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Illustration by Rosa O'Mara

Of Firsts And Lasts

words by Janay Stephenson

For a while, anytime I thought back to happier times you were there. Locked in my memory.

This phenomena was so recurrent I convinced myself that you were the happiest time I had ever and would ever experience. I never allowed myself to feel anger towards you and in doing so, successfully blocked out every painful memory associated with you.

In my mind you had done no wrong.

In my mind I dwelled in the secret place. Our secret place. The secret existence we created outside of the reality we actually lived in. We were untouchable. We were delusional.

And it’s that same delusion that sustained me for a while after you had gone.

Then an idea came to me. It was the idea that I should learn to hate you.

To be fair, hate had sprung up a well in me concerning you many times over but I stifled it. Taught myself a warped concept of forgiveness where I shouldered my blame and pardoned yours then one day it hit me.

Just as quickly as that last sentence ran on, one day it hit me.

You are not a kind person.

There are many ways to describe you (liar, manipulator, hypocrite, closeted and closed minded)

But kindness, darling, has never seen the light of your face.

Even as I write that I feel guilty as lovely memories flood me and I wonder if all the above is true. There must be some good things about you. And the good things I know about you must somehow still remain as facets of your character.

Wait. I’ve been here before. Euphemizing you so that I can’t get mad at you. And if I can’t get mad at you the only thing left to do is to get mad at me.

And retreat to the secret place where the only reason I hold on to good memories of you is because I hope you’re doing the same for me. I hold on to every lie you told me and convince myself they’re truths. Truths I can bind to one another as a rope that anchors me, but truth disguised as a lie only becomes a noose that dangles me over the edge of my inability to accept you for who you are and not as who I remembered you to be.

Tell me, when’s the last time you looked in the mirror and saw yourself in the reflection?

They asked for my name in sacrifice and you exchanged it to secure your redemption. Not a moment later you renounced all your affections and that mirror shattered into shards you used to cut flesh from my flesh and bone from my bone, and placed it on the altar of your own vanity.

Yes, I’m sure God is pleased with you and ashamed of me.

I’m sure Heaven is a place where hypocrites can pretend the only thing hidden in their closets are their clothes and not their bodies. I know you hate me. And as I said I once thought I should learn to hate you too

But I’ve seen what hate can do to a woman. It decays her, and rots her to her core as she defaces herself using the shards of a mirror that once revealed her to herself. Your self hate tears at your flesh while denial gnaws at your bones. And bones becomes all that is left of you, do not project that on me because I am not the skeleton in your closet, you are.

You are.


You are not a kind person.

But I thank you

Battered, I crawled back into the cracks and crevices of my mind to live in a world. A simulation of sorts, where nothing was as it was, and everything was back to where I thought it should be but your guilt weighed heavy on me, crushing the weight of me, sinking me until I looked up to my soul reaching out to me crying my love this is not a secret place, this was always the sunken place.

So yes I thank you

Battered, I crawled back into the closet I once believed you freed me from. But darling, I never came out. I was only gracious enough to let you in.

You’re welcome

Annie Mwampul @anniemwamps
Illustration by Rosa O’Mara

Read more of Janay’s work on her blog https://alwaysflyingsolo.home.blog/

TopSoil: gardening as radical queer resistance Stammering in the intersections Beyond the pole: cultivating community and destigmatising sex work What is Abolition? What is Settler Colonialism? The Revolution is in 808 What is Green Colonialism? The Black women in my life who bring me joy Exploring mixed musical heritage in collective healing and solidarity What occupying a University building taught me about life