A Boy’s Symphony

Mhembeuter Jeremiah Orhemba

“Jerry, here —

a rendition of 

your

story — as promised.”

*

“The road which leads me to you is safe

even when it runs into oceans.”

– Edmond Jabès

1.

The first crack is a thin, wavy thing.

First, you have to know love. A mother’s nurturing and shielding love for her only son. The empathy of maternal grandparents. A fondness with maternal aunties and uncles and cousins. A particular, strong attachment to Aunty Rachael. And Aunty Terseer. First you have to know love so that when Father and Mother get into yet another conflict, and Mother gets fed up and takes you and leaves, and for months, then years, Father does not come for both of you, turns down every attempt at reconciliation, thick with the sense that he cannot forgive Mother, and that Mother and her family are to be blamed, you can hunger for the love of a father.

Live most of your childhood with longing, reaching out, initiating ways for Father to reconcile with Mother. In the quiet shade of her tiny living room, Grandmother admonishes you to let your father be. He will one day realise his mistake, she says. But you don’t listen. You persist. Your mother and her family are dismayed. You are only 11. You want your father, regardless of whatever went wrong.

At 13 years of age, you initiate another rendezvous with your father. Under a neem tree, you take his roughened palm and wrap your hands around it.

—I need a sibling, you say.

Embedded in that plea is another plea and your father knows it. He chuckles. A haughty, contemptuous chuckle fond of him. Mother hates this chuckle. 

—I can no longer live with your mother, he says in Tiv. I have fallen out of love with her. See, you are a child. You don’t understand these things. When you grow up and get married, you will understand.

Walls of hope crumble inside you. You become water and ripples scatter over you; everything solid you have been holding till this moment dissolves. You get lost in time, you recover, and you realise. Father and Mother are never going to reconcile. There will be no brother or sister.

You are the sky, and a thin crack weaves itself through you.

2.

The second crack is a bold, zigzagged thing.

Allow yourself permission to ask your girlfriends for the series, My Eternal, even if Mother’s loathing for the borrowing of movies pushes heavy at your chest. Allow yourself the pleasure of delight as Daniel kisses Katerina on screen. Your heart flutters, when in the bid to defend Katerina, Daniel’s hand moulds into a fist. Daniel is beautiful. Katerina is beautiful. Together, they dazzle. More so when, under rain, they kiss, sprawled on a field of greenery. Fantasise over what it will feel like to run in the rain with a lover, your heart overwhelmed with the weight of love.

Now and then, Mother creates jokes where you and the pretty daughter of her colleague are an item. Fume with dislike. One Sunday, Mother takes you to an invited church service and you meet this girl. Mother did not lie: she is sunshine herself, a subtle beauty of fair complexion. Rattle with wonder. Allow your thoughts to fly. She could be your Katerina. Both of you would run under the rain. Think of Daniel: his toned body, chiselled arms and thighs, and his lips pouring out “I love you” to Katerina.

Go home. Pick a white wire and weave it into rings. Slip on one. Place one in a white box in anticipation of the day when you will finally act out the drama in your head. You will go down on your knees and slide the ring onto her finger. Drown, drown, drown. Watch more seasons of My Eternal. Carry your dreams around your neck. It’s so heavy and pressing. Why not carry it out already?

Scan your class for a partner one day. Consider all the girls incompatible. Let your gaze fall upon Precious. Assess her. 

Quiet: check. 

Brilliant: check. 

Mysterious: check.

100%. 

Flush with glee. At home, tell your cousin-turned-brother there is a girl. He teases you. Before sleep, imagine your hand and Precious’ interlocked, the sky blessing with rain, the ground manifesting as green. From your back seat in class, admire Precious. Tell your mother about her. Shudder when she screams, Do you want to jeopardise your future, Mhembeuter? Say no. Promise to snap out of it. Allow your silliness to fizzle out. 

