“I want to ask you a question.” I smiled up at him.
“Okay.” He smiled back.
“You have to promise to answer the question honestly.”
“Are you married?”
My smile faded.
He remained seemingly unaffected. “So now what?”
“What do you mean?” I struggled.
“Well you asked me that question and I answered it. What now? There must have been a reason you asked. Why did you ask?”
“I feel like you’ve been flirting with me.”
“I have been flirting with you.”
“That’s not okay, you’re married—”
“I know it’s wrong but I want to flirt with you, I’m choosing to do it.”
I was visibly disappointed.
“I still want to read your stories.”
I walked away.
I hadn’t even noticed him but he did everything right. He spoke to me just enough that I’d know he was there but not so much that he seemed overeager. He waited a few days to introduce himself and ask me about my name—its meaning and origin. He waited a few more days to ask me out and didn’t appear discouraged when I said I wanted to get to know him a little better before meeting him outside the gym. He disclosed a little information at a time about his interests and accomplishments to combat my apprehension. He read one of my short stories and actually understood it. He also gave me his work email address. He did not press me for my phone number even after we’d exchanged several emails. He suggested activities that I could explore but didn’t angle for an invitation to any of them. It was all compliments, eye contact, watching and connecting. I didn’t want him to say yes, but I wouldn’t have asked if I thought the answer was no. To my surprise, it did hurt me. Sharing a story for so many who write—it’s intimate. It’s like taking everything off so the voice of every stretch mark and curve can speak unencumbered by the penances of indecency.
I know a few prolific cheaters and in some way they’ve all informed my view of sex. When I was going through puberty it was biology and a means to procreate. A definition bereft of colour. Now, I picture it like messy, greasy paint spilling over the lines or poorly managing to stay within them. It doesn’t really start anywhere specific, it just isn’t until it is. I’m still abstinent and I have to admit that I never really think about sex in the context of the other. In my mind it’s always about me, about something I want to feel. I want the pleasure that cannot hurt me. On most days knowing this is enough to keep me sound but when I’m self destructive, I realise how dangerously impressionable I am. So I hide or I demean me to save someone else the trouble. Or maybe because I’m the evil I know.
It has been suggested, “…women’s bodies are sites of patriarchal power and are spaces where men are at their most oppressive, and women are most oppressed”. I believe this to be true in the case of reproductive health where women are often denied agency over their own bodies. However, I cannot escape its applicability in the context of this post. Archaic express and implied policies and practices cite and impress upon women a responsibility to supply pleasure even if it is to their detriment. For instance, several countries did not and some still do not recognize marital rape as a crime. Don’t even get me started on female genital mutilation; they were worried about a woman straying and responded by absconding with her satisfaction. I have a very distant relative that was brutalized beyond recognition and murdered this year by a physically abusive man she left upon discovering he had multiple wives. Seeing him one last time cost her her life. She couldn’t live anymore because he couldn’t live knowing she breathed and it wasn’t for him. That’s the world we live in now. She says no and he kills her.
I found his wife on Instagram, it’s what prompted me to ask. She doesn’t post any pictures of him or them and I wonder if this is more about him than her. She seems better than decent and I think she might love Jesus. I love Jesus. She’s a white foreigner and there’s also a child. It scares me that our ever-evolving patriarchy makes it increasingly difficult for women to not hurt other women. I don’t have a covenant with her. He does. I don’t owe her anything. He does. Yet he waited for me to ask. I had to pay attention or I’d have missed it. I could have been the other woman, the one he calls when his daughter is asleep and his wife is rummaging through the fridge for a late night snack to accompany the movie she’ll fall asleep to in his arms. I could have been the one he writes love letters to to feel young again. I could have been the one that causes him to shuffle uncomfortably at the dining table every time a notification sounds on his phone. Or maybe the reason it’s on silent half the time. But my mother didn’t raise that woman. So my conscience couldn’t rest with uncertainty. I asked and now I know. Now I am bound by a duty of care to a woman I have made no promises to before God because I have a married best friend, because I want my sisters’ to have good marriages and because I want my person to be mine.
I think I’m more vulnerable with black men. I think I always have been and that too scares me. I’m unmistakably attracted to them, I have a desire to learn how to love them right and when I picture giving myself to someone, they’re black hands that touch me and black lips that taste me—he doesn’t need to be naturalized, he’s at home in me and dying for ourselves is dying for each other.
There’s this meme in circulation that reads, “When you love another Black person, you have to love each other through 500 years of broken promises, pain, and oppression. When we say Black love, it’s not just about some Black people being in love; it’s the most revolutionary thing you can do”. Imagine that. The resilience of our community, the struggle that we are born into and sustained by—imagine the euphoria of a love that insists on its time. Why wouldn’t I want it? More importantly, why wouldn’t I want it with a black man that wants it with just me? As a father, you could be the man your daughter hopes to marry or the familiar sadness she acquiesces to. So I ask this man, don’t you want her to be joyful and confident? Doesn’t she deserve laughter and genuine, constant, irrevocable love? If so, how will she fare when you tell her her mother was not worthy by entertaining another woman?
I don’t hate him for being married to someone who isn’t black. I despise that he expected me to be okay with settling for the parts of him that he feels he doesn’t owe her. Whatever bits of his person he’s reclaiming over a decade later to carelessly share with someone who will help him recognise himself. My coarse hair and his, my scars and his blemishes, the blood and bone that has fed and shaped us—death buried in the ground, mouth to root inflating blades of grass and trees with air saved from the days of life. Our shadows have long been allies…then he bid on the sun. He sought to own the light we rely on. Would he kill me? Will he kill me?
I love being a black woman. I love being a woman! I love my skin, I love my mind and my body. So hear me when I say with or without a black man, I am black love.
Because I choose it.
Because one day, it’ll choose me.