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No Goodbyes- a short story.

Just as the Imam cried out the call to Asr prayers in the mosque nearby, you would appear across the street. Waiting at the mercy of the van drivers in the absence of white spaced zebra crossing, to dart across the busy road and scoop me up into your arms.

You always came bearing gifts.

Yesterday was the soft brown loaf of adanza bread, filled to the brim with the white powdered substance- Nido full cream powdered milk, my very own crack. Layered with rich Milo chocolate and sugar. “A weird combination that will ruin her stomach” Yama always protested, but one you knew made me skip down the road after every bite.

The day before, it was crunchy, but with just the right amount of softness boiled groundnut, bought from Aunty Fatima that I munched on as we practised my French.

“Conjugate the verb Aller, using we in the present tense” you had challenged me.

“Nous allons à la maison” I enthusiastically said with a smirk on my face. I won. I had been practising that all day, I just knew what you were going to ask.

We were in sync like that. 

The apple indeed did not fall far from the tree, I was a testament to that. 

You were the root and I the branch of the tree that hesitated to sprout for 13 years. 

But when I did, I was a mirror to the root that birthed and held me together.

As above, so below. 

This was us.

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar”

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar”

“Ash-hadu an la ilaha-ill Allah”

“Ash-hadu an la ilaha-ill Allah”

The Imam sounds the Adhan, signalling that it was just after 5 pm.

I glance across the street, peering through the clouds of dust risen by the vans that zoomed past, trying to make out the silhouette of your extremely high waisted trousers and worn out brown leather bag- your fashion taste was that of Mr Bean.

The ebbeh street seller has just finished packing her obnoxiously large silver pan that housed the yellowy delicacy made with palm oil, crabs, cassava, fish and loads and loads of lemon juice and spice. 

You have always cautioned me against eating ebbeh not made by Yama- but mother’s cooking has always been the tastiest and safest to your picky taste buds, no other cooking could hold a candle to hers. 

The nearby shops started shutting their iron casted doors, clacking and bolting to retreat to their back rooms and answer the call to prayer.

Kotoh Amadou leaves one door ajar to accommodate the small figure sitting on the side of it in her green and cream uniform, black school bag held tightly in her arms, with her legs crossed, as she has always done waiting for you to scoop her into your arms and walk home.

“Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi”

“Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi”

I heard Kotoh Amadou mutter from the small, dimly lit space behind the counter of his shop that housed the red patterned, rectangular prayer mat, with tassels loosely hanging on the shorter ends.

My signal that Asr prayers have ended. 

With eyes still fixated on the space across the road, I occasionally counted the number of vans against that of taxis that skidded along quickly, routinely hitting the pothole that made its presence known confidently in the middle of the road. I wondered if it knew it was an inconvenience from the mutters of curses drivers and passengers alike hurled at the ground every time they hit it.

I used this time to practice counting from fifty to one hundred in French. I just knew this was going to be your challenge for me today, and I was ready to win again. 

We were in sync like that.

“Soixante dix huit, soixante dix neuf, soixante-“

I am interrupted by the scent of hazelnut and fresh warm dough that travelled to my nostrils from the direction Kotoh Amadou, who appeared with a tapalapa split in the middle- one half of the doughy bread oozing with chocolate spread, and the other glistening with the melted Anchor butter- just as I liked it. 

Usually, you would hand it to me if you were later than anticipated, your way of apologising for keeping me waiting. 

I thanked him and chomped away at the bread. If you were staring at me eating right now from across the street, you would say: “Mama, only thieves eat that fast, take your time, the food isn’t running away”

So I heeded the sound of your voice counselling me in my mind and took my time, I wanted to leave some to share with you. I promise I counted to ten during every bite, but I was really hungry and you were taking too long.

I am sorry.

Yayi, is that why you didn’t come today? Was I too greedy? Did I eat like a thief?