Again, at school, admire Shaphan. This time it is not modelled in the light of Daniel and Katerina. Yet it feels like it. Strange? Whatever. Imagination says Shaphan walks up to you and seeks that you be his boyfriend. Slap him in the face but want to say yes. Admire charcoal-dark-skinned Ransom. Admire your male teachers, the mould of their bodies. Forget Daniel and Katerina. See Precious after a Junior WAEC examination and discuss Business Studies, your next paper. Desire lights up in your heart. Think, she’s so brilliant. Be unaware as the desire dims – drop by drop by drop, then oblivion. 

SS1. Pass by the school borehole thinking morality. Decide you will not stray. Decide to remain a virgin. Shut your heart. Allow a big padlock slide into its lock hole. Clamp it hard. You are no longer a child now. Excellence should be your priority. Perfecting your craft as a writer should be the main thing. Isn’t being an awesome writer the best thing ever?

ADMA DANIEL

His name is Adma Daniel and he is newly admitted into Science class. Meet him only at fellowship meetings and group meetings with your former ‘A-class’ classmates who are now Science students. Think nothing tangible of him until one afternoon, still dazed with the glory of having been crowned Head Boy and Fellowship President, he walks up to you, rests an arm upon your shoulder, and says, cleanly: “I like you. Let’s be friends.”

Such audacity! Scoff in your mind. Does this boy even know you? Does he know how often your mother encourages you to make friends and yet you don’t; how Aunty Rachel says, “Mhembeuter, no man is an island”; how Isaac cleaves to your side, in class, at gatherings – his proximity and desire for your companionship a vent sucking all the oxygen in the room – so you keep evading him? Smile. He’s dealing with an isolated human and he doesn’t even know it.

One day, fall for his charms and give him your number without qualms. Bloom when he calls, like you do every time someone calls you: receiving calls is a thing you consider a privilege. A not-so-frequent privilege. Raise eyebrows when within an interval of days he calls and calls again. Like him.

It’s your birthday and he doesn’t call. Aunty Rachael calls from Lagos. Your cousin with whom you share a birthday calls from Gboko. Your girlfriends call. But this year, the acknowledgement you have received feels incomplete without Daniel’s call. Droop with sadness. Falter at making sense of it. 

The sun is a bright ball in the sky the day he calls. A Saturday, perhaps. Gloom leaves you like smoke billowing out of a kitchen. Daniel immediately apologises and says his phone has had issues for quite some time. Forget that you despaired. Talk and talk and talk. Away from the eyes of people, like you do whenever he calls. Yearn for school to resume. Not because you miss school or your classmates. Classmates are meant to be missed, but not school, never school. Yearn for school because you want to see Daniel.

Resume on a Monday. Feel cold because you are now an SS3 student. But you get to see Daniel. So, feel like leaping and embracing the sky. School has resumed fully. Become migratory. Stay less in your class, more in Daniel’s class. Don’t pay attention when Science students or your Art classmates say, “E be like say you don turn Science student now o.’’

After preps, school dismissed, gather Daniel’s books and arrange them in his bag. Wait for him to round up his chat with his classmates. Hope he decides to walk the distance with you to SRS Junction before taking a bus. Hope Winner does not dissuade him. May neither she nor his friends follow if Daniel agrees to walk with you. You want to be alone with Daniel. You want him to push you so that you can warn him not to or push back. You want him to call you “Fish” or “Big-head”! You look forward to your traditional handshake before departure, where he says goodbye and heads off and you think, isn’t he a wonder? Dark-skinned, lanky, free-spirited! You are in love with this boy!

Bathe in thoughts of him. Look forward to his calls. Call him if he wastes time to call. Talk, talk, talk. Spawn ages of conversation. Trade insults. Tell him to get out and hear him reply, “Fish!”

