I stepped out of the class in a daze.
That was the longest paper that I had ever written in my entire educational career – I did not feel good about it.
I did not feel good about a lot of things these days.
And I had nobody to talk to about any of it.
I barely spoke to my parents these days, at least not about things that mattered. The resentment was there, toward them and myself. I couldn’t get past all the things that had changed about me from the moment that I had decided to stand down against them – I could have fought harder to make them see me for who I really was.
This brought me back to the fact that I had barely anything in common with the rest of my class.
What was so strange about a black, African girl who liked to read?
They thought that I loved reading because I had no friends, when the fact was, it was the other way around. In my experience, people tended to change when they learnt that I got my kicks from fictional tales in paperback. The change was so big that I felt it even before they did it, that they were going to leave.
I didn’t understand why some people were fickle like that.
So I looked for the answers in the books that I read and the best part was, I didn’t have to truly interact with any of them. But it did me no good in the end, which I realized as I walked slowly ahead of the rest of my class. I craved company, but I wasn’t brave enough to step up and allow it to come to me or get up and find it. I was all about – depth.
I wished that I could get to know people from the inside out, but who started out a friendship with the deepest and darkest parts of themselves?
The answer was nobody.
I had tried that myself and it only scared the next person away and when they found themselves revealing their truths, they freaked out and ran from the fact.
And thus, I was left alone.
We all seemed to have groups that we got into just so that we wouldn’t always be alone.
Because being alone was the scariest thing for some people.
That meant that your own voice was the sound you heard above all else.
Even with actual music playing in the background, all the focus would go to your own emotions and your own questions and all those things that ran around in your head that you were too afraid to put names to.
People said that your self-perceived flaws could only be corrected once you’d acknowledged them and put them in the light, but I figured that the only light that mattered was your own. It didn’t really matter if anyone thought whatever they thought about you, all that mattered was what you thought about yourself.
And there I was, having an existential crisis right there in the middle of a hallway filled with people I was aware of and didn’t know shit about –
“I don’t know what you’re freaking out about.”
I didn’t turn around, unclear whether Rebecca was talking to me or not.
She caught up to me and when I saw that she was alone, I was surprised.
The other two were headed down the opposite end of the hallway.
“What do you mean?” I asked, pushing the doors open so that we exited the Nursing Department.
“You’re in the green, right? That’s what they said?”
“That’s based on what’s already happened,” I said. “I could still crash and burn.”
Rebecca looked at me like I had just said something entirely stupid in a language that I didn’t even speak.
At that moment, Kay approached me and grabbed my hand. I looked at her and she pushed a book into my hand. Rebecca gave her such a look that was so easy to interpret that I almost wanted to explain that it was nothing, but the twinkle in Kay’s eyes had me silenced.
“Do enjoy,” Kay said as she picked up pace and left us behind.
“We’ve seen it happen,” I continued.
Rebecca grabbed the book before I could remove it from her reach. To my relief, it was wrapped in black paper and there was nothing written on it, but it was obvious what it was.
“It’s a book,” I said with a shrug, taking it back.
“Open it, I wanna see!”
I rolled my eyes at her and then put the book in my bag.
“It’s all in English. You speak English and everything is essays and you love writing,” Rebecca continued. “So this all goes in your favour.”
I shook my head, sighing heavily. “Passing is the quickest way out of here.”
“Quitting is the quickest way out of here,” she said.
“I need the money. And the degree gets me the money.”
She laughed at this as we stepped into the sunlight.
“So what happened to that guy?”
I held my breath at the question because I knew who she was talking about.
Across the quad, Mmathapelo was approaching and it was here that I understood what Rebecca was talking about.
“Benjy? I think he finished his exams last week. I’ll probably see him at home.”
Rebecca stopped walking. “At home? What?”
“We were in high school together,” I said truthfully, even though I knew that she was asking about Dominick and not Benjy.
She seemed bewildered and I used the opportunity to make my escape.
“I’ll see you later.”
I picked up my pace and was glad when she chose not to keep up.
I tried to convince myself that the reason that I wanted to get to my room was because I wanted to see whatever it was that Kay had given me, but the truth was that I wanted to go back to my room so that I could scream at myself for the pain it gave me having thought of Dominick.
In a bid to forget him, I thought back to how Rebecca had responded to Kay and I almost laughed. Did they wonder about me so much that they created scenarios? Just like I did with Domi –
I was annoyed that the lift wasn’t working and thus, I had to walk up the stairs to the sixteenth floor.
I could hear the others cussing the gods down below as they entered the staircase and I upped my pace.
I was breathing hard and heavy by the time I got to my room, my legs shaking and aching.
I flopped down on my bed and set my bag down on the floor, taking deep breaths, closing my eyes and –
All I could think about was him.
He had touched me in ways that nobody ever had simply because nobody had ever gotten close enough to try. Was this some kind of fateful, predestined behaviour on my part? That I had been waiting all this time just for him?
I’d asked him about her and his response had been a non-answer.
He’d basically dismissed her and I wondered for days if he had broken up with her or if he was telling me that he was not above enjoying the company of two females at once.
That made me some kind of…
That had been three weeks ago and he hadn’t tried to make contact with me since.
