The sun was about to come up again. I was sitting there. My coccyx aflame from being sat on at an awkward angle. Silent. My Nokia 3310 burning my ear from being on the charger while I listened to this voice… So familiar yet unmet before. It was a voice I’d imagined over and over from reading perfumed letters that had crossed many seas to get to me.
Aleksjius Greicius… The English teacher from Vilnius, Lithuania. From his handwriting I had imagined a soft spoken Baltic accent. I was right. There were butterfly winged dulcet light tones that floated from that voice. There was kindness. There was hope. I was 20. He was 27. We’d started out as mere penpals, but had quickly tumbled fast into what we believed to be undying love.
Aleksy and I had been speaking for an hour about places he would show me if I were to come to visit him in Vilnius. How everyone would most probably stare at me because many had never seen a black person. He’d been talking for a while . Then as if something had punctured his speech bubble, he stopped. I could here his breath on the phone, intertwined with static. “Frank? Are you still there?”
A long pause. I took a deep sigh. I zoomed my mind out of the streets of Vilnius. Awakened to the buzz Bulawayo streets and reality of the Ndebele voices outside my mother’s apartment. “Frank, you must tell me if I’ve talked too much. I’m a teacher. I can talk all day!”, he said, with a playful chuckle in-between.
I didn’t smile. Or chuckle. I wiped the tears of mourning a life I longed for but felt I didn’t deserve or would ever have. I sniffled. Took a deep breath and clenched my eyes shut and with a laboured, 20 year old voice I said,
“What I’ll unflinchingly say to you is, get yourself here. There’s a massive flood of love for you and I’m holding the sluices closed because this particular one is only reserved for you. You’re loved here. Not in a selfish and lascivious way but in a way that’s whole and healing. I can’t give it to anyone else. There are other forms for other people in my existence but this, I’ve never held space for before but it belongs to you and nobody else can have it. So until you get here, I’ll hold onto it.”.
Silence. Then phone static. Then a sniffle embedded in static. “Oh, Frank… We don’t have money for this.” We can barely make calls to each other. But it’s good to dream! Maybe one day we can make it come true”
The sincerity in his voice shattered my spirit.
“I know. It was wishful thinking”.
Something inside me died that day. So did the letters and phone calls over the ensuing months. Then like a lone dinghy drifting into a foggy ocean, I began the lone journey into the world of learning of love between men. It was not to be an easy journey. It would be riddled with scraped knees, hearts and wounded souls. Happy moments would come like seasons and it would take an army of us to fight to be seen. Just seen. Being heard would take further aeons of fighting.
Written by Frank Malaba