Between Walls (Finale)
By Lerato Mensah-Aborampah, Lesotho
She closed her eyes and buried her head into her knees. She was still crying. For herself. For her mother who would have wanted her to choose herself over anything. Passing so easily caused her herself, which was everything. How could she have told Patrick or Mellissa without them judging her? Her judgement of herself was brutal enough. She was crying because it hurt to have fought with Patrick. She was crying because she had label on her now- she was a statistic now- the percentage of girls that slept with lecturers for grades. People knew.
“Bu?” she had a familiar voice calling her silently. She rose her head quickly and listened again.
“Libuseng, are you in here?” it whispered, coming closer to the three cubicles of toilets. Hers was the one at the corner. It was Patrick. Libuseng kept quiet. He could not be in the girls’ bathrooms and she did not want him to see her in that state. His voice was now exactly outside her door. She remembered that she had told him only once and that was it year one, that she liked going to the third toilet in her corridor to be alone. It was in passing and she had not talked anymore about it since then. Mellissa did not know about the toilet cubicle at all, only about their Rock.
“Mfethu, I know you are in here,” he whispered as if he was speaking exactly near the door’s surface so that she would hear him and also would not make too much noise.
Libuseng felt a lump of pain in her throat. Why had he come? She felt she was going to burst.
“Libuseng,” he called softly again. Libuseng kept quiet. She probably should not have told him about the toilet cubicle. She did not want to be seen by anyone when she was feeling vulnerable.
“Pat…” she whispered moving closer to the door so he would hear her, “you shouldn’t be in here.” Her voice was beginning to shake.
“Let me see you,” he laughed a little, “so I don’t get caught in here, then.”
Libuseng kept quiet.
“Libuseng, please man,” his voice was shaking too now, “Libuseng.”
On the other side of the door, Libuseng held her lips tightly together and cried silently. She was breathing heavily from the pain inside her and the effort of not letting herself break down again.
“Libuseng,” he said again, only this time sounding more subdued, “Okay, if you don’t want to talk, that’s okay. Bona, I am sorry about our fight today. I was just really hurt when I heard people talking about this and I didn’t even know…”
Libuseng breathed in heavily. She remained quiet.
“You are crying, aren’t you?”
He knocked gently on the door.
“I want to know that you are okay. I want to know what’s going on-what’s been going on,” he breathed heavily, “ke kopa u bule, please. Libuseng,”
“I don’t know Pat- I don’t know -eish,” she finally spoke and broke down, “I am sorry, le nna,”
“You know I care about you right? Libuseng? Answer me.”
“I know,” she cried softly.
“I do Libuseng. A lot. You know this. Dude – let me – open the door please!”
Libuseng ran her arm quickly across her face, so her sweater could wipe the tear and she unlocked the door and opened it slowly. No sooner had she opened it, had Patrick pulled her into his arms. First it was a tight embrace like he had passionately anticipated her coming out of the cubicle and then a few seconds later, he loosened the strength of the hug and rubbed her back in circles. Libuseng cracked. She had never cried in front of Patrick, let alone in his arms – on his shoulder. She buried herself in his chest. The lump of pain that had accumulated during their conversation tore apart. She pulled herself from the embrace and looked at the floor. She felt vulnerable. She did not like crying before people. Even these few that had come to know her very well.
“Libuseng,” Patrick said, touching her face and gently turning it to himself, “it’s okay to cry in front of me. Libuseng, you hear me akere?”
She nodded and looked away from his intense look.
“It’s been bad for me Pat, it’s been really bad.” She kept quiet. “Pat, you were very angry- I have never-”
“I know. I’m really sorry about that,” he cut in, “in all honesty, I am still a bit angry Libuseng-I just- it hurt me a lot.”
“I’m going to tell you. Everything. I need too.” Libuseng said quietly. “We should probably get out of here fast!” she chuckled with difficulty.
“We should,” Patrick laughed loudly and then immediately remembering that he did not have to make too much noise.
Libuseng found that she was smiling.
“Libuseng,” Patrick said just before she turned to lead the way out of the bathroom. He took a step closer to her and kissed her gently on her lips. He smiled at her and started walking out.
Libuseng did not move.
“Umm…Pat, dude, what was that about?” He had stopped at the door and turned to look at her. “What was that about?” she asked again.
Patrick took a deep breath, “One of the reasons why I was very angry,”
“Pat-”she whispered, feeling tears come slowly to her eyes.
“Yep, that just happened,” he smiled matter-of-factly, “so, umm…okay, let’s go?”
Libuseng felt a tear fall and she quickly removed it.
“Mfethu, let’s get out of here fast. We have too much to catch up on and I am not keen on meeting girls in the bathroom.” He laughed, motioning her to hurry along.
Libuseng felt her knees weaken a bit.
She followed Patrick hurriedly out of the girl’s bathroom.