2020: The Long Day
this story is NSFW
Late December – if this year was a day, it would be approaching its final hour. Ghazi condenses the events of 2020, with a messy break up at the centre of it.
7am: The sound of the alarm breaks through my fractured subconscious like shattered glass. I check my phone to see if there are any messages. Nothing. It’s still early, she’s probably not even awake. As it becomes near impossible to think of anything else, I relent and embrace the torture.
I could lie in bed all day, staring at the ceiling hoping it will give me an answer. No, I did that yesterday. Today I must strive for more. Have a shower it will make you feel better, my mind says hopefully. Your relentless positivity is bothering me, but I suppose you’re right. I can’t never shower again.
I take off my clothes, and have a quick flex in the mirror. She would be crazy not to want this; 6’3 of pure, lean muscle, smart, funny and you’re rich! As I list off my qualities to myself in the mirror, a pang of anxiety fills up my stomach like a rising tide. Staring back at me is a small child. I barely recognise him. Tears swell up in his eyes as he looks at me for reassurance. So much uncertainty, so much fear. I think he just wants a hug.
8am: After mechanically chewing down my breakfast, I sit at my computer with a coffee. Time to check the news. ‘Growing fears internationally as Wuhan virus spreads.’ Hmm, it’s probably overblown. Typical media stoking fear.
Ok, let’s put her out of our head, time to write this article. I restore all the tabs I had closed from the night before, feebly attempting to create some form of order, hoping it will give me something to focus on. I try to write… ok, nothing is coming to me. I try to read… the words have lost all meaning.
I interlace my fingers behind my head, take a deep breath and stare out the window. The grated slates remind me of the inside of a prison cell, except it is my mind that is trapped. I can walk outside to feel the warm embrace of the morning sun, but I cannot escape the roundabout of thoughts that plague my mind.
Was it really that bad? I know I can be overbearing at times, and God knows I didn’t stand up for her when I should’ve. But, in spite of all my transgressions, I always assumed the chemistry was enough, the comfortability enough. That love would prevail. Because that is what we had, unconditionally. And even since our relationship ended, my love for her has grown. She’ll say it’s possession, but I know its more than that. A multi-layered kaleidoscope, constantly shifting, but growing ever more complex as time passes. Sigh, Maybe I’m over thinking things. I have a tendency to do that.
10am: Writing an article in this current state of mind was unrealistic. I pull out my chair and trudge downstairs to do a workout. I pass by Rajah, my cat, who looks at me quizzically, unable to comprehend the body language I am projecting. I envy him, starting each day afresh with the same boundless curiosity. Life would be so much easier as a cat.
I feel a vibration in my pocket. I try to temper my expectations but I can’t help it, it could be her. I giddily reach down to look at my phone, only to see it was a notification from my news app ‘PM press conference to take place at 12pm GMT.’ I shake off the disappointment and change into my workout clothes. If only I knew how to take care of my mind as well as I do my body. I lie down on my yoga mat and go through the motions while my mind is elsewhere. The most rewarding workouts are the ones when you are truly present, focusing on nothing but the movements themselves. Alas, today that is not possible. My thoughts are running amuck, like a group of schoolchildren recently let out for breaktime.
I remember sitting on that sofa, blissfully unaware of the atom bomb that was about to be dropped on me. “You had sex with someone else?” I scoffed, in disbelief. It was only until I found out who, that the boiling kettle burst. My rage was uncontainable. Exposed like a naked baby on its back.
All the times they used to hang out together came flooding back into my mind, how could I have been so oblivious?. In hindsight, the sequence of events is clear, what could I really have done to stop it? If I forbid it, it would only have caused the urge to grow stronger, the resentment to spread. I remember I used to pity him, now I only pity myself.
12pm: As I sat in the living room listening to the Prime Minister announce a national lockdown, a subtle ringing sound permeated through my skull. His usual verbose and demonstrative demeanour were replaced by a beleaguered and haggard one. “Loved ones will perish…” he said. We are so often exposed to corruption and tragedies through the lens of news media, it is rare that they strike the appropriate emotional chord. A solemn shake of the head, a banal remark made by a family member “have you seen what’s happening in Indonesia? So awful.” And then it’s on with our daily lives.
But this time that was not possible. Our daily lives had come to an abrupt stop, and we had no choice but to take notice. Whether our reactions seemed appropriate or not, they were real. For me, I felt the personal. I didn’t bear the weight of the millions of lives that would be affected by this, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. I saw what was in front of me, not literally, but the T.V screen playing in the frontal cortex of my mind.
Maybe if we tried an open relationship? If all she wants is to sleep with other people, I can probably do that. As long as it’s not him.
No, just another futile attempt at salvaging what we had.
I know I wasn’t happy before we broke up, things weren’t right. We argued all the time. Then why can I not shake the idea of how perfect she is. I mean it makes sense, I’ve changed, she’s changed. We can both carry on changing together! She must see this, I reckon she secretly wants me back. She’s so perfect and beautiful. We were made to be together, whether she knows it or not! I love her, I want to marry h- Urgh, I’ve done it again. As I slowly settle back into reality, the ringing sensation in my skull is interrupted by the doorbell. It must be my Nando’s.
