A MOMENT

The bright blue of the sky is dotted here and there by the yellows and the reds of the kites. The children, my grandchildren, run round and round the compound chasing the wind. They glow; their joy is infectious. To look at them is to remember when I was young,when I would run, like a dog chasing its own tail
,chasing the wind. I can’t help but smile.

The sun feels like a warm caress on my old bones. The grass, a lush sight for my tired eyes. Though still confined to my wheelchair, there is none that feels more blessed to be outside today.

The boy, just turned five last month, stumbles over his untied laces and falls. For a moment, a grimace passes over his face, but as is the way with boys, his tears stay balanced on his eyelashes. After five minutes,when play has resumed, he runs to his mother.

He comes back to me. Maybe his mother sent him. He’s speaking, arms gesticulating and mouth moving animatedly. I nod when he pauses and looks at me expectantly.

He doesn’t know that I can’t hear him. None of them know that growing old came with more than just grey hair, creaky bones and spotty memory.

I won’t tell him yet. Today is not a day for bad news.

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The Feels

Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
” Kamau, what if we are caught? ”
” Shhh,my love. They all sleep deeply, I assure you. Oh, how I’ve missed you! ”
Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
The sound pierces the once silent night. The lovers, absorbed as they are with each other, barely notice. It gives another pause, though, and has a shiver running down his spine. Another who should be speaking to the ancestors where they live on in dreams but is hidden behind the large oak tree watching them embrace. Another whose rage and jealousy is a living thing, threatening to consume him from the inside out. She is betrothed to him.
Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
He can barely make out the shadow of the bird among the trees. The sense of foreboding is strong. After all, everyone in the community knows that owls are a bad omen.
To imagine the prince, cavorting with a common maid! The king must hear this. He turns to leave.
Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
The snake is just a shadow on the ground, coiled at his feet. He sees it a moment too late.

Tangled

The night air was still,not a cloud in the sky. He moved stealthily, taking cover in the long shadows created by the moon’s illumination on the various buildings on the homestead. Surely, everyone was asleep at this time, he thought.

Every few steps he would stop and listen. He would take no chances. How unfortunate it would be for him if anyone saw him. They’d probably mistake him for a thief and raise the alarm. Once others came, they would do their best to maim or kill him. For her, he would risk life and limb.

Her hut was just ahead. A heavy curtain was drawn where the door was supposed to be. After one last look around, he slipped inside. Once his eyes adjusted to the gloom he could make out her lumpy form curled up on her pallet on the floor. He moved quietly to her and knelt down.

” Serah,” he whispered, ” wake up, my love. ” He shook her gently.

” Hmmnnnf, wha-?”
When she opened her eyes she didn’t see him. All she saw was a hulking shadow and fear was a tangible taste on her tongue. A hand clamped down on her mouth before she could open it to scream.

” Shhh,don’t be afraid, my love. It’s me. ”

She moved his hand away. ” Loti, what are you doing here? Do you know what time it is? Oh no, did anyone see you? ” Her voice, which had started out as a whisper, had risen steadily the more she got agitated.

” Please keep it down. Don’t worry, no one saw me. ” Loti helped her sit up. ” I’ve decided to go to the city tonight, and I want you to go with me. I left my bundle of belongings just outside the gate, and I’m here to help you pack. If we hurry, we’ll be able to take the last bus to the city. ” He looked around the small room. ” Now, tell me what you need and where you keep it.”

She had to stand. She couldn’t keep still any longer.

” This is madness. You know that, right? ” It was hard for her to keep calm and quiet. It was her pacing and the fact that she couldn’t keep her hands still that betrayed her inner turmoil.

He stood as well, and when she next went by him, he grabbed her by the shoulders and held her fast. ” Serah, all I know is that we love each other and we deserve to be happy. Together. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Don’t you want that? ”

” You don’t understand, ” she said in an agonized whisper. ” I-I…”

” What I don’t understand is why you seem not to want this. You should be as excited as I am, maybe even more so. You won’t have to get married to that man your father chose for you. I’m giving you a way out. ”

” I know, but-”

” When I see you in the village, I have to pretend to not know you. I have to go out at all hours of the night in order to see you. Don’t you see? In the city we can be free. They’ll be no one to divide us. ” He was getting pretty worked up. ” I love you, and I’m tired of hiding it like some shameful secret. I thought you felt the same way. ” His hurt was evident in his voice and in his eyes.

” I can’t just disappear. People would talk and my family would be devastated. My father…”

” The city is very vast. Your father will not be able to find us. Trust me. ”

What she’d been about to say was that if she went with him, her father would blame her mother for not keeping a close enough eye on her and take it out on her two younger sisters. Whatever she suffered now would be ten times worse for them. She shuddered to think of what her father would do to them.

