I was asked a question by my younger sister while she braided my hair. Shocking as the question was, I expected it. She had seen me for the past days, a shadow of my usual bubbling self, and without the almost endless phone calls and message bleeps that I received. 

“Sister, what is a heart break?”

My heart breaking some more, I thought of a million childproof replies to satisfy her curiosity which was coined from my recent attitude.

“Where did you hear that?” I ask in a weak bid to distract her from pressing further. 

She catches my stare from the mirror I’m holding and repeats her question. 

I’m caught in crossroads as I don’t want to destroy her child’s POV of ‘true love’ or love generally. 

I don’t want to explain the deep sinking fear that gathers in the pit of your belly when you think about your lost love or the image flashes of good times spent that makes you so weak you just want to lie down and breathe the pain away. 

I do not tell her about the times you pick up your phone and type the longest melancholy in history to him, ending the text with “Please call me or text me back”, even though you know he won’t. I do not tell her of the many nights you roll over and over yourself until your hands slip between your thighs and you touch yourself to his memories, willing your hands to be rough, firm and a bit caroused like his and you end up in a sad ball, crying yourself to sleep. 

I do not tell her that she may run into him at the mall with his arms wrapped another woman, prettier than you are, staring at her like the world started and ended in her brown eyes and you stare back at him, with that same longing; he would catch you staring at him and you’d blab about unnecessarily about how ‘good’ your life has been while he knows that you’re lying and painfully, the woman with him wraps her hand round his waist tighter, smirking because she knows too. 

I do not tell her that you’d come back home and sit on your desk afraid that you’d never get over him. You would snap at everyone and everything; people would look at you pitifully and tell you “It’s going to be alright.” You’d text him again and again, begging. You’d blame yourself for not overlooking his cheating and his abusive behaviour. You’d recall the times you confronted him over his suspicious behaviour, coming home late, his new ‘smell’, etc. and you’d convince yourself that “All men cheat; it’s fine as long as they come back home to you”, and you’d cry because you’ve become what you always detested—a settler.

I do not tell her that you might meet a new man who’d show you so much love but you would compare his actions with that of your ex and his strokes would not feel the same as your ex. You would nitpick at his confidence and his ability to make you happy until he simply stops trying and he would become you, texting and begging. 

I do not tell her that it is a vicious cycle that never ends, each new recruit carrying the weight and passing it to whoever was at the other end. I do not also tell her your heart might never stop breaking; it might momentarily forget the hurt but it doesn’t heal completely, that you would enter new relationships with strings from the past and when you look into your lover’s eye, you would do so with careful calculation so that you don’t fall in too deep. 

I do not tell her that one day, on a sunny day in May, your lost love’s name would pop up on your screen through a text and you would detach yourself from your current lover’s arms and go into the bathroom to read the text, but not after willing the text to feel like it wasn’t as important as it cursed your breaths into heavy heaves almost immediately, and you count to ten. I do not tell her that you opened the text message and it was an invitation, to a wedding which should have been yours. I cried a little, wiping your nose and applying powder to your reddened cheek and practiced a smile, your eyes dead with affection. I do not tell her that I was happy with nursed hope that I was still important, my contact was saved as his was on my phone; his name, email, date of birth, work address, account details, blood group, etc., that I’d like to think he had me in a corner of his life, I wasn’t a ghost. 

I do not tell her as she finishes my cornrows and applied sheabutter on my scalp that there’s a 50% chance you may heal, the other 50% is bleak. 

Instead, I grab her hand as she makes to leave and draw her gaze to mine, I smile and realise that she’s in love too. I pity her too. I tell her lovingly, “Heartbreak happens when two people fall out of love with each other or when one falls out of love and the other is still in love. Heartbreaks are unavoidable but are lessons.”

She looks back at you and smiles too. 

“Sister, is that why Uncle does not come around anymore? Because your heart is broken? Is that why you’re always so sad?”

I nod. “Yes dear, it’s because my heart is broken and it’s also because I don’t know how to fix it.”

“Sister, try.”

“I will.”

And In that declaration I found my strength.

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