2pm: With no identifiable plans for the rest of the day, I decide to take a nap. The world is an easier place in my subconscious, where my fantasies can be fully indulged. I drift off to a happier time, a brief interlude to the final struggle that was our break up.
We were driving down to the coast, to pick up my new cat. A much needed companion to help with the grief I was experiencing.
However, this weekend, the grief was put on hold. I don’t know if it was some unspoken agreement, or we simply forgot ourselves, but that trip felt like a snapshot of what we could’ve been together. A glimpse into our unrealised future. I remember eating ice cream with her and taking selfies on the pier. I remember watching the Sunday sports cars cruise along the Southend strip from the grassy mound. My head placed on her midriff, while the sunlight danced amongst the leaves above us. I remember her stroking me on our drive back home, teasing the possibility of a climax. I remember being stuck in traffic and hearing her moan, wanting to stop the car there and then so I could have her on top of me. To stare deep into her eyes to confirm what I thought I knew, that this works.
How could I keep the possibility of us alive? I know she broke up with me months ago, but did she really mean it? I need to somehow remind her of our love. I know! What if I got her pregnant!? That would solve everything, she would have to be with me then.
“But you’re not ready for a child, and neither is she.”
“Yeah, but no one’s really ready until they have one, it would be fine.”
“You’re kidding yourself man, she won’t even keep it. All it will do is complicate things.”
“But what if she does? We could be the happy family I’ve always dreamed of. I may not be ready to have kids, but I’m ready to never feel the pain of losing the one I love again. Pregnancy would solve that!”
“Not a good idea, I’m telling you. She wants to be with someone else. You think an intermission of her holding your child is going to make things easier!? Think again.”
“Sigh. Maybe you’re right. Is there nothing I can do then? Why can’t I change her mind?”
“Because you’re seeing things from your perspective, not hers.”
“But what if she doesn’t know what’s best for her?”
“Not your call man.”
“That’s it. I know it hurts, but you gotta move on.”
4pm: Two hours later I wake to the sound of a screaming baby. My mind darts at a 1000mph trying to scramble together my thoughts. What’s the time? What was I doing? Did I just manifest my own child?
As I regain my composure I realise it is the sound of the neighbour’s baby penetrating through the wall. I check the time. 4 o’ clock? That can hardly be seen as a nap. Two hours is definitely pushing the definition of the term. I open my Twitter feed to see the daily death toll rising rapidly. ‘Over a thousand people dead in UK alone.’
As the world slowly crumbles around me, all I can think to do is to go for a walk. The red twilight sky frames my saunter through the park, imparting a sense of profound beauty. I almost forget my sorrow as a fun spirited Cockapoo runs up to me, tongue out, looking like he’s known nothing but joy his entire life. I tentatively reach out my hand, looking for his owner, aware that we are in the midst of a pandemic.
But before I can stroke him, he sprints off in the opposite direction with reckless abandonment. I could learn a lot from that animal. They don’t overthink things, they just do. Whatever their instincts tell them.
Maybe I need to be more spontaneous, she did always say that. Why do I always feel the need to control everything? It just leads to me being disappointed when things don’t fall into place. Well screw that, for the rest of the day … no, my life, I’m gonna roll with the punches. Life is so much better when you don’t have expectations.
As my phone vibrates I check it without a second thought, ‘I’m pregnant’.
Everything stops. I try to catch my breath before it leaps out of my body.
The Twilight sky suddenly takes a menacing turn, the reddish pink hue now representing a feeling of impending doom. I sent back the only thing I could think of.
‘Is it mine?’
‘Yes.’ She replied instantly.
‘Are we keeping it?’
6pm: A thick fog envelops my brain. I don’t remember walking back home, but here I am, sitting on my sofa.
This is all my fault, why did I even entertain the idea? Of course she wasn’t going to keep it. I’m such a fool.
I check my phone to see another notification from my news app ‘Death toll continues to rise as scientists rush to create vaccine.’
Nothing outside my life seems to matter. We are in the midst of a once in a generation event, a global plague. Yet, all I can think about is myself … and her. Am I inherently selfish? Do I only care about things when they affect me? What will I tell my grandkids when they ask me what I was doing during the 2020 pandemic?
“Well, me and your grandmother were going through a very difficult time.”
Oh for fuck’s sake man shut up! This is not the time.
At this point eating seems like a laborious chore, but I don’t know what else to do. I turn on the T.V to tune out my thoughts, and order my second Deliveroo of the day. Even during the most difficult of times, if I can maintain some semblance of a steady diet, it provides me with a sense of comfort and control. When my anxiety is bubbling up, like a beaker in a science experiment, as long as I can force down a couple of morsels of food, I know I have it under control.
As I eat my Pho, and watch Peep Show I’m reminded of that meme when an unperturbed dog is sitting down in a room engulfed in flames, having a coffee with the words written ‘This is fine.’
