I was with Stella for nearly two years. Two years of love, hate, spite, fights, break-ups, make-ups, breathtaking beauty, travels, merry and everything else that accompanies a relatively long-term relationship between two smitten individuals. The relationship seemed to drag on through every hurdle along the way, looking back at it now, it sort of reminds me of that time when I drove a truck through our farm the morning after a rain storm; as I left the parking lot gravel had me absent-mindedly turning the dial on the radio and fidgeting with the seat adjustment but the closer I got to farm, the ground turned soupy so I put the truck in first gear, then slowed down to a crawl, but there wasn’t any traction so I mucked ahead with the tires slurping as they picked up more goop with each turn, by the time I really got into the thick of things they looked like black medicine balls. The truck slithered on languidly, noisily, rear end sashaying as it slewed and swayed across the bog, soon enough the rear wheels started to spin as they churned back geyser of mud and the engine shrieked. There you have it folks, me and my co driver were waist deep in relationship mud we simply gave up driving. Comparing my relationship to a muddy driving experience might be a little awkward but hey, that’s exactly what repetitive mistakes and unforgotten sins feels like when you’re both vindictive people who hate each other every single second your not having obligatory sex.
Me and Stella weren’t always like this though, when we started we both enjoyed the passion and flame that make-up sex came with. Maybe it sounds cheap, it’s hard to explain. But even before the conflict we truly enjoyed each others company. I loved her innocence, she loved my kind nature. I lived to look into her sparkling, light-brown eyes and she to experience every waking moment with me, a stubbornness I found endearing. When she wasn’t with me she spent her time with Grace, her best friend, classmate and confidante. Grace is the same height as Stella and has a mannish stride that is concealed by her hips which forcibly sway with each step she takes.
It was a sunny afternoon and classes had been cancelled till the following week because of the planned staff union strike. Grace was bored from the lunch-break small talk she had engaged in during lunch break with some girls from class, a waste of free time she had concluded. The afternoon heat filled up the classroom they had occupied for the International Law lecture and soon as the professor left she turned to her left and shouted “Stell…” and as if they had practised, Stella too was shouting her name. Stella had missed all the morning sessions but this wasn’t an oddity, her boyfriend was about to propose and take her to honeymoon on mars, school had lost all its lustre, everything had. “So how’s the boyfriend?” Grace asked as a matter of formality, after which Stella’s eyes rolled to the back of her head and she immediately started rambling. Grace watched without joy, she was too sane for all this relationship stuff. In as much as she was unhappy with this line of talk she couldn’t do anything, it was her own fault that Stella believed that she was ripe for unrestrained discussions of that matter. Of late her time with Stella was characterized by endless talk about her boyfriend and his over-exaggerated pros. Grace knew him inside and out, she knew his taste in clothes, colour, food, even his thought process. Or at least she knew what Stella passed on, in its most unrefined or validated state.
The first day I met Grace was at my friends place. She was brought along by Stella for a pop party that happened every friday that I somehow happened to attend following a few implied threats and incessant pleading. Grace was silent throughout the whole thing, so silent infact that I pitied her. She looked like she was out of place, a dirge singer at a wedding. She was dressed in all black and a cloud of gloom hung heavy over her head. As if matching her attire with her mood, she mechanically pulled out her black sun glasses from her black bag soon after she had summoned Stella and decreed that her and her friends should all leave. It was rather selfish if you ask me but I was still obliged to escort them to the least rude point at which I could kindly excuse myself. Once we got to the street Stella formally introduced us. There was a severe sadness to Grace, a hollow in her soul and emptiness in her eyes. She had the kind of eyes that get you wondering whether she’ll hang herself when she got back to whatever dungeon of suffering they had liberated her from. Her forearm had multiple cut marks, self-inflicted during sad moments in a desparate plea for attention. I was heart-broken for her so I gently held her wrist and turned her hand over as I inspected the cuts as if I could make them disappear then kindly told her they looked beautiful. I must have reeked of booze and I didn’t want to embarass myself so I walked to Stella who encouraged me to head back inside as she insisted they would be fine. Hug. Kiss. Wave.
