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Love

New love feels eternal. You can’t imagine its end. I remember standing next to Alex, telling him he was my soul, the love of my life. I remember asking our friends to pray for us, for the many challenges that were certain to beset our relationship. I remember putting a ring on his finger as a symbol of our commitment to each other, all the time knowing this would never lead to a legally-recognized partnership because of our country’s laws. Our friends filled up the house and brought over a large passion fruit cake, which they had placed on the table. I was tired of my parents asking me when I would bring a woman home. I was tired of telling them it was for me to decide if and when that could happen. My father wanted me to marry and enjoy the sweetness and troubles of having a wife, as he had. I did the “commitment” ceremony, knowing I would be endlessly bothered by the time I arrived at our rural home.

I had planned the ceremony for just the two of us. Our friends had other ideas. They wanted to be witnesses. They wanted a party—snacks, drinks, sumptuous food! And that’s what happened. We stood before our friends, my arm over Alex’s shoulder, pulling him close. It was as if a part of me was afraid he would flee. This man who had seen me at my worst! Who had shown me how to overcome my outbursts! I stated that our relationship hadn’t been easy, that it was tough being a man in Kenya who loved another man. I said I was lucky to have found a soul-mate, the person I would spend the rest of my life with. We both laughed because our felt honest and true. I was lucky to have a lover who understood me, who woke next to me each day.

Alex said he was happy to be with me and to know me for who I was. We confessed our love in front of the cameraman, with my netball trophies and medals arraying the wall. We exchanged rings as a sign that we were ready to bond our bodies, spirits and souls. In his lovely voice, Alex said he was blessed to be with me. I leaned in and kissed him. I felt so full of joy in that moment and drew close to him, enjoying how I melted into his soft body, amid clapping and ululations from our friends. We were so sure of the choice we had made, trusting we would always be together.

This was not to be! We couldn’t possibly be aware of how life would shape our paths differently, and separate us.

Looking back, I now sense my discontent. In the documentary, I am uneasy with the merriment. I had planned for a private and intimate event only for our friends to surprise us with a bigger spectacle. I got angry when Alex tried to give me a lap dance. I sulked and removed myself from the party. I started cleaning the kitchen and when I was done, I moved to mop the bathroom. I had wanted a day just with him. I should state I enjoyed the liveliness of his personality, his ease at warming up everyone around him. I loved how he would walk behind me and start a cheeky game that would have us running after each other like a pair of puppies. I loved that he introduced cheer into my life. But there were parts of me that were too conservative for his liking. My dear Alex was too nice to admit to himself that I was a bit boring!

I didn’t give my doubts much thought for we had already agreed on how we would live together, what we would compromise on. We were sharing laptop passwords and ATM PINs. I suppressed my concerns and held onto the relationship. Soon enough we shot the documentary and it aired. Our lives became more complicated. Alex saw his safest bet in getting a scholarship and moving to Europe. I took him to the airport knowing this was the beginning of the end. I hugged him and we promised to be there for each other, even if physically apart. I mumbled my words morosely. A part of me had already given up on us and it was a relief to watch him go. Kenya had exacted a painful price on his life and happiness, and I wanted him to be in another country where he would feel safer to be who he was. I knew he deserved a relationship more fulfilling than what ours was. I imagined he would find in Europe all he was denied here.

Alex kept calling and chatting. Each time he did, I felt a tad removed from him. I forced a cheer in my voice, telling him all was O.K. One night I video-called and told him the heart-crushing words.

“I think we should take a break.”

I was anxious for his response but he kept silent. I suspected he wanted to ask me why I didn’t tell him sooner that this was bothering me. I was sure he was now connecting the dots on how I had been acting towards him.

“I love you Sam,” he said.

I told him I loved him too.

“So I guess I shouldn’t be calling you that much?” he asked.

I licked my lips and pondered for a moment.

“I know you will be alright,” I said.

It had ended. It was over. It was done.

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