Because…

I saw this house, set against the back drop of nature, standing alone,
I gawked and drew near
Because…
It tugged at my heart strings,
I approached, traversing long winding paths,
That drew me higher;
I panted with every step
From exhaustion and exhilaration-
A heady mix;
It was no mean feat, my muscles screamed in protest,
My heart danced to frenzied beats,
Just because…
Standing close, it towered,
My stomach plummeted, I hesitated
At the sight of the walls- tall, imposing
The gates were closed, and made of lead,
I longed to walk in the gardens,
To lie down amidst the trees in the orchard,
It was an ache that was soul deep;
I girded my tunic and attempted the bizarre,
Just because…
Nothing would deter me from my quest, I was determined,
I huffed and puffed at the zenith,
The ground below was an abyss,
I lurched, and landed with a thud,
I made it!
And every step was worth it,
Every bruise a worthy sacrifice
Because…
This is where I call home now,
This is the place my heart has chosen to stay;
It is possible with just one look
To know where you want to spend the rest of your life,
To know who your happiness lies with,
Because…
Love is crazy that way.

White

Through her hazy vision, she saw someone wearing white leaning over her, eyes smiling at her and then shifting to something on bed. Moments later she felt gentle squeezing on her right arm.

She screamed, and then started thrashing. Bedcover was thrown to the floor and she made to yank her IV line before the bewildered nurse recovered from her shock and clamped her down.

“Relax madam” she said in between pants “you are in a hospital! Calm down”

The woman would none of it. Her eyes were wild and her voice was going hoarse. “Leave me alone! Please, I beg you in the name of God. Don’t do this to me. I will die if you do this”

The door opened and two nurses rushed in, followed by a doctor. The nurses helped hold the thrashing woman down while the doctor pushed in a sedative and within seconds the woman was limp.

“What happened?” the doctor asked the nurse that had been in the room with the patient.

“I came to measure her vital signs, and she opened her eyes as I was inflating the cuff of the sphygmomanometer and started thrashing about, attempting to remove her IV line and run. She was also pleading with me not to harm her or she would die”

“She is still re-experiencing the trauma” the doctor replied, a middle aged man, moderately built with a receding hair line.

“We need to keep an eye on her and might have to sedate her for the next twenty four hours”

He took the patient’s notes from the nurse and scribbled into it before handing it over and leaving the patient’s room.

***

It was dark. She had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there.

“Hello” she called out “anybody here?”

There was no answer.

“Hellooooooooo” she shouted, still no answer.

Feeling the walls with her hands, she stood up and inched forward lifting her legs higher than necessary for fear of hitting her legs against any object. The wall was smooth and cold, just like the hard floor beneath her bare feet.

“Stay here”. It was the voice of a child, barely above a whisper, whimpering. It sounded familiar, and brought back memories of her childhood.

She had been afraid of the dark and could not sleep without the light on. Many a night she would sneak into her parents’ bed in the middle of the night. Her mother hated that but her father had been more tolerant.

She called softly to the child. “Hi, what is your name?”

There was no reply.

She called again “are you scared?”

“Yes, and you should be too”

She chuckled.

‘Not anymore’ she thought wistfully. Her mother had made sure she wasn’t afraid of the dark. She had sneaked into her parents’ room that night as usual but things had turned out differently.

She had woken in the middle of the night to pee and it had been raining. Lightning streaked across her room and she thought she saw a man in her room. She had run out of her room and gone to her parents’ room.

She had heard noises as soon as she entered her parents’ room and had been afraid to move further. After a moment she had recognized the voice as that of her mother groaning and muttering ‘Oh God’, moments later she screamed and then the room was quiet. That was when she had proceeded to her parents’ bed and climbed in.

“Mummy, why were you screaming?” she had asked, and she felt her mother stiffen. Moments later, her father burst out laughing.

“How long have you been in the room?” her mother had asked. When her mother had learned that she had been in the room earlier and heard her muttering ‘Oh God’, her mother had been mortified and had escorted her back to her room, her cries notwithstanding. That night, her mother had locked her inside her room.

She had cried for a long time and eventually had fallen asleep. Since that night, she had stopped being afraid of the dark. It was years later that she knew what had happened that night to make her mother so mortified and angry.

She spoke to the child. “I am not afraid of the dark, there is nothing to be afraid of” and when the child did not reply, she added “where are you? I will come meet you”

“Over here” the child responded.

“Okay, I am coming, and then I will find a way to get us out of here”

“No” the child said, voice trembling “it is safer here”

“Do you know something I don’t?” she asked inching closer to where the voice was coming from

“There are bad people outside and they will hurt us”

“Do you know them?”

