a lot of extra sugar on the pancakes. The last time I told that story was to Sean. He wanted to do something"nice" to make up for an argument we'd had. The thing about Sean doing something "nice" for you is that you find yourself wishing that he hadn't. In his world, nice acts demanded payback. It came at a high cost, even though you hadn't asked for anything. Often, I found his "nice" act was never worth the price I would later pay. In theory, the idea would be cute, but behind the words, there would be a demand for tears, guilt, and whatever act of service he desired that night. I began to prefer when he wouldn't do anything. Anyways, that morning's "nice" act wasn't any type of exclusion. It all ends in tears. His birthday had been one or two weeks beforehand. I'd asked him just about three hundred times what he wanted for it. He kept replying "nothing," saying that he wasn't really a birthday person. As a non birthday person myself, I feel this, and I dropped the subject. I mean if you want to celebrate your birthday, hell yeah I will help you go all out. But when I say I'm not into mine, I mean I'm entirely okay having a normal morning, maybe grabbing coffee with you, and never mentioning that the day is any different. I think both kinds of birthday people are great, and you can be either, any year. I draw the line at the people who say they aren't birthday people and then get angry you haven't got a celebration planned. Dude. You told me you didn't want me to, and I listened. I just wanted your day to be what you wanted it to be. Guess what type of person Sean is. Yeah, that third type apparently. I had decided to make his favorite dessert, because it was low key enough an act to respect he "didn't care" about his birthday. What a disaster that decision created. As I read this complicated recipe, I recognized I'm kind of screwed, and I go by work to talk with my favorite baker, get some key terms explained, and utilize my barista status to caffeinate myself. Jonah sent me off with lots of new knowledge and a reminder not to expect perfectionism in one of my first baking expeditions. It turned out...well, I did take ingredients and manage to combine them. I tried to layer it before it had cooled, not the first mistake of the night, but I think one of the most detrimental to it's appearance. I struggled onward, missing a nursing quiz due at midnight and consequently failing it. I ended up with a dense, chocolate, raspberry concoction, but decidedly, nothing that could be called a "torte." After a long next day of clinical, followed by soccer, I offered the cake. Yeah, it looked like a mess, but I figured in the end, it was just sugar and chocolate and raspberries. He rejected it and was upset I had barely recognized his birthday. I "owed" him. Back to the morning of making pancakes. Sean is making fun of my baking knowledge, when the story of me asking Jonah to explain some baking terms came up. Before I even finished half a sip of coffee, Sean's entire temperament has changed. I did dishes and tried to talk, confused about the change in atmosphere. It was fine, until we were eating, and then he focused on how much I was eating. His rage grew throughout the day. I don't want to remember the night. Waffles aren't really something I ever went for, until my date with Dylan. I was so tired and trying not to struggle, training for a floor that still wasn't my dream. It had been a rough couple of days. Most people I would have just cancelled on that morning. He's safe to be around when I'm exhausted though, because it isn't draining. He doesn't emit an overwhelming amount of emotion, so I don't have to deal with my own and feeling all of someone else's. I guess that's a terrible thing to want. But, it's safe. Like a filter for all the feelings of the world, protective and grounding. I was pre-caffeinated, but he was patient and interested. My appetite came up only in terms of if I'd eaten enough. And you know what I realize? I don't really give a fuck about pancakes versus waffles. I care about who I'm eating them with.
