The last few weeks were clouded by a real rough patch for Mtuseni and me — which I eventually realized had far more to do with me than with him. Things are back on track, although the ride from here on out will be a little different…and there may be a new face in the driver’s seat. There’ll be more on that later as I sort it all out in my head.
But a brief exchange between us on a chat the other day let me know the train hasn’t gone off the rails. I was teasing Mtuseni about why there was no girl for him to be celebrating Valentine’s Day with. The rare times we touch on his dating life are always marked by a kind of shy false bravado from him — a Casanova in his own mind, perhaps. Which is what I expected in response to my good-natured ribbing.
Instead, he caught me off guard with his reply: “I love you and mom too much. There’s no space for anyone else.” Personally, I haven’t received such nice Valentine’s Day sentiments in a long while, and it was heartwarming to hear after this dark stretch and in the midst of an especially miserable Northeast winter.
Then this weekend Mtuseni posted a new status line on his WhatsApp profile:
“Sometimes I think about people that need my help.”
This from a kid who has almost nothing, and who needs all the help he can get. It was paired with a pensive selfie — one of those rare photos that almost accidentally reveal Mtuseni’s quiet soul. Sometimes I almost feel unworthy of him. At the core — beneath all the brash, crazy, confused, early-20s maleness — is a deeply thoughtful and caring person who often talks about making a real difference in the world. How could anyone not love this kid? (Not that there was any doubt on my part.)
These years with Mtuseni have taught me a lot about love. And ironically that four-letter word played a large role in the last few troublesome weeks. But I guess that’s how love works: It’s a messy, bumpy ride sometimes, but you don’t jump off the train. If you hold on and stick with it, there can be new landscapes and warm sunshine just around the bend.
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