‘Ingrid’ (a very short story)

Someone told me she committed suicide by walking into the ocean one day. She just walked in and poof! No more Ingrid Jonker. I don’t think I can do that. But I do think, I think about her as I open the Trellidor and then the sliding door. I think of her feet as I watch mine cross a wooden patio which turns into grass which turns into sand which turns into mud. I think of her being engulfed by waves as my ankles then calves then knees are swallowed by the lake. I stop. Stop. Please, stop!

It’s refreshing. I’m wet – top to toe – though from the knees up it’s all sweat dripping down to mix with water. It’s hotter than it should be for this time of year, but Al Gore did warn us; climate change could kill us all. One degree too hot or cold and we’re gone – one of the thermia’s; hypo- or hyper-. My nightie sticks to my knees. It itches. Fucking silk, shit, Jesus, get off. Off, get off!

Ingrid Jonker just walked and walked and walked and never stopped.

I curl my toes in the sand, bury them deep down. The sand is thick and sends bubbles up to pierce the surface of the water as I bury my feet alive. Buried alive at sea; I couldn’t think of a worse fate. The water is shallow for at least ten metres, only then does it begin its decline into the darkest depths. I know this because I’ve walked that pilgrimage before, only you were here beside me to walk with me. Now you are not. I have left you up, up past the mud which becomes sand which becomes grass which becomes a wooden patio. I’ve left you beyond the sliding and Trelli-ed doors, up oak stairs, in our bed. Warm and safe. The thought of you stops me in my journey. I turn to look up at the house, at the window beyond which you are probably still sleeping soundly. You’ve never known, my darling, you’ve never known.

I begin my descent. Naked and hot I walk into the warm water and walk and walk and walk until it is covering my breasts and clavicle. A few more steps and I will follow in the footsteps of my namesake, but with a lagoon instead of an ocean and no poetry to leave in my wake. I hear a voice calling to me from beyond the veil and I think, I believe for a moment that it is her voice, Ingrid Jonker’s, calling me to her, ready to welcome me into her very exclusive club of women brave enough to walk and walk and walk until their legs stop moving. But the voice is deep as the water which splashes behind me and I know that it is not her. It is you.

You swim up behind me and hold me and I feel your love pressing against my thigh. You are naked too. And hot. And I am wet. You ask me if I’ve enjoyed my morning swim. What time did I get up? Why didn’t I wake you? Yes. Early. I didn’t want to disturb you, I thought I’d just slip out. You slip in and we kiss and fuck and I see Ingrid Jonker’s hand behind your eyes; beckoning to me, trying to pull me in to her. You pull into me and we explode under water. I collapse but you hold me, are holding me, and carry me up and out of the water, over the mud, sand, grass, through sliding- and Trelli-doors – both still open – up oak stairs and place me, still wet, into bed.

These chaste sheets absorb the lake water like a pad does blood. I am itching. The cotton clings to me tighter than the silk did. That can’t be right. I am in the water, going down, down, down, but it is not comforting and warm and delicious. No. It is tight. It wraps itself around me, sticking to my skin, covering it. I kick and kick and kick but the more I do the heavier my legs become and the harder it is to move them. I flounder, flail, thrust, thrash, anything, everything to avoid the dark unknown. My legs are bound by exhaustion and will not work. I need to sleep at last. I give up, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t, please, I give up.

Cold.
Very cold.
But you hold me anyway. Both our bodies frigid and pressed together. That swim must’ve tired me out, I must’ve fallen asleep, did I have another nightmare? That’s what you ask after a while, after you heard my legs attempting to save their comrades throughout my anatomy. I nod.
I’m cold. You’ve just run a bath, do I want to take one? I nod. Try to move my legs, but they’re wrapped in the sheets so tightly that I can’t get them free. You stand, free me, lift my naked body from the wet sheets and carry me to the bathroom. You lower me ever so carefully into the warm water of the antique bathtub.
I ask if you’re going to join me. You say no, you think I’ve had enough excitement for one morning, that I should just lay back and warm up. That you’ll clean me up.
I’m about to ask you what you mean when you start to lather a washrag with soap and, raising my leg out of the water, wash me. You’re very delicate, washing around my lied-about bruises and cuts. Around the ones from ballet, hiking, shaving, throwing myself down the stairs. Your eyes are fixed on the parts which you are thoroughly but carefully cleaning. After you’ve finished I ask if I can just lie in it for a while. You agree, light some candles, ask me if I’ll be okay as you go. I say yes, but you leave the door open.

I lie.

The bath is warm but not warm enough to melt what’s inside me. I raise my knees to totally immerse my head. Eyes open, I stare through the water, over the bath, to the ceiling. My eyes follow the steam as it rises from beyond the tip of my nose. I picture my soul floating with the steam – parts of it evaporating out of my body, through the water, into the ceiling and then up, up, up, until I am just a body. I always see it going up, never down. Although I don’t particularly expect to go up. After everything, the least I deserve is down. I sink deeper. My thoughts become bubbles as I exhale them into my death.