LION OF THE PEN When it rains, it pours!! These last few days epitomized this, with no less than four family members being rushed to hospital, two requiring urgent operations! The usually effervescent energy of the family chat group quickly shifted to a somberness that weighed heavily on the chest, often causing laboured breathing! The lighthearted posts were replaced with constant updates from the hospitals, messages of mutual support, and prayers ... lots of prayers... Then.. this afternoon, the dreaded news... I remembered that Saturday morning when he had called, requesting that I attend the Maritzburg unveiling of his book, "Mandela In Focus" at the Nizamia Hall. I remembered being in awe as he addressed the audience. I had attended primary school at Nizamia, as did my parents, uncles, aunts and many cousins. And so did he, as I surprisingly learnt from his speech! But never before had I encountered the history of the school as he told it! Even the school governing body later commented on the need to document it! After his speech, he made a bee line towards me, with the visible joy of one reconnecting with a long lost relative. He even stated that he now "recognized the family forehead"! He then quickly rearranged the row of chairs where we sat, into a circle and promptly summoned and introduced me to two other relatives, who had accompanied him to the unveiling. The last we had met was when I was a little girl, on holiday, at my uncle and aunt's home in Durban, where he was a frequent guest, up until my uncle's passing. Our paths never crossed again until January this year, when he had approached me with an invite, to be a guest on his talk show. It was only after providing a short bio for the show, did he make the connection and delightedly stated, "We're family!" Even after the unveiling event, the handful of us stood out on the school grounds as he continued exuberantly chatting, clearly explaining exactly how my grandfather was his uncle, and my mother his cousin. He pointed across the field to the house in which my grandfather once lived, next to the mosque. He said he had spent a lot of time there and could still clearly remember every detail of that house... every fruit tree in the garden... everyone who lived there... and everyone who visited... He spoke of how my grandfather "presided over the community" and how we needed to co-author a book about his life. His love for my late grandfather was visibly evident. By this time, Kevin Joseph, the photographer of "Mandela in Focus", and the school principal had joined in the conversation. He introduced me as his niece, to which Kevin quickly inquired: "Another one?" "No! This one REALLY IS my niece!" he emphatically proclaimed. I later discovered that he habitually adopted people as family. All the cars in the parking lot had by now long dispersed, except for ours... Over the coming months, I received regular phone calls... a caring uncle watching over me... a seasoned mentor... I thoroughly enjoyed listening to tales about his friendship with Muhammad Ali and Barbra Streisand, the lavish dinners, the times when her home was filled with people, at the height of fame... and other things... He always ended his calls with a bit of parting wisdom... He also spoke about the book he was writing, documenting his experiences as a journalist and activist. He mentioned the title he was considering ... "The Man They Couldn't Gag" ... and asked me to write a short poem for the foreward. I obliged with "Lion of the Pen" Lion of the Pen He feared not the hunter's bullets in his quest to be heard And a deafening ROAR it was From his written word AdielaAkoo At the time of writing this poem, I never once thought that barely six months later, I would be writing this piece! It's only been a few hours since that dreaded news, and it still feels so surreal. The reality of lifelessness in one normally so full of life, is quite jarring! From the influx of messages being posted on social media, the positive impact that uncle Farook had on the lives of so many people, is clearly apparent. Combined with this, was his wonderful talent of making each person feel uniquely special! He will, undoubtedly, be sorely missed... Part of my own treasure trove of memories is this autographed copy of his book, "The Goodwill Lounge", in which he wrote this message in bold letters: "TO ADIELA, WHO OWNS THE SKY" And that is exactly how he made you feel! Like nothing was impossible! You could take on the world, like he did! They say that when an elder dies, a library burns down. These words have never rang truer than in the case of my uncle, Farook Khan. May you rest in peace, Lion of the Pen! (10 September 1944 – 3 October 2019) by Adiela Akoo
I've been thinking about this falling in love thing lately. Why fall into it , why can't people stroll into love or glide into love . Why fall really. Then this humorous anecdote came into my head. Just Imagine this... .You are leaning on your own side of the fence on your nicely self constructed ego wall and suddenly a nice good looking man or woman passes along. You are intrigued so you stretch your neck to get a better look and bam! The wall collapsed and you fell into his or her arms on the other side, two of you fell head over heels in a tangle of arms and legs. At this point you don't know where she/ he starts and where you end . suddenly the slope ends and you two came to a stop. You pause to catch your breath. Then carefully you untangle your arms and legs , you give him/ her a little distance so you can get up and seperately each of you begin to dust yourself. Then You begin to notice little things about them that you hadn't before. Oh I thought that was a dimple, it is actually just a crease. Is that a mole on her nose, I think it is. Real love can only start if after dusting yourself up , you look at one another and ask how they fared. Are you hurt, oh you missed a spot , let me help you dust that off. That is when you forge a lasting relationship and real love starts. But if on the other hand after dusting yourself up and seeing that mole on her nose or you realise that what you thought was a dimple is just a crease, you turn and walk away without a backward glance, then you just had a fall pure and simple , love has nothing to do with it.