The once bright orange sun has turned golden as it disappeared into the clouds across the street. I had envisioned you appearing in front of it, the vanishing sun forming a semi-circle above your head as heroes do in the Soap operas we watched in the compound. 

The heroes always appeared and scooped up their princesses.

Yama yanked my arm and continuously responded to my nagging questions which made a 3-minute walk feel like 20 minutes of agony with

“Yayi is at home, he has been waiting for you”

The Adhan for Maghrib prayers echoed in the distance. Mother had come to get me from Kotoh Amadou’s shop at sunset, it was taboo to be roaming the streets at this hour. “Timis is the playtime for jinns mama, you should be indoors whenever you hear the call to Maghrib prayers” Yama always advised.

“How come I did not see him across the street today” I interrogated her on our walk home.

She halted to tie her wrapper a little tighter, darted her eyes at me with a glance that said “you are too inquisitive for your age”- I hear this a lot in voices and looks.

We resumed our walk and I paused my interrogation of my mother to greet the shopkeeper Tapha.

“Did he use another road today?” I resumed my inquiry.

“Why would he use another road?” I whispered to myself.

He must’ve seen how greedy I was, I knew it. 

We are in sync like that.

And now he is angry with me. Maybe I should count to twenty during every bite next time.

“Yayi come clean my buttocks”, I yelled from the toilet after finishing my morning poop before getting ready for school.

My 5-year-old tongue has fondly substituted the “d” in “daddy” and the “m” in “mama” for a “y”.

So daddy became “Yayi”

And mama became “Yama”- and it was a language only us 4 understood, it was our world.

“Yayi!!!!” I shouted again.

“Yayi if you don’t come here in 5 seconds I won’t save any bread for you after school” I threatened.

A few minutes passed.

The stench of my droppings is now suffocating as I sat on the red and black dotted Mickey Mouse stool you had bought me at Serrekunda market without much convincing. 

Yama peered from the door, “do you want me to come to clean you?” she inquired.

“No! Go and bring Yayi here right now!” I asserted.

“Yayi is busy, allow me to quickly wash you up or you’ll be late for school” she begged.

I reluctantly agreed- I hate being late for school. You loved that about me. 

School was our thing. Our love for academia and proving our intelligence bonded us.

We were in sync like that.

“Come phone call for you-it’s Yayi ”

I quickly slipped into my black polished school shoes and darted across the living room- climbing onto my green stool to reach the handset that hung on the wall.

“You, you Yayi, where are you? Did you not hear me calling out to you to come to clean my buttocks this morning” I snarled down the transmitter.

“Mama, I got on a plane in the sky, I am in London. I miss you” a voice that sounded like you transmitted back to me.

You sound tired. You sound far away. Very far away. I don’t know where London is. 

I just know it isn’t here, and you got on a plane without me. 

We were not in sync like that.

You never came and scooped me up.

Here, in this living room in The Gambia, dressed for Nursery 3 in a cream oversized blouse with green ankle length skirt, at 5 years old, I learnt that love could leave without saying goodbye.

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At the crossroads of isolation and wanting partnership-Dating in a pandemic.

“As a young woman raised in a sheltered African home, with strict curfews and stern warnings to avoid boys and bury my head in my books, I have mastered the art of seclusion”

Today’s post is an extension of my mind at hours when I ponder on life and fulfilment beyond career or financial goals. And since coming to the realisation that my husband will not meet me by breaking into my house, I’ll have to explore the nuances around dating.

Dating as an introvert presents many challenges; the addition of a mentally draining Covid-19 pandemic has only just added to its endless list of “ifs” and “buts”. For the singletons who happen to be introverts, we have spent a great deal of the pandemic nurturing our isolation and fortifying the walls of self-sufficiency. This poses a challenging post pandemic reality; where flirtatious dms and “talking stages” begotten during quarantine, with the expectation of blossoming into a physical dating interaction is put to the test.

