With a bunch of chocolate and fast melting ice cream I walk under the glow of the moonlight. It’s a beautiful night tonight. The sky is breathtaking, stars, the moon, a cloud and another. The air is cool, a gentle comforting breeze. My headsets are playing music on shuffle, trying to surprise me. As if.

I walk past the mostly deserted shopping center and throw away my now empty cup. I see a lady seated alone on the cold green benches that litter the space. She looks so, alone. It’s quiet. There’s nobody around. It strikes a chord in me. I thought I’d be sitting here alone tonight. She isn’t even playing with her phone. She is just staring into space. Seemingly lost. I feel bad. I have chocolate in my pocket, maybe it will make her evening better.

I really want to approach her. But it’s a fight between me and my anxiety. What if I stutter? What if I she thinks am being annoying? My legs pull me further from the lonely silhouette as I wage battle with the anxiety. Don’t be a wimp! I chide myself. You can do this. I make a u-turn, swallowing the regret already forming at the back of my head.

“Hello? Are you waiting for someone?” I immediately regret it. I sound timid, stupid even.
Wow! Way to go ma’am. Normal people ask how one is doing. What is wrong with you? What if she was stood up? Have you looked at the time? A million reasons my opening statement is wrong suddenly make themselves known to me and I try not to face-palm.

She smiles. It’s a small tired smile. I know those ones.
“Hello, yes I am waiting for someone, it’s taking them a while”.
I know the feeling. I hate being kept waiting. I find it very rude. I hate keeping people waiting too. Before I blurt out something stupid I ask how her day was. Can’t complain much. That’s what she says. She’s brave, this one, heartbreakingly brave. She asks how I am, how my day was.

Suddenly I don’t know what to say. This wasn’t about me, I want to complain. I never know how to answer those questions. How are you? How was your day? I find that most people don’t ask because they care, they ask as a formality. Social discipline and order. Why. What are you going to do if I tell you that I am not okay? So what if I had a bad day? Do you even have the patience to understand why or do you just want to say sorry and get over and done with it? It’s a bit uncomfortable bringing feelings into a conversation, I know. Everybody is convinced that being cold and detached is the way to go. So why do you even ask if you don’t care?

As I think, I make some wierd hand signals. I hope that means something, because I genuinely don’t have an answer. Lucky for me, she understands. Before I chicken out, I ask her if she likes chocolate. She replies in affirmative and I am glad. I don’t know what I would have done if she didn’t. Probably swallowed my tongue trying to come up with a comprehensible statement and die. What a way to go down.

I fish out some dark chocolate from my pockets and offer it. She smiles and the cloud in my soul lifts a little. Just a little. I smile too. Then she goes ahead and asks, “what about you?” The smile gets stuck on my face and suddenly my expression is uglier than a crying alien. I thank the heavens for the less than spectacular lighting. I probably look like a constipated monkey.

I have given, offered, but hardly has anyone ever asked that question. To say it takes me off balance is an understatement. My brain is mocking me. You should have walked away while you still had the chance. Somehow, I manage to explain that I have more. At least that’s what I think. I unconsciously add some self-deprecating humor in the process and by the time I realize it I want to bury myself in a hole somewhere and disappear off the face of the earth.

I look away. The stars look so beautiful. She sighs. I sigh too. In that moment, in the silence, we’re two souls, two tired souls, under the same sky.

“Its been five years since I was last here. Everything looks so unfamiliar.” she starts, and we both sigh again. Five years is a long time. Enough time for the world to be fucked over twice. Enough time for alot of things to change. Enough time for people to change. For friends to turn into strangers. I give her the same small tired smile and urge her to continue. It’s best if I don’t talk. The more I talk the more the chances she’ll end up thinking that I am mental. I am happy to listen.

She doesn’t hold back, and I am glad I stopped by. She tells me about love, and life, and pain, and success, and failure. I marvel at the strength and sheer will power of this amazing woman infront of me. A wave of dizziness hits me and I move to sit on the cold bench. Yes, I have been standing all this while. I am wierd like that.

“I am here to apologize, that’s the only reason I am willing to put my pride aside and wait ” she adds out of the blues and I nod in understanding. She laughs, it’s a short laugh, like the last beat of a sad song. Chilling. Haunting. “I am the last born in my family. I rarely apologize, am never in the wrong. But this time round am truly aware that I am the offender. I am abit nervous” I admire her more. Alot of people I have met have problems with admiting their mistakes and apologizing. Ego games. I find myself apologizing for everything, alot, even for things that aren’t my fault. Sigh.

She continues, and I listen.
I tell her she reminds me of someone, and surprisingly enough, it’s a mutual friend. Well, acquaintance. We make a few jokes and I feel like I’ve known her for years.

She has a five year old daughter, she says. Called Betty, short for Beatriz. I tell her it’s a beautiful surprise, because that’s my name too, she laughs and exclaims at the coincidence. It sounds genuine. The laughter. I ask about her daughter and her eyes glow as she talks about her. She is a completely different person. I like this version of her more.

It’s 10:20pm. I might probably get locked out of my hostel. But it’s worth it. I want to hear more about the day Beatriz caught a butterfly and didn’t want to let it go. I don’t want to leave Cecily alone in the now empty shopping center. It’s cold. And I know how fast the cold can seep into the cracks of the heart. I’ll stay until this man with no sense of time shows up. Well, in his defense he is in for an emergency meeting. But still, men, don’t keep your women out there waiting for you. They might catch a cold. I might catch a cold myself.

A black range rover pulls over. It’s 10:45pm. I am definitely getting locked out tonight. A man walks out and I am ready to bolt. “Come over and say hello to my friend”, Ceci, as she says I should call her, calls out. I really want to run right now but apart from biting my lips so hard till I can taste blood, I stay put. Mr. Man greets her with a hug and I fist bump him. Bringing up the matter of time, I give Ceci a goodbye hug and whisper a few words. Just a reminder to be accommodating and communicate properly.

I now bolt. Literally. I can’t help it. She probably thinks I am mental now. Oh well, I tried. I look back one last time to see them holding hands walking towards the car, and wish them well. I remember her words, fight for love. Sigh. If it was as easy as fighting the whole lot of us would have burnt down the world by now. You can’t fight if there’s nothing to fight for. Or if you’re the only one fighting. The most important thing is to learn when to hold on and when to let go.

I can’t stop running, so I race all the way to the hostel. It’s unlocked. Mercury must be in a good mood or something. You know, all that zodiac shit. I read my horoscope today morning, I know. Strange person. That’s me. Looking for direction and answers in The Indian Times. Anyway. I let the matron know that I’ll be outside and stand for a while to stare at the moon. She is so beautiful.

As soon as I get to my room, I start writing. Under the same sky.

Published by Wanja Joseph

Writing to me is like breathing. Sometimes it's voluntary and subconscious. Other times it's frantic, like gasping for breath. And sometimes, well, I forget to do it! Not for long though.

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