Welcome to the month of April people!
This month has been designated by Ima, the flying Bishop of Benin fame as Wanderlust month. (Couldn’t have thought of a theme pun more fitting).
We called for your stories on travel last month and we got quite the response.
We have stories about Nigeria, honeymoons, vacations and exotic locales. We will have two posts every week (on Mondays and Thursdays) in addition to paranormal Fridays so strap in for the ride people!
This morning we kick off with a story from Kiah below.
Enjoy, tell your friends and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already.
There is not enough time. Not enough to breathe in her every scent, not enough to catch her tears before they fall, not enough to learn the memory of her…
The train is late, giving us a little more time but even this more time is not enough. Even if we had all the time in the world, it wouldn’t do.
I still remember our first train ride together. We had been headed to New York City. We were both 18 and it was our first time out of Charlottesville, the place our immigrant families had first landed from Nigeria; hers from Benin when she was 8, mine from Port Harcourt, a year later when I was 9. Our fathers were professors at the college we would both end up attending.
Back then, it had seemed only natural for us to navigate our new surroundings together; to sit next to each other in high school, to roll our eyes together behind our mothers’ backs the one time they suggested we wear traditional attire to church, to huddle beside each other in sympathy when our mostly white friends murdered the pronunciations of our names. It had seemed only natural for us to become best friends, and then lovers, pushed together by familiarity and comfort and other things we didn’t have names for.
We had been so afraid to leave Charlottesville, our own little slice of America, that day but our fear was nothing compared to the anticipation we felt at the prospect of New York City. We were finally going to see the city we had heard about all our lives. The city of our favourite movies. The city where Daniel Day Lewis had solidified his status as our favourite actor ever in Gangs of New York. The city we preferred to Seattle, which we had never been to either, but looked down upon because when Meg Ryan kissed Tom Hanks in New York, it was more believable than when she did it in Seattle or anywhere else for that matter.
We told no one where we were headed or for how long; not our parents, not the uncomfortable new friends we had just made in college. We didn’t even dare say the words out loud to each other after the plans were made. Maybe it was because somehow we knew we would never make it all the way.
By the time the train stopped to let out people at Delaware, that in between place of nothingness and obscurity, we had discovered just how quickly wanderlust could turn into cold feet. We held hands and got out at the drab Delaware station. We took the next train back to Virginia and pretended it never happened. That we never tried to escape the good and safe life our parents had tried to give us by escaping from Nigeria.
And now here we are, waiting on another train, a train heading to the place of our dreams, the city of our fears. Only, this time, she leaves alone.
I already know she will not be coming back to me. I can tell from the anticipation in her eyes. New York was never a city to be discovered alone and it is only natural that she finds someone to navigate her new surroundings with, someone with whom to weather those cold streets.
Maybe if we had made it that first time. Maybe if we had seen the city through each other’s eyes. Maybe if the city had seen us through each other’s eyes, maybe it would not be so eager to take her away from me. Maybe if it had seen us walk arm in arm, past the ‘I love NYC’ tshirt stands, past its carelessly cold inhabitants, maybe then it would have been more willing to let her stay mine.
But it won’t. I should know. Because one summer weekend, not too long after our failed trip, I took the train to New York alone. And in that city, all by myself, I gave my heart to another.
I hold her hand now as we wait on the train and I think of that weekend so very long ago. I wonder if the woman in red rain boots and pink yoga pants ever thinks of me, the boy whose innocence she stole that rainy night so many years ago. She had been a Columbia grad student, weary of the polished men the city afforded her at every turn so that when I, a country boy from the hills of Virginia, bumped into her after listening to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was easy to pretend we had no history, just a future in each other’s arms. We spent two nights together discovering each other’s bodies and the days spooning in Central Park and then I came straight home to Charlottesville.
‘Stay!’ I breathe now into the ears of the girl who has only ever made it as far as Delaware.
‘Stay!’ I tell the girl for whom Delaware was once a last stop, the girl marked by the innocence of that place no one ever plans to end up in.
‘Stay!’ I tell her to keep her safe from the dangers that lurk in red boots and kisses stolen behind park foliage.
She shivers and looks at me with eyes made even more beautiful by the sorrow in them. Her favourite colours are yellow and blue. I wonder if the next time I see her, she will be a girl who loves red boots, a girl who knows that seduction begins in the tiniest of things, things like the scent of rose water, the carelessness of youth, the undeniable beauty of knowledge.
The platform begins to vibrate and I know the train is only seconds away so I try again.
‘Stay!’ I scream silently.
She takes my face in both hands and kisses me the way Meg Ryan kissed Tom Hanks in Seattle, a forgettable kind of kiss.
‘I love you,’ she says as the train pulls to a stop in front of us.
She does not wave goodbye and neither do I.
I go home instead and watch many re-runs of Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail over two weeks before I finally know what to do. When I do, I tell no one, not even her. I buy a one way ticket. I do not stop at Delaware.
Kiah is a story-teller. She learned the art from her mother. She hopes to pass it on to her children. Her favorite place is Brooklyn. It goes without saying that she is a city girl. The first time she went to NYC, it was by train from Richmond and she didn’t get out at Delaware. Her other favorite things are the Bible, Jason Mraz, John Irving, FC Barcelona, fried plantain, and discovering new places. Montreal is up next.
You can read more of her short stories at www.kiahsscript.com.