The days when Tambu and I did not speak were the longest. The walk to the river seemed further. The waves, more violent. Not calm and glistening like the scales on the fish we aimed to catch. The water seemed dark and angry at something. It fought within its course to the ocean where it threw itself and I pondered on going along with it, but I thought about the children. How they’d suffer if I were absent. Tambu would remarry, he’s a man. And the children would rebel against his new wife because of their loyalty to me.
I pushed all my thoughts for later and swallowed hard. It was not easy praying for someone when you were angry with them. I looked to sky for Ngai’s signal. A fallen leaf or something. Maybe a black feather from a coack. Or even a whisper from the wind. Just something to assure me of Tambu ‘s safety. Even if our marriage was on the brink, I worried for him. Somehow that made me happy. At least I still cared. He had gone with the other men in our village to fight the Ngwena’ s to reclaim our land.
Many moons ago, their people occupied our spaces and displaced us, killing many men, women and children. For 200 years our people had no land to call their own, but after Ngesho’s rise to the throne, an army was built and sent to fight and Tambu stood in the front line. That was what our disagreement was about.
I begged him not to go but he said he had his manhood to prove. That was the last I saw of him. Before leaving he turned his head one more time as if asking for my blessing, but my anger stood before me and I said it was Ngai, the creator, who was in charge of blessings. I could see from his expression that the wound had been cut deep. He couldn’t mask it, yet he expelled a sigh which left me feeling conflicted. He didn’t have to go, I thought. There were more capable men in our village. I watched him through the cracks on the door, walking majestically with a shield in hand. My face was flooded with tears and my chest was heavy with pain. He was not going to come back. He was not the fastest runner or the strongest wrestler. He was to me, a simple man.
I drew in the soil with my finger. A spear and a man encircled in a ring of fire for protection. I asked Ngai to consider my prayer, but I lacked conviction because I knew the outcome. There was no point to all this. I rubbed it off. Tambu would not come back.
She watched her navel sink into the flab of her belly through the mirror. Today was the fifth day this week. Sally’s obsession with herself was rather alarming, Chanda thought. He tucked his shirt into his pants and splashed the last of his cologne. The air between them was tangy. His hot headed-ness had disallowed his tongue from rolling out a single word.
Silence. It was killing her. Soft and steady.
Sally inhaled a weak breath and sat herself on the edge of the bed facing the window. The Flame Tree was in full bloom, its pettles glazed fiercely in front of the rising sun. A halo had formed reminding her of the wedding band on her ring finger. At a certain point in their marriage, they were all that mattered.
How did we get here, she wondered as she aimed for the middle of the pregnancy test. By now she was squatting with her hands on the bed for balance. By now Chanda was on his 2nd cup of coffee. Jacob’s, actually. He loved the smell. He said it was strong. He was a strong man. She remembered how on their wedding night, he staggered into the bed of the hotel room while carrying her with one hand and the other sifting the door. She chuckled. There was a time when they laughed at things. There was a time when they talked about things.
Nostalgia. It carried a heavy load of pain on its way back.
It cut deep, rippling through every part of her. The test was ready and even though she knew they were having a baby, she did it to show Chanda. She knew he would need some kind of confirmation. Something official, like he put it. They weren’t trying after all. She didn’t want a baby. Not in such circumstances anyway.
Up she stood and walked to the mirror with nothing to cover her dignity. The towel had been thrown on the floor at dawn. She did it for Chanda. It was routine.
The tree danced in full color showing off its majesty and reminding Sally that beautiful things took time grow. Beautiful things didn’t last forever either. Some pettles begun to fall when the wind blew the flame tree too hard. Like a fire being quenched, life was cut off. Like her marriage. No one really knew how, why or when but the fire that ignited their desire for each other had been put out.
It was 9 AM by now and the Flame Tree had a red carpet on the ground around it.
What lies beneath the sky? Is there a parallel universe that exists beyond the human eye? I sometimes wonder if there is another dimension that inhabits spirits or mankind. If stars align like they do here. If oceans rise only for them to swim back into their own bodies. If butterflies go through a metamorphosis.
What is life? And what’s in front of what’s in front? If I knew, I wouldn’t fear anything. Sleeping on the steering on my daily commute wouldn’t frighten me so much. I’d know when not to turn the reverse gear on to avoid hitting the charcoal burner. And the other day, I’d have slowed down in time to spare a cat’s life. Also I’d have hurried to get to work earlier. I don’t know why what is to happen forms much of my thoughts, but it isn’t pretty because it turns into worry.
I remember a night when the demon that sits on your back while you try to awaken from a nightmare perched all its weight on me. Its clothes were worn out as if it had been working overtime and it flashed a dark smile that revealed fangs on either side of its mouth. The master of doom had sent its aid to cause me terror at a time when I had little caution of myself. My very first thought was to shout a prayer and in that moment life had never seemed more precious. When I awoke, the possibility of leaving earth in my sleep crept up on me and I stayed up for hours. And the next. And the next. And now it’s been years since I ever slept throughout the night. I’m what they call an insomniac and the truth is that it gets frustrating sometimes because, well, there isn’t any fun in being nocturnal among sleeping humans. If I had known, I’d have pushed the fear of death that night. Maybe I’d have had a normal pattern of rest.
There is, however, no point in ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’. We can prepare for the future, but even then, the results are not always certain. The weather girl could make a prediction for a heavy storm tomorrow only for it to come in a week’s time, or never at all. You’d have looked funny carrying an umbrella on a sunny day, but at least you’d have been prepared for the rain. Don’t fear what you can’t control, but more importantly, don’t fear at all. Also, nothing lies ahead of the sky until you prove it and nothing exists beneath this realm unless you see it because spiritual things can’t be explained. They can only be felt.