Ours started as a friendship.
One morning as I was seated in the front office, a young, shy man walked in to get directions to a department in my then organisation. He would end up working as a finance liaison officer for several years. Once in a while, he offered me support with my work so that we could enjoy plenty of time together without me worrying about pending assignments.
At the time, our organisation was full of older adults. They were either married, engaged, or with some religious responsibilities they had to fulfil. This lot neither shared in our day to day reveries nor entertained the young graduates who were still wet behind the ears. So, when younger adults joined the organisation, I was more than happy to welcome and show them around.
When Jim joined us, I noted he was different. He understood me. He got my jokes. I loved picking his mind, and we cherished each other’s company. Soon, we were inseparable.
When we were not discussing politics, we were dissecting our religious, social, and cultural beliefs. In the morning, we texted and kept it going throughout the day. We caught up at break time to delve deeper into our unending conversations. We spoke endlessly about everything and nothing. Our relationship blossomed.
As the last sun rays swept over Nairobi city, the suffocating mixture of exhaust gases emanating from industrial firms around town and from vehicles as they drove by past taking workers and students home, did not push us away to our respective homes. Instead, I would change from my heels to comfortable shoes to allow us to spend even more time under the city clock.
While we tried meeting at restaurants, our debates here could not match those we shared at the bus stop until our legs and backs ached in exhaustion. There was something enchanting about watching a mass of people fighting their way into a bus that would then disappear into distant highways out of town, as more buses trickled into the already overcrowded terminal.
The only thing that seemed to get us to leave town early was if Jim had to rush home to help with farm chores. You see, Jim and his family lived on a farm in the outskirts of Nairobi. At the farm, they reared a dozen chickens, a couple of cows, and goats, as well as cultivated some crops. Once in a while, early in the morning or late evenings, he was required to help with farm chores. These days, as in other days, we texted on our way home and continued texting after he was done with his duties until one of us fell asleep. Interestingly, I was almost always the first one down.
We were great friends and completely innocent. Then, we started listening to our friends and colleagues. We started getting closer. One evening at a workshop outside of town, in one of our lengthy debates, something clicked (Fireball).
At work, nothing changed other than the fact that now, we not only wanted to exchange texts, and chat during free time, but also, sneak in a kiss here and there. It was a delightful romance.
Stolen kisses in the office corridor, the elevator, and any other convenient places soon became our new addiction. By now, we spent less time at the bus terminals. We had enrolled at university to further our education. Luckily, we attended the same university. Although we were in different faculties, we walked to and from school together. We felt like teenagers again. On my days off school, I walked him to the institution before catching the bus home. He reciprocated the favour on my days too.
Everything was perfect. We couldn’t ask for more. We were great friends and made a lovely couple. At least that is what our friends and later on we thought. Life felt blissful, until one day it was not!
Did I see it coming? Probably, yes. With constant communication like ours, it was clear that something was up when the communication was cut off abruptly. On a Thursday evening, after a week of showing me a code of silence, he approached my work station like a talented hunter and called off the relationship. I remember staring into the distant busy Nairobi streets. While I was hurting, I watched from the office window as people went by their day. His voice trailed off as thoughts crisscrossed my mind.
“Will you be fine?” he asked. Is this an act of care or a sarcastic one? I was not in a position to process this. I nodded in response.
“Why does he care?” I thought as he walked away from my desk. Then I let loose. I cried a river. I was an emotional wreck.
A utilitarian romance
We maintained our secret romance within the office corridors. As we worked in a conservative community, and to avoid any consequences that would arise from our rendezvous, we operated in a discrete manner.
It was not until we parted ways that I shared with a mutual friend about the relationship. We still had to work together, as such we needed to be civilised. Although I tried to maintain a tranquil demeanour within the premises, my heart ached with pain when I saw him smiling.
“Why is he happy?” I would wonder. He looked fine and thriving. In fact, he started eying a new colleague.
Nothing hurts as much as seeing your ex pursue another colleague
While I was slowly healing and my heart was finding its place again, Jim was busy chasing a new girl in the office. It felt like a stub straight to my heart all over again. Honestly, I felt like it hurt worse than the breakup itself.
The open office set-up that was once space for us to steal glances and blow kisses across the work stations was now the altar where my heart was being sacrificed every day. The man that I used to know and respect was gone. He cared not about my feelings. Instead, he spent every time he had with the new girl. Of course, there is nothing wrong with your ex moving on. When hurting, however, it seems like the worst thing that can ever happen to you.
There is no length of time capable of making everything go back to normal. But time heals.
With time, I learned to see and not allow the situation to define me. One year down the line, Jim moved in with the new catch. We still retain some mutual friends, some of whom do not know up to today that we were once an item.
Today, what used to be a cordial friendship is nothing but an email catch up once or twice a year; we both moved on to other companies. Although we cannot go back to what we had, we acknowledge the friendship we shared. It got us through the earliest years of our first jobs as graduates. Our secret romance killed our cordial friendship.
Could I change anything if I went back in time? Yes. I would probably choose not to date Jim. But the break up showed me the other side of Jim that I was oblivious to when our star was still bright.
Story as narrated by Shirlen