I had been confined to Med School for my exams and practicals and that meant that I never saw him. Maybe it was for the best because I wanted one last time and I had gotten it, in the most spectacular fashion.
I opened my bag and took out the book.
My cell phone buzzed in my pocket.
“How is it that you’re calling me?” I asked.
The damn wrapper would not come off with just the use of my one hand so I set Kay’s gift aside.
“My mum was kind enough to lend me her airtime,” she said. “So. Updates.”
“Exams are over, maybe I’ll be coming home next month.”
“Why next month?”
“We work, collect hours and stuff,” I said. “Then we get our results and if it’s all favourable, we get to go home.”
“You’ll kill it,” she said. “You’ve already killed it. Now, the other matter.”
I didn’t want to tell her about it, feeling somewhat ashamed of what I had gotten myself into. Even if we didn’t actually talk about these things because we didn’t actually have this life, I knew that she would disapprove of what was happening.
But she was my best friend and I had to tell her.
“I found him, again,” I said. “In the library. That one.”
“Okay,” she said. “And?”
“His name is Dominick,” I said. “He studies Accounting, like we thought. And also, Law.”
“Double major! Okay!”
“Right?” I said with a smile. “He likes being outside – nature and all that. He likes coffee. He’s got two older brothers, but we didn’t get into that. His mother works with kids, she’s a Nurse, but we didn’t get into that either.”
“That sounds like you’re not saying everything.”
I sat there for a moment, feeling the dark thoughts come at me.
“He has a girlfriend.”
“I don’t get it, though. I asked him about her and he just – he just said, like…” I shook my head. “He just said like – what about her? Like she’s nothing.”
“How do you know that he’s got a girlfriend?”
I closed my eyes, thinking back to that day. “They were making out with each other. I saw them. On campus.”
She sighed heavily. “So the dude wants you to be his side-chick.”
“Well, fuck him then.”
I gritted my teeth. “Yup.”
“Just don’t, Dilia.”
That was a flat out lie.
“He pulled me out of myself,” I told her. “And obviously, that was all too good to be true. Which is okay I guess. Rather now than…”
When it was all too late, like when I had him between my thighs, kissing the fuck out of him and feeling myself get wet at the sound of his damn voice and his promise to take me right there on the countertop –
“And you? What’s odd in the hood?”
She started talking and I lay back on my bed and listened.
I was quite content to listen to her oddities.
I snapped my eyes open, having no memory of ever having fallen asleep.
It was dark now.
Somebody was knocking on my door and my phone was vibrating on my bed. It was Luke.
I stared at the phone and then looked at the door while the person banged away at it, trying to get my attention.
“Open up Dilia!”
I groaned to myself and got off my bed. The book dropped to the floor and I set it back on the bed before pulling the window open. I turned on the light and splashed my face with water and after making sure that I was presentable, I opened the door.
“What?” I snapped.
“You were sleeping? Shit, sorry.”
I just glared at Luke.
“There’s a party down on twelve, just came to get you.”
Luke turned around and there stood Kay with a bottle of Amarula Gold in one hand and a two litre Coke in the other. She pushed her way passed him and she tried to push the door closed but he stood his ground.
“I could stay here, keep you guys company.”
“For what?” Kay asked.
He looked from her to me and back again. “Okay, keep your secrets.”
“Phuma, Lukhele!” she said in good humour.
He stepped back and she closed the door and locked it.
“I can’t deal,” she said.
I flipped the switch again and the room was plunged into darkness and Kay laughed. I dropped back onto my bed and turned on the TV.
She pulled the only chair there was closer to the bed and mixed herself a drink, putting the Coke in the fridge and the Amarula on the table by the TV.
“You really are tired, huh?”
This was something that she couldn’t quite get about me.
When I socialized too much, I was physically drained to the point of exhaustion. I closed my eyes, flipping onto my belly.
“Should I go?” she asked quietly.
“No…” I said.
But I fell asleep all the same.
This wasn’t the first time that she had come to visit and found me sleeping and every time, she wouldn’t actively interrupt my sleep and would sit there reading or listening to music or doing her homework. When I would wake up, we would continue with whatever she was doing. But she had never dropped by this late before and somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if she would still be there when I woke up.
And the book…
I dreamt of nothing and I was grateful for it.
What I did not like, was the fact that I woke up and it was still dark.
The TV was still on when I opened my eyes and Kay was still there.
She was passed out at the foot of my bed, easily fitting into what space there was left on the bed, even with me occupying it. I rolled over as gently as I could and looked for the remote, aiming to switch off the TV so that I could continue sleeping – and then I saw what was playing.
My jaw dropped, maybe a little.
I was sure that had this been two months ago, I would have been a little more timid in response to what I was watching. But I had met Dominick and our bodies had collided and suddenly, this – fascinated me.
It was a man and a woman and they were doing it –
“Is that what you want..?”
I looked at Kay to find her wide awake and looking at me.
“What?” I asked, dumbstruck.
She sat up, the light from the screen playing across her face.
“I’ve heard the rumours,” she said. “About you and I.”
I wasn’t about to play dumb about it. I sat up and leaned against the bed board.
