The call came to me yesternight; long after I had bowed down to the sleep in my eyes, let go of all my clothing, and slipped in between my white bedsheets. I was, until this time, nursing an impending anxiety in the pit of my stomach, wondering what kind of storm was coming, or had just missed me by an inch. So that in the few minutes before sleep finally consumed me, I contemplated switching off my phone, and burying myself in the darkness of night, only to resurface when the coast clears.
But just then, my phone began vibrating with incoming messages. They drill a hole straight through my heart, these messages, because even before I open them, my heart and soul already knows they carry, within them, the storm that has been lurking in the shadows throughout the day. So that the budding anxiety at the pit of my stomach in the form of wild butterflies flies sharply to my chest, ripping my heart apart, so that I feel its beats on my tongue.
I let my phone screen go dark, allowing my mind to ease itself into the darkness that surrounds me, the whiteness of my bedding now something that does nothing to calm my nerves. I let my tongue dance to the tune of my heartbeat, my lips joining the rhythm, so that I am shaking as if my body does not recognize this heat that surrounds me.
Slowly, as all these things begin to calm down, I lift my phone from my chest, unlock it, and drown myself in the messages that have not stopped coming through.
It is the tone of these messages that has me springing out of bed, forgetting I am naked, and rushing to my front door. It is this tone that carries the weight of these messages’ words, so that as I am fiddling with my door keys, it is this tone that freezes my fingers in place, reminding me that it was 1.00 a.m., I was naked, alone, and there was nowhere I could go, no matter how much I wanted to save the situation.
It is the tone of these seventeen messages that settles at the centre of my chest, spreading slowly throughout the rest of my body parts, so that before I know it, I am lying on the cold tiles next to my front door, my keys still in hand, begging all this that was happening to stop. Willing my heart to stay calm, and trying, hard as possible, to stop the ringing in my head, as if whatever these messages carried was only but the beginning of a long, tiresome journey.
It is the tone of these messages that stays with me as I re-read them over and over again, each message breaking a part of me into pieces, so that by the time I re-read the seventeen messages for the third time, I cannot feel my heart anymore. So that even though my mind registers that I do not know the sender, I do not even try to ask who they are, or how they found me; I just know this, whatever it is, is mine.
It is the tone of these messages that holds my tongue hostage as my fingers find the dial pad on my phone, key in the most-familiar number in my head, and wait with my heart in my mouth as their phone begins to ring. Still, my tongue refuses to move when they pick the call, so that we spend minutes in silence, them repeatedly asking whether everything is alright, me grunting and nodding, the words in my chest too heavy for my voice. So that, with time, there is nothing except loud sighs from my end, and constant yawning from their end.
But with time, the weight of words on my chest topples over the hold in my tongue, so that the first thing out of my mouth is the loudest of screams I have ever managed, ringing throughout the darkness of night, bouncing off my walls, and coming back to me, as of mocking, on the floor. So that they, on the other end of the phone, repeatedly ask whether I need help, and in response, I keep screaming as if it is the only way that this weight in my chest will leave my body.
The screaming works, because the weight on my chest slowly leaves my body, so that when I finally stop and disconnect the call, my body is drenched in sweat, but a new lightness has rested on the tip of my tongue and fingers. Such that I am typing as if my life depends on it, asking, and asking, and asking, until the other party, seemingly overwhelmed by this storm of my messages, goes offline.
The anxiety coursing through me rises to the surface of my skin, so that my nakedness is pacing in the vastness of my living room, taking breaks to peep through the moonlight to see whether someone, or something was coming to my rescue. So that the ticking of my clock drives me on edge, reminding me that each second that passes by is driving me closer and closer to the height of the storm. And maybe, just maybe, the more these seconds tick, the more the storm’s wrath rises.
It is this anxiety that floats all over my house until the early signs of dawn begin to show, squeezing my body into a pair of black jeans, a black tshirt, and black rubber shoes. It is this anxiety that lets my hair fall into my face when I step out of the house, into the early morning, and into the small streams of early risers, as if too afraid that my panic would give me away.
It is this anxiety that stands me rooted on the spot when I finally make way past the huge hospital doors, and set eyes on the height of the storm.
“It was too late when I found them. One bullet through the baby’s head, and one through his own. Single parenting is not a walk in the park, I guess.”
It is these words that fold my arms across my chest, as the screaming finds its way back to me, wishing this thing called death did not take you in the first place.