Short Stories, Tale Africa

By The Sword…

By Fungai Chigumbura, Zimbabwe:

I woke up this morning and she wasn’t crying. Her eyes, usually two Niles, gave nothing of their streams this morning. I could not recall if she had cried last night; my slumber had pressed me into blissful sensory numbness, and only the glare of the mid-morning sun had had the means to stir me. My head an orchestra of drums, I dragged myself to the bathroom for my ritual morning purge of the remains of the poisonous wise waters that had dragged me down to the depths of sleepy oblivion. I might not have noticed the silence had I not been reminded of our dance last night by the dried blood on my knuckles. I listened, and the silence was haunting…like a judge whose absence makes you condemn yourself.

A cursory search found her in the living room, legs tucked underneath her body on the sofa, the sky-blue sweater she had been wearing last night freckled with little red spots. She was silent and brooding, the left eye swollen shut, but the right eye staring resolutely at the wall. She did not acknowledge my presence; not even when I cleared my throat and tried to catch her attention did she seem to register that I was even there. I wanted to ask her why she wasn’t crying; ask her what made this morning different from all our other post-tryst dawns, but I realized that I probably didn’t want the answer. The silence was refreshing, I concluded; I would let it endure. I turned, ready to walk out.

“I’m leaving you,” she said.

I wished she had retained the reticence.

“You’re what?” I asked, turning. She tilted her head and, through quite a few gaps in her teeth, repeated, “I’m leaving you. Tonight, when you get back, I won’t be here. I’ll be gone. Don’t look for me; don’t call me…just let me be. I’m leaving you.” The words were a struggle to get out, but I felt the steel in them.

“No, you’re not,” I told her. “You, my dear, will be here tonight, with my supper in hand, and my bed fucking warm. Leave me? Don’t be absurd”

I turned to leave again, but her words stilled me once more.

“Then you’ll leave. You’ll leave and never come back.”

Had she hit her head on the wall last night and suffered a concussion? What on Earth was she on about? Despite the ludicrousness, I found myself chuckling.

“Sure I will,” I said. “I’ll leave, and I’ll follow the pigs that are gonna be flying away into the sunset, too.” I decided to make a break for it before her madness spewed yet more verbal incontinence.

The bar was empty, this being just before midday and all. It didn’t matter; I preferred drinking alone anyhow. I nestled a nicely bronzed whiskey as I mulled over the exchange a few minutes ago. She had always cried the morning after, even when her ribs were broken and she could barely breathe. Her tears were that sign I needed that I had won; I had cowed her into submission again, and she had been reminded of the order of things. I didn’t enjoy it…well, maybe a little…okay; I loved that shit. I was most alive in those moments. My heart beat fastest when my fist landed hardest. Whatever my gratification from the act, though, it did not take away from the fact that it needed doing. She stepped out of bounds far too often, and it fell on me to reel her back in. For some reason, she always seemed particularly grating whenever I was inebriated.

On the fourth whiskey, it hit me that I had just allowed her to get away with an unprecedented slight. Telling me to leave? Who did she think she was? Granted, an unnerving gravitas had weighted the words, but I had probably misconstrued that ’cause of the headache. She had overstepped, again. A lesson needed to be taught…again. Time to go home…but after this drink.

My ceiling is unevenly painted. I never noticed until now, but the painter did a shoddy job, particularly around the corners. You could mistake that paint-job for one done by a five year old with a mop. The only reason I see it so clearly now is because I’m on the kitchen floor, unable to move.

The moment I walked into the house, she plunged something into my arm. A needle; one whose clear, silver liquid immediately made my legs start to tingle, before they wobbled and went spaghetti on me. I’ve been paralysed for the last fifteen minutes, give or take, and all I can do is move my eyes and strain my ears to try to deduce what she’s doing. She soon sates my curiosity.

My wife stands over me with the world’s largest blade. She could skin a whale with that thing, but something tells she has a different kind of prey in mind.

“I told you to leave…I told you to leave,” she says. The left eye is slightly less swollen now, and those beautiful browns look hard into my wide and shocked ones. I think she’s crying…

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