Scour the internet for articles on love. Type how to know if someone is in love with you on Google. Break on days Daniel follows his friends. Cloud with tears when you see Winner around him, giggling at his teasing, she possessive of him and he possessive of her in a way he isn’t with you. Feel jealousy wriggle its head. Feel it bite you. Bleed when Daniel prefers to hang out with his “other friends” over you. But then, be confused when Daniel consents to your appeal and folds his hands over you, shielding you from the cold weather of the day.

Be utterly marvelled at how quickly he apologises when you inform him that he has hurt you, his “I’m sorry” humble and insistent till you accept his apology. Like the afternoon he wrongs you and it takes him all the way to a teacher’s house, hand wrapped around your arm, to receive your forgiveness. Seemingly, he isn’t going to lose you over petty issues. 

One Friday, though, he leaves with his ‘other friends’ and leaves you waiting. Impatient for Monday, explode your anger over a phone call a few minutes after you arrive home.

On some days, Daniel treats you like the only important person in the room, but then he blurs everything by flinching from your touch or by not taking you as seriously as you take him.

Return to the internet. Search for concepts like bromance and signs that he is into you but is afraid of rejection. Study his sun sign. Begin a diary and try to make sense of feelings. Become a fan of everything romance, from music to literature. Alternate between “we can never be” and “he loves me too but is afraid of rejection”. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Dread graduation day. Want it and yet eschew it. Hope that your strength as a person will help you scale the thorn-speckled day. Bitter-sweet. Think of the oxymoron in the phrase. But then, think of graduation day as the last day you will ever see Daniel. Decide to make the most of the day with him.

Then remember your school is hosting a thanksgiving service for your set in its mother church as it normally does for its graduates. 

Drag in a lot of air.

*

Remember, this is the last day you will see Daniel. Make the most of it. Hold back tears without realising you are doing so.

Sit next to Daniel. So close. Think of the day he sent you a text expressing how lucky and grateful he felt having you as a friend. Re-live the different shades of emotions that filled you with colour. Pin thighs. Allow him possession of your phone. Think of the day Agatha confronted you: “Are you and Daniel boyfriends? Are you bi?”

—Mhembeuter! Let’s go. (That agitated voice, your relative-turned-sister.) 

But service is not over, you curse, clenching fists.

—She’s unrelenting, Let’s go!

Become a tree standing helpless as it loses all its leaves. There’s no excuse that can buy you time. Grandpa is lying inert in the hospital and you need to go see him. You cannot be the uncaring grandson now, can you? Tell Daniel a lazy goodbye. Get your phone. Put your bag in order. Turn your back. Walk, walk, and walk. Resist the urge to turn back. Contain your tears. Contain the storm inside, the fire razing through you.

—Jerry!

Stop at the church’s entrance. That voice. It’s Daniel’s. He calls. Oh, he calls. I have always known he loves me too.

—Can you give me an additional jotter?

Such selfishness. He doesn’t even care—

—So I can remember you.

Stilled waters, calm. 

Dole out another jotter. Look into his eyes. See the hurt. It radiates. Strong.

There’s nothing either of you can do.

—Mhembeuter, stop wasting my time!

At the hospital, fight the urge to throw yourself in your mother’s bosom. What she needs from her son now is succour, not the baffling news that HER SON IS IN LOVE WITH A BOY and is hurting because they are not together. Separated by time and distance.

Weep. Silently, tears sliding down your face. Accept the consolation from relatives that Grandfather will be alright. How ignorant they are. Find a private space. Call Daniel. Relish every atom of his voice. Rasp as your heart struggles with the emotions spearing through it. Rasp as every part of your body trembles. Rasp as your heart bloats. Think. Think. Think of how this is a full stop to everything. So much love brimming inside you.

Splinters. Your heart explodes. In its place, gain a scattering of pain. 

*

Marvel that you and Daniel never parted after all. Somehow, both of you found a way to keep contact. His family paid you visits and your family paid him visits too. Both families are supportive of your friendship with a seriousness that bewilders.

