After my depression and when boys had left me, I made some difficult choices. True to its illusive nature, love was difficult; but I decided that I want love that stays.
It mystifies me, this idea of loving staying; what does it look like when it stays? Does it hold me on days I feel like the air is carrying me away and far from myself? Here I am, equating love to air; love is in the air, they used to say. But, what if love and air were one thing, that the ounce of oxygen dancing through your nostrils was love? Then again, would I go around loving anything that has air? Desiring and keeping any boy that has air in them? What if the air I want is still caged in my old lover who makes me feel like my heart is about to drop when I hear friends mention his name? Or when I browse my Instagram feed and he still exudes perfection, hiding away many flaws I used to watch when he lay asleep next to me. I liked how peaceful I felt with him around. How I would feel like the universe had finally conspired in my favor. But those were times I also noticed that he wanted to escape me– especially on mornings when he’d tell me that he wants this to be forever. That he imagined himself waking up next to me all the days of his life. The idea of eternity scared me. I have never imagined myself waking up next to someone for all the days of my life. I have never imagined the possibility of love that stayed. So, when we finally called it quits, just like a referee calls out a match on a stormy day, knowing that it would never work out, I understood that this was the kind of love that wouldn’t stay; it felt like fighting for air you never thought you had. It felt like gazing into the universe and hoping that stars would collide into one another and explode, and the world would be on fire and end. Yours had long ended when you couldn’t even say goodbye to him.
But what does love that stays look like? Does it still sound like your old lover? Does it love and sing soothing songs and describe your poetry as “breathtaking”? Does it call you love/baby/honey and call the same thing to other boys? Does it hold your hand in private and when you want to do the same in public, a curtain of shame and coldness overcomes its face? Does it tell you that you’re the best thing that ever happened to them? You wonder why you’re a superlative? Who was good before you? What made them good? Who is better before you? What makes you stand out? But that’s the kind of love I am no longer interested in. The kind of love that asks questions to get lost in comparison and wonder, as though each response to those questions will make him love you any better and his love would stay. I am no longer interested in the kind of love that thinks about who was before me. I am no longer the kind of love that has room for boys with the kind of baggage I no longer have room for in my heart. For my heart has long stored many boys’ stories and I no longer have room to store my past self into it—to consider my old self and wonder how he’d survive another heartbreak; to consider him for counsel and his eyes washing away the pain my ripped heart and soul feel. I am not the one to teach them how love looks like. Much as I don’t teach anyone how to carry air inside them, love shouldn’t be a thing I teach them how to do well.
So, I want love that stays. I am not too certain what that looks like, but I am sure what it is not. It is not me choosing to love another boy more that I love myself. It will no longer be comparing another boy to something that connects to nature—something like the stars, or still clouds, breath of fresh air, the wind beneath my wings, sunshine or anything that does not sting and stay. I am certain that the kind of love that I want, wants me. The kind of love that stays knows I will write poetry about my past pain but that is not their reference book on how to love me better. I am not here to use my art as a memorandum for boys who know not what magical love looks like, that most times it is not easy and maybe it might be worth fighting for. I am not here to write stories about boys who escape me as though my love is a prison.
But, I am also fascinated by the kind of love that liberates. For the kind of love that stays, it stays true to its nature of wanting nothing but liberty for those it shines light on. That the more liberated we are in ourselves, the more we learn to let go of love when it goes.
Sometimes love will be in Johannesburg and you will be in your dorm room, somewhere in America, hoping that love would be holding your hand when you feel like your chest is on fire– love will not be there to hold you—you must be able to survive without it.
Sometimes love will want to stay, it will be at the right place and at the right time, but your heart will no longer have room to love as love should be loved, you must let love go. Sometimes love will want to stay; when it stays, let it stay.
I am learning to love myself as I want to be loved. I know I will never give up on myself: I stay with myself even through the harshest of storms; I hold myself on days the light of day torments me and remind myself that nature is just being natural; I call myself beautiful, talented, smart and resourceful on days I do well, and even on days no one says those things to me. I am the love that stays; if anything, love that wants to complement mine, should be able to stay.