Part 1: ‘Letters to the woman I loved’ by Timehin Adegbeye

25 September 2016

Dear K.,
I made many mistakes with you, I realise that now. Chief of them was assuming that you
were exactly like me, just because you were happy to leave with me that night, because
music moves you the same way it moves me, because you decided after all that it was a
good idea to let our bodies get to know each other.

I should not have spent all that time just staring at you. I should have touched you more,
should have remembered that lightning does not strike twice and gathered as much of you
into myself as I could carry. Perhaps I should even have lied when you asked how old I
was, instead of laying my meagre twenty-four years of life down between us to make you
recoil in horrified amusement. I should have ended our shared laughter with a deliberate
kiss, a kiss that I started, a kiss to show you that my wanting was no accident. I should
have asked you to practise my name.

I want what you have, Querida. Not just the knowledge of my body’s possibilities that
surprised even me, but also the clarity of understanding—within the moment—that that
night was a souvenir. I want to be able to file it away in the too-small section I have created
for Astonishing and Precious Pleasures. I want to be able to not text you, to be
philosophical about not texting you, about not having you to text.

Much more than having more years of life than me, you also have years of loving women
and being loved by women. You have built on and walked away from grander versions of
the things you introduced me to that night; the intensity, the safety, the shock of being
known and seen and pleased as if I had let you in on all my secrets without realising it. It
was inevitable, I think, that I would fall in love with you. But I should not have told you.

I should have known that you are a practical woman. Of course you are. You don’t make it
to a half-century in a black woman’s woman-loving body without learning that dreams can
be bricks around your feet, dragging you down into even more pain than is considered
your just desserts for having the audacity to be a black woman in a woman-loving body. I
should have known that under your uninhibited dancing was a foundation of pragmatism,
that the only reason you could fly so sure-footedly across the earth is that it has been a
long while since your head was in the clouds. But me, I haven’t yet learned how to tuck my
dreams under. And watching you dance, dancing in the undertow you created with your
waving arms, it was inevitable that I should fall in love with you. I heard myself ask, “do
you want to get out of here?” and I swear, it surprised me as much as it did you.

I don’t know how to dream quietly, Querida. Before you left that morning, I had felt the
promise of hundreds of mornings waking next to you. While you slept I found the exact

curve between your rib and thigh that my spine fit into; I settled comfortably into the
pressure of your calf on mine. I did not trace your cuticles with my fingertips, did not press
my lips into your collarbone as you breathed warmth across my shoulder, did not try to fold
into you so hard that the imprint of your bones would rest on my skin after you had gotten
dressed and left me with a kiss. I did not think I would need to, did not think you would go
and be gone forever. It had not occurred to me that I could fall in love the way I had, and
be doing it alone.

And so of course I told you. I am not young enough to have imagined that you would
decide that you loved me too in that first phone call. But I am young enough to have been
certain that you would want to know, want to make the time to step cautiously down into
this vortex that I had happily discovered myself flung headlong into. I thought—I don’t
know what I thought; perhaps that everyone appreciates honesty, even when it is a heavy
thing? Or that you would see that I was being open and be happy to be open too? That
you would trust me, baby that I am, to know that what I want is to be with you; half your
age, you twice mine, meeting in a middle so magical I still catch my breath when I
remember your voice in my ear, the lukewarm water pouring down our backs no excuse for
the drip between my thighs?

I thought I would laughingly say, “I’m half in love with you. No, more than half,” and you
would laugh with me. I did not think that my words would push you back into yourself, into
the safety of a stunning distance that has little to do with the oceans between us. I felt it,
you know. There was a draught as you shut the door. Polite, firm, offering a friendship as
shallow as your beautiful belly button, you stepped back from me and created a yawning
abyss in place of the vortex I had been eager—no, excited—to let you show me the way

It gapes ever wider as the days go by; I spend so much time questioning the sanity, the
appropriateness of shouting across the chasm in hopes that you will hear me. My voice is
not hoarse yet, but I wonder if there’s any point persisting until then. What I hoped for was
the chance to see you, all the parts that I inevitably missed when our bodies were
demanding pressure and closeness and release. That past tense is a lie; the hope is what
keeps me shouting. I love you still—a vortex is a difficult thing to climb out of—but I am
writing this because I know I will  never be with you.

1 comments On Part 1: ‘Letters to the woman I loved’ by Timehin Adegbeye

  • My goodness…who are you…and how do your words manage to mimic soul language so accurately? This really did happen, didn’t it…I mean in some form or other…you fell in love with this woman…you must have because you write like hearts speak…like poetry…beautiful.

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