He went to Rome.
He came back with a young smile and a calculated pain. He walked with you around town, played with your hair as you ate the day-old pizza, and tickled you to sleep. He played the guitar so well he joked he would become so well known in a year's time. And in a year's time, he was still the Ambrose with the freckles on his chin, the boy who first stole your heart and broke it in an ocean somewhere in Africa.
He told you about Rome and all the people he had seen who looked exactly like you. He said they were calm like the wind and cold as the summer sun. He hit you across the cheek as he said this to you. It was playfully painful and he apologized severely for it. He pressed his hands together in front of a church and told you he was sorry. It was Rome who made him foreign enough to touch you. That's what he said when he hugged you with tears in his eyes, carefully listening to Laura Pausini's La solitudine.
He wrote a poem about 6:30 sunshine, compared it with the goosebumps that appear on your skin with each of his touch. You laughed at all his worrisome jokes and even told your mother that you think he loved you. You weren't even sure and it bothered you.
You never told him you hated what Rome did to him but you implied he was being too foreign and he said he would change. He was smoking a cigarette when he made the promise so you really couldn't be sure.
He traveled, next, to Utah.
He came back with a black eye and a weird grin and said he was happy. In his eyes he held secrets. It was the first time you knew he could be capable of holding a secret in his eyes. In the mornings as the sun pushed aside salty tears, you searched his eyes and you found it there -the secrets - floating about carelessly.
You told him about it. He shrugged, words were being too difficult to say and the days were becoming too foreign.
Someone called him in the evening. He ran outside and took the call and when he came back, you screamed at him and tossed your books about politics at him. He was laughing at the coffee stain on your shirt, said it reminded him of the small rocks he saw at Utah.
You said he had changed. Again. He looked at you and apologized, blamed it on the bricks and stones and you forgave him with your thighs and soft moans in the middle of the night.
He asked you to follow him on his next trip and you said yes. Then your boss called and you couldn't cancel so he went alone. To Accra.
He came back with black spots on his face and sunburns on his arms. He was limping and as he talked, you could hear shame laced in it. He said it was a beautiful city. You agreed even if you hadn't gone and he laughed and ticked you. You didn't fall asleep.
In the morning as dark clouds scattered through the sky, he made a bet with you. He said it would rain regrets. You said it would rain anger. Now, while you told him you wanted to be neutral about things like that, you believed him because he was the foreign one with the changed accents. You believed the man with the short curls and green eyes who could hold tomorrow with the back of his palm. It would rain regrets, you told yourself.
In truth, you braced yourself for all the things you would see when the rain started, blocking out the smell of rainbow coming out from your cooking pot. You were accustomed to regrets, it wasn't really new but what you believed to be truly there hit you down. You didn't want to regret why you had taken off your clothes at the party and asked him to touch you. If you regret that, you could regret the most part of your teenage years. So you hid beneath a sea of orange sheets that sparkled like the sun and waited.
In the afternoon your phone rang. You took the call by the first ring but said nothing. It was one of your friends, one of the people you couldn't call when you were angry and sad and dying. She was crying. The rain had started.
"I'm so tired." She was saying.
"I should call you back." You hanged up.
When the phone rang again, you twisted your skin until it was burning blue and soaking the bed sheets with purple dew. The phone went unanswered. No voice mail, not that you really wanted one.
You pushed the covers and jumped down from the bed. The applause came to you then, a million raindrops like handshakes dissolving into your house and stilling your thoughts.
Then, you waited. For the regrets. You panicked. You called your mother so the rain didn't have to remind you of the day you had taken your time in telling her, "I hate you and don't ever want to see you again." She did not take the call so you left a voicemail of low sobs and sniffles.
You walked downstairs with the phone clasped in your hands and attempted, not once, to call your father. He took the call but as he poured out words, you knew he was drunk. He was the one who first gave you your first taste of whiskey, the one who gave you your first taste of cloudless sky. And he is the reason you ride your bike out in the morning to the group of men and women who think they will redeem themselves with stories of temptations.
"I've been sober for a while year now but sometimes I just want to taste the hot dance of alcohol on my tongue."
Last week, Ms. Halli waved her hands across the room before saying that and the people in the room waved their hands towards her and nodded their heads. You didn't do any of that thing because you've been sober for a year too. No, you've broken that too. At the party when you took off your clothes, you were already half-drunk.
Regret no 2. No, 3. You regret loving your father so hard you gave him reasons to pour you a drink. The rain drove across your window and stained the glass with yellow marks. Regrets, you thought.
And then you hit your hand against the glass because you just wanted to feel the discomfort. You regretted that and you hated him and you knew what a joke you had become so you got angry at him and at you. You hit your hand again, against the glass and it shattered at your feet. The blood on your hands smelt like dying sunshine and you drank it and loved the taste of forever.
Your friend called again. She wasn't crying.
"I said I would call back." You said so.
"I waited. I wanted a friend and you couldn't even be there. I have always been there for you and you..."
You were angry then. You screamed at her and you hanged up and threw the phone hard against the wall. It broke. You hated that it wasn't strong enough.
You walked to the kitchen window and peered through. It was a mistake. The rain wasn't giving out regrets. It was the rain of anger, carved out by the force of time and hate. You couldn't be sure however but when you glanced back, you knew the truth.
Your mother was the one who taught you that second and third glances were always the most accurate. So when you looked out of the window, you got really angry and banged your head against the door. A dog barked. A woman from the other house screamed. You turned away from the sickening feeling.
Anger fell hard against your rooftop. It didn't signal the end, not as you first thought. It was busy, giving out shadows and blue bruises and you were laughing and dying from the anger. And he was by the door, looking too foreign to notice the rain.
He was telling you about Japan, said the next time he would travel around the world, that would be his first stop. You nodded and you didn't care.
Then he left. To Benin.
And when he came back, he broke your name in half. He said he couldn't call you Chelsea, not with the color of your hair looking like the sun in Benin. He told you about the laughing children with their brown bodies and how they smelt like citrus juice.
He said there were mango trees that waved at him like abandoned children, said they tasted like strawberries in winter or canned soda in summer. You wanted to taste it too but he was foreign and you were not.
You wondered how he knew so much of everything. He could tell you why there were birds in June and snow in October. He could answer all of your questions and it bothered you, kept you awake in meetings that made no sense to you. Even your boss held your hands and asked you why you hadn't dozed off at the meetings. He couldn't quite know you were beginning to feel insecure.
When he said he was going to Paris, you slapped him. He looked at you, unsure. You just wanted him to stay for a bit but he was like the wind, unable to stay. You loved him. He didn't know. You told him to leave because you wanted him to stay. And he left.
So the next day, you packed up all your clothes and the one he forgot by the window of your room and you made your way to the station. You were going to fly away to a different land so you too could stand in front of him again and tell him you were foreign enough to stay.
You watched the people move about. You never made it into the train.