By Talib Gibran
With Anna, my taste in reading had completely changed. Prior to meeting her, I used to get lost in thrillers; a suspenseful, sensational genre of fiction, reading them all the time. I changed because if you’re buzzing with love and you run out of words, it could spoil everything even before it starts. So I went about Romeo-ing.
I wanted to grow with Anna and that means taking things slow. Very slow and make sure I master every conversation we had before we move to the next stage. It’s like learning how to recite the Qur’an; you take few verses and memorise those first before taking more. That’s how I planned it with Anna because, if not for any other thing, I wanted to get it right this time. I’ve long stopped believing that whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some things don’t kill you but you wish they did when you’re left broken into smithereens, especially anything that’s about the heart. You don’t mess with your heart.
Wednesday was coming faster than usual. I almost thought the preceding days would wait until I fall asleep then they would stop at 20 hours instead of 24. I was getting agitated as the day drew ever closer. I would stand in front of a mirror and rehearse the first words I had planned to tell her when she visited. And they were very simple but indescribably tough to memorise because of my constant agitation. This wasn’t my first. It wasn’t my second. But each time I tried it, I felt like a high-school student crushing on a cheerleader. If I get this nervous just by thinking about meeting Anna again, how about when she actually sits right in front of me, looking into my eyes, smiling and having those cute dimples digging holes near the corners of her mouth? I know the answer: Clammy palms, a racing heart, a fluttery sensation in my stomach with glittering monarchs and swallowtails that alight just by looking at her. I would have birds in my stomach, not butterflies.
Me: “Hi Anna, do you have time to chat with me?”
I waited. The reply took long. Either she was busy or she was typing me a novel. I thought I was going to relive the last episode; waiting the whole day and worrying. But she replied…and she couldn’t have been sweeter.
Anna: “When your text or call appears on my screen, I put everything aside. You are part of my time”.
If someone replies you with that, your heart doesn’t just melt; it meanders out of your chest after melting. It just doesn’t feel real. And with that, she instantly snuffed out my creativity. I couldn’t find the right response. Everything I thought in that split second seemed super boring. And I felt inferior, on the spot.
Me: “I don’t know what to say”
Anna: “You can start by telling me something nice. Lol”
Me: “That’s the point, it’s all gone. I can’t find anything that matches what you just told me”
Anna: “And it’s true. You’ve become important to me in just a short period. I wish I had known you earlier”
Me: “Lol…I’m glad we just met. If you had met me even a day earlier than Friday, you would have gone already”
Anna: “Hell no, I don’t quit on people I care about”
Me: “Thing is, I annoy people so much so that they walk away without even realising. You would have done the same…”
Anna: “Haha, we will see who’s more annoying”
Me: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you…lol”
Anna: “We won’t get to that. Trust me”
Me: “Yes, ma’am. What would you be doing today?”
Anna: “I’ll head to the market soon, cook lunch and then go to a wedding. A friend of mine is getting married”
Me: “Oh, so people are still getting married. Interesting world”
Anna: “Should they stop?”
Me: “If it is not working, yes”
Anna: “Haha…that is an extreme view Talib. Where did you get that from?”
Me: “From marriages”
Anna: “Smh. You cannot be serious”
Me: “I am serious, Anna. What’s the point in committing each other to temporary carnal slavery…and then just end things? Amazingly, the two parties would satisfactorily walk away from the marriage as if the plan in the first place was to get everyone’s approval before they make love. We have more consensual divorces than ever before. What is in a marriage that people just can’t bear?”
Anna: “Well you have a point but that doesn’t mean people should stop getting married. We ought to try…and make it divine and fun as it should be”
Me: “Okay, what are you waiting for then?”
Anna: “Lol…I’m still young. I’ve got a lot of things to accomplish before settling down”
Me: “You see, already you have considered marriage to be the least important thing. It’s down the pecking order for you. If getting married is not an accomplishment for anyone, then that person wouldn’t mind quitting it if it affects their other accomplishments. In my opinion, as long as people consider marriage to be the last thing they want to do, divorce will always be the first and the most convenient option when things are hard. It’s simple logic, people hold on to the most important things in their lives, and get rid of those not so important. So if marriage is one of the most important things to you, then divorce will be the last thing for you because no one likes to lose important things”
Anna: “Okay, sir. Your turn, tell me why you are not married”
Me: “Well, I don’t want to get married”
Me: “I’m scared of living with someone I don’t know”
Anna: “Haha, coward. You gotta know the person first”
Me: “Really, is there anyone we actually know? We just don’t know people…and we cannot know them that much before marriage. It’s only when we are married that we have the license to uncover each other’s deepest selves. Marriage is a key to your partner’s true self…and sometimes, most of the times, we quit the marriage because we cannot live with what we found out about them”
Anna: “You have very dark thoughts Talib. Don’t poison people’s minds who want to taste the sacredness of marriage…lol”
Me: “Haha…Whatever people don’t understand is what they call dark, hence dark matter, dark magic, dark energy and now dark thought…lol”
Anna: “Lol…okay what do you plan? Stay single forever?”
Me: “First, I won’t be living forever. Second, do I have a choice? If you don’t get married, as a man, you are accused of two things: you are either a misogynist; that is you hate women or impotent; that is you cannot perform between the sheets. And if you are a woman and refused to get married, you are accused of either being frigid; that is you don’t enjoy sex or a misandrist; that is you hate men. All of these labelings are worse than getting married. So tell me, what choice do I have?”
Anna: “Haha, you are so comical. So you harbour such thoughts and you are still not dead?”
Me: “Lol…I know right. It’s gonna kill me someday”
Anna: “Good talk. I can chat with you the whole day”
Me: “That makes the two of us. Aren’t you going to the market?”
Anna: “Yup… Any minute from now. Remember I’m coming to your house tomorrow and I’m already freaking out”
Me: “I thought I was the only one nervous. Now I feel so much better. Haha…”
Anna: “I am too shy. It’s a weakness I still can’t turn into strength”
Me: “I’m like you. I’m shy too and, believe me, it’s no way close to a weakness. Shyness is in my family. And no matter how confident I may be, no matter how experienced I’ve become or how exposed I am—now or in the future—there will always be a part of me that is shy. And I know if I go the extra-mile to get rid of it totally just because I feel X,Y and Z get comfortable in seemingly uncomfortable conversations or doing certain physical displays, then I sure would lose the only true virtue in me: shyness. That’s why I love being shy…and I’m never gonna lose it”
Anna: “That makes sense but it’s a disadvantage of sort. I sometimes feel it stands in my way to getting some things definitely within my reach”
Me: “It’s a feeling. All shy people feel the same sometimes, but do not lose it for anything. Nothing is worthier than your virtue”
Anna: “I see what you’re doing. You just don’t want me to postpone my visit… lol”
Me: “Guilty as charged. Lol”
Anna: “I will come, God willing. We will talk when I get back from the market.”
Me: “Okay, watch over yourself”
In all the books and articles I’ve read about love or romance, none seems to draw a clear distinction between the two. And then someone told me romance is what takes your relationship past friendship. When I read Casablanca, nothing strikes me more than realising that Anna and I had actually once appeared in history; that we are reincarnated. With the whole world crumbling, we pick this time to fall in love. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I could carry the whole world without sweating, as long as Anna stays in my life. I jumped back into bed and pulled the blanket over. What else do I need after chatting with Anna? A good sleep. But, Dr Seuss is very right; you know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. And if what I feel is right….and it looks so, then heaven can wait. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. So, I wanted the rest of my life to start that very moment.