“How does a relationship exist beyond the stars?” people often ask me. “How can it exist anywhere else?” I want to say back. Is your love confined to this earth alone? If it is, how will it last? How will it truly exist in this vast universe, constantly spinning and shifting and changing and creating, if it is confined to only this earth? My lover is not confined to this earth. She is in the stars, endlessly creating, galaxies in her hands, breathing auroras into existence. When I reach for her, I am falling. I do not know how to fly. I am confined, like the simplicity of earthly relationships, to the ground beneath me, breathing nothing but the air around me. I know only how to reach, clouds tangled in my fingers, sunlight burning me when I try to reach further. She is so much more. She knows everything. Her feet have never touched the ground, but she knows the colors of the flowers that grow in the moonlight, the softness of the rivers flowing miles beneath the earth, the deep coldness of space that the sun allows her to feel, watching her sadly as she goes; she deserves warmth and warmth alone, a truth every molecule in the universe knows, but she is too loved to be denied even the pain. I am reminded of everything she is when I look into her eyes. Her eyes are the color of chocolate from the south coast of West Africa, as warm as the gentle sunlight carried to her from ninety million miles into the depths of the universe, as clear as the river that gave way to the first beautiful waterfall I ever hiked to in Oregon. They are always melting, reflecting the cities of this world, then the churning of the ocean tides, giving way to the diamond rains of Neptune. How could our relationship exist so simply on the earth, when the girl I love is so much more than an earthly being? She is a creation of angels; not the angels that live in the heavens, softening the horizons, playing the trumpets that shift the clouds, but the cruel angels who created the fabric of the universe, who thought to give me an ephemeral hope of love that could easily vanish with a strong enough wind. This earthly world is prone to hurricanes, after all. There is one I am too familiar with, one deserving of a name I cannot think of: a name that could be defined in a word as the realization of one's insignificance. It comes as I sit on cracked concrete, staring at a sunset. Swirling colors that once kept my attention long, that continue to captivate the undreaming people that walk this planet, now cannot even compare to my lover's breath. Yet knowing the sunset is as far as the people of this earth dream, it reminds me of the girl at the depths of my own dream. It reminds me that I am on an earth where people don't know how to dream; it reminds me that I belong to this earth, and I cry. It's so painful, after all, knowing I am not what she deserves. It's human nature to question everything we have and everything we know. It's human nature that I hide on the beach, staring into the depths of our human universe, questioning why her gaze has lingered on me. It's perhaps fate's will, however, that defies this human nature that constantly tugs me away from her. Or it might be human nature itself, I realize, defying itself. After all, it is because of human nature is why that I selfishly look for a reason to hold onto what I know I long for. It is human nature that I look for a reason that will allow me to cement her presence in my life. I will find a cracked hourglass, washed up on the beach from a distant country I've never been to. Choked with water, the sand burning with the pain of living, starlight gathering to decide the time. Such an insignificant object, yet somehow drawing ethereal moments to it. I will know. Of course we exist beyond the stars. We found each other beyond the stars, after all. She would watch the stars stumbling down the dark streets, reflected in the waiting rain, cracking and breaking under harsh human footsteps. She told me once it looked like fireworks to her. I had to look up to see them. On the other side of the stars, I would watch them stumbling through the sky, trying to find their way home. In my eyes, the galaxy was full of wandering souls. I was always looking up, trying to find myself in that vast galaxy. After so many missed chances, for how could anything ever go so right for me so easily, our eyes met for a moment. Just four more insignificant shimmering stars, yet somehow the most significant of them all. Somehow, in that brief moment, our heartbeats collided, and for that brief moment, the laws of gravity shattered, allowing me to reach her. They brought me to her.
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