Goodbye is the Saddest Word
The whole night I tossed and turned, trying to figure out what was going on with Sonia. Raj’s cold voice was testament that all was not well. At some point sleep overwhelmed me and I dozed off without changing into night clothes.
The following morning, I tried to call Sonia severally but I could not reach her. I sent text messages but none was delivered; leaving me with more questions than answers.
I tried to watch a movie but my mind kept on drifting to Sonia. I gave up and took an aimless stroll around Ngara. I kept bumping into people and mumbling ‘sorry’ as they stared back at me as if I had lost my mind. Others looked at me pitifully and nodded understandably.
I decided to turn back when the noon sun became unbearably hot. Back at the hostel I unplugged my phone from its charger, sat on Rashid’s bed and turned it on. Raj had sent a text awhile back. ‘Meet at Milk Palace, 3pm. Will be with Sonia.’
I did not understand why Raj would want to meet me in the company of his sister. Or why Sonia would want us to meet in the presence of Raj; especially given the frosty relationship I had with him lately.
I took a cold shower, had lunch at Mama Karis’ and took a nap to while away time as I waited for the appointed hour. No sleep was forthcoming, so I just stared at the ceiling, ruminating over the issue at hand.
I concluded that Sonia’s aunt must have reported her to her parents. Her warm demeanour must have been fake; it was just to make us feel at ease and unsuspecting of the eventuality her family was planning.
Sonia’s parents must have been taken aback and their worst fears confirmed; their daughter was seeing an African boy.
They must have confiscated her phone and Raj made the de facto aide de camp. He was to shadow her wherever she went to ensure she did not meet with me secretly.
About a quarter to 3pm I got out of bed, slid into casual slacks and made my way to Milk Palace. I took a seat at a table on the outside corridor because it was much cooler there.
A few minutes later Raj passed by and almost went into the café until I called out. Sonia was meekly following him. Her eyes were red and puffy. She must have been crying the whole time.
We saluted casually, Raj wasted no time.
“Edwin, we’ve been friends for some time now and I would hate myself if I didn’t afford you the opportunity to say your byes in person.”
“Byes? What do you mean?” I interjected.
“Sonia is leaving to further her studies in India.” He dropped the bombshell.
I just sat there shell-shocked, I tried to utter words but none would come out. Raj continued.
“It is a sudden decision my dad and mom reached after my aunt told them of your romantic involvement with Sonia here.” He said gesturing to his sister.
“Am sorry this is happening to you guys but you know how our parents view these thing. I tried my best to keep it from them”
Raj was pretending to be civil here, deep down I could feel he was relieved. He was not exactly the biggest fan of our brief and restricted relationship.
Sonia kept quiet all this time, throwing painful glances at me and then biting her lower lip and looking away as she fought back tears.
“I will give you guys space to talk.” Raj said as he stood after an eternity of awkward silence.
I watched him walk over to the entrance and pretend to study the portraits that adorned the milky white walls.
“I leave the day after tomorrow. My dad has a plane ticket ready.” She said painfully.
I kept quiet because at this point I did not know what to say. I did not know how I was supposed to live without her. I had already envisioned our future, and I used to paint the picture to her in our conversations.
We would giggle and promise never to let each other down, to fight for the relationship no matter what.
I sat there shell-shocked. I could not make head or tail of what Sonia had just told me. I was subconsciously aware of Raj’s outline as he impatiently paced a few meters from where we sat.
I looked up at the fan above as it spanned wildly, it held my gaze for a while before I lowered my focus to the dandelions spilling over from the brown suspended flowerpots. My eyes travelled down farther and rested on a nice mosaic of two doves on a dry twig.
One was affectionately pecking something from the other’s neck. I imagined them being us—Sonia and I. I do not know how long I stared at them but it must have been quite long because Sonia’s hoarse voice startled me from the trance-like state.
“I don’t know what to do.”
“Let’s elope.” I told her with lit eyes.
She stared at the floor as she played with an edge of her sari. “You know we can’t.”
She said, almost inaudibly, avoiding eye contact at all costs.
She was right. I didn’t have any money to my name. My parents could not accommodate us, leave alone entertain the thought of me marrying while still in college.
Another eternal lapse of silence as a million and one thoughts raced through my mind.
“Please say something,” she implored, her teary eyes gnawing at the core of my very being.
I stared at her for a while. I had mixed feelings over what she had just told me. I was quite confused and did not know what to say.
“I wish I had something to say,” I replied as calmly as possible, trying hard not to sound accusatory—though that is exactly how I felt. I felt she had led me on all this time, knowing this moment would come.
That she was being carted away to a far off land where I would not have the opportunity to ever see her again.
With a heart weighing tons, I stood up. She stood up too. Looking into my eyes longingly. I went round the table and hugged her tightly.
I pressed my eyelids shut and a few tears squeezed out. I felt like howling but I somehow managed to contain myself.
We rocked for a while, oblivious of the curious stares we drew from the café’s patrons. When I opened my eyes they met Raj, he was looking at us arms akimbo. He looked away and run his hand through his hair.
Eventually we let go of each other, albeit reluctantly. We walked to the door and Raj extended his hand.
“Am sorry about everything man.” I shook it and nodded.
He took Sonia’s hand and led her to the Volvo, parked across the road. He opened the passenger door for her. She got in and immediately slumped forward and put her head between her hands as her shoulders shook.
I watched Raj reverse into the road and turn the car for their home. The pitiful looks I was drawing from those who had followed the unfolding events were anything but comforting.
I dragged my heavy feet from the establishment and trudged over to the hostels. No one was in the room, thankfully. I climbed onto my bunker, pressed my head into the pillow and let out a mighty howl.
Through the dusty window next to bed, I watched the sun set, together with the dreams of a union beyond shades.