My professional life, seemingly inversely proportional to my love life, was going great. I’d just been promoted and there I was walking towards some uptown hotel for a conference I was facilitating in the presidential suite and that’s when I saw her. She looked horrible. Not in the general sense but literally, her clothes were in all sorts of colours, her hair braided in thick knot with whatever baby hair on the front of her head gelled so extensively it looked like a slug had passed over it. You really didn’t have to look at her for too long to get distracted by the mop of hair on her face, so I said hello while looking her straight in eyes, if I looked down I would have frowned, up and I would have puked so like a cop with his perp, straight in the eyes. The conversation bordered on small talk and awkwardness. I was concerned why she’d changed her number, for all I knew, she was my inside man whenever I wanted to know what my lovely good-for-nothing heartthrob was up to and she was hell-bent on getting to school. I embraced her quickly and rushed to the hotel, enough wierdness for two days.
Grace was awake a little later than usual but she only had one class in at three in the afternoon so there wasn’t any reason to be rush. She took a warm shower as she thought about her life so far, nothing worthwhile had happened in the last few weeks and the running water wasn’t as soothing as she hoped it would be so she turned the tap and clumsily threw her showercap at the hook below the window. It fell but she was in no mood to pick it up. She entered her room and stood infront of her mirror staring at her naked body with no specific thing in mind. She was wearing a new hairstyle, six or seven thick cornrows that reminded her of some low-budget alien movie she half watched a few months ago. Grace didn’t expect to be in town for too long so she threw on a striped black and pink vest over a lime-green bra and paired it with purple pants. Her step-mother was screaming something at her brother from the kitchen and she heard him mention her so she took that as her cue to escape the mad house before they infected her. There was barely any traffic and once she got to town she dragged her feet patiently, stopping only to inspect a red dress and pair of wedges she thought would match with a blouse in her wardrobe she could only vaguely remember. ‘Maybe I should give Diana some of my clothes,’ she was thinking when someone called her name, It was Stella’s boyfriend. She would have been more relieved if an asteroid fell out of the sky than meeting him on such a dull day. He was rather chatty, seemed to be in a good mood but she couldn’t stand being there, alone, with him, the street had melted away and the din had subsidided as she stood there rooted into the ground as her heart tried to break out of her chest cavity. Truth was she felt something for him, something she couldn’t quite explain, like how you read about a character in a book and your somehow attched to them, their experiences, their emotions. They were walking in town, so awkward at this point because she both didn’t know how to approach this situation, then the bastard gave her a compliment and held her wrist, then her hand. That touch felt like heaven for her. It was barely there, he touched her so gently, teasing her, getting her excited just thinking about when he would tighten his grip. Then what happened? Nothing. Nothing happened. That’s the whole point, if something had happened it would have broken the spell. It would have let out all that incredible energy. But it stayed locked in. It remained there boiling at this insane breaking-dawn-manic level, just waiting to explode. She couldn’t get him off her mind all afternoon, they were meant to be, she believed, and the guilt of betrayal gnawed at her so much she didn’t tell Stella anything. They spent the evening drinking whiskey at some tacky hotel in the city and like clockwork Stella was telling them all about him after a few drinks, talking about how he looked at her as if he could see through her soul and soothe it without saying a word. She thought she could imagine the look he had given Stella, in fact she could see it perfectly, though no one had ever looked at her that way. Nobody had ever made her careless and willing as he had made Stella in the stories she told about him. It seemed to Grace that she already knew him, and that he knew her, as if he had sensed her listening to the stories and was conscious of her interest.
Stella was spiralling out of control, but isn’t that the reward of every other immature love story. I found comfort in Grace, she had one of those telephone voices and whenever I got overly concerned about Stella’s behaviour I’d call her to try and understand whatever it is I was doing wrong. I must have leaned on this shoulder for too long because I was soon calling her every other time I felt lonely or straight up raunchy even though I was never innappropriate with her. I might have implied a few times but my heart was someone else’s and as much as I was actively assisting her to leave me, I still loved her more than anything in this world.
Grace had spent the last few months witnessing Stella attempt to drown in alcohol, an inanimate lover she found more consistent than her subtly abusive boyfriend. She wasn’t any angel either, her cheating and conscious attempts at driving her boyfriend crazy were bearing fruits and she hadn’t really thought if those irresponsible desicions would affect her.