Silence.

She decided on another tactic. “What’s your name?”

“Vivian”

“What a lovely coincidence” she exclaimed

“I am Vivian too”

“I know” came the child’s reply

A chill ran down the woman’s spine and she felt goose bumps cover her arms. She felt that she had heard that voice before, even knew who was speaking but she couldn’t place it.

“How do you know my name?” she strived to maintain an air of interest rather than fear. She didn’t want to give away her inner turmoil.

Silence

She was now beyond scared. There was something sinister going on. Suddenly, a thought entered her mind. What if it was one of her captors that was mimicking a child’s voice and was taunting her, playing games with her? She discarded the thought, the voice she had heard had sounded genuinely scared.

“I heard the man calling you that” the girl answered.

“Which man?”

“I don’t know. He kept saying ‘Vivian, I am sorry’”

She reached the other end of the room where the child was huddled against the wall. She wrapped the girl in her arms and rocked her.

Noises from beyond the room made her stop. The girl heard it too, because she could feel her tense in her arms. She stood up and moved towards the sound.

“Don’t go” the little girl pleaded

“Don’t be afraid dear” she whispered, “I am going to get us out of here”

“No!” the girl’s voice was trembling and it was filled with horror. That made the woman stop. She returned to the girl to cuddle her

“It will be okay” she cooed

“No, no, no” the little girl was shaking “please don’t go”

***

“No, no, no” the patient was muttering from her sleep. Then she began to move her head from side to side.

“She is waking up” the nurse standing by her bedside observed.

“No” the doctor replied “I think she is having a nightmare. She is actually re-living her experiences and if I am to take a guess, her mind is trying to block out the images from her conscious mind”

“How is that possible?”

“You see, when we undergo traumatic experiences, there are several mechanisms the mind engages in to help us deal with them. The most basic of these is called repression, where the event is buried deep into the unconscious mind and recall of it is prevented.”

“But how do you know she is trying to repress these images?”

“I am not sure but from the statements she has been uttering from her sleep. Words like ‘No’ and ‘don’t go’ could be a warning from a part of her brain where her emotions are stored to another part that is storing the memories of the event preventing a rehearsal of the event in order to relieve the distress.”

“So, by blocking out the memory, she will be able to deal with it?”

“Yes”

“But what kind of person does this to another human, one you claim to love?”

“Unbridled passion turns men into beasts” replied the doctor solemnly as he turned and walked away from the patient’s bedside.

***

The noises were increasing. The girl clung to the woman more tightly, burying her face in the woman’s bosom.  The woman cuddled the girl and rocked her gently.

“It will be alright” the woman whispered to the girl.

“No” the girl said “it would never be alright. Everything has changed”

The woman frowned in the darkness. Something in the girl’s tone sent a chill down her spine. What did she mean by everything has changed? What was the girl not saying? Or was it fear that was making the girl to say what she said? She was confused.

“Why do you say that?” she asked the girl

“Because it is the truth” the girl replied

A high pitch scream shattered the silence. The girl flinched and burrowed her head closer to the woman. The woman huddled the girl closer for a moment and then told her to stay in the corner while she stood up to investigate the noise. She inched forward step by step while using her hand to trace the wall. 

She reached the door and found the handle. The door was locked. She tried the handle again but it didn’t budge.

She felt a hand circle her waist and she shrieked.

“It is me, Vivian” the little girl said as she held on tighter. “Please don’t go out there”

“You scared me” the woman replied, her voice slightly trembling. “Don’t you worry, I will find a way to get us out of here”

“No” the small girl protested “we are safe in here. Outside is too dangerous.”

“What do you mean?”

“There are bad people outside. They won’t harm us here”

“Is there something you are not telling me?”

Another scream emanated from behind the door.  The girl disengaged from the woman and ran further inside the room. The woman hesitated for a while, considering the words of the girl. Maybe it was safer to stay inside.

Maybe not.

Whoever was outside could easily come inside and harm them and then they would be trapped. It was better to know what the situation was and then see if they could escape or get help. She tried the door handle again and it turned.

She called out to the girl as she opened the door and light streamed into the room.

“Don’t do this to me” the little girl whimpered

She turned towards the girl and froze.
She was staring at a younger version of herself.

The little girl was her.

She realized now why she had felt that the girl was familiar.

