After dinner at ‘Mimo’s Restaurant’, James and Mariam went to the beach, where the ocean would come in turns to kiss the shore and go back, more like it was giving James a hint of the next step to take. In vain. The lights from the Restaurant reflected in the ocean giving it a nice romantic ambience, perfect to end the long evening these two had.
“You know Mariam, the scary part of loving someone is that you silently give them your heart, fully aware that whatever they choose to do with it might break or make you, but still… the heart is ever hopeful. Always giving itself another chance. And sometimes, people truly break it.”
She bent to pick up a shell while still holding onto James’ hand. She looked up and found him smiling at her. He didn’t look like someone whose heart has been bruised, let alone broken. But since he was opening up, she was here for it.
Something about the ocean makes people vulnerable and easy to open up about things they would naturally not talk about in a different setting.
He still had that perfect smile he had since they last saw each other, 10 years ago, both in their first employment at a private firm. It took her down the memory lane, when they would talk about their dreams, from where each of them would live, to the cars they would drive, but never about the kind of partners they would marry. The subject was never discussed. Either they kept it pending for a better discussion – subconsciously, or they chose to ignore it – still, subconsciously.
A lot has changed since then. Mariam has a 3 year – old daughter, whose father no one knows and she started her own Audit firm which is picking up well. James on the other side, well, still secretive as ever, only talks about his work. Communications. It’s ironic that someone whose job is to constantly be aware of what’s happening around the world and make a report of that, would have very little known of him unless he chooses to say it. He also had a habit of leaving topics hanging – never fully exhausting them, something that Mariam didn’t enjoy.
“Let’s sit here Mariam. On the beach while facing the ocean and talk about things.”
Mariam was a slender, dark skinned, beautiful lady. A free spirited soul. She would do things spontaneously like sitting on the beach while still in her white dinner dress. Some things never change.
“So what’s your daughter like? Does she look like you?
Oh Mariam, look at you smiling already.”
“People say she looks like Tracy, my sister. Which makes me happy because Tracy is a very hardworking young lady. I hope she picks her good traits like being creative and ambitious. I’m specifically praying she only picks those two because Tracy is short tempered and I wouldn’t want my daughter to inherit that.”
Does Tracy go for therapy?
Yes. Anger management therapy. Twice per week. It’s working I believe. I stole her shoes last weekend and she just smiled when she saw me in them. I mean, that was a first for us. Normally it would have been chaos.
James smiled. Sisters and their issues. It’s the same everywhere.
“What about you Mariam, have you ever been to a therapist?”
Once. Not so long ago. But I went for 2 sessions and that was it.
Oh, 2 sessions. I wouldn’t call that therapy. Just say you went for a catch up.
“James, shut up.” She tapped his shoulder. “The first time I went to see a therapist, I told her I don’t know where to start but I have issues I need to sort. She gave me an assignment of writing about myself and I quote:
‘1. Who are you?
2. What makes your soul tick?
3. What would you not do for money?
4. What would you die for?’
She asked that I answer them in that specific order.”
So I went back after 2 days. I mean it was easy. My answer to number one was ‘My name is Mariam Atee. I’m a mother and the Founder of Atee Audit Firm. I love hiking and empowering young women to achieve their dreams.’ She looked at it, then at me, smiled and told me that clearly we are not moving to question 2 until I get the first one right.
“If you take away being a mother, your job, and your hobbies, who are you? Go think about that and come back next week.” That’s what she said, handing the paper with my answer back to me.
She’s never seen me again.
“I get that the father of your baby hurt you, and you had to go for therapy. Have you finally found the answer to who you are?”
Hmm, how does he pick so much from so little? Typical James who works for the Communications Department.
“She made me think a lot. I am strong. I love nature. I am sensitive. I am courageous. I help people. I thrive when I am loved correctly. I am a rock – I am strong for my people when they need me to be strong for them. I forget things easily. I am an extrovert. I have a spot in my heart that is completely crushed, where I deposit everything that hurts me.
I also know that I cannot betray someone I love, for money. You know, the way Judas sold Jesus out for money, I wouldn’t do that to someone I love.
Or what would be your answer, James?”
She folded her legs as she fondled her shell.
“That’s great. You will not believe it Mariam, but you are almost there. Knowing who you are. And guess what, a lot of us don’t have those answers yet. About the spot in your heart that’s completely crushed, I get it. I want to believe we all have it, since I have it too. It’s the same way you will choose to have a dustbin in a specific corner of your house to handle all the dirt that’s been collected everywhere.”
Now that we are here, what’s your dustbin like, James?
“Failure. Broken marriage. Lost opportunities. My brother’s death.
Those 4 are the most dominant. I have others, minor ones like the day I couldn’t come to see you when you were admitted in the hospital. I failed you, I know that. But I was in a bad place, mentally and financially, and I chose to act like I didn’t know about it.”
The hotel behind them was closing off, so they stood up, brushed off the sand from their clothes, and silently walked to where James had parked his car.
“My brother had passed on and I was devastated. We were close and we shared a lot. He died and he was the first person I thought of speaking to, about his own death. And when I realized that couldn’t happen, I cried, for the first time after many years. I felt a sharp pain in my heart, so painful I could literally feel it. I lost him. He was important to me, very special, and a part of me went with him when he died.”
At this point, they were standing right behind his car. He leaned onto it as he crossed his legs and tapped his beard with his middle finger. He would always do this when something made him emotional. Some things never change.
“It’s 10.45pm Mariam. You should go home to your daughter. I will drop you.”
Inside the car, James spoke about everything from politics, to his work to the country’s economy. When it was time to drop Mariam, he hugged her goodbye but before she got off the car, he smiled at her and concluded, “Yes, I suck at this. That’s why my marriage failed. I suck at personal communication, while careerwise, it’s what pays me. Incase you are wondering what this dinner was about, it was me trying to talk about my brother. And both of you are very special to me. He honestly broke my heart, while you on the other hand, always mend it by just listening. Thank you Mariam.”
“Bye James. Your heart will heal. It was a pleasure.”
She went away fully aware that whatever this date was about, her therapist would be glad to know that she is secretly an enabler of confusing people who keep coming back, after many years.
Sometimes they come back to confuse her, other times they help her find herself. And finally, perhaps, this could be a starting point of their therapy sessions.