Watch tons of gay romance movies. Make both men you and Daniel. Discover a number of love songs. Become obsessed with Christina Perri’s ‘A Thousand Years’. Think of how you need to move on. Consider how unbearable moving on sounds, a disregard of the feelings you nurse. Think of how tempting it is to lay your head on Daniel when he comes around, how close you sleep next to him on the bed. Bleed. Write more diary entries. Rip out the pages that record your most intimate thoughts of him.

Sing ‘A Thousand Years’ again. Blush when Daniel teases or flirts with you. Over the phone, talk, hear him talk. Talk, talk, until the caller’s credit diminishes. Toss in bed. Listen to Pentatonix’s tracks. 

Get fed up. Pray. Pray. Breathe out as the feelings dissipate, day after day, a gradual lifting of a burden. Soon, you are thinking, I’ll find someone when I start school at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

3.

The third crack occurs in a fiery, open space.

Alvan-Ikoku Hostel. Never in your life have you lived for such a long time within a community of boys. Oh, paradise. But your libido has dwindled. Sexual Orientation OCD has sucked away most of it. Scan male faces nonetheless. Weigh them on the basis of your considerations. They never reach the mark. Seems there’s no Precious here this time.

Upon resumption from the Corona break, grow close to Jude and Henry. And a course mate of yours who goes by Ucee. Short, light-skinned, bright, and with a graceful swagger to his gait. Deem him a man with good looks. Form a bond. Frequent his hostel, get known by his roommates, share stories and experiences. Find a centre in your mutual love for writing. Become a pair.

On some evenings, he comes over to your hostel and invites you for walks. Today, walk the streets of UNN, the engulfing air around both of you thin and sombre as life stories, hopes, and dreams shuffle back and forth between you two. 

Stop at the Engineering quadrangle. Assume different positions on the cold, tiled surface of the erected seats until you are stretched across its length, your head an inch away from his thighs. Think of how this is a perfect moment: trees a canopy above, witnessing stars twinkling in the night sky. Anything can happen. He could lean in and kiss you and this moment could go down in history as seminal. Humour your fantasies. You are supposed to see as he reveals himself to you: tears, regrets, achievements, dreams – his slipping away.

—What’s the time, Jerry?

—It’s past 11pm now.

—Wow. It’s better we start heading back to the hostel.

—Yeah.

Away from Ucee, think of him, often, both of you an item.

Are those blooming tendrils feelings? They are so thin though. Does not amount to much that will make you want to kill for Ucee. Call it a crush. Then call it a crush on your idealised version of Ucee. 

Feel your heart drop into your stomach when any of his female friends hangs around or rests her head on him, when you draw up expectations and he doesn’t meet them. Yet you won’t kill for him if it calls for it. Isn’t that selfish? Analyse yourself some more. Realise you are still holding on to the shadows of the past, to what had never been with Daniel, and that in reality you are afraid you may never fall for someone so deeply again.

Cling to Ucee still. Face the consequences when your friendship with him loses balance: you are giving so much and receiving little. Cold silences. Clipped replies, from both of you.

Know loneliness so grave. So deep it starts turning to resentment. Feel it rise rapidly in your chest whenever you see him. Somehow, like parted waters, meld back together. Yet, soon, another cold conflict breaks out and it starts in your chest again. Never in your 18 years of life have you felt so bitter. Reread his Whatsapp messages for clearer meanings.

Remember you are a fan of astrology because “karmic relationships” keeps beeping in your head. Consult Google. Relate to all the signs. All you want is to talk out the issues of your relationship with your friend, but he prefers that you sweep the issues under the rug. Realise you are an incompatible mix. From your end, call it quits.

Stay where you are appreciated, another friend once told you. Still, contemplate how much you want with him nonetheless.

On Whatsapp, insist on having an honest conversation. Place your perspectives side by side. He thought this, you thought that. You were hurt, he was hurt, and confused, and fighting demons. 

Reconcile. 

Flirt.

