When I was a child, I was a performer. At 6, I did a solo play at the National Theatre. I was Mukyala Nakigudde, an anti-vaxer mother. “Abaana abange nabageema dda. Nabasibamu obusso mu bulago, n’edaggala mu biwaato.” It’s okay. During the course of a 10 minute monologue, she changed her mind and took her kids for immunisation. I don’t act anymore except when I am trying to come off as nice. I am not nice but you can’t get through life as a woman without at least seeming to be. So, sometimes, like when a former sour colleague runs into me at a bar, I act . I think though, I would piss my pants if I were asked to stand on stage, before an audience and act.
When I was a teenager, I loved dancing. I danced all 7 hours of every school cow-dance in the dining hall, every 3rd Saturday of every month. In Masaka where I went to school, Ambience Discotheque was all the rage. When school broke off and we were meant to be boarding taxis back home to Kampala, we instead sneaked into Ambience and danced the day away, admiring ourselves in the wall to wall mirrors, getting clumsy bad touches from teenage boys. Journeying home, high on our own youth, we amused ourselves & outraged fellow taxi passengers, by rehearsing stories we would tell our parents when we got home after dark. “The taxi broke down in Lwera. I was so scared. I thought I was going to get kidnapped. Then they sent an even older one from Masaka to pick us. It broke down in Mpanga Forest. Maybe those men were making the cars break down on purpose. Maybe they wanted to rape us. *Cue teary eyes.” I was on the Club Silk dance floor at age 15. Yes, I was one of those kids your parents warned you against making friends with. The fence jumpers. But your parents wouldn't have known that. My face & manner have always had a certain innocence to them...(Hihihihihi). Now though, if you made me dance in public, I would never speak to you EVER again.
Five years ago, I was so in love, I floated on air. I could have given everything up for the relationship. I wanted to give everything up for it but I was never allowed the sacrifice. In those calculations men long decided are theirs to do, he chose what was best and you know how that story always ends. I will tell you anyway:
It ends with the woman pulling the plug on a relationship she no longer has, but was never quite told as much. Why, though? Why don’t men just end the thing when it has ended in their heads? You’ll go years with every one of his actions saying it is over, while everyone of his words insists he is “fighting for us.” Aaarrgghh….Does modern love vocabulary have a passive aggressive term for that thing?
Anyway, last year, in the back room of a dark New York bar, we sat together in awe at just how fine we each were without the other. “When you left, I was convinced that life would forever be smaller for it. But it hasn’t been. I joined a work team I like. I'm finally in grad school. I get to spend nearly a year of my life in New York & see all the musicals we were going to see together one day. When I go home, I might even get married. I'm not sure but I think he asked and if he does ask in a way that's real, I will be elated to say yes. It feels surreal. You were supposed to be the love of my life.I shouldn’t be this fine without you.” He laughed softly and said, “yeah, you should have worn sac cloth & sat in ashes for me, for the rest of your life. Come on, live your life! You deserve it. I was staring at you on the train today, thinking how incredibly brave you are for yourself. You’ve earned your peace.” And it was okay. I didn’t feel like crying, or secretly yearn him to show some remnant desire to be back in my life. He was right. I had earned my peace and it was as real as the brick walls that flanked us.
Less than two years ago, I wore dreadlocks and did sexy like an art form. My drawers were EVERY.THING.
Fishnet stockings? ✔
Yards of lace? ✔
Bras that push your tatas into your throat? ✔
Bras that cover everything except the nipples?
(Really weird but ✔, again).
Balcony bras. ✔
(God, government should export and hand out Nalubaale medals to global bra designers. They really have thought of everything! )
(Really not as sexy as it sounds but ✔ again).
Boots not meant for walking anywhere in?
(Yes, please ✔).
The right camera phone to share dress rehearsals with chosen brother?
(But, of course!)
I wonder where all that stuff went? I saw a leftover leather & lace dress in my closet, the other day, and I was momentarily disoriented. Far from the urge to wear it & check myself out, I turned it over in my hands wondering how a dress with so little coverage was ever sown.
Where do they go, the things that leave us? The things that once used to float our boats to nirvana? Where are they buried when they die? And how come our boats still float, long after, what once seemed like, our very life force is gone?