Last night was peaceful. You’d get my meaning if you knew my neighbours. They fight. They fight often. It’s loud. It’s ugly. It keeps everyone up.
Last night we all took the night off. I was happy to hear my own heartbeat again. I drew the blinds. I dimmed the lights. I got my bowl of popcorn. I burrowed into the couch and started the film.
And then I heard that eerie sound again: the kitchen door opening, distinct footsteps slowly coming my way. I froze. My pounding heart rose to my throat. How I wished the neighbours would fight.
On cold days like this, I cannot help but remember the winter days we spent snuggled up under the covers, drinking hot, masala tea and watching inane shows to pass the time. In the evenings, we would cautiously venture out for some air, and spicy soup to warm the belly.
That was long ago. We scattered in the wind, didn’t we? I hope you found fertile ground, and that you’ve taken root wherever you are. I find myself perching on a delicate branch – a sparrow, waiting to soar on the next gentle breeze. I doubt I’ll fly your way though.
I kept my mouth shut because I was afraid of what would come out if I dared to speak. I thought I would explode from the pressure of trying to keep the seal tight for all those years. But for every year that I had said nothing, the poison had seeped unnoticeably and now permeated every pore of my body.
I oozed green and red with anger and despair and indifference and everything in between. It was a roller-coaster ride between the hottest points in hell, and I dwelled there, in this self-imposed prison that I was unwilling to leave.
I give my landlord notice to vacate the flat. He arranges his bull-dog face into something that I assume should be concern.
Is it the leaking pipes, he asks. I tell him, no, the last time my carpet got soaked, it was sunny, I hung it out in the sun to dry. Is it the overflowing sewage outside my kitchen window? I say no, the smell of shit chased my appetite away, and I’m now six kilos lighter for it.
I don’t tell him that I’m being driven out by the cockroach I found this morning, comfortably ensconced in my underwear drawer.
A distant vibrating sound rouses me from my deep slumber. For a few seconds, I think I’m dreaming. And then I hear it. The hooves of a herd of cattle, pounding the stony earth road, the whoosh of a whip cutting through the still air, the deep bellow of a full-grown bull. My sleep disappears with the moon. The herd disappears through the gate to oblivion. Onward to the slaughterhouse that supplies the city with fresh beef every morning.
I drag myself out of bed and through the day in a sleepy daze. On my way home, as I wait to be served at the local butchery, my thoughts are drowned by that staccato sound of hooves, and I walk away in a stupor, to my dinner of salad and fruits.