He’s written a poem, can he show you? You’ve written too, a work of nonfiction, could you show him? 

—Of course, of course.

Send a draft of this piece of work to him. Watch him read it, anticipate his reaction. Feel sadness, then melancholy, when he gives you creative writing feedback.

The following academic year, you are roommates.

He brings up conversation about this piece.

—I have been conflicted with my sexuality since you came out to me. Over the break, I visited, you know, unwholesome sites, to test if maybe, I might have a thing for boys too. I don’t, J. I’m sorry.

—You don’t have to be, Ucee. I got over it even before I told you. It’s my fate – falling for the unavailable. 

Months later, curl up in bed. 

—What is it? Ucee asks.

—My SO OCD. I’m tired, man. 

—I’m not well versed in this, and I believe you, but what if this is a pointer that you are bi?

—For the hundredth time, I’m not bi!

—Alright, my boy. Alright.

4.

Swirling into oneness.

It is 2021. You’ve been living, you are happy, but you are also aching. It is night. Lean against an iron pole, stare at the dark blue sky. The stars, they look like eyes – the universe. Brim with questions. Can the universe give you a peek into its plans for you? Exactly what lessons did you prepare for yourself before reincarnation in this lifetime? Think, you must have been dumb. Or did you hurt someone in your past life? Is karma catching up with you? Feel tears clouding your eyes. How many more boys do you have to walk through to get to “the one”?

—I hate you, say to the universe.

*

Fuck. You swore never to use Grindr again. But you are beaten up. No, you’ve been tight-fisted with yourself for so long. You need to try things. To go with the flow. You know why you are here. You won’t stray. Okay: I get. You are not worried that you will stray; you’re worried no one will find you interesting enough to hit on. Why not hit on others then? 

Yes, you should chase. You’re more of a chased, I know. But sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands if you really want something. What if both of you don’t fall in love with each other? Jerry, you worry too much. It’s called dating for a reason!

—I get it now, mumble into the air.

*

Andre. Hit him up. The upper half of his face is cut off, the lower half marked by a light covering of tender hair. A small black mole sits on his left cheek. On his white shirt, an inscription with the letters written backwards. You make sense of it: ASHLUXE. The red body of an earpiece hangs around his neck. You don’t feel mountains yet, but for some reason, you feel a thread between you too. Flimsy, yet there. Who knows?

Hi. I’m Jeremiah. English and Literary Studies. I stay at Behind Flat. I’m 19. You?

Wish he were online. Decide to wait. Take a look at other guys. Throughout the day, your phone beeps and beeps. Each not a reply from this boy. The next morning, open Grindr hoping he has replied.

I’m Andre.

What? That’s all? 

The following day, chat with Andre for a while. Learn that he’s barely online, but that he replies when he comes online. Good: this one is not a fine-boy snub. He’s also a student of UNN.

Do you mind if we see each other? finally write.

Sure, he replies.

Great. Where do we meet? I prefer school premises though. It’s safer.

Same here. You choose a place.

Arts Quadrangle. 5pm. Tomorrow.

Works for me.

Allow your thoughts to scream, “You are going on a date! You are going on date!” Calm, calm now. It’s not promised it’ll turn into a relationship. Your previous dates did not.

Say, it’s a first step nonetheless.

Alright!

*

You don’t know what to wear. You don’t want to appear formal nor do you want to appear shabby. Simple, authentic – that’s how you want to appear. You want to be in your skin when you meet this guy. True and real. 

Count the hours as they tick by. Settle for a blue chequered shirt and a black chequered trouser. Finish bathing and dressing, and see that it is 5pm. Do you always have to be late? Now you’ll be sweaty and panting by the time you arrive. And no, you won’t waste money on a shuttle bus; you’ll walk.

Call his line before you leave.

“Dear customer, the MTN number you are trying to call is not reachable at the moment. Please try again later.”

Damn! say out loud. It’s already scheduled. And he promised he’ll come. Set out. Red earth. Main Road. Vehicles whoosh back and forth.