“Don’t go out there” the younger Vivian pleaded “close the door and let us stay here. We are safe here”

“Who are you?” the older Vivian asked in a voice that was hoarse and barely above a whisper. She hid her hands behind her back to hide the trembling

“I am you” the girl replied and moved towards the older version of herself “I am trying to protect you”

The older woman stepped back “protecting me from what?” she asked. Her heart was beating fast now. She was beyond scared.

Another scream stifled the little girl’s reply. The woman turned towards the source of the noise and watched with wide eyes the horror playing before her.

She was looking into a room where a man was trying to coerce a woman to sleep with him. The man had hugged and kissed the woman, and she had kissed him back too. Then the man’s hands had reached up and cupped the woman’s breasts and she had stopped him but he refused.

She tried to resist him but he kept on fondling her and he eventually pushed her down on the bed. Amidst the protest and struggles, he overpowered her and forced himself on her.

The woman was screaming and pleading but the man was adamant. He was past caring and was humping with gusto till he was done taking his fill. By then, the woman had stopped screaming and she lay limp on the bed with blood stains splattered on the sheets.

Tears were dropping down the older Vivian’s face as she watched the scene unfolding before her eyes. She was shocked at the cruelty of the man. What was even more distressing was the fact that the woman had trusted the man. He wasn’t a stranger to her, he was her lover. And he had done such abominable thing. Why?!

She felt a mixture of emotions washing over her- sadness, pain and anger but mostly anger. Then she saw the face of the woman that had just being assaulted.

And screamed.

***

The patient screamed.

In an instant, nurses were by her bedside, holding her down. Tears were streaming down her face and she was sobbing quietly.

“Daniel, why?” she muttered “why did you do this to me? Whatever have I done to offend you?”

The nurses looked at one another. The older of them moved closer to the patient and spoke gently. “Madam, who is Daniel? What did he do to you?”

“I trusted you!” the patient went on, oblivious to the other people in the room. “I loved you with all my heart” her voice was breaking and soon she was sobbing.

“Better get the doctor here” the older nurse turned to the younger.

****

“I told you not to go outside” it was the younger Vivian, her voice soft and trembling.

The older Vivian stood trembling on the spot. The little girl moved close to her and hugged her.

“He is a bad man” the little girl whispered.
The older woman nodded, arms wrapped around herself and rocking back and forth on her heels. “Yes, he is” she replied after a while. “And I loved him”

“Didn’t he love you back?”

“I thought he did. He said he did and I believed him”

“If he said he loved you, why then did he hurt you? You don’t hurt people you love”

“No, you don’t” the older woman answered

“So, he didn’t love you”

“No, he didn’t. He just lied that he did”

***

The woman was fully awake now. She had been in a state of delirium for the past twenty hours, drifting in and out of consciousness. Her eyes slowly adjusted to her environment, the white walls, the bedside table, the whirring machines with tubes connecting to her body and the two pairs of eyes focused on her.

“Where am I? She asked in a hoarse voice.
The nurse walked to the bedside table and poured water into a glass and handed it to her. She took a sip and handed the cup back.

“You are in the hospital” the doctor replied “you have been here since yesterday evening and you have been drifting in and out of consciousness since then. I am Dr Williams, how are you feeling?”

“What happened to me?”

“You were brought in here by your friend Daniel, he said you suddenly fainted. When you woke up at first you were screaming and pleading not to be harmed”

The mention of her boyfriend’s name triggered a flood of memories she would rather have buried deep down. She closed her eyes as the tears cascaded down her cheeks.

She shrieked at the touch of the doctor who had come to sit by her bedside and had squeezed her shoulder gently. She cringed and shifted away from his touch.

“Would you like to tell me what happened to you?” the doctor’s voice was soft and full of compassion.

The woman shook her head. Remembering was too painful and she could not get any sound past the tightness in her throat.

“It helps to talk about it” the doctor replied, still in that soft and empathic tone “talking helps you heal. It is a process and you don’t have to rush it. Just take it one step at a time and whenever you are ready, help will always be available”

He stood up to go. “Your friend Daniel has been taken to police custody and the officer in charge has been itching to talk to you. I will hold him off until you are ready to talk”

She nodded and watched him step out of the room with the nurse in tow. When the door closed after them, she buried her face in the pillow and screamed, succumbing to the avalanche of sorrow that threatened to drown her. Her whole body shook with the intensity of the sobs as she begun to accept that things will never be the same again, her life had been irrevocably turned upside down, and on her birthday.

Things left unsaid

You want to scream at her and call her selfish but all you do is stare out the window at the reflections of the sun on the Nissan Primera that is packed under the baobab tree while she rattles on. You cringe inwardly as she hurls insults at you and call you names as she stands over you, each sentence accompanied by gesticulations.

