Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Life Distilled

Newly penned, part of the rewrite process. Let's see where this goes...

Samiha sat on her musallah lost in thought. Her children were asleep and Farouk was with his second wife tonight. She felt cocooned by the silence. A warm pool of it.  She would sit like this for hours, allowing the sounds that were part of this old house to wash over her. Often she’d fell asleep on the carpet. The sleep of the untroubled. Just as she and Farouk seemed to tiptoe around one another during their disjointed daytime interactions, so too, did they sleep around one another. It was exhausting. Having her arm land on him at night was enough to rouse her from the deepest of sleeps. Lately, she had caught herself asking more and more often whether it was really worth it. Whether he was worth it. 

In the kitchen next door Mrs Patel hacked away at the phlegm in her chest. A bed creaked noisily. No farting. She smiled an acidic smile. She’d always known it was Munira. I wonder how she’s dealing with the gas now, her inner bitch taunted.

Prop it closed with a ball of dough?
She wanted to laugh out loud.
Shshsh, she said this aloud. You’re acting all crazy, you know. They’ll hear you next door.  And they’ll tell HER. And she’ll know she won. Her voice raised an octave.

She pressed a finger to her lips and giggled drunkenly.

Just look! You’re losing your mind. Talking to yourself like a pagli. 

She cleared her throat and took a deep, sobering breath.

She put on her best Redi Thlabi voice: Men cheat because they’re bastards. Not because you didn’t cook nice enough meals. Or because you didn’t give him what he wanted in bed.
She nodded her head vigorously in agreement. Continued with her Redi-style soliloquy.

So what if having children ruined your figure? SO what? You’re still the same woman inside. No woman should blame herself!

She nodded some more.

And then she collapsed on the carpet, sobbing.

What a way to live! But what were her choices?
Look for a job?
Deep down she knew she still loved him. Disgusted though she was by that realisation.
She was fighting a losing battle. Acceptance. That’s what she needed.

The path of least resistance.
For the children, she told herself. For the children.



Grass dormant, in death like sleep
crunchy beneath her weakened feet
as she drags her tired shadow
on the path that grows ever narrow

each day the same, effete
a lurid picture, ghostly grey
the colour of each remaining day
was there a time when they were …more?

bright, alive, burning with possibility
a blank canvas to be filled with
tastes, textures and living
yes living…. would that she could

yet she filled it with regret
and more regret again
sorrow about what was
anger at what was not

she filled it with hate and greed
jealousy and simple misery
the colours that spilled
were reds, only reds – like blood

the blood of hate, and anger

her trees have long since borne fruit
her fruit have thorns, she cannot bear them
thorns that are children with loud voices
children who trample on her brown grass

the reds have faded - green at first
growing more grey with each passing day
her canvas is ruined – the work of her own hand
her shadow, like her soul – tired, worn, grey

The words stung. Mostly because she saw herself in every one of them,

Her daughter would be more likeable had she been less honest, she carped. Did the child really think that words on a blog were anonymous?
Everyone read them. And everyone who knew Samiha would know these words were written about her.

The bitter old woman living in the museum of a house, scolding her grandchildren at every turn. Well it wasn’t her fault that they were so damned irritating. And she’d be darned if she’d be guilted into feeling any remorse.

They were naughty. This entire generation was a total waste! SO what if the boys rarely visited because they were too scared of the noise their wives would make about Samiha scolding their flower-breaking, couch hopping brood?! She managed just fine.

Besides, Safiyya still checked up on her. Her face broke into a smile. Safiyya was definitely the best of Farouk’s spawn. Plus she liked to write. Like Samiha once had. Who knew. Maybe someday she’d write something special.

As for Asma, she was married to some weirdo she’d met online. She lived in America and called her mum twice a month, more out of a sense of duty than love.

Samiha sighed. Where had the years gone?

She hobbled over to a pot plant and pulled a weed from its loamy soil. She looked at her hand. The lines. The spots. Seemed like just yesterday these very hands had held Farouk’s bleeding body, cradled his head one last time.

Thoughts of Farouk evoked thoughts of Munira. She scowled. Munira hadn’t remarried either after his death. She’d moved back in with her mother and brother.
Samiha had moved out of Lambat Street by the time Mrs Patel had finally scoffed her last paan. She choked on it, incidentally. That’s how she’d met her end.

By the latest accounts, Munira and Farouk had moved out of Dadaville and were living somewhere in the city.

And Dadaville had succumbed fully to the decay. She couldn’t say she was sad to see Lambat Street fall apart. It held so many bitter memories for her…



Samiha sat on the couch, her eyes, whitened by cataracts, fixed on Safiyya’s face. She was incredulous. Surely her hearing wasn’t going too!

“Mummy, I thought I’d come and tell you that Saleem is getting married this weekend. She’s a young girl from Roshnee. She was his secretary. They will be having a small waleema. I’m throwing it for them. You’ll come?”

Is this girl crazy? Her husband is marrying a spring chicken when she has daughters of marriageable age in her house and she will be throwing a waleema for him. Sort of saying to the bastard: Goodie! You finally shagged the slut!

 He was probably messing around with the little runt while he was married! Stupid girl! Hasn’t she learnt anything from my life? Samiha seethed.

“No, I won’t come, you want to know why?” Her words were clipped.

“Not really Mummy. Don’t say anything.” Safiyya’s eyes were glassy.

“Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because you are being stupid enough to allow that man, like every other man, whose brains are lodged firmly between his thighs, to ruin your life! Are you mad?”

Her voice was low, unwavering. “But mummy, if I don’t then I will ruin my own life. Don’t you see it? Even now…” Silent tears trickled towards her chin, splashed onto her lap.

Samiha sat there, watching the tear blossoms form.

“I’m going now mummy. I’ll call tomorrow.”

Samiha heard the front door click shut. Hear the roar of Safiyya’s car engine grow more feint as she sped off.

And still, she sat. Finally, she stood up, leaning heavily on her cane. Hobbled over to the window. The big old magnolia had just begun to flower. Giant pink flowers wound their way along naked branches.

They forgave, she whispered.

Forgave winter its frost.  Refused to succumb to its biting cold. Defiantly brought forth flowers. Not mingy tiny buds. But huge, showy fragrant flowers.

Surely, after all these years, she could forgive Farouk his winter that took from her everything. Left her naked. Surely, even now, she could bloom. She felt an intense urge to pray. She crumpled to the ground (she’d have hell getting up again, but so what?!).  She struggled into sujood.

Help me bloom, my Lord. Help me bloom. Lightness filled her heart. She knew she’d grace the waleema with her presence. And this time she’d do it purely for herself…

Monday, June 18, 2012

always, the love...

The silence between us swells, a river in flood. Washing away all the words we could possibly say, dragging them into the void that is all that remains of a bond, once strong. We cannot cross the silence. It is too deep. Too sorrow-filled, and we are both terribly afraid.

I look at your face. It spills hatred. My own is impassive. I tell myself that the river of silence does not chill my soul. I tell that to others too. It’s easier that way. Makes for a prettier mask. But when the roar of the river dies down and I venture into that silence, the mask slips and I realise, the scars you’ve inflicted are so deep, the only way I know how to deal with them is to pretend they don’t exist at all.

I remember just such a river. It was wider yet than the one between you and I. Fifteen years wide to be exact.  A Sorrow Drought drained it dry. From that cracked riverbed, a garden now blooms. Cautious buds poking precarious heads from the silent soil. Some have burst into joyous bloom. The colours of Hope. Fragrant with laughter. Nourished by love. Always the love...