My temporary solace is broken by the invasive sound of my phone vibrating. I dread to pick it up.
It’s from my sister, ‘Dad just passed in his sleep. We were by his side.’
This is too much. I am not strong enough. I can’t do this anymore. I cannot resist.
‘Are you busy?’ I send.
C’mon, hurry up! I’m scared if I face this alone I’m going to explode.
She replies, thank God.
‘Nah, not really. What’s up?’
‘Can you come round? I need to see you. Get an Uber.’
‘Ok. What is it?’
‘I’ll tell you when you get here.’
7pm: She uses the spare key she probably shouldn’t still have, and lets out a searching “Hi.”
The room is almost pitch black. “Hey,” I say.
“God, it’s a bit dark in here.” She walks over to the far side of the room to turn on the standing lamp, which releases what can only be described in this moment as romantic lighting.
I really doubt that’s what she’s feeling man, and why are you thinking like this right after you found out Dad died?
She sits down next to me. I can tell she sees the pain inside, that it’s serious. She wears a look of genuine concern, one reserved for those real and monumental life moments.
Why does she look most beautiful to me when she’s made the least effort? A pair of tracksuits and messy hair does something to me inside. I think it’s the honesty of it. Never had I wanted to be with her more.
“Umm…I” I struggle to get the words out.
“What is it?” She puts her hand on my thigh.
She cradles my head and brings me into her warm embrace. I didn’t know how badly I needed this until it happened. Reassurance. Comfort. Love. Tears gently slide down my face onto her hoodie, my cheek placed on her bosom.
“I’m so sorry.” She says. “You’re gonna be ok.”
She slowly lifts my head and looks into my teary eyes with a set of her own. A brief moment of acceptance is shared between us.
She brings her lips towards mine. I know it’s wrong, but I don’t dare question it. A rush of excitement pulses through me like a lightening bolt. As I bring her body towards mine, I can feel her heart racing. Her nails dig deep into my back, as our mouths become one, exploring each other, using our tongues as guides. I can feel her nails pressing deeper into my skin.
Where pain should exist there is only pleasure.
An innate rhythm is shared between us, one that cannot be conjured up, but has always existed.
As she sits on top of me, pressing her soaked underwear onto mine, I pick her up, wrapping her godly thighs around me. She lets out a pitch of excitement. We climb the stairs as one, her teeth deeply entrenched in my neck.
I drop her on the bed and slowly undress her, and then myself. Like a bee to a flower I am instantly drawn to in-between her thighs. A beautiful V of hair frames her lips. I take my time, using my tongue as she sings my name.
“Oh … , fuck me,” is the eventual chorus.
I don’t think twice. I place her on top of me, as I guide myself inside of her. I can feel she is already close to climaxing, and so am I. Our thrusts become more purposeful, in perfect tandem. The tempo builds, and then, I am transported to a world, where transcendent bliss resides.
My consciousness has left my body as I watch us coming together. Clasping each other as tight as we can, soundless screams emanate from our mouths.
Slowly as I return to myself, panting deeply, I can’t take my eyes off her. Words are too crass and blunt to describe the emotions we were feeling in that moment. So we sat there in silence, enjoying ourselves, maybe for the last time.
9pm: She sits with her back turned to me. I try to gauge her energy, but it is difficult to decipher.
“We shouldn’t have done that.” She says.
“I know, but don’t tell me it didn’t feel good.” I reply, childishly.
“Of course it did, but that’s not the point. I keep telling you we can’t do this anymore.”
“It’s not my fault, I didn’t force you-”
“I know! I’m just disappointed in myself.”
“Well that’s great to hear.”
A brief moment of silence passes with her back still facing me. I can sense the guilt permeating through her very being. It makes me feel terrible.
“I need to leave.” She says.
She stands up with intent as she starts to pick up her clothes strewn all over the floor. Panic erupts inside of me as reality comes to rear its ugly head.
She’s right, I shouldn’t have slept with her. I am feeling a sense of abandonment as if for the first time, with the added intensity of losing a parent. I plead.
“Please don’t go. I need you”
“What we’re doing is not ok. It’s destructive and toxic.”
“I know, but we’re meant to be together! It just doesn’t feel like that right now.”
“Shut up! Seriously! Stop saying that. I’ve had enough of you projecting your desires onto me. I broke up with you, understand that.”
“No fucking ‘buts’, UND-ER-STAND THAT. I know I’m the idiot that keeps coming back, falling for your guilt trips, but I can’t do this anymore, it’s breaking me down.”
“If you’re having sex with me because of guilt, then I’m the fucking idiot.”
“Just stop, please. You can call my sister if you’re really struggling, but do not contact me.”
She storms out the room.
As I hear the front door shut, all I am left with is the realisation that I’m alone. I needed her more than she knows, and refused to let go.
Look where it’s got me.
Ghazi Shaker is a London-based writer specialising in short stories and long-form essays.
With an eclectic range of work, he explores themes such as love, humour and cultural commentary.
You can reach him on IG.