Silent grief

BY BRENDA VIOLA

The ceiling looked duller today. I should know because I have been staring at it for quite some time now, a few days if I am to be completely honest, or even months. On second thought, I really didn’t know how much time had passed. Perhaps it was time that I awoke from my bed, maybe open the curtains a little bit to let in the sunlight. I may even do a little cleaning. Who knows! 

I have simply existed, giving little to no effort to the world, sitting and laying in the dark. My trips to the bathroom were out of complete necessity, and kept at a bare minimum. I wasn’t even sure of where my phone was, maybe on the charger or I left it on the table. I should reply to a few messages today
and make some calls.

It wasn’t every day that I got the motivation to put my life in order, or do anything for that matter. Maybe I would even go outside and take a walk around the estate, say hi to the children who always played and even pass buy my mama mboga’s kiosk. I’m sure she wondered what happened to her customer who always bought spinach. Who am I kidding; she had tons of customers, why would I stand out? The bigger joke was telling myself that I could even go outside. 

Baby steps. Yes! First, I needed to get out of bed and wash my face. Who knows when last I did that? The rest would follow. Slowly getting up from the bed, my feet sank in the soft carpet, bringing a little smile to my face. He used to love this carpet, always insisting that we sit on it and talk about our plans and dreams. I loved listening to him as he spoke. Whenever he was happy, his eyes crinkled at the corner when he smiled. If he got too excited then he would stammer a bit. Always insisting that his mouth was too slow to keep up with his excitement. I didn’t care if he stammered, I loved it. I loved him. 

My throat got sore and it got difficult to keep my eyes open. Not today. I was tired, too tired. Wiping away the tears that had escaped, I got up. I counted my steps to the bathroom, imagining how cold the water would be on my hands and face. It was 10 steps, I should know because as I said, I was counting. 

There she was, a ghost of her former self. Her cheeks stained with tears from when I last cried myself to sleep and from a few seconds ago. Her eyes looked tired, lost and even empty. Her hair was anything but presentable.

My imaginations were more than correct. The water was indeed cold, even colder than I expected, a rude disruption to my status quo. 

“I see you tried calling me a couple of times. What’s up?”

“Yes, I have been looking for you for a week now, nobody seemed to know where you were.”

My eyes involuntarily rolled. People really had a knack of making themselves feel better for caring for other people. I mean, if she was indeed looking at me then the least she could do was come to my house. But why should she do that?

“Are you still there?”

“Oh, sorry about that. Napika kitu, I’ll speak to you nikimaliza.” 

My eyes rolled some more, at the ridiculous excuse I came up with. I figured the rest of the missed calls would be replied to after I got enough charge for my social batteries. 

I opened one curtain, and decided it was too much light for today. I fixed myself some instant coffee, hoping the caffeine would at best give me a little surge of serotonin. I sat before my TV and switched it on, tuning to a random channel. 

“So, all of this time, what were you doing?”

“Nothing. I wasn’t doing anything because I didn’t want to. At the same time, I wasn’t doing anything because I couldn’t.” 

It was one of those TV shows where people got interviewed about something. There was a man and a woman. The woman looked familiar, so maybe this was her show and the man was the guest. I held my mug with both hands now, savoring the warmth and bathing in the smell of coffee. 

“Pardon me for my ignorance. What do you mean? Could you explain it in another way for myself and the audience to understand you better?”

The man simply stared her. He looked as though he was tired behind the fancy suit and well-kept hair. I didn’t put it past the make-up team of the show to dab him a little powder here and there. 

“How do I say it?”

“Just tell us what you remember and how it felt.”

I wondered where this interview was going. What was the purpose of it all? 

It felt as though I was suffocating on air while being squeezed by some sort of darkness, an emptiness whose aim was to engulf me. It happened all the time, when I was awake and when I slept. At some point I just got numb. I was numb to the pain, numb to feeling anything else really. I had no incentive to do anything or perform any task. I lay in my room in complete darkness. In some way I was giving into it, making peace with the fact that the darkness would never really leave me. 

“My children got really worried. They couldn’t understand how their daddy had gone from being their superhero to being a shadow of his former self. It’s only later that my therapist came to explain what my problem was. 

“You see, I never really processed grief as I should have. So it came to bite me back in the ass, for lack of a better word. When my wife passed away, all I did was arrange for her funeral, take care of the children and essentially make sure everything was well. I thought that it was a good thing. I mean, I was sending her off the ways he deserved to be sent off and I was making sure the children were okay. Apparently, I was deluding myself. My therapist told me that I denied the entire thing. She said that everything I was doing for everyone else was my brain’s way of ignoring the truth and disregarding my feelings. I was in denial and I dint even know it.”

As he spoke, I could feel everything once more. The pain, the dullness, the numbness, the suffocation. Was that what I did? Did I burry myself in my loss? Did I wish to join Gerald in the afterlife? After all, what did I have to live for? He had his children, more or less a reason to keep on living and fighting. I didn’t have any child. 

Gerald used to tell me; it was us against the world. Later, when we would have a child, we would be The Three Musketeers. I hadn’t thought that far into our marriage but watching him talk about it made me believe everything would turn out fine. I believed him, we would have a child and then grow old together. That was worth living for. Fighting for.    

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