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Melisa Akinyi: Listen, Richard…

A change in the prints of my personality may not be an immediate reality. I know who I am and I should not have to shift certain pillars for anyone’s comfort…

I want to be soft, less confrontational, and warm with my gaze and speech. I want to look away when all my senses want to yank me for not looking you in the eye. Because that is not what I do Richard, without that, then I lose.

But Richard is not really your name. Mystery and anonymity have always been my forte. I lose because I become vulnerable; all the men in my life (also the ones who have been at one point) know that I have this open loathing for vulnerability. Yes, in whatever way you want to look at it, however you would like to define it, that is what I am scared of. I cannot, for the life of me, put myself in a vulnerable situation. I will smile when you make your loving yet valiant gestures, when you reach for my hand across the table. I have thought about you, and what you said to me the last time we talked.

You expect me never to send you a text or an invitation to my place. That is because I made my boisterous stand repeatedly and very clearly. Well, we had known each other for a while. Mostly my fault, because I don’t give the time of day to relations that only display waning tendencies from the onset. Yes, I can be irrational and impulsive with my decisions…one of the things that drove you away? Possibly.

You are right I won’t. I prefer calls.

You see, Richard, you are not the first man who thought he would be the one to figure me out. The one who would swoop in, in time to save the damsel in a heap of distress. Most didn’t stay long enough to actually get to the stormy days. All my lovers always miss something in their attempt to be different and better, and to go into territories their predecessors had no privilege of venturing into – a confident lot. Confidence and patience should be a turn on, but I will tell you now that being with me is lethargic.

I have been daft about my complicated being, and I know that it has cost me good people. You, Richard, are a good man.

I want to see you. I want to have conversations with you again. But then again I want so many things. We don’t always get everything “wants”. A need, on the other hand, is different.

Find me crammed in the corner of my favorite coffee shop. That’s what I would say. “You know where I sit,” I’d chuckle to loosen the built-up tension. I love this coffee shop. It’s a place I come to unwind and write. I have had insomniac nights lately and imaginary glints of how I would like my life to be and how it is. Full of antagonism no doubt. I’m blatantly sure that that is the exact string of words you would use to describe me to your workmate, who likes asking about the events of your weekend or whether you’d like to grab a drink with him. I can’t quite recall what you called him, seems to me like a Charlie (but who cares about needy workmates?). Maybe a friend who brought me up in your conversation, and asked why I don’t come around anymore. Or maybe the fast food truck guy we made random detours to, parked just around the block.

Hey, has it been a while, favorite spot? I would text and think about it before tapping on the send button.

I want to imagine how you would respond. Certainly not immediately. You seem like the guy who would know exactly what he wants and when he wants it. You loved jazz and seemed to match the lyrical tempo with which I sang along to blues. I cannot for the love of me count the number of times I came off as being too strong not just with you but with everyone else around me. I am not the best at arguments, but I damn well know what I believe and what I want. You see, mostly having negative criticism thrown your way is not really empowering.

There are always unspoken rules everywhere. Majestic, smart, not the most articulate in speech but with an excellent appetite for small blooming girls. You have that for a teacher in your adolescence years and chances you will escape his advances are slim. In a classroom full of other people it felt like solitude because of the way he stared, unadulterated by the inappropriateness or even the setting. As you would expect, he did not stare at my chest or my legs under the desk. It was an awkward prolonged stare right into my eyes. I had little idea about what was going on or even what it meant and looked away in less than five seconds. When it was apparent that it was never going to stop, I stopped counting how long I had to look elsewhere. I looked right back at him, not flinching, not even giving much thought to what he taught, zero brain function, all until he had to be the one who looked away. I had nothing to be ashamed of, and so I grew that habit with all the grown-ups who made eye contact. A couple of weeks later our assignment scripts got back from grading and mine was stapled as if my grade was being delivered in a special secret package. A letter slipped out, atop the words “My Love” inscribed in my teacher’s simplest writing. I laugh, Richard, because thinking about it is hilarious. A 28-year-old man dared write me a love letter while all he did was waste his lesson away embarking on a staring competition with me. I cannot tell you the contents of the letter because I did not read it. My eyes only darted to the end of the page where he professed his love and signed off with a “You know who.” He did not make eye contact for the rest of the lessons when I failed to write back and still looked him in the eye, much more intensely. He hadn’t won over the heart of a minor; he just made her more determined to protect herself and make him feel humiliated.

I was 13.

A boy wrote me a love letter when I was 14. When all my age mates were engrossed in a puppy love maze, I wished mine away. I don’t remember how I got it; I remember sending for him and smiling as he came into view. The poor boy seemed expectant and genuinely nervous about the moment he would get my response. I handed the unopened letter back to him and asked him to read it. He couldn’t, and I stood in silence as he tucked it in his pocket and walked away, his head bent in humiliation. He was a good boy, innocent and I crashed him all because I saw him as a predator. He was not. That, however, does not mean that the world isn’t full of predators who steal first kisses and first times, as I would later come to learn.

At 27 and I don’t know who I am supposed to be. I know that I am aggressive, passionate, likable and even lovable. I work hard, and know that I need to work for whatever I want.  It seems like I haven’t learnt and unlearnt everything I need to.

Richard, you told me I could be too tough in the way I speak, my tone, confident and final. It made me feel like I am always combative. That is what my brother thinks of me. In a way, I feel like I can only end up with him since he has known me long enough to see what I’m like, and what I need. We both never got acceptance from the people we hoped to get it from when growing up. He has emotional baggage as well, and though he does not care to admit it, I can see it in all his strained relations with other people. I say end up with him because the world has rejected us, or have we just successfully managed to drive away the small number of people who were able to care about us?

Richard, I have loved before. I would not be human if I hadn’t. What you felt for me was as intense as what I felt. I do a lot of things. Sabotaging things is one of them. I find it hard admitting to my mistakes and winning back lost trust. I feel like it makes me vulnerable all over again. No wonder nobody has ever been to downstate. I don’t bother explaining it to most people when I mention it. A weird or even no possible correlation that I have so desperately tried to convince myself exists. You see, what I am has fuelled me to be where I am. I wouldn’t know how to be any other thing; I may only become better. I am a hard shell, but this shell can develop cracks and even break nonetheless. If you are the one person to break it, then I definitely cannot wait to be vulnerable with you on a trip downstate.

I want to know that regardless of how tough, confident and too forward I may be that you will still want all that. Because a change in the prints of my personality may not be an immediate reality. I know who I am and I should not have to shift certain pillars for anyone’s comfort, just like you do not have to do the same for me if it doesn’t suit you.  I want you in my life as long as you want me in yours.

It has been four months since we last talked. I reach for my phone and send a “Hello, dinner at my place? I am sorry. I want to apologize if you’d let me” text. You do not text back; I suspect you might not even know who was texting. So, letting go of my pride is not the best feeling in the world, it’s a “mother…”!

“Raquel” you first text, and I impatiently wait as the three bubbles float in what would be a final verdict of where we stood. I had completely put myself out there Richard, what was it going to be?


Photo by ChuXue Lu(@luchuxue1997) on Unsplash

Melisa Akinyi
Melisa Akinyi
Melisa Juma lives in Kenya and is a student at the University of Nairobi. She is both a Feminist and a writer and has successfully managed to have one of her fictions published online. She is an avid reader and is passionate about Literary work.


  1. There is so much to think about in between every line. There’s so much ‘not said’)in the said. Especially how she describes herself exactly how she thinks someone else would but still she insists that only her knows herself and what she wants… But then again she is still figuring it out. Nice read!

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