Sunday, May 10, 2020

Love Is A Neglected Thing (or, Corinthians), Rémy Ngamije

The way love felt last night was too familiar. The same steady rhythms, the same motions, the regular and replicated highs. The same sighing conclusion. Love closed its eyes for a bit, catching its breath, and then it fell asleep. You, however, remained awake, alert into the late hours of the night, thinking about what you were going to do, how you were going to do it, and when you’d do it.

Today? Tomorrow? On Thursday? How about now?

No! Not now.

Love lies there in the morning when the day is new. It rolls over as you look at it. It stretches, resplendent. “How d'you sleep?”

You shuffle quickly to the bathroom to brush your teeth. “Fine,” you say.

Love is there in the memes that used to make you laugh but irk you now. It’s there in the email with the links to writing competitions and residencies you don’t click on. It keeps insisting you should give them a try: You have the talent, at least you have a voice. That’s more than most.

You never go beyond reading the submission requirements:

12pt Times New Roman
2.0 line spacing
Microsoft Word format
Each submission will be read blindly.

That's how you read its messages: blindly—without bias to past feelings or moments, or the things you used to do together, all the plans you made. All of Love’s words wind up on the slush pile.

You close Love's messages and turn back to your English class with fresh energy in your voice. Some kid asks why they have to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. To be fair, it’s boring and not right for their reading level. But the wrinkled copies are all the language department can afford right now. It’s all that it could afford last year and the year before that as well.

At lunch, Love is there in the sandwiches which have been cut more cleanly than a mirror’s edge, stuffed with pastrami, tomato slices redder than passion, a thick white cheddar slice, and fresh watercress leaves. One of the other guys, Mr Petersen, the maths teacher, says you must be putting in the midnight work if you’re getting lunch like that. Another one, Mr Loubser, the geography teacher, ruefully looks at two brown slices mortared by peanut butter and says, “Love, don’t let go of it, my young apprentice.”

When your phone buzzes in your pocket you ignore it until your thigh stops quivering.

—Hey, how’s your day going?

Love is kind.

When you show up at Franco’s flat that evening his face registers surprise for an instant before he nods you over to the couch. You flicker between channels, undecided. Champions League commercials. A mumble rap video. Catastrophic Brexit negotiations. Nature documentaries—you ask him to pause on the leopard dismembering the impala.

“All good?” Franco asks.


You finish the documentary and get the updates on your boy’s philandering.

Back home you mention you stopped off at Franco’s for a bit. Love just smiles and says, “Cool. Hope you boys had fun.”

Love is not jealous.

You almost wish it was.

The way Love holds your hand when you walk to the shop, or when you go for a stroll in the sighing dusk, just so, with the slightest bit of moisture greasing your palms. You want to let go of the hand you thought you’d hold onto forever.

“Is everything okay?”

You give Love a wan smile. “Yeah. Of course.”

You lengthen your stride. The hands pull apart.

Love has inside jokes which no longer tickle your ribs. Now the humour punches like a sour left hook. Love winks at you at a dinner party and you backhand silence to it, swinging its emotions left and right, running it ragged. Its closeness seems too close. Its fragrance no longer sends you reeling. Its movements seem clumsy and careless. And there are crumbs everywhere on the kitchen counter. Like, everywhere.

All the time, Franco. How the fuck are there crumbs everywhere? Women are filthy creatures.

—You’re the only nigga I know bitching about that, dude.

You turn away from the phone. Franco’s no help at all.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Love says.


“I deserve more than that.” Love comes and wraps its hands around your waist and looks up at you.


“That’s better.” Love reaches up to kiss you. You hold out until the last second of rudeness before you bend your neck to meet its lips. Your mouth autopilots through the saliva exchange.

Love is patient.

You remember the first hello, a greeting of such power you couldn’t contemplate ever saying goodbye. You were calling to take out Love on what felt like the umpteenth date. (It was the third, thank you very much!)


“Hi,” Love said.


“I know who you are.” You both made small talk and then you asked if you could meet up. “Look,” Love said, “I already know who you are to everyone else. But who or what do you want to be to me?”

“Forever,” you said.

The pause. You could hear it breathing into the phone.

“Yours,” Love said shyly.

That night at the restaurant all it did was look at you. Long. With the gaze which could separate you into boy, man, flesh, words, lies, hopes, and fears. In the past you would’ve fidgeted and sweated. But you were cool. This is what you wanted. You were certain.

When the bill came you said you’d get it. Love said the two of you should split it and you said, nah, you could split the mortgage and the child-rearing duties when the time came. You said you’d start lobbying for longer paternal leave days. Love looked at you straight. You didn’t look away. It read you the Miranda Rights, “Careful, anything you say can and will be held against you.”

“I say you, then” you said.

Love laughed.

Back then.

Way, way back.

How the present fails to live up to memory. Now look how the laughter ebbs away, and the knowing silence gnaws away at the thing that could never die without either one of you first dying. Even though you’re both still alive, your love’s already left for the hereafter. You’re just sleep-kissing and sleep-loving through its wake.

Look how Love tries; how it puts in the time, time, time, time, and how it tries to burn, burn, burn but time does not catch a fire. Time flies instead.

Look how Hooke’s law applies here, how deliberately careless you are knowing if you pull it and stretch it, Love will come back to you again and again.

And again.

And again.

Love loses its lustre when you belittle it with your trial.

Love will always show up, always willingly.

A morning comes. The sun’s rays turn the burglar bars into jailhouse-shadows on the walls. Love rolls over and sits up. It sees you at the end of the bed. You have your back to it, but you can feel its hands stretching out to you, just about to make contact with your shoulders, then Love pulls back. You wish it had touched you. Maybe it would’ve changed things.

It did the first time way, way back when.

You sigh and straighten your back.

“Careful, anything you say can and will be used against you,” Love says before you can even say anything.

You turn to face her.

Look at her. How she bites and reigns in the pleading words. But the eyes, they adjure, they beseech. Nothing wants to die—everything fights to cling to life when the dark beyond starts blocking the light. You think about that impala at Franco’s house. The way it thrashed around madly even though its eyes knew the leopard’s jaws were as strong as finality.

You look at her. She looks back at you. She doesn’t say anything.

You wash your face in the bathroom. You brush your teeth. You comb your tough hair. When you come back into the bedroom she's sitting up in bed. You look at each other again.

You don’t have to say anything. She knows.

Love always knows.

Later that day you start moving your things out of the apartment. By the next day everything’s been cleared out. She’s not around when you finally turn the key in the lock for the last time. You leave it beneath the dead chilli plant and walk away.

An extract from your diary on the Last Day of Forever: Corinthians is a lie. Love isn’t even gravity. Love is a neglected thing.

Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. His debut novel, The Eternal Audience Of One, is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S). He writes for, a writing collective based in South Africa. He is the editor-in-chief of Doek!, Namibia’s first literary magazine. His short stories have appeared in Litro Magazine, AFREADA, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Amistad, The Kalahari Review, American Chordata, Doek!, Azure, Sultan's Seal, Columbia Journal, and New Contrast. He has been longlisted for the 2020 Afritondo Short Story Prize and shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines in 2019. More of his writing can be read on his website:

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