Sad news, I’m afraid.
Victoria, the one who writes on this blog –and a girl I love on a cellular level- announced recently that writing is very hard; and that she’s given up, and that she’s very sorry.
And that’s after she came out and said she’s now batting for the other side.
I really didn’t know what to make of that. (The writing thing, not the batting). I mean, here’s a writer who crafts the sort of sentences most of us can only dream of. On the page she makes a mean stew of spice and wit. A love letter from her would flutter all your demons and put a wide grin on your face. Just ask The One with the Szechuan Sauce, or The One with the Marauders, or even The One.
I didn’t want to believe she had quit. I hoped it was a bad dream. I hoped she was only joking –giving a silly answer to some curious cat.
So for confirmation I moseyed down to the DMs. And, much to my dismay, the reports were true. Turns out she really has quit.
“You can’t give up,” I texted.
Then she said, “Lmao I did. A long time ago.”
“No, you just went on Sabbatical. Utarudi tu. You’re an amazing writer bana.”
“Ahaha. Wanna bet?”
“That you’re amazing?”
“Lool no That I’ve quit for good.”
She might not seem like she knows her punctuation. But she’s very good on a Word document.
Many moons ago a pal texted and said, “By the way, there’s someone here who wants to talk to you. She also writes, and she wants advice. Can I give her your number?”
And so began the great love story that never was. Her face was her Whatsapp picture. She had nice round cheeks. Victoria Wairimu Kagichu stared back at me through a lens smeared with warm desire, like a small bay of sunlight. Kag the Sag. The one who spun me round and round.
I thought our friendship would be all lopsided. I’d be the phony artist and she’d be the eager student. I thought she only needed to hear what I knew about commas and adverbs, and that would be that.
But it wasn’t like that at all. In fact it was the other way round. She introduced me to some of her favorite poets. I even fancied writing some of my own poetry to impress her. Those poems usually came out crusty and labored, and I felt no shame in showing them to her. In fact she was my sole audience before I ever had the balls to put out any of my works.
I fell in love with Victoria long before we met.
Sometimes she’d send lengthy voice notes, which I’d sit up and listen to, over and over until her voice trilled in my head. Sometimes we’d text continuously for days on end. Never a phone call, though, because they were costly and awkward.
Other times she’d go through long spells of sadness, and I’d read those texts in the darkness of my room, her misery zapping through me like an electric current. I never knew what to say, I couldn’t find the words to ease her, and she never asked me to.
Sometimes Victoria painted. (“I need a new brush.”) (“Do you know where I can get acrylic paint?”) (“Ugh, this is so frustrating.”)
I never got to see any of her work, though, because she was so bloody insecure about them.
But this was a pre-campus era, when we all had time to text the day away. Life happened. Everyone got on with their lives. The texts became shorter. I stopped trying to save her. The voice notes disappeared. The online magic sort of fizzled out.
Now you’d be lucky to get a text back.
Now Victoria is a med student.
Now she barely has time to rest.
She’s bogged down by school. Her life feels like a series of lab reports. She battles varying degrees of depression and anxiety. She tries to participate in class, but she feels like she’s not articulate enough. She doesn’t even fit inside a lab coat, for chrissakes. She accidentally dips the sleeves in acid. She’s a klutz. She misplaced two umbrellas. She slacks at yoga. She drinks. She listens to podcasts about love. She’s tired all the time.
Today she has Microbiology in the morning, and then French, then Physiology lab. Last I checked she was trying to quit smoking. The other day on Twitter I was genuinely surprised to see her use the word ‘mjulubeng’.
Still, I continue to burn candles for her. I see her in my dreams. And when I’m in the mood I write her letters. The last letter (slightly tweaked to remove the graphic parts) went as follows:
I only found out recently what a Halifax was. Apparently it’s the provincial capital of Nova Scotia, Canada. I like the way that sounds. Halifax. Like something you’d hear in an old folk song. Ol’ Jack never gave two fucks, when he was down in Halifax.
I don’t know much about Canada, though. I know Ontario, and I know the Hoser Hut, and that they call their police ‘Mounties’. But other than that my knowledge of Canada goes as far as Miguna Miguna and Robin Scherbatsky.
(In my head you and Robin are the same thing. Don’t argue)
But I’ve now done some digging and it seems Halifax has quite a bit of history. Perhaps most notable is the explosion of 1917, at the height of World War 1.
On the morning of December 6th the port city of Halifax was bustling with ships-carrying troops and ammunition across the Atlantic. Among the ships was the SS Mont Blanc, which was carrying 2300 tons of picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline, and 10 tons of gun powder.
At the same time, a Norwegian vessel called the Imo was leaving Halifax for New York.
The two ships collided at 8:45am, and the Mont Blanc immediately caught fire. People gathered to watch the burning ship. They didn’t know the nature of its cargo. They were just amusing themselves, laughing at the Captain because he was dumb enough to cause a fender bender, on the bloody ocean. But then, 20 minutes later: Boom.
A blinding white flash. Bedlam. Chaos. 2000 people were killed. No glass within a radius of 50 miles was left intact. 9000 more people were injured. Some were left visually impaired. The north end of Halifax was reduced to rubble.
Just like that.
I also didn’t know Canada had a holiday in May called Victoria Day. They celebrate it in honor of Queen Victoria. (You probably know all this, but, indulge me)
Victoria Day always falls on a Monday, the week of the Queen’s birthday. Maybe you’d look at this and think: Mus’ be nice, to have a whole country -with a province called Halifax, no less- to celebrate your birthday.
Well, babe, for me, every day is Victoria Day.
This year Victoria Day was on the 21st. Where were you?
I like to think about you when I’m sad. It alleviates the lonesomeness. My entire being is constantly seeking you out in dark shadows. And to this date your sadness remains to be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever encountered.
As always, I picture you in your room. There’s a laptop with a dozen open tabs, and school stuff piled up next to the keyboard. BioChem. Physiology. Herpes infections. Times New Roman.
And then, in a corner, neatly stacked canvases –many unfinished paintings encrusted with grime. A collection of palletes, enameled with swirls of hardened paint.
And just like that, I’m alive again.
Then maybe one day -to say thank you- I might take you to Halifax with me.
With lots of love,
I keep telling you people I can be romantic but you don’t believe me.
Anyway, I usually write these letters hoping to put her smile on her face, even though deep down I feel words are never enough to take away the sadness.
I’m happy to report, though, that she found a girlfriend, and that they’re quite happy together.
But I suppose I can understand why Victoria would want to quit writing. Her plate is already full as it is. There’s surely no time to think of blog posts when you have CATs and a lab report due the next morning. Also, why would anyone subject themselves to such a slog as writing?
But I don’t think she’s quit. Not really, anyway. One night sleep will elude her. She’ll have no lab report to fill, and no boy will be buzzing in her DMs. Her girlfriend will be blissfully asleep. The world will be silent. And something will stir awake inside her. She’ll be struck by the fine tune of inspiration. She’ll crave an outlet, and she’ll realize that only the words can save her.
Then she’ll open up a fresh Word document, ready to gush all over the page. And when that day comes I hope she remembers how I ended this post –in the words of Stephen King:
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair –the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kicks ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you, or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
As for the rest of you, Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.