When we met, I was inexperienced, naive, and provincial. You were sophisticated, insidious and cosmopolitan. To me, you were just an infatuation…a fleeting moment that was bound to fade with the exact speed with which you came. That is why I indulged you, sailing the boat of guarded optimism, I just hoped for you to fade away…so I could go back to life before I met you.

How was I to know what you would turn out to be? And who knew that I would be extremely invested in a relationship as toxic as what we have? I mean, I knew you were cosmopolitan, but your adventurous side was completely lost on me. Whenever I found out about your latest trip across the globe, I just had to hope that none of these places appeared so welcoming to make you want to stay. But the joke was on me, for it turns out you are not even the ‘selective’ or discriminatory type, and shockingly, you are not even racist. Now that’s rare! Won’t you say?

Your love language is touch, oh how you love to touch, for you tell me it is the only way you can spread your love and affection. I thought we were on the same page because that is also my love language. So, you can imagine how scandalized I was to discover that you are the jealous type. While you reserved for yourself the prerogative to be affectionate, and hugged and touched everyone and everything that came your way, even to death, you wouldn’t let me. Now that’s mean, I say! And if this isn’t toxic, then maybe I am centuries behind the folks who update the Oxford dictionary.

At first, I thought I was the problem…you know, if only I could understand you better, and not provoke you, and maybe…just maybe, tell everyone I have ever known to stay away…For your sake, I put the entire universe at your feet, commanded the sun to stay in its place, and shushed all creatures to peace be still. But deluded I was to think that you were anything simple to please. You have so many alter egos, and were so many things to so many people that I haven’t been able to neither decrypt you nor untangle myself from your claws.

Still I hoped that you would change, you know, like this was bound to get better. I thought, surely, this is just a dire but brief spell that would ebb away. But my hopes and your actions were as different as night and day will ever be. I wish I had acted sooner than I did, rather than continue to massage your ego, while you quietly but dangerously wreaked havoc. Then I found out about your rich history. The million exes, scattered around the globe, who lived to tell their stories, wishing you had never met. And the numerous others whose hearts and bodies were too fragile to handle your intensity, and gave up trying.

Who would listen when I wail? Some say, I should never have given in to your advances. What right do I have to call for help, when the native has not been appeased? Who do you think would be attended to when both of us are broken and damaged from the burden of our tragic alliances with you? For I am a mere sojourner, in a land that is not even my own. I would have been comforted amongst my own people, had you not made it impossible for me to go to them –and had I not stayed away from them for your sake.

We met while I was seeking knowledge, experience, and opportunity in a foreign land. Here, I am told to be grateful for my little blessings and to not burden my hosts with tales of our unfortunate and ill-fated union. And so, while I am unable to claim any respite or justice for your abuse here, neither can I tread your global trail of tears back home… For home hasn’t been entirely safe from you either.

**This poem has been previously published as ‘Ode to Ovid Rona’ in the edited book The Corona chronicles: Necessary narratives in uncertain times.

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©2024 Phyllis Kyei Mensah

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