“I could stay like this forever, with your lips between mine I would never get tired of clenching my fingers between yours, reluctantly pushing away when you want to slide my earlobes between your teeth. I love your kind of pain, whips and chains are heaven enveloped in sadistic objects. Your scent cripples me, I love kisses and I love yours more, I love how silence holds the hands of time firmly at you-and-I-will-never-part o’clock and I really feel like caramel fudge and wine right now, but I will have you first, build up my appetite”, a note left on the bed read. He took it into his hands and crushed it. Why would her confidence put him off, the very element that drew her to him in the first place? Suddenly no woman was going to be vocal about anything in his bedroom, in his house. Her purpose was to be given and to receive. Indeed he had returned a whole different man.
War does change a man, and days leading up to his return were unnerving for Layla. He could have turned into anything, a monster even.
When her husband returned home from the army, he came back a strange man, like bank statements in a foreign currency. He wore traces of other cries for help in his smile. His weakness was subliminal in the beatings he gave her. She washed shirts with lipstick she was told to never wear. Her bedroom sheltered souls that broke her home. She put up with this life because she was willing to die for a man that would kill for her, or kill her. And eventually he did, after the interventions, and the therapy, the church meetings, with Mam’Fundisi prophesying about the strength of love, love that he left in another country.
She had been rushed to hospital, bleeding profusely, a gash on her forehead, her petite body surrendering to death, as if it would speak and say “I will not be here much longer, a coffin is awaits me.”
She bled some more, slowly, more softly with every second, as if her veins were running dry. She bled and red-drenched-bloodily, she waltzed straight into her death.
Her husband denied beating her to a pulp, she had merely grazed her head at the edge of their wardrobe and she was kicked in the gut by the Holy Spirit that guarded over their matrimony. He felt no remorse at first, routinely masturbating to their wedding pictures, and sometimes to pictures of himself in camouflage apparel, with a gun as short as the respect that he had for his dead wife.
Soundly, he slept for about two days, then he transcended slowly into a lucid dream routine, every night, hearing the whimpering sound of Layla’s voice chewing at his auditory senses. “Leah, if there is one thing you ever did for me, if the promises you made to me when we held hands walking in parks, that my existence was the reason for yours, please, come fetch me and take me home”. In his dreams he saw himself fighting off shadows that made his wife’s voice grow fainter. “What home is she talking about? What on earth does that mean?”… Night time was not kind to Leah.
Gradually the family questioned his sanity. The irony, that they have some type of feelings about his mental state, not the minute when he returned from the army, and was cracked and bruised from the inside out, but when he took another life and mistook his wife for the guerrilla rebels with grenades and rifles. Collateral damage was all he knew, and coming back home was to be beautiful. Layla would remind him why he made it through every day. When blood splatters dampened his boots and wailing infants tried to understand why their father’s were being attacked, Layla’s face would keep him warm, her voice would tug him into his light rug. And now she was gone, haunting her lover in the process.
Leah’s uncle did not find this strange, “She is not haunting you “, he once said, “She did not die a natural death, her spirit is wondering about in that hospital. She honestly cannot be laid to rest with a hollow body with no spirit. We must arrange a ritual to fetch her spirit at once”.
Leah had been in the bushes for so long, that he forgot his African customs. How easily he failed to remember that his father too died in a gruesome car crash, and a healer had to take his coffin to the scene of the accident where his spirit wondered purposelessly. And the healer waved a white cloth in the air, he waved until a conglomeration of air aggregated and dashed into the white cloth, and he tied it into a knot and placed it inside the coffin. How easily he failed to remember!
His guilty conscience assumed that he was being punished for murder, yet all Layla wanted was a dignified sendoff…
Nomusa had been punching at her laptop all night. Her bottle of wine had run out and she felt heavy. Needless to say that a writer has emotional attachments for her characters, whether fictional, or not.
“Hey, what are you working on “, her husband asked as he walked into the study, craving some loving, he had hoped to lure his wife back to bed hours earlier. But when Nomusa starts, she never stops, not unless her battery dies or the fiction taps into some actual truths that she had hoped to have masterfully buried and forgotten.
“Just a piece on PTSD. I’ll be with you in a minute”, she hollered, drained. Her husband waited for her in their bedroom, but she was still feeling a bit disoriented by where her story led to. Sometimes words grab us by the throat and demand to come out of pens and keyboards. It was going to be a long night.
By some mercy, she made it through the night.
By day break she dreaded reaching for her laptop, so she went outside to fetch the newspapers just to browse the headlines, but she found that her husband had already fetched them so she went inside the house to enquire:
“What’s going on in the world today?”
“Well the usual, dead people. Headline on the Daily Reservoir reads “MILITARY SOLDIER BEATS WIFE TO DEATH“. It’s soo depressing. ”
Nomusa thought she was not hearing right so she grabbed the newspaper and read the headline out to herself. Multiple times, slowly, as if the words would change with practice. She went to her laptop, sat by it, a tear or two falling down her face. Not believing in coincidence, Nomusa would never be the same again.
Photo: Haze Fasaha Tobo