As a young woman raised in a sheltered African home, with strict curfews and stern warnings to avoid boys and bury my head in my books, I have mastered the art of seclusion. It isn’t a state I dread. In fact, I love being in solitary with the black-out curtains and thousands of Grey’s Anatomy episodes carrying me through nights of introspection. I seldom find a partner who entices me enough to easily penetrate the high towers of solitude I am locked in. And when I do, without hesitation the tower completely liquefies leaving me vulnerable without healthy boundaries.

The past year spent in multiple rounds of lockdowns have been an eye-opening journey. Endless hours spent in my sanctuary has consolidated the love for my own company and my distaste for small talk or premature sexual advancements. Yet, in this awareness, a yearning for a complimenting company arose. Someone whose presence will cuddle me through nights of unending conversations on existence theories. Someone my children will call daddy and run around playgrounds with. Him, someone that I get to face life’s challenges and celebrate life’s wins with. Someone whose company I would relinquish my isolation for, in a heartbeat. And the realisation that I will have to date, and put myself out there to make this possible, was bothersome.

Have you seen the dating streets these days? It’s all wrapped in a Pandora’s box filled with 2 year talking stages, narcissists dressed up as “nice guys” and boyyyyy let’s not even get into the normalisation of ghosting. But despite all of these cautions, I am a lover and I have always believed that when I am ready, there will definitely be someone out there for me.

In isolation, yearning for my type, I run to Hinge but find myself quickly deleting the dating app after a day of being overwhelmed by 50+ matches who just could not be him. Online dating has garnered mass amounts of humans looking to connect and escape their loneliness thanks to the pandemic. Unfortunately, humans have their shortcomings regarding honesty about their intentions. Being encapsulated by my healing; a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, a journey of pain and joyful revelations, my patience for the games that come with dating is meagre. 

The ease of Lockdown provides the possibility for a more authentic dating experience in person, but here I am, afraid of renouncing my solitary comfort for a fleeting romance that might leave my heart aching again. I have spent a great deal of time being my own source of dopamine and serotonin- what will happen to the towers if I head on out there and accept his provision of love? What will happen if after multiple dates and getting lost in each other’s arms, he leaves? Have I learnt to healthily deal with the possible rejections that dating comes with?

Dating after over a year in a pandemic presents a plethora of conundrums surrounding social interactions. What are the appropriate questions to ask on a first date nowadays? Am I grilling him too much if I ask the vital questions that will determine our compatibility from the jump? Should I just stick to the shallow surface level questions? How slow should we go? How fast can we run? How safe is he? Will I lose myself a little too much in his compliments coming out of a stage where the only compliments I was showered with erupted from my lips? At the first sign of discomfort, will I run and lock myself in the highest room in the tower?

How do you put up enough walls but not too much that you keep everyone out. And not too little that you end up self-sabotaging and betraying your boundaries?

Am I too naive in the type of love I envision? Him, the one that will continue life’s journey with me is a lover with an addictive saccharine sweetness that does not run dry, a siren, patient, authentic, confident, warm and intelligent with flaws he bears open.

This inner discourse unearths many questions. Here I am, a lover wanting the elusive experience of intimacy, building and loving life with a partner yet unequivocally making love to my isolation. But if there is anything I know, it is that the lover in me will remain open enough to embrace the lover for me. And together we will bask in the harmonious silence that embraces our nights through thousands of Grey’s Anatomy episodes or nights filled with our laughter and soft moans echoing in a home filled with love.

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How to Get Over a “Situationship” or Not.

Right now it feels like out of the billions of people breathing on earth, your heart was the only target to break. It feels like the world is out to get you or you are being punished for something you did when you were just a floating sperm in your daddy’s ball sack. And the whole world ridicules you for this feeling because how dare you catch feelings for someone who has not clearly made you their partner.

The definition of a situationship is subjective but it is a common consensus that this is a romantic situation which has some exclusivity but not certainty and verbal agreement of a relationship. In such situations, one party holds on to the hope of the situation progressing into a relationship based on their translation of the actions and words of the other party involved. This leaves a grey area and a lot of room for hurt that is opened widely when the least emotionally attached party leaves. Truth is whatever the definition of the romantic situation was, your heart was still involved and it was broken.

