TW: child sexual abuse
As I stared out the window into the overwhelming darkness outlined only by the shadows of dying trees, I remembered one of my favourite Jay Electronica lyrics.
Staring out the windows is for love songs and house flies.
The man sitting beside my bed almost beheaded me with the shrapnel of his words when we once argued about the meaning of the lyric. It didn't start as a heated verbal assault, but with him, it never did. I watched him as he sat next to my lifeless body. He knew I was straddling death and that made him jealous.
"Why is he here," asked my mother as she barged into the room with anxiety-ridden hope. Hope, that she would find me sitting upright and back to being the daughter who welcomed her torture with open arms. The man beside my bed shot up as if he were escaping the electric chair. I enjoyed watching how my mother made him nervous. I wanted her to torture him some more, especially since I knew that she was always incredibly deft at pouring rancid vinegar onto one's emotions.
"Mama, we need to go pray. It's midnight." The youngest of my mother's five children replied in a soothing tone. She had a spiritual gift, one that she was not yet aware of. But I could tell. She looked straight at the window as if she could locate exactly where I was hunched over. She made the face that she always made when something didn't feel right. The face looked like she'd walked into a kitchen and was greeted by the smell of cooked cabbage left out overnight. But her small, brown nose never wrinkled to the top. There was a section that flattened which caused it to look more like a button nose. We got that from our grandmother.
“Make sure he leaves immediately,” whispered my mother, as she sealed the instruction with a dirty look. My sister nodded and led my mother to the room where 4 white candles were waiting to hear her newly worded pleas and silent tears.
I had been sitting in the corner chair for far too long, and the sky-high pile of laundry was proving to be a literal pain in the ass. Why could I never keep my room clean for long? And why did I think piling everything on this chair meant I had made a valiant attempt at cleanliness? That wasn’t what the chair was for. It used to be for my father, who would sit in it while reading bedtime stories about giants as strong as mountains being brought to their demise by humble feathers or clever rabbits. My father hadn’t left the make-shift prayer room since my incident. Days had passed since he came to see me. This wasn’t unusual to be since he never used to come into my bedroom anyway. We only had conversations through the wooden door. I hated being in his presence at the time, but I always longed for him to open the door and just embrace me as I was. He couldn’t embrace me then and it hurt him to embrace me now. Maybe I should’ve kept the door open occasionally. Before I could find the answers within me, I heard a loud cry that was carried throughout the house on the coattails of silence.
“The boy is cursed!” There was such a shrill tone on the word ‘cursed’ that it gave me goosebumps. I could hear my mother crying out for my soul to return to my body. The separation was killing her. I was killing her.
The man beside my bed knew that he had overstayed any kind of welcome. He bent over to kiss my cheek, or so I thought, but instead, he whispered in my ear.
"Don't you dare come back now, baby." The idiot couldn't even tell that I was by the window, not on the bed. He snuck out as I decided to kill some time by going wandering around the familiar walls of my home. There were visitors in the lounge who stained my mother's beige sofas with gossip and mumblings. I only recognized two of the six people enjoying milky tea and scones at my expense. They were meant to come to show support and pray with my mother, but they were just here to collect information to take back to their uninterested spouses. I didn't care much for their reckless talk; I had a mission to complete. The time hadn't arrived yet, but I knew that the hour was near.
The rest of the day went without a hitch. Everyone played the role they were meant to play. The supportive friends arrived and did what they had to do, the nosy neighbours also arrived and searched for stories instead of giving out moral support. Everyone ate everything. My mother and sister couldn’t keep up at some point with the demands for food and drink. Were these people not aware that they were not at a funeral? Sure, my body looked lifeless, but I wasn’t dead. My soul was straddling two worlds and the longer I stayed here, the harder it became to let go.
Gazing at the curdled faces of grief pleasured me greatly. At one point it even felt orgasmic to see those who did me wrong, now sitting at my bedside begging me to come back. I couldn't go to my grave with their redemption, or else guilt would carve up their insides until there was nothing left. I was taken aback by how much I was enjoying this paranormal torture. I walked into the kitchen where freshly baked scones were being baked every hour to deal with the influx of family and freeloaders. While the ornate dishes and teacups were being washed for the next batch of visitors, my cousins and other siblings couldn't resist but to fall into the valleys of gossip.
“uMama says he’s cursed. He is the one that cursed her too.”
