Siye’s call comes in at exactly 8.05 p.m. I know because I have been staring at my phone since 7.30 p.m., anticipating my mother’s call. She is in hospital, my mother, again, because she ‘fell’ on the stairs. I know it is a lie. I know my father’s fist found a home on her face, again. Maybe, it ruptured her nose. Maybe it pressed the eyes further into their sockets, and maybe, just maybe, she is missing a couple of teeth. Still, I tell her I believe her. That someday, I will move her to a house that does not have staircases, just to see whether she keeps on falling, especially at night.
I ignore Siye’s call, because I do not want to miss my mother’s when it finally comes through. But then she keeps on calling, this Siye, and when my ringtone starts to eat me up, I pick it at the fourth ring of the fourth call.
“When someone doesn’t pick your call after the third attempt, stop calling!”
I hang up and continue staring at my blank screen.
Come on, Mum. Call me, please!
When the clock hits 8.17 p.m., I resign and find my way to the communal pit latrine. It is dirty, as usual; dark shit patterns colouring the once-cream walls, trails of fresh urine watering the weeds at the corners, and an acidic bout of warmth emanating from the massive hole, making my eyes tear.
I pull up my dress, lower my undies, and squat. Then, I clench and relax my muscles, repeatedly, but the shit doesn’t come out. I feel it just at the mouth of the anus, but it completely refuses to get out. Just like my mother refuses to leave her ‘beloved’ husband. Just like Siye refuses to stop calling. Just like my brain refuses to stop thinking that if I stay in the toilet for one more minute, a snake will come out of the hole and bite my buttocks.
I pull back my panties and let my dress fall back to place, then start back to my house. Then I hear it; my phone’s ringtone.
I dash for the rest of the distance to my house, but my face falls when I see ‘Siye calling.”
When I pick, she does not give me time to even breathe.
“Please, I need you to come over. Right away!”
My face transforms from disgust to shock, but before I ask her why she needs me urgently, she hangs up.
It is 8.31 p.m., and the urgency in Siye’s voice is propelling me, fast, towards the road. Past my neighbour’s scent of freshly cooked ugali, that has burnt a little, reminding me of the hunger that has stayed with me for hours now. Reminding me of the fresh smell of blood that hits me whenever I visit my mother. It propels me, fast, past our night watchman, who wags a finger at me and says, ‘I hope hiyo choo umeacha ikiwa safi. Nakujua sana.’ Past the stench by the deserted path, which reminds me of my mother taking out the trash when it is too late. The stench reminds her, she says, that there will always be a fresh start.
Siye keeps calling, and calling. I keep hanging up because I am walking in the dark and I do not want the kings of the night to find fresh prey. Because I do not want to tell her that I am walking instead of taking a matatu. Why? I am waiting for my mother’s phone call. I am waiting for the hospital bill, hoping the few coins I have will cater for it in full.
A putrid smell hits my nostrils when I get to Siye’s door. Like rotten lemons fighting hard for their life, till their hearts bleed out. Like molds growing on bread, conquering unclaimed territories. It reminds me of my mother, the smell, and I instinctively check my phone.
No missed calls.
I push open the door and the smell intensifies.
I wander in the darkness in search of a light switch, knock my toe against the table in the process, and when the light finally bathes the house, I cannot keep calm anymore.
There is a trail of blood on the floor, which my feet happened to touch when wandering for the switch. On the table sits the remaining piece of a used-to-be black mug; the handle, flowered by shards of glass at the basement.
The putrid smell intensifies, followed by a slight buzz of flies. I follow the trail, and part the bedsheet that partitions the single room into two.
Siye sits on the floor, her head resting at the edge of the bed, as if she is asleep. Only that her chest is not heaving as it should, and when I bring my ear close to her nose, there is no warmth.
Then I see the blood that flows, generously, from beneath her towards the ‘living room’. Her phone, which sits on her laps, lights up, distracting me from my fear.
“I tried, Wetu. I hope you get here early enough, because I think this is the day Jabali finally kills me and…”
It was the last message she was sending to me, only that her strengths gave up long before she could finish her sentence. Long before she could hit the ‘send’ button.
There is an emptiness in my stomach that sends me falling onto the bed, face down, and screaming into it. I weep uncontrollably, because no one needs to tell me she is dead. I weep for our wasted words. Me saying ‘Leave him alone. He is gonna kill you.’ Siye saying ‘He will change, one day.’
I only stop crying when my phone rings and shows ‘Mum Calling.”
But the voice on the other end of the call is not Mum’s. Whoever it is, wants to get over with this as easy as they can. They talk, and talk, and talk. They say all the good things strangers say to each other. And when their voice starts to eat me up, I hang up.
It is 9.17 p.m. when my head begins to hurt as a result of the crying, and it hits me that I have lost, forever, the two people closest to me; my mother and my best friend. I have lost them to men of strength. I have lost them in a war of love. I have lost them in spaces that were too familiar to them, yet took the most out of them.
It hits me that I have lost my will to live, and to love.