Blacking Out: Yours and Mine


I wonder at myself sometimes. The way I react to things. At times, they're normal, the way any normal human would react. Other times, they scare me, make me go out of myself and look back at me and fold my hands on my chest and ask, are you serious right now? I have found that most of these times, I am asking why. Not why the reaction, but why the action.

The day I heard of your death, I asked why.
In the morning, I had gone to see my sister off. On the way, I had noticed how there was a clump of women. Not much, but well unusual they wouldn't go unnoticed. They had been murmuring, interjecting with sighs and hisses and comments of dejection. I knew someone had died.

But I hadn't stopped. I didn't want to hear. I knew what would happen if I did.  My entire day would be altered, I myself would be altered, if I knew this person. It happened once when, one early morning, our neighbour's wife's scream tore us out of the bed and out of the house. It was soon followed by the united cry of her children, trying their best to be civilized in their mourning. They had lost their father.

I remember sitting at the plastic reading table from which I could see the greater part of the front yard. The tree at the centre was beginning to shed its leaves, and with them went its shade. The home of the bereaved stood just in front, a boys' quarter of two rooms, toilet, bathroom, kitchen, all minute. I remember sitting there for days, gaping out, wondering how different it would feel to never have him walk out in the morning to clean his keke. Never greeting him when I went out to clean father's car. Never having him respond in the way he did, in the politest manner a man his age who didn't go to school, could.

Sitting there, I remembered how he looked before he died. Once, he had come out to get some sun. He resembled a specimen for a biology class: bones stuck out most rigidly I could count his ribs from inside the house; his head, bald; his chest, a dried piece of flesh over rough-edged surface, melanin faded or sprinkled. I have not felt pity for anyone like I did that day. And the day I heard him calling for anyone outside to come beg his wife to lay him down on the bed, I had tried to cry. He had been sitting up on a chair that beamed a few surviving pads of foam. His wife who had been sitting up on the bed told me the doctor prescribed it, the sitting.

I wouldn't forgive myself after he died until Dad said he had led him to Christ. I had wanted to write, because in times like this we seek an escape. And writing provides that for me. But I hadn't. Couldn't. For me, it felt like I would be capitalizing on a misfortune, a major one, to make profit. Perhaps finish the piece and have a litmag publish it and pay me big money. Because stories of grief, especially ones told when the wound is still fresh, sound so true, so original they're worth a lot.

Today, when mum told your own news, my sister almost screamed herself out of her seat. Me, I was calm, continued fetching water. Hours later, my sister is laughing in the parlour, in front of the TV. Me, I'm in the room still trying to find myself. I am like one in a roller coaster, pressing my mouth shut, holding my peace like I got it all under control, while exploding on the inside.

Could I myself be dying inside? Or am I only over-mourning, so that it becomes more of hypocrisy than authenticity? Am I harbouring the thought that I could have helped in some way just to bask in the feeling of responsibility? At the same time I'm asking why. Why did you die? Did you have to? I mean, you hadn't even scratched life. You were so young!

I got to stop, I'm sorry. I'm tearing up.

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