Shuttle Park. A hiss, Where to, boy? 

Shake your head at the man.

School. University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Boys’ Hostel. How the tables have turned. Stare at the fractured glass louvres of Eni-Njoku hostel. Recall your days here. Your hostel was next, sha. Alvan-Ikoku. The bearable of the two.

Stadium. Ucee used to come here every Saturday for morning exercises. On the morning of his birthday, it was here you had found him. You sat at the spectators’ stand, waiting, watching people flex their bodies. Music was in the air. A number of people feet away were dancing in a circle. Happy birthday, you said when he walked up to you. He barely comes here these days.

Arts Quadrangle. Finally. There’s barely anyone around. Sigh. At least you are saved from pulling off a first impression of tardiness. 

5:30pm. Think, he’ll be here any minute. Minutes pass and pass and someone walks along and it’s not him. Feel your heart shudder. Want to cry. Hear questions jumping inside you. Suppress them. Try his line again.

“Dear customer, the MTN number you are trying to call is currently switched off. Please try again later.”

6:20pm.

Andre promised he’ll be here. Something must be delaying him.

6:25pm.

Andre is a good person. I feel it. He’ll not do me dirty. It’s getting dark, but I’ll wait five minutes more. Then, that’s it.

6:30pm.

Still, he’s not here. Feel questions swelling in your chest. But you are a realist. You acknowledge your circumstances, and you move on. 

On Grindr, leave Andre a message.

Since it’s late, I’m leaving. You did not show up. I have called and called to no avail.

Now, go home. Rest. It’ll be alright.

*

You hardly give up on people, do you? Read Andre’s reply. I’m sorry, my phone went off. Have questions. Don’t ask them. Choose to forgive, choose to understand. Ernest will frown at you if you tell him this. Have some respect for yourself, Jerry, hear him say. Do not care. Chat up Andre on WhatsApp.

The following conversation ensues in subsequent days:

[3/8, 5:04 PM] M.J: Andre!

  • Jerry here.

[3/8, 5:22 PM] Dre: Hi

  • Nice to have you here.

[3/8, 5:34 PM] M.J: You too

  • Ran out of data on the other side.
  • Any plans for the night?

[3/8, 8:38 PM] Dre: Alright no o

  • P*
  • Naa just watching TV

[3/8, 8:43 PM] M.J: What show!?

[3/8, 8:45 PM] Dre: SpongeBob

  • But it just ended sha😅

[3/8, 8:46 PM] M.J: Ah. My lil cousin is swooned by the show.

  • Never understood the beauty of it, until some years later.
  • It’s been a while with it

[3/8, 8:47 PM] Dre: Yea I know right

[3/8, 8:50 PM] M.J: Mmmmm.

  • You free, this night? Was thinking we could utilize this platform in place of the date and know ourselves. VN. Exchanges. Stuff like that.
  • PS: hope I’m not coming off heavy? Just laying grounds for us. It’s my flaw I know. Just be honest with me once I’ve crossed my line into nuisance 😅

[3/8, 9:02 PM] Dre: Alright no o

  • Problem*

The night is spent knowing each other. You’re both ambiverts. He’s bi, you’re gay. You suck at cooking. You are a writer. You are a mad person behind a calm facade. Send him pictures that prove this.

[3/8, 9:13 PM] Dre: 😂😂😅 OMG

  • You’re more of a pest than me😂😂

[3/8, 9:48 PM] M.J: You? Any wild or whatever- carefree, terrific, best moments?

  • I meant pictorial moments sha

[3/8, 9:53 PM] Dre: Not much of a picture lover

[3/8, 9:53 PM] M.J: Okay

[3/8, 9:55 PM] Dre: Yea

The next day, you do a karaoke of Christina Perri’s ‘Arms’ and send it to him. A horrible, clunky voice pushing through the fabric of the instrumentals.