“It wasn’t a curse; it was a ritual.”
"Ritual? How is that different from devil-worshipping?"
“They are both cursed from what I’ve heard. There was always something wrong with that girl.”
“Well one cursed person is alive and the other hangs onto life by a thread.”
I watched them as their conversation reminded me of a game called broken telephone. The more they spoke, the more ridiculous the stories became. I always knew that when I wasn't around, people spoke ill of my behaviour. I didn't fit the mold of my highly educated paternal side of the family nor did I exude the swagger that emanated from my mother's side. I was caught in between the two like the awkward bridge of a beautiful song that the artist could've left out. Now I had proof of all the hidden conversations and judgmental conclusions, but there was nothing I could do about it. I could scream and yell, but no one would hear me. No one on that side. I felt the anger bubbling up inside me like acid reflux. I needed air. I stepped outside into our backyard and immediately felt like I had found peace. The quiet that resided outside was not the same as the silence in the house. That silence reeked of insincerity. This quiet was peaceful and for the first time since being here, I felt like I belonged. The weak winter sun shone on my skin, and I remembered what that felt like. I guess there were some beautiful advantages to being alive and now, I was missing that badly. I knew I had to leave the house, but I couldn't go just yet. My time had not yet come. As the peace of mother nature enveloped me, I was interrupted by a loud bark. Polly. My beautiful friend. She barked straight at me, and I could tell immediately that she could see me as clear as day. Even now, she was the only one that truly saw me. Her incessant barking caught the attention of my cousins and siblings. To them, the dog was just barking at pure air, but my gifted sister cocked her head to the side as she walked up to Polly and calmly patted her on the head.
"You see her too huh." She looked right at me. At this point, I was convinced she was going to say something. She stared long and hard, taking in my new form. Then her eyes gave up and she went back into the house. Polly was now whining at me, which is exactly what she did when I didn't give her enough attention. I wanted to go back into the house, but I couldn't. It's like my feet were stuck to the dead grass. The sea of yellowing blades extended right up to the pool, which was half empty. My father had given up on it since most of us no longer swam. But I do remember the happy moments we used to have in the summers of my early life. Orange arm floaties flapping in the clear water as my father taught us how to swim. He used to mock us for wearing swimming caps and goggles, saying we were swimming the Caucasian way. He wasn't the best swimmer himself but seeing as he was the only human in our home who could stay afloat, by default, he became the swimming instructor. It was starting to feel like we had better memories outside of the house instead of inside it. Maybe it wasn't me that was cursed. Maybe it was this house. I was sure this house was cursed. After what happened to me when I was younger, all the good memories of this home were eternally stained. I had to rectify that. That was the mission.
“What the hell are you doing out here?” It was the man from beside my bed. The boy who was cursed.
“You did it?” I asked him as though I didn’t believe that he was standing in front of me.
“Of course, I did. I was so fucking tired of being alive.”
“So, you’re dead dead?” He chuckled lightly at the naivety of my question.
“You don’t have to leave, you know,” he said while pulling a black rock out of his pocket. “You can go back to your body. But once you leave this home, you can never come back.”
“Yeah, so I will be dead dead.”
"Yes, you will." He pulled a white rock out of his other pocket. He held both out for me and told me to choose the one that spoke to me. I chose the white rock. My role was to bring the light to the mission. He smiled.
“Always been afraid of the dark huh, baby. It’s ok, I enjoy being the bad guy.”
“How did you know the spell would work?”
"I trust myself, baby. Always trust my word. Look, we don't have a lot of time. The longer we stay here, the harder it's going to be for you to leave." I stared my childhood home, the only home I had ever known. A home that I thought was filled with good memories, but up until recently, I remembered the dark horrors that cracked the foundation.
“You ready to head over to your uncle?”
“Yeah.” I hung my head in fear and shame. The man lifted my chin with his soft hands.
“Don’t worry, this is how we make him pay for eternity for what he did to you. You were just a child; he was in the wrong. He deserves this.” I smiled and thanked him for coming with me.
We both knew that we had exhausted our purpose on earth and that’s why we weren’t afraid to die. We often spoke about how maybe our true lives lay on the other side of death. We haggled about our true mission one night and when I broke down and told him my deepest darkest secret, he held me, then immediately came up with a plan. This was our new purpose now. To avenge my childhood and take me my power back. All this, by punishing the man who had no business touching me as a child.