Where The Sweetness Lies
You can probably count the total number of times that I have eaten pineapples in all these [very few] years I have lived. It’s not that I dislike them, because you cannot dislike something that you know where the sweetness lies. See, I like pineapples, but every time I eat a slice, my tongue becomes the Rift Valley. Jack, too, realized a sweetness of his own.
He was always a good boy. The one who sat in a corner and read Goosebumps novels while the rest of his classmates were busy jumping on lockers. He sat still and upright in class while the rest slouched. Always on his best behavior. Always the one to be used as an example. “I never saw the reason for mayhem. Causing trouble was just… not in my DNA” he texts.
I met him during high school, at some holiday tuition that I coincidentally met my best friend at. He was still quiet. Still a mammoth hiding in the snow. He never flossed, never bragged, never boasted about something that wasn’t his. He just…sat in a corner and read. But it was also quiet before it went cuckoo in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“In that time, I lived by one rule. ‘Live to the standards of my parents’. Only… I don’t really think I was living”. He was caged. Tied to wanting to please his sires that he stopped living his life. /Mom wants you to be at home by 4:30/ Mom expects you to read, Jack/ Dad needs you to pay attention. So pay fucking attention/ Mom would frown upon rolling in the grass/ Come on Jack, Dad wouldn’t think the teacher saying ‘algolithim’ is funny/. And so he simmered. Beneath the surface, like a covered sufuria with boiling milk, until, he could take it no longer and erupted, flowing out of the lid his parents placed on him. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I lost touch with him by our final year. In this time, he kept heating up. “Fulfilling their wishes was my life’s goal. I was going to become an engineer like my father wanted. Marry a girl my mom probably chose by 28, have kids, take care of my parents till they were too old to expect anything from me and then… start living.” I laugh. He continues, “I mean, they say life begins at 40, right? I knew that I could stand up to them by then. That I would be grown. A man. Then I met Lorraine.” [Don’t you just get goosebumps when a story takes a sudden turn like this?]
He first saw her during orientation when he joined university. She walked in the hall, late, with her posse of four girls. Obviously the leader of the pack. “I didn’t think much of her on that day. I just thought she was one of those slay queens who unleash the power of their new found freedom on the campus,” he texts.
Here’s the thing about pineapples. They’re sweet. Real sweet. Natural sweet, not processed like that of sugar. But they are not always this sweet. They start off bitter. A bitterness that cuts the tongue on the first bite. A bitterness that never really leaves, even when the sugar settles on the bottom part of the pineapple. Jack’s pineapple started sweetening soon after classes began.
“I was having supper in the mes hall one evening. And I used to always eat alone, with earphones on and on my phone the whole time. Textbook loner. Then I saw a hand in front of my face. Looked up to see her trying to say something”
He took the left side off and raised his eyebrow.
“Can I have some of your salt?”
“huh?” He didn’t hear her. She was beautiful. Girls like that never even looked in his direction.
She reached out and pinched the salt he had on his tray. He was outraged! The audacity of this goddess of a supernatural being. What nerve she had to just dip her perfectly manicured fingers in his salt? Fingers that he would later that night dream were digging into his back.
The next time they met he was in a vest that he had owned since form one. It would not have been safe to say it was white, or that it still held on to his frame. She was in a yellow dress.
“It was the afternoon of the Fresha’s night. She asked if I was going. I said I would go if she was going. She said she would meet me there and I immediately went to shower” His heartbeat was irregular. There was an excitement in him that his body had never witnessed. He was breaking the rules. His parent’s rules. He did not think about what his mother would say or what would go through his father’s mind when he heard of this atrocity. He followed his heart. And a different part of him was witnessing an awakening.
They made out at the party, and a few nights after. They held hands to class. It was perfect. “Then one night, like a month after they started ‘being together’ [because he says what they did was not dating] she came to his hostel room drunk to her toes. “It surprised me. She was a good girl, to what I had gathered. But here she was, at 11.47pm, unable to utter a sensible sentence. She said she had something for me. A bottle of Best mzinga. Pulled it out from somewhere in her trench coat… that actually had no pockets!”
“Let me guess. You remembered the rules?” I ask.
“I wish,” he replies. “I wish I told her no that first night. Said I was tired. Even broken it off with her. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.” She said if he didn’t drink the alcohol she had bought for him then she would be “very offended”. So he did. [What is it with girls and not wanting to be drunk alone though?]. And so it began.
The two of them would get totally and completely batshit drunk that they forgot the days passed. He forgot about classes, chasing her around campus. “See, she was not my ‘girlfriend’. But she was all I had. I would find her making out with other guys behind classes, in her room, at the library. I would just hear things. Lots of things. People would come to me and say ‘Yoh Jack, your girl is behind the library with Bob’ and I would go, because she actually was my girl. But I wasn’t her guy and she made sure everyone knew that”
“Why didn’t you break it off? Whatever you guys had.”
“She was a good time. She is one of those girls who will make you believe you can hold the world in your palm when you are with her. She’s amazing. I was wrapped around her little finger. Also, remember I had never had any interaction with girls like that. She was most of my firsts, so I held on to her, or she to me.”
When his grades started slipping, his parents found out. They knew someone in the administration who would send them his grades immediately they were out. They came to campus, breathing fire from their nostrils. Why was he getting Ds? What was he lacking? Was the money they were sending him not fitting his needs? They could always increase the amount. Why was he failing? He said nothing. Let them ask their questions then get back home. But before they left, he asked a question. The first he ever posed to his parents. How did they know he was failing?
“My father looked at me like I had asked for a gun. Then he said the same thing I expected him to say, ‘Because we are the parents, and you the child’. But I was no longer a child. Lorraine said I was not a child. And then I plummeted down her path wholly.”
They became the dynamic duo. Clubbing every day of the week. Wearing the stench of alcohol as cologne. Barely eating. He lost so much weight that by the time he was woken up in class by a lecturer, he was just a frail shadow of himself. They had lost track of time.
“Young man, do you know what class this is?” he was asked. He didn’t know.
“What is your name?” He didn’t know.
He was sent to the Dean’s office, then was suspended indefinitely. He was before the disciplinary committee in 2 months, and a decision on his fate was made. He would get a thousand days, not counting holidays and weekends. After this time, if he chose to come back, he would have to resume his classes, repeat the ones to be repeated and do supplementary exams on the rest.
“Where was Lorraine?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Haven’t seen her till today. She changed her number. And I can’t say I have friends in school who I could ask to check on her, because I never had the chance to make friends in school. I wish I never looked up when she took my salt. I wish I never saw that yellow dress.”
“When do the thousand days end?”
“9th September, 2023”
Right now, most of the people I went to school with have kids and families and jobs and some even already own businesses. I think about where these people will be in 2023.
“I don’t know if I’ll make it till then. I don’t think I can wait.”
“What do you want?”
“Honestly? I just want my life back. I want my Goosebumps novels and my corner. I want the hoodies back. To crawl into the shadows and forget that the world exists. I’m done with jumping on lockers.”
A pineapple’s sweetness lies at the bottom. Jack is at his very bottom. There is no sweetness there.
[Still accepting AA stories. Send me an email or dm me on IG [Yes, ill check my DMs from now] Also… I will give priority to someone who enjoys his or her drink. Let’s get out of this sunken place for a while, right]