[3/9, 4:58 PM] M.J: So, where do you see “us” leading? Dunno how to even phrase this. Like, do you think we should go ahead with “this”, see where it leads, or you feel it’s just not what you want. I dunno, shey you get?

  • Be sincere. Don’t sugarcoat. Let’s both know whether we are on the same page.

[3/9, 5:01 PM] Dre: To be truthful I’m not ready for a relationship right now.

[3/9, 5:01 PM] M.J: Okay, okay.

  • Thanks for being honest.

[3/9, 5:02 PM] Dre: Just wanna take a break.

[3/9, 5:02 PM] M.J: I pray you get yourself 🙏

  • If it helps, just know it’s gonna be all better. Take each feeling as it comes. Acknowledge, accept, own. But most of all, don’t be hard on yourself.

[3/9, 5:04 PM] Dre: Me too o cos i don’t understand

  • Thanks for the advice ☺️
  • 😇been long i heard this.

[3/9, 5:07 PM] M.J: Lol. Feel free.

  • & anytime, of course. No strings attached.

[3/9, 5:21 PM] Dre: Sure

The realist has acknowledged his circumstance in good fate! Lol.

*

Months roll into months. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike rolls along. ASUU points at the Federal Government, the Federal Government points at ASUU. Lecturers will not resume until they are paid “all” remuneration owed. Wish for school to resume. Want to see Andre.

Your online friendship has been flourishing. Thanks to your Zodiac signs. He’s a Libra, you are a Sagittarius. He’s Sagittarius moon, you’re a Gemini moon. You’re both Scorpio in Venus. Astrology nods a yes to this coupling! If only it were an actual coupling.

In bed, wish over and over that it were. Sojourn down depths of imagination: you and Andre, husbands. Then both of you are quarrelling. Angry with each other. Until one person owns up and apologises. Will never do that again because I love you – you are my soulmate.

See that life does not work out the way it does in your head. Snap back to reality. Acknowledge that lapses and occasional dismay are part of life. But you’ll be fine. You survived Dad. You survived Daniel. You survived Ucee. When it feels unbearable, log online and reach out to a friend. They always know what to say.

Once again, you’ll be fine. You will survive Andre too.

5.

A phoenix.

You are a phoenix. 

Vikings, S4 E10 has just finished. Think Ragnar and Lagertha. Ragnar and Athelstan. Ragnar and Floki. Ragnar and his sons. Ragnar and Aslaug. One man, many people. Sometimes platonic, sometimes romantic. Sometimes a merge of both. He loves them all. In unique ways different from each. Think, Ragnar and Athelstan, Ragnar and Lagertha – the only people he has confessed “love” for in the series so far – I love you!

Think that when people come into our lives, they stay, or they leave. Think that they are all our soulmates, whether they treated us well or badly, whether our relationship with them was smooth or chaotic. 

Think of how much you have changed over time. You’re agnostic now. You suffer from SO OCD. Think you may be bi. Fancy yourself a Divergent.

Wonder if you even want to be in a relationship. You care and don’t care, you just are. Rise from the ashes. Reclaim yourself. See that while you were so caught up with romance, you were blind to the love that surrounds you in your friends and your family. 

You’ve lost yourself.

Falter in your attempt to fly. Huddle into yourself and tend the seed of patience. 

Flap your wings once more. 

Stumble, yet fly.

Mhembeuter Jeremiah Orhemba is Tiv, Nigerian, and first runner-up for the 2021 Kreative Diadem Flash Fiction Contest. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in FictionWrit, Sovereign: An Anthology of Black Fantasy Fiction, The Shallow Tales Review, Arts Lounge, Eboquills, The Muse Journal, Agapanthus Collective, ARTmosterrific, Fiction Niche, and elsewhere. In 2021, he was an artist-in residence at ARTmosterrific. He wishes to attain the serenity of water, enjoys watching TK and Carlos kiss, and still loves AURORA and Christina Perri.

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