I look into my girlfriend’s face wondering how far to go with my truth telling. This pub we’re in is in downtown Accra and always bustling with people heading in and out. This is a safe place to be; she wouldn’t want to make a scene. As I watch her lick her lips, I hyper imagine her salivating as she waits for my words. As I do not express myself a lot, this is a rare occasion and she tries to keep her excitement in check so as not to scare me off.
I laugh out loud at her effort. My second Guinness bottle is almost empty now so I don’t care about much, but most importantly I am ready to tell her.
She giggles back nervously unwilling to break the silence by asking me anything that will change the subject. I glance at the wooden board behind the barman, and on it written in chalk are the words “Odo Nti” (Because of love). I chuckle at the irony. She laughs again.
“I know you,” I finally say.
“I know you do” She replies sweetly.
“And I love you; I mean I have said I love you”
“I love you too”
“No, I do love you. I love you a lot sometimes. Like when you worry I’ll get a cold because it’s raining outside and I’m running through it. It’s really sweet. Or when you cook me Jollof and go through the trouble of covering the bowl with lace. Or when you buy me shirts and compliment my looks because you noticed I started to care about that… Basically whenever you show me you love me, I love you.”
“Well, yeah it’s because I do lo…”
“You have to let me finish.” I cut her off.
“I actually don’t love you though. Because all the other times of you being you, I only just like you, and sometimes not even that. I like that you can sing, you are smart, and you are pretty. I like it all, but it’s not enough. I don’t think you’re the best singer in the world. I don’t want to hear you sing all day, please stop. I don’t think you’re the prettiest, and I don’t think you the smartest. But I should right? I should adore the ground you walk on. My problem and the conflict is sometimes I do. Like when we’re kissing with our eyes closed, or making love with the lights off. But every time I come up for air I can’t ignore that pang when I look at you and you look at me and I know that I don’t love you. Not the way I know you want me to; because I know you. Not the way I even want to love you. But I can’t claim to know me. Because sometimes I really think I do love you. Like when you’re crying because I’m sick, and I’m crying too because you’re crying. Or when we’re out at Kaneshie market and the boys catcall you. Or when I can’t stand thinking of you with any of them. Or even back when we were in high school and everyone adored you. Those are the few times that I care. But the other times, most of the time, when I see your saggy too small butt in the shower, I know that I…I just don’t love you. “
I look back at her, but I barely notice her.
I hear her yell that she will never cry over me again, but she sounds so distant. I hear her say other things but they become progressively unintelligible to me, because I no longer recognize her voice. I no longer care.
I chuckle and take the last swig of my Guinness. They always want the truth but they can’t handle it. And she will cry. I know she’ll cry.