• Dami Afam Ade-Odiachi

Valentines Day: Celebrating love lost (An Exorcism for my Valentines)

I remember what it feels like to be in love. The first time I felt the feeling most completely, I said in an email:

“I have found someone who I see as both a finality and an inevitability. It is my past rolled up into one… and my future. My body is not my own. My heart is now shared. It will remain so as long as we dream the same dream of flowers. It is funny how quickly it happened. It is also funny how long it took.”

The emails I wrote, the things I said, memories of conversations I had… All of them feel strange to me now.

“You fell asleep mid sentence. Your eyes flickered shut and then you were gone. Lost to me.

I laugh now because I love you: my confidante, my friend, my love. Bludgeoning your way into me. Carving out a space where there is only you.

I have become a student of your face, with its too long lashes and its too big nose; of your lips. In my anger, in my joy, in my dissatisfaction, I only need you.

Now that you have fallen asleep I’ll sit at my desk and watch you, saving every fluttering eyelid, and every stuttering snore. There may come a time when you are no longer mine. When those dark days come it is these memories I shall cling to when I wonder what love is. It is me listening to you sleep thousands of kilometres away believing that every moment with you is precious.”

That relationship, that shared dream of beautiful flowers, only lasted 3 months. The euphoria and optimism that accompanied those great feelings evaporated in the most brutal manner. It was anguish, a surprising amount. There was despair.

I had found the thing people spend their lives looking for. I thought I’d found my other half, the person that completed me, my answer. Then, I lost it. And now, 4 years later I don’t remember why. Life has reasons love doesn’t understand I suppose.

Is it still love if you don’t stay together? Do you ever fall out of love with the people you’ve loved? Or does the memory of it, the feelings, the sex, the joy, operate in its own time loop, in its own imagined reality playing in your head forever, living there rent free.

It is easy to talk about love when you’re in love. You froth at the mouth with it. It’s inside you, within you, hidden by the thinnest of veils. It shows itself in every breath, every step. Talking about love when you’re not in it, when you’re single, is like walking down a boulevard of broken dreams. Over there… that’s betrayal, and look over there, a little to the left, pain. It’s like looking at a balance sheet filled with toxic assets, bad investments and non-performing loans. A reminder that every time I’ve summoned all of myself and presented myself at the altar I have come away with less than I had when I went there.

Valentine’s day is to me, what a funeral is for the grieving. It is a celebration, not of love found, or love hoping to be found, but of love lost. As with all funerals it is met with the full range of emotion humanity is capable of. But the only one I hold on to is joy. I have loved. I have been loved. I have risen in it, fallen in it, been destroyed by it, been restored by it. There is joy in that.

It’s all so funny now. I wanted to be loved so badly I never properly vetted the source; never assessed the love I was giving. I wanted the thing so madly I said yes to every pale comparison of the thing.

I’ve put it away; all the memories; all of them. A tiny box somewhere filled with wry longing. My lovely failures. How happy you made me; how sad. With the box gone, all the ghosts are gone too. Some of them lovely, some of them horrid, all of them well and truly dead, waiting for me to breathe new life into them should I desire it.

And with them gone, there’s space for delight in the now; all the ways I’m loved by all the people who love me; all the ways I’m loved by me.

I always thought I needed someone to love me to be somebody; I couldn’t be somebody all by myself. I think this is why I need to be alone, at least for a while. To see that I’m somebody already. Complete.

Happy Days,


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