“How does that tie into this?” I asked quietly.
The conversation should have been awkward, but it didn’t feel that way to me.
The volume was down low, but not so low that I couldn’t hear the soft moans of the woman on the screen. It took a significant part of me not to look and see what it was that made her moan like that.
Was the man she was with touching her the way that Dominick touched me?
Wouldn’t it have just been smarter to switch the damn thing off and turn the lights back on?
I wasn’t nervous.
Maybe because I had always been curious.
Maybe because I was untouched.
Or as untouched as these things went.
But I wasn’t nervous.
“I think you know.”
“No, I don’t think I do…” I said quietly.
She pulled the book out, still in its wrapper. She handed it to me.
I tried to take apart the wrapper and realized the only way I could open the package was by removing the tape that bound it.
The wrapping was not even paper at all, but something like leather.
I pulled it all apart and found that I couldn’t see anything on the cover of the book.
I slid out of my bed and turned on the light.
All the while, Kay tracked me with her eyes.
It was a hardback, leather-bound book and on the cover was an embroidered image of two individuals in an intimate embrace. Their thighs were locked and their arms were around each other and they were naked.
Something stirred inside me as I thought about what had happened with Dominick and I looked up at Kay and then back at the screen.
“It’s a Fantasy Journal.”
I returned to my bed and removed the journal completely from its packaging and flipped through the blank pages. No, they weren’t entirely blank.
Some pages had quotes on them and others had pictures that stirred the senses.
“I suppose that means what I think it means…” I said quietly.
This was something that made no sense to me for a hot second, but then it seemed to make all the sense in the world.
I closed the journal and touched the cover, feeling the texture on my fingertips. The paper itself was hard, almost like art paper.
“Thank you,” I said.
She crawled over and sat beside me.
“You’re welcome,” she said. “I have one too.”
I looked at her with a laugh. “Why would you need one? You seem like you go and do whatever the hell you want, when you want to.”
She leaned in, slow enough to give me a chance to pull back.
But I didn’t.
Her breath was as sweet as the drink she had just had and I wondered just how much of it she’d taken.
She put her hand on my shoulder, braising herself and I found myself holding her to keep her from falling. I could feel the delicate weight of her against my own body where she leaned even closer into me.
The air left my lungs in a hiss.
I knew what was coming, but it didn’t stop the surprise when I realized that this was actually happening now.
I couldn’t move.
Did I even want to?
I couldn’t see – were my eyes closed or not?
Her tongue brushed the roof of my mouth and involuntarily, I shivered.
Kay was kissing me.
The woman was kissing me.
And I was kissing her back.
My body connected with the bed beneath me and she pinned me there, deepening the kiss.
Every thought process no longer existed in this moment and I didn’t know whether I cared about it or not.
But she pulled away, taking my lower lip with her.
It stung a little.
She moaned right into my mouth and I felt my hips rise, bumping gently into hers.
What was this feeling?
It felt –
I was tingling, everywhere.
“Wow…” she whispered against my lips. “You taste perfect.”
I opened my eyes to find her looking down at me.
Her thighs tightened around my hips as she lowered herself gently over me. Her eyes never left mine as she moved her hands slowly down my body to my waist.
Slowly, she tucked her fingers into the waistband of my jeans, working her way around to my lower back.
I don’t think I could have described what it felt like to have her hands on my bare bottom. She squeezed me gently with both hands and I giggled. But she went lower still, her chest pressed right up against mine.
Her fingers were seeking, so close to my core –
What was I doing here?
“Kay… I –”
“I know…” she whispered. “I won’t tell anyone.”
I shifted so that she had no choice but to remove her hands from my body.
But what got me, was what she’d just said.
She began to rise but I stopped her.
“That’s not what I’m saying…”
She was frowning now. “What are you saying?”
What was I saying?
“This… It feels…”
I couldn’t speak, not with her brushing her lips against mine like that.
She kissed me again, a gentle and lingering peck.
“It’s complicated… And you like it…”
“Yes…” I admitted.
It was like I was being swept off by a wave of air so hot that I couldn’t feel anything else.
She kissed me with a selfishness that wasn’t there before. It was like kissing Dominick, but with something that was missing or extra or – something. It was like she wanted to take me in completely; like she wanted to memorize every single bit of this moment.
Her lips were soft and the feel of them made me think of marshmallows.
She pulled back.
I was breathing hard.
“When you find that you can’t write it down anymore…”
I knew what she was implying, even though she didn’t say it out loud.
She crawled off me and put on her shoes. I remained on the bed, watching her as she moved about my room, clearing whatever mess she had made.
By then, the movie was over and the infomercials had started. It must have been late.
Kay turned back to me and I wondered if I was seeing her truly for the first time all over again.
She dropped a kiss on my forehead and then leaned lower, her face hovering inches from mine. I lifted my lips to hers and kissed her like she had kissed me and she responded in kind. I wanted to keep kissing her because it felt good. Her tongue darted in and out of my mouth and I gripped her face, keeping it in place. She dug her fists into my hair and squeezed but she didn’t stop. This went on and on but eventually, we came up for air.
She exited my room without looking back.