Memory Keeper’s Ex Boyfriend

11 Jun

Today it has been exactly three months since I broke up with the boyfriend. I am finally starting to feel a little better. The first few weeks were horrible which were to be expected but I’ve never done this before. Never broken up with anyone before, never broken up with someone after six years, and certainly never broken up with the “love of my life.”

The first week I didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t tell anyone and was really just in shock. I think I went to yoga four times that week and to the gym three times. I was very mechanical.

The second week I started freaking out. This break up felt like a divorce. We shared everything and did everything together for so long that I felt paralyzed without him. I also had this strange idea that he would take all of our memories that we had together and take them away to africa with him. He was the one in the relationship that remembered every date, every word I said and thing I wore. He also keeps a very detailed record of purchases and can recall the events of a whole day from just looking at a credit card receipt from a gas station.

I have been told I have a good memory but I don’t have a detailed record. I have random journal entries and little treasures that I’ve kept from special dinners and trips but I didn’t even know where they were. I really thought if I wasn’t with him to keep the memories alive I wouldn’t have any and when he goes ahead with our plans to move to Africa without me I would be left utterly alone.

I became very obsessed. I started collecting these memories and putting them in this purple gift box I bought from Borders especially for memories. I starting getting really upset when I couldn’t find this little neon green paper that was actually my class schedule from when I was in school. HE wrote I love you sweetheart in Swahili on that paper and I wanted to put it in my box desperately.

After three days of searching and one whole therapy session crying about Sugar taking my memories away to Africa I decided to email him and ask him this:

“Do you remember what you wrote to me in Swahili on the dry erase board and then on a little green piece of paper in red pen, when I lived at 1222 Arch Street? ”
He said yes so I asked him if he could please write it down for me again and it was really important that I have those words with me right away. He understood, because somethings that really didn’t make normal sense in my life he always did understand. So now the same person who told me they didn’t think they could be friends with me after breaking up was meeting with me at the Dunkin Donuts on the concourse and walking me to the allergist’s office to give me my memory back.

Sugar handed me a manilla envelope that had “Personal and Confidential” printed on the corner and inside on a white piece of paper because he didn’t have neon green paper, in red pen a message in Swahili. It wasn’t the original message which upset me at first because I hate change, I let it go. He wouldn’t tell me what it said though. So when I got back to the office I tried looking up each word but the translation was not very good. So… I called him.

The note said:
My sweetheart
I love you very much
Forever and ever

The last line of the message in Swahili is:
“Maisha na Milele”

He said there is no direct translation for this saying because it has a very powerful meaning. He said it means forever and ever which sounds weak compared to the true meaning. For all time, for all time that is past for all time that is present, for all time that is future and all time defined as time. Whoa! He also shared with me that it was his mother’s favorite saying which I took to mean something big because he never shares anything about his family, his language or his personal roots to his country.

On Monday after a very hard therapy session full of revelations and a long day of work I walked into a tattoo shop knowing that I wanted that message or some message on my body as a part of me forever, never to be lost or forgotten and to remind me of all of his gifts, the physical and emotional, that he has given me over the years. Gifts of pain and joy that both served a purpose and will continue to give.

When I was there in the tattoo shop I didn’t understand it then but I just got it. I was in the tattoo shop which was No Ka Oi off of South Street in Philly. Ordinarily I would look at the artist work, I would talk to them and I didn’t do those things. I said hello without asking her name and put my arm out. It took honestly 12 minutes. She was fast and accurate. It was perfect and when I looked in the mirror to see my new tattoo in HIS handwriting on my body it all made sense and I knew I would never lose those memories. I wouldn’t be making new ones with him, at least not in the same way but the old ones certainly had a place with me.

I know it sounds silly thinking someone can take your memories away with them when they leave but three years of therapy have taught me that what we understand and know to be true intellectually are very different from what we understand emotionally. They are both real but in my case and I’m sure many others, intellect doesn’t mean a thing when emotion is involved.

Don’t mess with my hippocampus. Seriously.


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