Windows To The Soul by Hero Jason


“You’ve been avoiding eye contact, why can’t you look into my eyes?”, says a voice deep enough to make your insides tremble. You do not respond. You try to gulp back the taste of last night’s episode down your throat, but your tongue seems to like it. You recall everything: how your bodies folded into each other like palm trees bending over as though whispering secrets. You adjust your naked body inside the soft blanket to meet his, you straighten the legs that keep bringing you back to him and turn your head to face him. His eyes are eager and soft. “why can’t you look into my eyes?” he says again, but this time you can see his eyebrow arched in question. “They say eyes are windows to the soul and I cannot afford to let you in”, you thought. You place your left hand on his face and use your thumb to circle his lips. “huh? but I have been looking at you, i’m even looking at you right now, see?”, you say in a smile that bares only your front teeth. 


You have been here before – in the arms of a boy whose touch reminds you of your mother’s warmth. When your friends ask you what you think of him, you say “gravity” – because he pulls you without touch. You are meeting him for the third time now; the last time you met him, you swore it was going to be the last, but here you are, kissing the toxicity from his morning breath and swooning over his body like you were the God who forged it. His tongue wanders the insides your mouth as though it were searching for answers and you like it. In this moment, your body melts into a bowl of jelly – It feels too good to be true and your body desperately wants to leap, but something forces you to stay grounded.

Love has a way of sneaking up on you – you’re not even sure if you can use that word yet. The last time your tongue carried that word, it was too heavy for the boy whose shoulder you tried to lay it on, and when all was said and done, the boy didn’t take the word – he took your tongue. You stop kissing him. He looks at you and searches your face now for actual answers. “why did you stop?” he asks. Every kiss is one brick off the wall you have built to protect yourself. You hate that his touch has the power to build and to break. “Nothing”, you say. You reach for his mouth again, as if it were the escape route that leads you far away from him. “They say eyes are windows to the soul and I cannot afford to let you in”, you say repeatedly at the back of your mind like an incantation you need to turn him into a ghost and make him disappear for good.


*      *


The fourth time you meet him is in your apartment. You’re sitting on the floor of your poorly furnished kitchen and he’s making you dinner. 

– “What the hell do you think you are trying to do?” you chuckle.

Na you sabi, I know i’m a good cook and i’m about to prove it to you” he says. 

okay nau, coming from someone who adds maggi to white rice, we shall see” you laugh at his choice of ingredients but you’re impressed by his effort anyway. 

You’re in a love-hate relationship with how good he makes you feel – one minute, you’re swaddled with gratitude for having this beautiful man who makes you feel seen, heard and safe. The next minute your thoughts are riddled with doubt. is he really for me? how long is this going to last? when is he going to leave like the rest of them?

You remember the last time you allowed the cocoons in your stomach to blossom into butterflies – you recall how quickly they crawled up into your chest and turned into poison. you remember the rage; the one that looked like a clenched fist, the one that broke everything it fell on. You remember that butterflies even in all their colors and beauty, can be venomous too. 

“They say eyes are windows to the soul and I cannot afford to let you in”, you recite again.

It’s been three years and you still can’t give yourself the permission to love again. The first one left you for someone less prettier than you, the second one didn’t give a reason – he just left and up until this day, you’re still trying to make sense of it. The third one, you had to force your ears to accept the apologies that never came. So when your cocoons want to blossom into butterflies, your body antagonizes it. You immediately start to feel suffocated; you are plagued with a burning urge to annihilate them before they annihilate you. You desperately do not want to relapse into a zone you fought so hard to to get out of.  “They say eyes are windows….”

“What are you thinking about?”, “Hey!”, “Helloooo!” a voice pulls you back from your own head.

“Sorry, I was thinking about stuff my sister told me yesterday”, you lie.

“What did she say?”, “do you want to eat now? he asks.

*       *

You’re at the library. You are staring at a WhatsApp message from a contact name with a love emoji and a fire symbol – “Hey baby, how are you?” it reads. You fiddle your phone as if it was going to provide an automated response to the pending question before you. You do not respond. You go back to reading Brianna Wiest’s ““When You Are Ready, This Is How You Heal”. Your thoughts are racing. You can’t focus. 45 minutes later, ping. Another message – “What’s good, where are you, babe?” You are between a rock and a hard place. You do not respond. 

*Ping – “Are you home?”

*Ping – “Are you busy, what’s happening?”

Your phone rings; ‘love emoji’ calls. You stare at the ringing phone until it becomes a missed call.

You end your reading, gather your properties and all the feelings you have for him into your backpack and head home.

*       *

Person dey inside?” you hear a familiar voice and you jolt to your feet, grab your phone and put it on silent. Love emoji is at your door.

“E be like, I sure say person dey”, your neighbor responds. A knock follows immediately.

You are pacing as quietly as you can in your room. Another knock; this time, louder than the last three knocks. 

You sure say person dey inside?” Love emoji asks. You’ve known him to be relentless. 

I no see am comot this morning o”, your neighbor argues. Another knock. Moments later, your phone rings and you feel grateful for your good forethought. Like the last two days and the day before that, and the day before that, you do not respond. 

A message pops up silently “I know you’re in there. can we talk?” it reads. 

You’re sweating now. “They say eyes are windows to the soul and I cannot afford to have your fingerprints etched into mine”, you thought.

“Did I do something wrong to you?”, another message; 2:14pm.

“If I did, I’m really sorry. I had no intention of hurting you”, another message; 2:16pm.

“Please forgive me for whatever I did to hurt you, if you can open your door, we’ll talk it out”, another message; 2:19pm.

“Please, I love you. I really do, just open your door”, another message; 2:23pm.

When a boy tells you he loves you, you want to cry for him – because you had already put the part of you capable of loving him back to sleep a long time ago. You do not have the capacity to speak his language now and you cannot force your mouth to write love notes for him.

I go come back later”, Love emoji says. His voice sounds a little distant. He’s walking away.

Okay, no wahala”, your neighbor’s voice remains unchanged. 

You rush to your curtains to catch a glimpse of what you’re hoping would be the last of him. He looks leaner than the last time you saw him. You start to feel terrible. Every atom in your body is begging him to stop walking away. You want to scream. You miss his scent. You miss his sarcasm. You miss the way he loves you. You miss his maggi–rice. Your kitchen permanently smells of him. You want to scream that you love him back. But you don’t. You fight back the tears building in your eyes. 

You close your curtains and find your way back to your bed. Your backpack lays half-open on it. You reach for your journal and a pen inside it and you write :

June 20th, 2023;

You’re not an island – you need to be loved and held, you need a hand to run through your hair in the early hours of the morning, someone to kiss the dimples that sit at the bottom of your spine, a shoulder that bears the heaviness of your grief, a gentle body to nurse your soul back to health, someone who listens to you rant about exactly the same thing over and over again, and as badly as you want to convince yourself that you don’t need anybody, you know you want to tell your story and be heard, you know you want to be seen, you want to lay down your thoughts and be understood like a sunday school sermon and that’s okay.

Do not try to smother these needs. You are a living being – born with a plethora of emotions, a  drive to bond, a sense of connectedness, and a throbbing heart. You’re human afterall, you’re not an island.

One day your body will find the audacity to love again, but not today. Not today.


Author’s Bio:

Hero Jason is a Nigerian Creative Writer, Poet and a lover of good music. Writing is therapy to him because he is his most truest self when he writes. When he is not writing, he is listening to music, bantering about religion and working out. You can him on X @hero_jayseen


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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.