Morondava, 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the middle of November. Classes had just restarted a month ago, and I was already tired. Taking the same dusty, poorly paved road every day, enduring the sun’s oppressive heat starting at eight o’clock in the morning, endlessly breathing in the smell of my classmates with their grey shirts clinging to their skin, and continuously hearing Mama ask me if everything was okay, exasperated me. I knew good and well that she loved me more than anything. I knew this because she told me all the time. She woke up before me every morning, she cooked for me, made my bed, checked my things and my homework, bought me the movies I liked, played Scrabble with me on the weekends. She’s always done everything for me. And in the neighborhood I’ve lived in since I was born, I didn’t talk to any of my neighbors, I never went to buy anything from the corner stores, and I’d never invited a friend from school over to my house. I’d gotten used to knowing only Mama. I didn’t want someone else to get between us either—a man, a girl, or a friend.
I had a gift for pushing away people who showed the slightest interest in me. Some of them even seemed to guess who I was by a simple glance and left immediately. So I became invisible, and I loved this. I had no desire to conform to their world; it didn’t bother me to watch it from the outside. That world that wanted to blend the majority of the city’s residents but of which I wanted no part of at all. No, that was too much. I was suffocating. Nevertheless, I wanted to be a part of something, but I strongly doubted I would find it in Morondava.
It was six o’clock at night, and I was getting ready to go back home after spending a calm afternoon at the beach, alone, without Mama. One of those rare Sundays that I desperately needed in order to be able to rediscover myself. When a young girl appeared in front of me. Gorgeous. She was smiling. All I could do was smile back at her. It was impossible for me to utter a word.
“You’re leaving already?”
Was she really speaking to me? Me? Tiana, who never had the slightest friend. And was it really possible to address someone for the first time with these words? You’re leaving already?
“My name’s Mitia.”
She didn’t even need me to have a conversation. And yet, I wanted to stay. In this case, I would have to say something. Most people, for example, would introduce themselves. Now was the time to imitate them. “I’m Tiana. I’ve never seen you around here.”
Mitia told me that she was passing through her mother’s homeland in order to get to know her better after losing her six months earlier. This was the first time she’d been to Morondava, accompanied by her father; after, she would return home to France.
This girl, she showed up out of nowhere, recounted her life story to me as if she’d known me forever, and made me feel like a “real” person. And I needed that.
Then, she invited me to go get a drink a little farther away. Meaning, the side of the beach where everyone else was. This Sunday was mine. It was completely unthinkable to interact with those people on the only day I was free. But it was even more unthinkable to abandon this magical feeling I’d been experiencing since she appeared. The “yes” came out almost without waiting for my mouth to open.
We found an area, heavily frequented, of course, but I was tolerating the presence of others better. It didn’t even take her a minute to start joking around with the young man who was serving us our drinks. It looked so effortless that I envied her.
Then she talked to me about her relationship with her father. It had been difficult since her mother had passed away. She couldn’t tolerate people either. Not all people, like me. Only those who knew her. She’d had enough of the pity she saw in their eyes. Then I asked her why she was telling me all of this.
She responded, “I find it so much easier to reveal everything to a stranger. And after, it’s as if I knew you. But I don’t really know you. Which makes you an acquainted stranger.”
And she burst out laughing. I also wanted to tell her things about me, what I felt as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning. But Mama called my phone and told me to come home immediately. I had to leave.
We said goodbye. Mitia was going to leave the next day. And I knew I’d never see her again. But she’d inspired me so much that I felt like I was bringing her everywhere with me.
I went home, something I should’ve done two hours earlier. The two hours of this invaluable Sunday that would put my whole life into question. The next day, I went to school just like every other Monday. The road still seemed dusty and poorly paved, the heat was still oppressive, and I still didn’t like the smell in my classroom. But I’d changed. I now felt the need to confide. I wanted to give this world that I hated so much a chance. And I wasn’t going to lose any more time. I needed to do it while the memory of Mitia was still fresh.
I was attentively observing the new student during the never ending math class. He seemed absorbed in the class, ceaselessly taking notes and looking so concentrated. But during the break, he seemed lost in this world where he knew no one and where no one was interested in him. Except one person.
As soon as the bell rang, he was already ready to leave. He was about to walk through the door when I heard myself say to him, “You’re leaving already?”
“You’re Leaving Already” was originally written by Manjatiana Faniry Muriella Randrianary and is translated here by Carrina Lacorata.