IV | Break Up

The leaves
of the rowan tree
are orange again.

They’re not flying anymore.

The tree isn’t talking,

it’s not whispering.

The leaves are moving in the wind normally.

My fingers close around thin air.
She’s pulled her hand away.

I’m staring into Rowan’s eyes.

She rubs
the back of her wrist
over her lips,

trying to erase some bad memory.

The tips of her ears peeking out of her hair

          are angry red.

Ah, reality.

Somehow the school gate
seems less real

than the golden city now.

Rowan’s skin is porcelain.

She’s like a doll
wearing clothes too big for her.

The tree must be made of rubber.

My friends are calling my name.

Cat calling.
Making obscene sounds.

I’m trying to remember what happened.


I kissed her


‘My bad. I’ll treat you to dinner.’

(Then, we’re even, right?)

She picks up her Bible.
She dropped it.
It lies closed on the ground.

She walks away without another word.

‘Oi, clyde! Faster leh.’

‘Leave some of the chiobu for us.’

‘Later other people chope the field, how?’

I think about giving Rowan
the finger.

We’re done playing soccer

and the good kids go home
and study.

I sit with Ming on the park bench,

Our uniforms plastered to our sweaty bodies

like a second skin.

I don’t want to go home

so I drink 100 Plus
and say I’ll leave after I finish.

(It’s my second can.)

‘So how?’ Ming pricks the silence.

It bursts like a balloon.

I swallow another cold mouthful.


I make a noncommittal noise.

‘Hopefully she’ll leave me alone now.’

‘Did she text?’


‘Ah, the silent treatment.’

The streetlights flicker on.
It’s not yet completely dark.


Not yet.

‘I’ll break up with her.’

The crickets begin to sing.
Are they mocking me?

‘Really?’ Ming looks at me.

‘You won’t regret it?’

He wants me to finish my drink
so he can go home.

(He doesn’t say but I know what he’s thinking.)

We’ve been neighbours for ten years.

‘Nah. I’ve found someone
          ‘more interesting.’

When I reach home
I switch on my phone.

Ria doesn’t do silent treatments.

374 messages.
26 missed calls.
5 angry IG posts.

I’m surprised she hasn’t blocked me anywhere yet.

I guess she wants me to read
her posts.

I read the messages after I bathe
(my feet on the desk)
like they aren’t about me.

I think about whether to call her

until my phone

fell asleep.

Will she pick up?
Or will she count 26 missed calls before answering?
Should I even talk to her?

breaking up by phone is bad

but I’ve already kissed another girl
in front of her face,


My phone lights up on its own

like it decided for me.

Ria is calling.

She saw me read the messages.
She knows I’m online.

I decide to be nice one last time.

When I pick up the phone,
I speak before she can.

‘Let’s break up.’

There’s a muffled silence.
I’m surprised.

Then a sniffle.
I’m not surprised.

She cries a lot.

Very sensitive.

Takes everything personally.

She still doesn’t say anything.
I listen to her breathe.

It’s quite erotic.

I had expected an outburst
of pent-up irrational anger,

so i’m
not sure
to do.

a long silence.

‘Eh… that’s all i wanted to say.
‘Take care. bye.’

I move the phone away from my ear
to press the red button.

‘That’s all?’

I hear her voice
just before my finger touched
the screen.

I put the phone back to my ear.

‘Yeah. Let’s stop this.’

‘Is this just a game to you?’

I can’t say “yes” right?
‘No. You said you liked me
‘so I dated you.

‘We’re not married or anything.’

Her voice becomes shrill.


I hold the phone away from my ear.

‘But we’re dating, for goodness sake! That means going out after school and having conversations with each other—alone. Without all your other friends around. I said no to my other commitments so I could spend time with you but you always forget. I put up with all the girls you’re friends with even though I don’t like it when you talk to them for so long. You never take my feelings seriously. You were just playing with me the whole time, weren’t you? I’m such an idiot for believing you loved me. You-‘

‘I never said I loved you.’


I wince.

‘I said I’d be your boyfriend.
‘I never said I loved you.
‘You were a very kind person so–’

The call cut off.

What the hell.

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