By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa:
I hear my sister’s distant shout. I lift my head to find her standing at the kitchen door looking irritated, maybe she’s been shouting for long. Blame the laundry. I hate doing my washing, which is what I’m busy with, with music playing loudly through my headsets.
“Now, no matter where I am
No matter what I do
I see your face appearing
Like an unexpected song
An unexpected song
That only we are hearing”
The song blasts through my ears as I take out one headset to give Snowy my attention.
“There is some guy here for you,” she says.
I get a bit nervous, that could only be one person.
“Bring him this side,” I say trying to sound as normal as possible.
Snowy doesn’t like visitors, especially males. What is this guy doing here anyway? She goes back in and I pretend to continue with the laundry.
I knew it would be him! I take my hands from the basin and attempt to shake the water from them and extend my arms to give him a hug – our custom. I used to love this.
“Hey baby, this is a surprise,” I whisper during the embrace.
He answers with a kiss. I expected that – another custom. Today his kiss is passionate, if not forceful. It lasts longer than the usual greeting kiss, which makes me wonder about the purpose of his unannounced visit. He finally lets go, the look on his face…
Before I could finish my sentence he drops from the stairs to the ground like a sack of oranges. I panic.
“Baby! Zain don’t do this to me. Zain, it’s not funny!”
He doesn’t move. Maybe he’s not joking, maybe he is dying. It’s hard to tell with all the pranks he pulls. I check for the pulse on the neck, I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel here. I’ve seen on TV that one needs to do this. I don’t think I feel anything. I scream;
“Snowy! Come help, Zain… Help!”
I check his left hand, I think I feel a faint beating. Does this mean his heart is beating this slow? This guy came to die at my doorstep? Why is this happening to me?
“What the…?” Snowy can’t even finish, the shock is written all over her white face. She’s not necessarily albino light, but her complexion is far lighter than mine and I’m just a normal yellow bone.
“He just fell,” I say softly. That one scream drained me, I don’t usually scream.
Snowy quickly gets her car keys and instructs me to help her pick up the body – Zain. He is so heavy, and handsome. I’ve always liked that about him, he has the cutest face ever. We stuff him in the back seat and I squash myself next to him. I keep hoping he will open his eyes and flash his wonderful smile and say ‘I got you’. I would be mad, but I’d be glad he didn’t just kiss me and die. I keep whispering his name, hoping for a miracle, as Snowy drives out of the yard. High walls are a blessing in disguise, imagine if the neighbours had seen this.
“Zain, please don’t do this to me.” I whisper. My eyes are still as dry as desert sand.
I wonder how people in deserts cry, imagine wasting water like that. I should probably move there, I’d be a good citizen. I wouldn’t waste any liquid in my body for emotions. I don’t just cry unless the situation is dire; past experiences taught me to toughen up. Zain won’t die, I know. So I’m not going to cry, why cry for him while he is right next to me? I wonder if I’d be able to cry if he were to die…
My thoughts are interrupted by Snowy opening the door and instructing me to help her carry the body again. We’re at the hospital already, that was fast! Snowy has always been a reckless driver though. I get out of the car and march into casualty. I spot an empty stretcher and drag it outside. I can hear shouts as I walk out – run out – towards Snowy’s car, which is blocking the way for an ambulance. Government employees do not understand urgency; I cannot risk waiting on them to help Zain, I’ll give him the medication myself if I have to.
I push the stretcher back inside once we’ve placed him on top of it. He looks so peaceful – and handsome – gosh Zain is so good looking! I fell in love with this face. Everything else came after I had already fallen for the face. He looks like he will just laugh. Zain though.
As soon as I step inside I shout like a maniac. Nurses tell me I need to pay and leave his details before they attend to him. Didn’t I tell you about these people? I search my pockets and find a R100 note – I was planning on going to buy airtime after doing laundry, to call the very same guy lying on the stretcher. I throw it at the nurse and shout;
Someone follows me further in, I don’t know where I’m going. All I know is that I need to keep going, he can’t die. The guy in white finally catches up with me and pushes me into one of the rooms. I wonder where Snowy is. Oh this is a doctor! He does things to Zain; inserts needles, puts liquids, lights torches, and I’m just standing there staring at him. He doesn’t talk as he tries to bring Zain back to life. Like those fairytale miracles Zain coughs. This guy is a magician. I let out a small smile and walk out. I need some air.
Hours after Zain’s near-death experience, I’m sitting next to him in the doctor’s office. He isn’t being admitted, it was just a minor panic attack – highlight minor. There was nothing minor about that but the doctor insists he is fine now. I didn’t even know Zain had heart problems, but then again there is a lot that I don’t know about this guy. What’s his favourite colour? Gosh! I feel like the events of this morning are finally catching up with me, I’m getting emotional. Zain barged into my life like a tornado and spinned my world around. Now that I wanted some sanity, for things to go back to normal, this happens! I excuse myself and go stand outside the door. Zain is just taking his prescription and we’ll leave.
“…want to tell me what triggered this Bhembe?” The doctor is asking Zain.
I decide to listen to their conversation, hoping to learn a thing or two about my 2-week boyfriend.
“It was a moment of weakness doc, I panicked.”
“Why? What happened?”
There is a brief silence before Zain responds; “I felt her sliping away… I can’t lose Bongi. I couldn’t bear the thought of her leaving me. I raced to her place and I think it was all emotions boiling inside me at the same time…”
Their conversation sounds very casual, like they’ve known each other for long. Maybe they have, who knows?
“… When I saw her I was scared, happy, sad, relieved… I had every kind of emotion and I guess my system couldn’t handle it. I can’t lose her, on top of everything else Shandu.” Zain is explaining to the doctor.
I hear the doctor breathing heavily and I decide to step away from the door. My own head is spinning out of control now, I can’t believe Zain! I was just about to… how can he be so attached? It’s only been two weeks and I was planning on dumping him today. Today!
I want to cry. I hold my hair back roughly and let out a couple of deep breaths. I want to scream – like a troubled spirit roaming between the land of the dead and the land of the living – and hopefully I’ll be free of this emotional burden. Zain!
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