About ten years ago, my father bought me a bracelet from the Body Shop. It's the Until There's a Cure bracelet, which costs $25 now but was $20 at the time, and the proceeds went to AIDS research. He bought it for me in honour of my uncle Michael, who died of AIDS in 1994, when I was ten. I wore it every day, painting the back in clear nail polish so it wouldn't give me a rash, until it broke in two pieces a few years later. I still have the two pieces, on my dresser.
I was pretty upset when it broke, but pragmatism won out, and I went back to the Body Shop and purchased another bracelet. I wore the second bracelet every single day from the day I got it until a day five or so years later when I was living in Senegal at age 21.
That was when I was dating a Senegalese guy with whom I was in love, Souley. I don't know if I've talked about him on here before--but if so, it was probably brief. Things ended between us only because I returned to the US, but I can see now, and in a way I knew then, that if we hadn't been separated geographically, things would have ended anyway.
Still, I loved him, and in a way I try to protect him by not talking about him on this blog, although I didn't do it in any conscious way until I started writing this post. I guess I feel that since he doesn't have fair access to the internet, and since we haven't talked in over two years, and since he doesn't know that this blog exists, and since he doesn't speak this language, and since he never did anything bad to me, it's unfair to go into the details of our relationship in this public space.
I will say, though, that I really did love him, and that both of us were flawed, as was our relationship, but that we were, for the most part, stable together. That relationship had a huge, lasting effect on me, and when I think of him, though I have no idea where he is or what he's doing, I think only positive things, and I hope that he is happy.
One thing I learned when I lived in Senegal is that all Senegalese men wear bracelets. They are given a metal bracelet when they are little, and when they outgrow it, it is melted down and made into a newer, bigger bracelet.
Souley had a bracelet too, though his was not of the type that could be melted down and recreated. He had gotten it while living in Tunisia, several years before, and he wore it every day. You can see it on his arm in this photo:
Though it wasn't his baby bracelet, it was significant to him, as my bracelet was to me. And I don't remember how we decided this, but at some point toward the end of my stay in Senegal, we agreed to exchange our bracelets.
It was hard for me to take off my bracelet and give it to him. I hesitated; I thought about my uncle and what my bracelet meant and whether I was somehow betraying my uncle by giving away his bracelet. I decided that I was not, that giving my bracelet to someone I loved wasn't equivalent to simply throwing it away. That the bracelet I received in return would be meaningful not only as a reminder of Souley, but also as a reminder of the bracelet that it replaced.
I don't know if Souley still wears my bracelet. I don't wear his. But I did, for a long time. And I still have it, in my jewelry case. I don't remember when I decided to stop wearing it. Right now, I don't wear any bracelet.
I thought about it, though. I could ask for a bracelet as a birthday gift. Or I could go back to the Body Shop and get my third Until There's a Cure bracelet. I've considered both options. Sometimes my right wrist feels bare. But I still don't know with what, or if, I want to adorn it.
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