Loti mistook it for fear and pulled her close. ” Don’t worry. Once we leave here, everything will be alright. ”

She couldn’t go. She realized that now. It almost physically hurt knowing that she would have to look Loti in the eye and tell him no, watch as the brightest star in her night walked away. Still, she couldn’t go. She would never have peace if she did, knowing the fate she would have condemned her sisters to. She would suffer alone.

She stepped back and looked him straight in the eye.

” I ca-n’t.” Her voice broke on the last word,a war raging inside her.

He must have seen the resolve in her eyes. She watched in horror as his shoulders slumped and the light in his eyes was extinguished.

” So, you would continue to live under your father’s thumb and marry a total stranger, yet you say no to the man you claim to love? I can see I’m not as important as I thought I was to you. ”

He turned and walked out without another word. She could barely see his shadow move through the sheen of her tears. He didn’t realize it, but he’d taken Serah’s heart with him.

” Loti… ” His name was a mere breath of sound.

Names

They called me stupid. Not to my face. Oh no, none of them had that much courage. They talked about me behind closed doors, seated down at their dinner tables feeling secure inside their thin walls and houses of cards. It made them sleep better at night, apparently.
They called me mad. It didn’t hurt me. I’d lost the capacity to feel a long time ago. I let them, knowing that sometimes, people pull down others to feel better about themselves. Sometimes, they hated what they saw in the mirror.
They called me an outcast. The one who had followed her heart. The one who had refused to be barefoot and pregnant. Look at her, they said, waving her learned ways in our faces and tempting our husbands with her knowledge of foreign places.
I smiled when they wouldn’t greet me, when they looked right through me. Like puffed up balloons, they couldn’t look past their noses at the rocks they were lazily floating towards. The revolution was here and it would crush them.
I smiled.

Lovestruck

Sirens.
I doubt you hear them, getting ever closer. Today must have been a good day. You got to do all your favorite things – have a drink or many with the boys, watch a game and spend time with your punching bag. I’m sorry, I meant spent time with your lovely wife.

How many times have I told you ‘ I’m sorry’ over the years? Paying for your mistakes and your twisted view of the world? I became a parrot, taught just two words. Words that were the difference between sleeping under the bed or sleeping outside like a dog. Words that were the difference between sleeping on an empty belly and getting a glass of water and a piece of stale bread to tide me over. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

Why did I let this go on for so long? This is the question I keep coming back to over and over again. I could say it was because I love you,but you beat that out of me. I have no other explanation for it. A coin flipped from one day to the next. Why did no one else see this monster, this imitation of a human being cloaked in a tar black aura?

You weren’t always like this. Can you even remember? I wasn’t always like this. Can you even remember? In those early days I would fall asleep asking myself why you seemed so interested in me. I was plain, I had no family, no money prospects and no connections. But you… when you walked into a room, women sat up straighter and men gave you their seats. Being with you was like being the third wheel on a date between you and your adoring public.

Maybe I should have noticed something was not right even then, but I was so desperate to belong. Maybe I was too eager to please, too willing to mold myself into the shape you wanted. Knowing what I know now, that must have called to you like a siren song.

Do you know that I believed you the first time when you said it was all an accident and it wouldn’t happen again? That was three years ago. I ended up on the floor, saying sorry,through a mouthful of blood and broken teeth,for something you’d done to me.

How did you do it? What sort of sorcery was this that you had me under? Do you know I used to count the minutes till your return home so that I could make myself scarce? How did you always manage to find me? As you beat me, you would also hold me and tell me you love me. As you broke me some more, you would beg me not to leave. Like a tape set on rewind, we would go through the same motions tomorrow.

I guess you got numb. You no longer needed a reason to paint me black and blue. You didn’t really care what you took. Well, congratulations. You took everything from me. I hope that makes you feel proud of yourself.

Are you finally happy, I wonder.

They’re at the door now. I can see your eyes slowly fight gravity and open. You give me a bleary eyed stare, but before you can speak they break open the door.

Let them see you, tall and handsome with bloodshot eyes, torn and dirty clothes and bloody and swollen knuckles. Let them see me huddled in the corner in a pool of my own blood, with one black eye and a swollen jaw. Let them see the pattern of my blood when I crawled over to you when you were out of it, and took your phone to call for help.

I hope they take you away forever. I can feel your eyes on me. Good. Look at the phone in my hand. Look at our child on the floor. Our precious and innocent child.

How dare you look at me like I’ve done something wrong! Did you think I would never tell, that I would be afraid forever? You shouldn’t have taken everything.

I’ve heard it said that love is blind, I didn’t know it was supposed to be dumb and deaf also.