You bite back the retort that is on the tip of your tongue. Instead, you swallow as you struggle to douse the anger welling up within you. You have made a promise to yourself never to get angry at her whenever she throws the tantrums she is wont to throw whenever she doesn’t have her way. Nevertheless, you are pissed.

You scoff when she mentions that she deserves better, seeing as she has sacrificed her happiness for yours. You laugh loudly in your head, a loud and mirthless laugh.

You wonder how someone could be so deluded and clueless. Here was someone that rejected you when you told her you were in love with her. She was afraid of being called names by your friends and couldn’t stand the wagging tongues.

She walked away, right into the arms of another, leaving you broken and battered. Yet she stands over you, her eyes filled with righteous indignation and demands to be treated better because she has sacrificed so much for you.

You want to tell her that you are not happy and that you miss her every moment of everyday and with every fibre of your being. You want to tell her that you miss her even when you are with her because you cannot be with her like you would like to.

You want to tell her that whenever you are not with her, you think about her every time and even in your dreams, she is a prominent feature. You want to tell her that you miss her so much that it hurts.

She calls you mean and ungodly. It hurts you a lot but you do not reply. She accuses you of lying to her that you care while your actions prove otherwise. If only she knew how hard it is for you to stand within five feet of her.

You remember that morning when she had screamed your name over and over as she climaxed and had whispered she loved you. Then when you had told her you wanted her and that you were willing to break your engagement, she had shaken her head and looking into your eyes had said no. You had pleaded and argued and said you couldn’t live with another when your heart was with her.

That day, as she walked away from your house, you had told yourself to move on.

She calls your name and you look at her, for the briefest of moment before you avert your gaze. You cannot look at her. Her large eyes with their bluish-black pupils threaten to drown you, and her lips were a huge distraction.

She launches into another tirade about how callous you are. You want to tell her that it hasn’t been easy for you to see her every day and remain friends with her.

The pain comes in waves and some days are easier than the other. When the tide of pain ebbs, then you can smile and be all sunny and bright; then comes the days of storm and tempest and then you withdraw to yourself.

You have determined not to lose control nor do anything stupid. If it meant you appearing like a jerk, then so be it. You wouldn’t be struggling to hide how much you love her and how much you want to shower her with so much affection and care that will blow her mind away. How you want to hold her in your arms and shield her from all the evil in the world; to show her that she was the only one in your world and that with her, you are content and need nothing more.

If only she knew that she hadn’t done anyone a favor by walking away. You know she is not happy, and you too, are not happy. So, what was the point of her ultimate sacrifice? You do not believe she was sacrificing anything. You know she has a flaw and that was to please everybody at all cost.

When you and her had started getting close, tongues had been wagging and some brows had been raised in disapproval. She hadn’t wanted to be labelled as the bad girl and so she ran away, even when all of her wanted to stay.

Love finds us in the unlikeliest of places and when it does, we should not run away from happiness just because people would not like us nor approve of our choices. We only are the ones that are responsible for our own happiness. It is the nature of people to judge, but they would not be there when we are pining in the darkness, alone and lonely, mourning and longing for love lost.

She tells you that she is convinced you hate her and asks what she has done to make you hate her so. You want to tell that you love her; that you are in love with her and that you never stopped.

You want to tell her that whenever you share a moment with the one you are with, that you feel sad, because it is her that you would rather share your joys and pains with.

You want to tell her, that it is only with her that you want to get naked, literally and figuratively; it is her you want to share everything with. You want to tell her that when you are inside the woman you are with now, that you would rather be inside of her, communicating your affections to her and exploring her depths. That you would rather hear her moans and hear her call your name even as you share moments of intimacy with your partner.

But you do not tell her that. Instead, you sit there, face expressionless and grunt at intervals whenever she asks if you are listening to her. You take all the hurtful words she throws at you, they are nothing compared to the pains you feel; the pains that she inflicted when she threw your love back at you.

And when she is through, you stand up quietly, pick up your bag and leave. Some things are better left unsaid.

Devil’s dance

Teach me to dance
Take my arms in yours;
I am afraid,
I have joined in this dance
Once upon a time,
It ended badly, with me
Lying on the floor, wounded
Broken and wishing for death;
I was giddy, naïve and innocent
I lunged before I stopped to think
It felt good, it must be right,
He was an angel,
Angels do no evil
But angels turn out to be devils
In disguise, alas! I didn’t know this
I died.

