I remember the day we met. I remember that I had a double science after but I couldn’t get you off my mind because I had waited so long for a familiar face to come my way. Someone I could share my Bollywood fantasies and anger over overprotective brown parents with.
You were so offended when we first met. You called me a racist and I laughed it off. Secretly I was upset because I wasn’t being racist – people in South Africa really do call themselves coloured.
I’m not sure how long after that things started to take off. How long before middle school classes kept us impatiently apart. I just remember every morning I hoped I’d manage to pass you on my way up Foot Street to classes I was running late for. I just remember that the morning tea break was never long enough and that the 45 minutes for lunch couldn’t be shorter. Even though I knew we’d end up spending the afternoon together being pioneers of walking. Even though I knew we’d watch the sunset on the corner of Verner Avenue and Foot Street, sometimes crouched over the asphalt of the pavement in front of 78 Foot Street. Sometimes leaning against the stop sign, knowing that as soon as we got home, we’d be lectured about being out too late and not yet completed homework.
But do you remember, my love, how we dreamed on that sidewalk? Visions of ER rooms and apartments in St.Kilda. Ambition, naivety more so. Nothing seemed impossible them.
The afternoons always seemed like they were meant for us. The staircase opposite Frankston beach, I knew for sure then, was built only for us. “It’s ours,” you said, “It’s our staircase of joy!” How could anyone else appreciate the view of the bay and the outline of the city like we could? No one could possibly understand the beauty of it all. The complexity.
I think though, after all these years, one of my favorite memories lies at the bottom of the pond of George Pentland gardens. Do you remember that? How angry I was? Yet, I didn’t say anything. I think we both just stood there perplexed at how fast it happened and then walked back home still dazed. You grabbed my wallet and then my entire life in cards was gone no sooner than I had gotten used to owning my cards. With my name, my initials still freshly printed on them. Ah, to be fifteen again and have such worries.
But these memories, these things were small. For when day turned to night, my love, you became my confidant, my keeper of secrets, the shoulder I could burrow my face into to my muffle my sighs. We never spoke of it, pretended that our tears never existed those nights. It just was.
Childhood memories and fears danced around us as we held on to each other. After all these years, I can still smell the fresh scent of cotton pyjamas and mint of toothpaste competing with the metallic of braces.
I have loved you like I have no other. I have loved you all these years. I have loved you as a girl. As a teenager. As a woman.
I have loved you over summers on the other side of the ocean filled with teary visits to Internet cafes.
I have loved you at times when I have not understood you and times when I have not understood anyone more.
I have loved you and I have allowed you to love me. So genuinely. So purely. Filled with no pride or discontent or anger.
I have loved you truthfully although I have feared at times that I would lose you altogether. But as your heart is, you did nothing but love me more.
I have loved you and I will always love you, my Hassan.
For you a thousand times over.