Being hurt by a romantic situation you only ever poured love and kindness into sucks. Being hurt by someone who is nonchalant to your pain, sucks. Being hurt and feeling stupid because you allowed someone else to consume you to the point of relinquishing power, sucks. It feels like they have all the power over your right now. You are in tears and you just want to rip through every layer of skin and maybe, just maybe you can make it to your heart and find a switch in there somewhere to turn the pain off.

The heart is one of the most powerful muscles in the body. It is a beautiful, vital organ that keeps us alive but yet right now it feels like its sole purpose is to kill you. This muscle expands unlike any other in the body and when you are hurt it feels like every artery stretches and intertwines with your intestines; forming knots of anguish in your stomach. If only our body processes hurt as it does food waste right… like “oh after a good laxative and 30 minutes on the toilet seat I will be completely free of the pain”.

But it doesn’t.

Why do heartbreaks hurt so much?

Well… you’ve heard that “the harder you love, the more you get hurt”. When you become enamoured of someone and open up for them, your little heart expands because now you task it with the responsibility of beating for two. This is why the thought of something bad happening to someone you have “caught feelings” for shatters you. This is why you ask constantly if they have eaten. If they are sleeping enough, breathing enough, tying their durag properly, balancing work pressures well, their family’s health and safety… remind them to breath. Your brain naturally sends signals to your body for these things for yourself but when you love someone, your heart believes it has to remind their brain to function as well.

So when your love interest leaves, your heart has to learn how to contract just enough without becoming too little and disappearing altogether; I mean it still has to keep beating for you right. This is where the hurt paralyses you. Your heart had expanded so big and adapted to beating for someone else so quickly that this change and need for contraction is quite literally breaking it. You might have to lose chips of it to get it to fit in your body again; after all you have made it grow beyond its fist size when you filled it with love for this person that it burst out of your body trying to connect it’s ventricles to theirs every time you hugged them

So what is the magic trick to making the hurt go away?

I could give you a list of actions and advice on “How to heal from a heartbreak”, “How to stop hurting and move on”, “How to move on from loving someone who doesn’t love you” but darling sometimes you just need to allow yourself to break. Muscles grow back bigger and stronger after a lot of pressure is applied; your heart is no exception. I’ll love to tell you that “you will be fine, you deserve love….” but truth is you already know this babe. You have been here before and even if this is your first time, you know that nothing lasts forever.

This is not a post for positive validation or affirmations. Today I just want you to know that your hurt is seen, it is valid and you should not run away from it.

Why are you even hurt? I mean it was only a dating situation its not like you were in a relationship or anything.

Why are you even hurt? You’ve only known them for just a couple of months.

Why are you even hurt? You allowed yourself to catch feelings so that’s on you.

Why are you even hurt? You got yourself in and stayed in that situation didn’t you?

Why are you even hurt? They’ve moved on.. you over estimated your importance and relevance to them so…

Why are you even hurt? You were the one stupid enough to see the red flags as cerise coloured drapes.

Why are you even hurt? It was clearly there, you just didn’t look close enough.

Why are you even hurt? You could’ve prevented this by leaving first, I mean you had many chances to do so.

Why are you even hurt? Everyone else could see how little you meant to them.

Why are you even hurt? You are nothing to them….. but in this moment, they are everything to you.

You are gaslighting your emotions a lot right now. You are explaining every single action and inaction and oversight and everything… You just want them to say something right? To maybe just validate your hurt and your reality. To make you feel less stupid and naive? To confirm that all the passion you felt was indeed real and not a prolonged daydream? You just want them to say more.. to explain more.. to make it hurt less, to give you…. closure. Their inaction or silence is a clear communication and all the closure you need my darling.