Teach me to dance,
My feet are stiff
It’s been too long they moved
On the dance floor
Life has passed by,
I stayed on the sidelines,
Hiding, mourning
But now my heart is stirring
My feet are itching, tapping involuntarily
It is time to dance again
Summer is here
The ice has melted and the air is bright
The flowers are blooming
And hope oozes from the petals
Its scent heady and strong
I am alive

Wellspring series: Beer-lahai-roi

You sat down under the oak tree and cried. You cried for your son, who is about a hundred metres from you, sprawled on the hot desert floor, weak from dehydration and crying weakly. Your whole body shook as the tears rushed down your face and your heart is squeezed so tightly that it hurt to breath; your agony is indescribable.

You were alone. Your heart was empty and you shivered. It wasn’t from the breeze blowing gently in the hot afternoon, rather it was from the cold that had enveloped your heart.

You loved him with every cell that is in you, even if you could not declare it. His voice makes the hair on your skin rise and sends a tingling down your spine and your heart swells anytime you watch him play with the child that you made together. The strength of his loins and the product of your love making.

But he listened to her. He gave you a day’s supply of bread and a wineskin of water and sent you and your son away. It didn’t help you in any way that he looked pale and ashen as he waved you off nor that his voice quivered and his eyes were shiny with unshed tears.

Still he had listened to his wife and sent you off; he had chosen to do it. Your heart was broken all over as you remembered the bewildered look on your son’s face as he stared at his father’s fast retreating back. The same man that had played with him every evening since he took his first step.

You screamed as the pain seized you; the pain of rejection and the agony of hearing the weak cries of your son crying for help and not being able to save him from certain death. You wonder how long till he gives up the ghost; how long till you become childless.

You had spent the whole morning wandering in the desert of Beersheba, moving with no destination in mind, your legs rather than your head leading you. It had all looked like a dream and you had been in a daze. Ishmael, your son had been badgering you with questions; questions that you had no answers to.

Then he had started to cry. The tears had rolled down his eyes and his lips quivered as he sobbed gently, struggling but failing to bear his grief like a man. He was seventeen years old and on the brink of adulthood, but this was a burden too hard even for a grown up. He had done nothing to deserve this.

You had reached out and held his hand, squeezing it gently but not uttering a word. You wanted to give him the dignity of grieving privately like he would have loved to as a young man. Moreover, you didn’t have any words of comfort to offer. You couldn’t tell him that everything was going to be alright, because you didn’t know yourself if things were going to be alright.
 
You sat there under the oak tree, knees drawn up to your chin and rocked yourself. That was when you heard the voice. It was quiet and barely above a whisper and was calling your name. You asked ‘who is there’ in a croaky voice.

It was the voice of God, the God of Abraham. He told you not to cry anymore, that God had heard the cries of your son and has come to save him. He told you furthermore how God was going to be with your son and would make him a great nation, and instructed you to go and pick him up.

You felt hope rising inside of you, right from deep within your belly and rising upwards. A laugh escaped your lips, followed by tears of joy and relief. You will be fine. Your son will make it, and will have a good future.

You stood up from where you sat and ran towards the bush where you had hidden your son and embraced him. You held him tight and cried on his shoulder and whispered to him over and over: ‘it shall be well’.

Then you saw it, a well about a hundred feet from you, towards the sun rising. You could have sworn it wasn’t there all this while. You were certain, because you had looked around before settling under the oak tree.

It was then you remembered Beer-lahai-roi, ‘the well of the Living One who sees me’, the name you had named the well in the wilderness, between Kadesh and Bered. It was there that the God of Abraham had first appeared to you when you had ran away from Sarah, your mistress.

You had been pregnant with Ishmael at that time and Sarah had been treating you badly. You had been tired and afraid for your child and how you were going to raise a child alone without money nor any means of sustenance.

There, by the well, God had appeared to you and instructed you to return to Sarah and to obey her in all things, and had made a covenant with you to make your child great.

You could not believe that you had forgotten so soon such huge visitation and marveled at how fickle you could be. Perhaps you hadn’t believed Him, you wonder. Because if you did, you wouldn’t have given up so soon.

You have watched Abraham closely and noticed his devoutness to his God, but you had not understood how someone could believe in a God he couldn’t see. It seemed strange to you. But now, you have seen Him move and are convinced that He is real, and powerful and that He has shown you mercy.

You pick your wineskin and run to the well and fill it with water. You laugh as color returned to Ishmael’s face having drunk to his fill.

You set out towards Paran. You have hope now, and there is purpose to your steps. All will be well.

****
Story adapted from biblical accounts. Read the full story in Genesis 16: 1-15 and Genesis 21: 9- 21.