(You bump into an ex lover on Valentines’ day-the one you often call the “one that got away”. What happens?)
She saw him through the clear shop window. Same soil-brown skin. The kind of brown that reminded her of preschool playtime. She used to tease him about how if he got any darker they would name a new shade of brown after him. Ten brown maybe? A very dry play on his name, Tendai.
She had not seen him in four years. Time supposedly changes things. And yet he looked nothing like a stranger. He looked like the same guy she had met the summer before she began her university studies. They had met at the library. Divine hadn’t known many guys who knew the use of a library, let alone factored that use into their lives. She had been caught up in Plato’s Lysis.
“Light stuff hein?” he had said
She had cast him a cursory glance and then continued with her reading. She was used to young men who made smart remarks about something they could not understand.
“I prefer Machiavelli myself. Maybe it’s the more modern feel. ”
She had probably realized that he was one of a kind at that moment.
“Plato’s view on politics leaves me a bit…unsettled. ‘Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed’” she quoted
“But you cannot deny that a lot of his observations that far back in time, ring true even in today’s world. Take a look at this. The world of politics lives on two extremes. Just last year,the Communist Party lost power in Moldova in when massive protests coordinated in part by text message, Facebook, and Twitter broke out after an obviously fraudulent election. The obvious reverse would be here in Zimbabwe”he said with a smile
They had talked for hours after that. About everything big and small. At the end of it all, they had parted ways. He had not asked for her number and she had not offered it. But the next day, they were both at the library, hungry for some more intellectual sparring.
They had quickly fallen into a comfortable relationship with each other over the following months. Then she had had to leave for for Fort Hare University in South Africa. She had begged him to apply for the presidential scholarship that was to cover her expenses too but he always joked that this was a case in which he would rather be crushed.
And so she had begun a new life alone. At first they had messaged. It was the new digital age after all. Initially, she would sepnd all her free time on Facebook. But as the demands of their different lives and the stories that they had to share became pronouncedly different, she felt them being inevitably pulled apart. It was no one’s fault really. But one day she just woke and it was as if he had never existed.
And now here he was. Stacking vegetables at Valley Farm Secrets, not far from Eastgate where she was meeting a college friend for lunch.
“Go in”, her more daring voice-within egged her on.
“Ít will be awkward” the other one argued.
Before she could listen to the stronger and possibly more irrational voice, he looked up and saw her.
Maybe it was the shock. He had last seen her four and a half years ago after all. Or maybe he simply was not interested in talking with her anymore. Or maybe it was having her look at him like this; stacking cabbage heads in top of each other like his life depended on it. Or maybe it was simply because it was Valentine’s day and the mind can play tricks on the mind on days like this-people have conjured past lovers from thin air before. Whatever the reason, he looked straight through her, looked away, then continued to stack his cabbages.
She stood transfixed for a moment, her hand still in an awkward half wave, then quickly turned trying to act as if that one act had not left her crushed