My darling I know it hurts. Fuck I know how much this is breaking you right now. It is paralysing and you want to scream so loud that maybe faint sounds of your despair will travel to them and they will come riding on a horse to rescue you from this tower of pain you are trapped in. My darling I know you are trying so hard to make sense of it all, to decide whether to put all the walls back up or keep believing in the fairy tale you deserve. Maybe if you looked into their eyes one more time their soul will get lost in the light of yours and maybe if you touch them one more time they will remember how you both melted into one so many times.. when you moaned in synchronicity at every thrust, when you hugged at every meeting and goodbye, when you moisturised their skin with butter and a whole lot of love radiating through your palms.

I wish I could share these generic lists and tips with you that will magically make it all okay; I could but I don’t want to. I want you to feel every single heart throb. I want you to be aware of how tight the walls of your chest come together when you squeeze the warm tears from your eyes. I want you to lay in bed and not want to do anything for days and I want you to fucking feel all of the hurt and confusion because like waste, your body gets better by expelling negative emotions outwards. No brain trick is going to actively make you stop loving them tomorrow or next week or next month.

You are going to love them, long for what was and what could’ve been, You are going to get up everyday and work through the hurt because well capitalism has us by the neck babes and you can’t be heartbroken and broke at the same time x. You will be aware of the hurt and affection when you randomly miss them because you are making breakfast and you made your toast just how they liked theirs. You are going to miss them because you opened that wallet that still smells of their perfume from months ago. You are going to miss the plans you never fulfilled because they are fulfilling them with others right now. You are going block and unblock, see what they are up to until one day you will realise, you have not thought about them in over a month.

One day you will be making your toast and you will get flashbacks of how they liked theirs and giggle at how silly it all was. One day you will realise you have not cared about what they are up to in a week, a month, a year. One day you will realise your heart has perfectly contracted to only beat for you and you won’t shed a tear. One day, the hurt would have completely pass out of your body through your tears, your sweat, your breath, your will. One day you will accept that your love was one of the most beautiful things you shared at that time and they needed it. One day you will love again. And again. And again. And again until your body becomes one with the earth and your soul gives the universe more love than it could ever give when it was harboured by your body.

*Processing or experiencing heartbreak should not result to physically harming yourself or others and their properties. If you find yourself actively trying to do this, seek support from friends and family and or medical help. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to you cry and hug you without invalidating your feelings. Don’t catch a case or destroy yourself as a result of lack of romantic love please babes. Cry and block and unblock and block and unblock but do not every escalate it to an action that will damage your character or other relationships.

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Unrequited Love: How to Move on from Loving Someone who DOESN’T Love You.

This post has all the information you need to take back your love and move on healthily open to loving someone else in the future. You have unfortunately experienced one of the most painful forms of heartbreak; join the gang darling x. If you are not currently experiencing this, you might be reading to prep yourself so if the universe ever decides to do a negative 360 on you, you are ready to spin that shit right back.

What Is Unrequited Love?

Unrequited Love is defined as a feeling of love that is not returned. A very simple sentence to define something that can eat away at valuable weeks, months and even years of your life if you do not learn how to process and move on from it healthily.

Why Does Loving Someone Who Does not Love You back HURT this much?

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

You are not alone. In fact you are actually part of about 80% of the population who will at some point love someone who cannot love them back; the 20% who do not experience this are lucky bastards… so for those of us who aren’t so lucky we have to understand and process it. You will be tempted to wait or try to convince this person to love you….. darling, DON’T. Darling, you can never make someone love you if they do not want to. So process the hurt and let go.


REJECTION

This right here is the culprit. When someone tells you that they cannot respond to your emotions in the way you want them to, you feel rejected and that shit sucks! You feel insecure, unwanted and undesirable. It sucks so bad that there has been multiple studies to analyse how the brain reacts to being rejected so lets take a little dive into the research:

Firstly, your emotions are absolutely valid. Do not ever punish yourself for loving someone, it is natural as “humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships”- C.Nathan Dewall.

