Saturday, November 06, 2010

Like Soldiers with a House under Siege

In drugged sleep is some kind of resolve
This is a story inspired by a man I know is dying. It is not literal, but the truth of it is. 

The best part of his day is a moment. Sometimes its moments. Nowadays, actually, those moments are longer and longer-when he does not know who he is. Where he is. How he got here. Those are the best moments of his day. When he opens his eyes, and in those moments, does not know. 

He still cares where he is though. This is what often makes him start rummaging in his mind, spoiling the moment, when he does not know where he is, and is trying to figure out where he might be. In trying to understand where he is, he remembers who he is. Then the moment is gone and he will have hours and hours to stay awake through before he can come back to the moment when he opens his eyes, does not know who he is and...Bliss. In those moments. 

But if he is in a bed, and a curtained window is across the room, with bright daylight intermittently flitting in, making pools of patterns on the cement floor, he can lay there and lay there, blissful, his mind empty, thinking nothing, remembering nothing-this is where happiness is. At peace. 

Until a tingling in his nether regions wakes him fully; he must get up and piss. Or, first like an echo from around a corner, he begins to hear the distant pounding of hands on a drum-his hangover headache, then the dryness of a desert in his mouth. He must get up. Then he knows who he is. He knows where he is. 

Usually he is in the bedroom. On top of the bed. Still in the clothes he was wearing when he left the house. He is happier when he is alone on the bed. He will not have to talk. He will not have to get out of the bed earlier. He will not have to look in his wallet, in vain hopes most of the time, to see if there is any money left in there so that she can get of the house and cross the road to buy some eggs maybe, butungulu and nyanya, 200 hundred shillings Garden Tea leaves and milk to make breakfast-if it is still morning-sometimes they want to make lunch...sometimes they think they can stay! When he is alone, he can stay on the bed longer, looking at the curtained window until the light begins to make his eyes hurt.  

In time the whole room will register. Then the house. If he is alone, if he has been in his bed, and stripped, he will wrap a towel around his waist, and leaning against the wall, shuffle toward dinning room, where the fridge is, looking for water. Any water. For that thirst. 

This is the one thing he has not forgotten how to do. Boil lots of water for drinking later, which he keeps in the fridge in 3 litre jerricans that used to be Cheers juice jerricans. He has eight of those jerricans and he counts his drinking days according to how many are left full each time he opens the fridge. When there are two jerricans left, he knows the month is almost ending and he should go and check at the headquarters to see if ‘their money’ has been sent to their bank accounts. 

He comes to the county headquarters only when he has to. The only other time he ever does is when he needs signatures for official documents. Signatures and stamps of authority. For students, for residents, who need them on their passport application papers; women fleeing their marital homes; people with their dead. 

Otherwise he does not come to the headquarters. 

He uses the fridge to remember the last time a woman was in his house too. If he finds in the fridge one litre Fresh Diary packets of milk, vegetables like cabbages, mangoes, sometimes jackfruit in the lower compartment, yellow Hotloaf bread in the middle compartment, not only can he tell he has had a woman over recently, he can tell what kind of woman and if she is coming back. 

This is his only way to remember. It is the only way he wants to remember. The other way is going, finally. 

If he is alone in the house, he will lower himself into his chair, as he always has, at the head of the six seater dinning room table, drinking from the mouth of the jerrican, leaving the towel to fall away from his waist, let more moments come to him-like green khaki soldiers running toward the door of a house they have had under siege. He won’t try to escape now. Though he knows these.

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