I saw a worn-out rubber slipper. It looked like Salim’s. I wondered what he was doing there. I also saw Fa’iqah’s. I caught myself smiling as I pushed open the creaking plank door.
I opened to see Fa’iqah crying, head bent.
“Forgive me,” she said.
There was a loud bang on the door. Just before I could turn, a handkerchief with a funny smell covered across my nose. I scratched and kicked and scratched. As my hands scattered in the air, I aimed for anything that will cause this demon pain. I did not see a face but still, I aimed. I got a head. I felt baldness. Little bristle-like hairs. And a scar. Like Salim’s. My Salim. My eyes got heavy and I felt dizzy. I fell to the ground heavily and the last thing I heard was the sound of my cloth ripping in two.
I woke up to dust on my face. My saliva was too hot to swallow. I slowly got up and used the dusty part of my wrapper to cover the blood stains on the other side of it. I limped home. I used the main door because I knew mama would be at home, and most likely be in the backyard. I locked myself in the bathroom without taking off my clothes. My back against the wall, I slid down to the ground. The walls have white tiles and I stained them on my way down. The floor of the bathroom felt cold. But this did not calm the explosion brewing in my chest. I stared hard at the wash hand basin close to the door. The tiles underneath have come off and you find green algae growing. This irritated me, each time.
This irritation returned my mind back to my bloody and torn wrapper. I remember Mama’s words the evening she warned me against Salim. I closed my eyes, trying not to shed a tear. I hoped that by the next time they opened I would be standing at that plank door again. Not entering. Running. Fast and far away. I opened them again to the sight of those stupid algae on the wall. I hated myself. I should have kicked harder, I should have scratched more. Or maybe I should have begged. My nose hurt and my chest were swollen. I began to taste the salty liquid gliding from my cheeks to the corner of my mouth. I heard mama call my name from the kitchen. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run to her and tell her everything: how sorry and foolish I was, how dirty and disgusted I felt, how this pain cuts me deep, how heavy my chest was, the constrictions and numbness in it. My throat hurt. Even as I wanted to scream, all I did was bite my inner lips until they bleed. She called again. My clothes were still on. I hurriedly opened the shower, took off my clothes, and let the water rush over my face and bloody self.
About the Writer:
Jonathan Durunguma is a 2017 winner of the Okike Prize for Literature. He is currently at work on a collection of short stories that seeks to explore the cultural perceptions of mental illness.