The Cyberball research by Naomi Eisenberger in 2003 concluded that the areas of the brain triggered in people who experienced rejection are the exact same areas triggered when we experience physical pain.

Another research by Ethan Kross in 2011 revealed that when images of their ex was shown to people who had recently broken up with their partners, their brain regions triggered by physical pain lit up. So this tells us that you are not just in your head about how much it hurts, your brain processes rejection as a form of pain and with pain, there is always a treatment; sometimes this treatment is quick and numbs it immediately, other times it takes just a little bit longer.

So now you know this, How do you Move On without being bitter?

Moving on from a romantic bond takes a lot of self reflection. Of course some people will say “get under someone new, to get over someone else”. Whether it is a crush who does not feel the same, someone you were dating that changed their mind or a relationship where your partner decided they wanted something else in life that does not include you; the hurt will be there and getting under someone new only gets you a new person to pile on more hurt to what was not healed.

Here are some steps to process unrequited love and actually healing leaving you positive and open for more love in the future:

REALISATION (Take them off the pedestal): When you are in love or attracted to someone, it is all roses and the passion makes you focus on all the positive things about them. The idea of being with them becomes your main source of dopamine. This passion usually prevents us from actually getting to know them as a person as opposed to the object of our desires. The idea of them you have is one that makes you blur out their flaws and only focus on your ideal perfection; so to you, there is no one in the world as amazing as this person.

Truth is, if you take a moment and actually focus on the behaviours of that person, you will learn that they are not as special as you have made them out to be. Like you and everyone else, they have flaws and are just human. This realisation will take you out of the scarcity mindset and you will gradually realise that the only perfection this person has, is the perfection you attributed to them.

SELF REFLECTION AND FOCUS: This is often the task that we fail at miserably. Self reflection is not an exercise to chastise yourself to the point of invalidating your feelings. Saying things like “I am stupid, why would I allow myself to love someone who clearly does not want me” does not get you any step closer to healthy healing.

Self reflection is understanding why the rejection might be affecting you that intensely or longer than others.

It is understanding your attachment style. Take the attachment style quiz here. Understanding this arms you with information to compassionately assess your emotions and process them as opposed to avoiding them. “The cure for not receiving love does not lie in avoiding to experience it”.

Once you have understood this, flip that camera and keep that lens focused on you. Now is a great time to take on tasks that reward you and give you that dopamine satisfaction the wanting for your loved one provided. Be careful not to bury yourself in work and socialising as a way to avoid feeling the uncomfortable feelings of rejection, your healing is not a race. Take your time.

DISTANCE: “Out of sight, out of mind”. Putting a considerable amount of distance between you and the other party is important for you to process your emotions healthily without relapsing.

This includes not stalking them on social media after you have unfollowed/blocked them. Your mind needs time to create an accurate perception of this person and if you are still in communication or consuming the life of this person visually, you don’t give yourself the environment to unlearn and take them off the pedestal you have put them on.

So block them. Unfollow them. Delete their number and cut off all communication until you get to the mind-frame where you can maintain communication with them without expecting love.

ACCEPTANCE: Going through the first two steps and implementing some distance will get you to this final point. This is the point where you take deep breaths, your mind is clear and you have accepted that you fell in love with someone who simply does not love you. Whatever that person’s reasons are for not loving you has no bearing on your self worth or desirability.

They are just ONE person and this planet is filled with millions of people. Yes, they might be a dope ass person but there are many dope ass people everywhere. You are deserving of the love you envisioned but you can never force someone to give it to you. Take the time to work on your emotional attachments and balance it out without totally giving up on love.

Unrequited Love and rejection can lead to depression, obsession and in some extreme cases physical harm. If you feel like your mental health is rapidly deteriorating and you are having life threatening thoughts towards yourself or others, seek help from a supportive structure and or medical help. Don’t allow one person’s NO to negatively throw you off your life’s path. Another person is never worth you losing a considerable amount of life’s most valuable currency- time.