The Bare Minimum

By Moseka Phiona

No one ever prepared me for this, no one ever said it would hurt this much. I fell in love with him. Not just for his looks or his body, I fell in love with his voice and his laugh, I fell in love with the way he held me and made me forget my worries, with the way he made my heart skip.

I saw a forever in his eyes. Maybe I ignored the red flags that were right in front of me because I was too desperate to experience a love that I had so longed for from my father. I gave him a role that would ruin me if he ever broke my trust, which he did.

I fell for the bare minimum without realizing it was the bare minimum. In my defense I had never had flowers given to me, nor had anyone told me I was gorgeous and that my dark skin was the most beautiful shade they had ever seen. Thinking about it now makes me cringe, but at that time Chris was the only man who had respected me enough to wait and never pressure me into anything sexual. Maybe that was because he was over fifteen years older than I was. I had just turned seventeen.

I know I know, you might be thinking, fifteen years older? Growing up without a father and experiencing rape and abuse made me seek men who were older and bigger than I was. It gave me the sense of protection and fatherhood that I never had before. Don’t judge me, at the time I felt that was the best option.

Anyways, Chris was my knight in shining armor before he became my pain and grief. I cannot remember what he did that got me so hooked. He never took me out for dinners, nor did he call often as a boyfriend should. We always met whenever he wanted and not when I needed him. But the fact that he showed that tiny interest in me made me feel like I was the most loved girl in the world.

One morning, I got photos of him on my phone from a number I did not recognize. When I opened the message my stomach hurt at the sight of it. I trembled because I did not want to have the thoughts that ran through my mind. Mind you, we had never taken photos together, but here he was standing with another woman, holding her waist in public. God knows how many times I texted and deleted the messages I wanted to send to him. I was scared of losing him, my world revolved around this man, my mood depended on how he treated me that day. Most of all I was scared that he would leave me if I confronted him about the woman in the photo.

[Hey Chris, I saw a photo of you and some woman, who is she and how comes you took photos with her and not me, do you love her, are you in a relationship with her] deleted.

[You lied to me, how could you, you said you loved m and would never hurt me but look at what you are doing, I hate you so much] deleted.

[Hey Chris, did I do something wrong, please love me, I can’t live without you, please I beg you, I will change into whatever you desire, please don’t leave me, I love you more than life itself] sent.

That night I cried so bad that it hurt physically. Why did it hurt this much, the thought of him with someone else, doing the things that I had begged him to do with me effortlessly with another. My world was trembling down and all I could do was cry myself to sleep.

In the morning, I saw a text from him. Before I opened it, my heart was racing so fast like I had just run a marathon. My subconscious told me it wasn’t a good message even before I read the text. I took a deep breath and opened the text.

[Hello Phiona, yes, I love her, and she is my girlfriend]. Those words broke me. I could not reply, I read and replayed those words in my head for days while my brain kept telling me that I was incapable of being loved and that no one would ever love me, why would someone love a nobody. I could not deal with the pain and somehow found myself cutting.

It was a quick fix for the pain that I felt deep down. When I cut my flesh it bought me time to not feel the heartache. I prayed to God every night to take away the pain that I was feeling, I did not want to cut myself anymore, I knew it was wrong but it was the only remedy I had. I did not know what else to do nor did I have anyone to talk to. Days turned to weeks and to months. My brain couldn’t stop replaying all these past pains.

I called the one person I thought I would never call, the only boy who loved me so much he became my brother by choice. Eric was the person who rescued me after I was raped again at 14. After that, I was too ashamed to reach back out, even though for years he tried to show me he cared genuinely without other motives. But the damage was done and I was not sure anyone would love me without hurting me in the end. Ironic, isn’t it?

I remember calling and bursting into tears. He kept saying, “Let it all out, breathe Moseka, breathe, whatever it is it will be alright.”

“Eric, how do I get over an attachment I have with someone, I don’t want to love him anymore, I don’t want to feel pain anymore,” I cried to him.

“Oh child, I’m so sorry that you are going through this, can I come see you? Where are you?” he asked. Since I had moved to a different town to start my life over, he had no clue where I was.

“I don’t want to see anyone; I just need to get him out of my system,” I replied.

“Hey it’s okay ,ask yourself why you are attached to him. A lot of times it’s because your self worth and your worthiness is rooted in his approval, his validation, it’s more like you needed to be with him or have a relationship with him because he makes you feel whole. And I know you Moseka dearest, if somebody makes you feel whole , the moment you don’t have that thing you will feel less whole, so realizing why you are attached to him, that will show you what parts of you you actually need to fix.”

Eric could know this about me better than anyone. He was there when I had no one to talk to after the rape. He took care of me at the hospital because I did not want my mama to see me in that condition ever again, it would have killed her. He stood in as family and protected me as much as he could. This meant I listened to him more than anyone.

“So now you have to figure out why you are unhappy and once you have reconciled that, that’s when you won’t have an attachment to him and then you can have a healthy relationship with him even if it’s just as friends. Most importantly, forgive him and let go, learn to love yourself more, and always remember I am here each and every day,” Eric said to me.

Those words sent shock waves to my spine. It was as if my mind had finally come into realization and I knew the exact answers to this and now I had to accept it all and let go. It was never easy, but each and every day I forgave him when I remembered the pain. To this day as I write this, I forgive him, it’s always going to hurt but I forgive him. Forgiveness is a strange thing, it can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive the people we love. This takes courage and strength. Forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator but liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.

20 February, 2023