I watched the sweat drip off her forehead and hit the mat.
Her muscles seemed to ripple beneath her skin and I could see that she was starting to feel the burn deep inside her own body.
She groaned, releasing her breath and taking it in again as everything clenched.
A few seconds later she lowered herself to the mat, only to rise to her feet.
I could see the pain on her face just before something like anger flashed across her features. She was breathing hard and I couldn’t help it when my eyes drifted to her quivering chest. Her hair was stuck damp to her face and all her muscles remained contracted and her form was perfect just standing there.
She threw her head back, closing her eyes as she tried to calm her breathing down.
I put the barbell down with a thud that didn’t even shake her. I could hear the hiss of her music and I wondered what it was she was listening to.
What was going through her head in that moment?
She had been through so much over the past year and yet here she was, pushing herself to reach her goal. It wasn’t just with the physical things, but a whole host of other things as well. I’d finally witnessed what she meant about her dark days.
She became so distant and quiet and it didn’t matter what I did or didn’t say, I could see that I couldn’t really reach her.
And yet, even on her darkest days, she was still the brightest thing in my life.
Her body had changed, not only from the exercise but the stress of pushing through her second year and now, she was headed for her third. She kept saying it, that she hated the fact that she’d made this choice to study Nursing but she was not falling apart from it.
At least, not really.
I even saw what she meant about the fractured relationship she had with her family.
She still had yet to speak of her sister and I had never actually witnessed any contact being made between herself and her parents. Were they really that broken that they couldn’t even call to check on each other?
And it moved me that she didn’t seem to be shaken by this.
And it was here that I learnt that my girl was resilient.
I knew that something about it broke her and it came out when she would talk about the fact that nobody had called to see how she was doing when the tremors had hit the Gauteng area. There were no casualties and it almost meant nothing, but she was still moved to annoyance that she had gone all but forgotten.
And once that was off her chest, she didn’t speak of it again and hated to hear it being brought up, so she talked over it.
But there was this burning urge to have her meet my family officially, so that she could be a part of our tribe and maybe not feel so alone.
But I had no choice but to let her be.
Sometimes, she would lock herself in whatever room she was most comfortable with and she would spend hours and hours writing up a storm or she’d pull out her phone and produce a poem as if from thin air and post that on her Facebook wall.
“Try setting up an Instagram account.”
“What’s that?” she’d asked.
“Facebook, but for pictures and videos,” I said. “But you add a hashtag and anyone who looks up that one hashtag will find your poetry. Even simply tagging poetry opens you up to a wider audience.”
She had tried it and the follow-through was enough to inspire her to write more.
“I hadn’t realized how many of us are sad out there…” she said one night. “Lots and lots of people like the stuff I write, but it’s all the dark stuff…”
This had prompted me to see what it was she was talking about.
Almost all of it was metaphorical, but it was clear what she was talking about.
I learnt then that there was a whole host of feelings inside of her that she didn’t outright verbalize. I had been feeling miserable about the shit that I had passed through and there she was, carrying all of it inside of her every single day.
I felt selfish.
At present, she walked up to me and pressed a kiss to my forehead.
“Tap out…” she breathed.
I knew this meant that she was done with her workout for the day.
I picked up my barbell again as my skin burnt where her lips had come into contact with it. She seemed to become more and more attractive the more I got to know her.
She was so multifaceted that simply taking her by her word was a stupid thing to do because words were just not enough to define her.
I loved her.
I was in love with her.
And she hadn’t said it back.
That was a year ago, and maybe it was too much to expect her to have said it back, because what were words these days?
They meant a lot to her, so clearly, they were powerful.
But she showed it in small ways, the things that would otherwise go unnoticed.
And she wore the bracelet I’d given her.
When it wasn’t on her wrist, it was on her person, even when there was nothing to be done that day but study.
That meant something.
And every time that I went back and forth with this argument in my mind, I always ended up at the same image, playing over and over in my mind.
It was the recollection of a dream that had come to me randomly one night when I had dozed off at my desk.
It was of her, chasing a little child, disappearing around a corner.
And that child was ours.
I wanted to put a baby in her.
The sex too, I wanted that, but I wanted to be bound to her for life.