Your hand around my neck pulls me up as I empty my lungs into the already full bath water. You demand to know what I’m doing. I say something about needing to wash my hair. You nod. Pull a bottle of shampoo out of the cabinet, sit me up, lather, rinse, repeat. Towel, stand, left leg out, right leg out, wrapped in the softness. Plug pulled. I watch the water get sucked into the drain and he parts of my soul which I exhaled into it are sucked down too.

You sit on the toilet and watch me watching myself drain away. You thought this trip would be good for me, that it would help me be more like my old self again. I say sorry, that I thought so too. You don’t know if you’re strong enough for this. I don’t expect you to be, my demons are my own to carry. You put your head in your hands. Is this it then? I suppose it is. I drop my towel, sit on your lap and hold you as you cry. I feel your tears rolling down my back. You say you love me, I love you too but I’m still cold inside. You tried to warm me, to set me alight, but you couldn’t. I tell you it’s not your fault, that you are perfect and I am ruined. An old castle crumbling from years of wars tearing through the lands. You deny this, tell me I am not ruined, I am not ruined. I loved you more than I ever thought I would, but nothing can fix this, nothing but Ingrid. You don’t understand what I mean by Ingrid. I tell you that you don’t have to, and that you don’t have to stay. You want to, but you don’t think you can anymore. I get off your lap and pack your bags. You cry in the bathroom. I wonder if you’ll ever stop loving me, I wonder if it will kill you before it kills me. I pack your things into the single bag that we brought for the weekend. I am delicate with your things. More than I am with myself. How will I get home? I’ll find a way. Our bag on the floor now with your clothes in it and mine still in the drawer. How will I get all of my things back to town? Do I not want to keep the bag? I look at you, shrug my shoulders. You stand, walk to me, wrap yourself around me. I kiss your neck, I will miss you, you will always have a piece of my heart. You pull me tighter, kiss me, we make love for the last time and it’s the first time I’ve felt you against me. My skin feels you. My body is on fire. I cry and you cry and we finish in a heap of tears and sweat and cum. I roll over and fall asleep almost immediately but not before I hear you say Goodbye.

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‘Ingrid’ (a very short story)

For He Who Deserves the Flame

It’s raining
And I know that you’re lying in bed alone
Because I am
And I want nothing more than to tuck neatly away against your bladder
And have you warming my kidneys
Because you are warm

When I held your hand tonight I was amazed at how warm you are
I assumed you’d be cold
Because I would be
If I were you
I would be frozen

But you are hot
You burn and boil over in an explosion of heat and sound
And I want to stand in the aftershock
And I want to burn too
And I want to boil too
But I have this case
I have this case which is cubic
Made of ice
Around the fire which heats me
So I am not heated
I am regulated at the optimal temperature to allow for the full functioning of my body
But I want to stand in the aftershock
And burn
And boil
Because you deserve fire

For He Who Deserves the Flame

Bedtime Story for Women who are Cobras.

One day you will meet a man,
not just a man,
because you will have met many men before
and they will have met you
and charmed you
and made you want to be something else
and you will be charmed
and be something else.
But one day,
one day,
you will meet a man
who will be so afraid to meet you
because who really wants to meet a Cobra?
He will not charm you;
he will not play his flute to watch you wriggle out
of your basket,
he will not feed you mice,
he will not make you something else.

This man,
and one day you will meet him,
will set the basket alight
with you inside it.
He will burn what you thought was safe
your body will be aflame
and you will writhe until you shed it.
But then
you will glisten;
there will be no blisters,
no ashes.

This man,
this strange and daring man,
will look into your infinite black-hole eyes
and see the snake for what it is.

He will peel back your scales
layer after layer
until,

no longer a reptile,
you are skin.

Bedtime Story for Women who are Cobras.

For the “Treasonous”, the Belville 6.

For the “Treasonous”, the Belville 6.

He stood in front of us
held his palms up
be calm comrades
sit down comrades
do not do anything to antagonise them
Comrades.
They knew his face, though we could not see him between the arms of a chokehold.

He sat on the floor among us
legs crossed under him
Senzeni na?
Senzeni na?
They stunned us, clicked tazers.
White-police-coward-not-man
pulled him out and away.
Another chokehold.

He fell to the floor
when the first grenade cracked
through the crowd.
Pulled up and bashed against shields
holding his burned face
dragged across the gravel.
Senzeni na?

He sat on the steps
quietly
consoling comrades
away from the crowd
They ripped him to his feet
he showed his empty palms
into the back of a van.
No fists.
Empty palms.

He held his hands over his head.
He held his empty hands over his head.
He held his open palms over his head.
He held his head.

For the “Treasonous”, the Belville 6.

From Inside the Closet.

I’ve heard some horror stories about Turkey. About the lack of women’s rights. About men demanding sex as if they’re entitled to it. Today was my penultimate day in Turkey, and until now I hadn’t experienced it. Until now.

I write this post from inside a the cupboard that I’ve been trying to unpack into my single (not too roomy) bag. I suppose I’ll have to explain exactly how I came to be sitting in the cupboard. I shall do so now.

A few days ago we’d met one of our many neighbours in the local pilav cafe, Ser Pilav – which I’ve already actually written about. He told us he would come to visit us sometime for tea. He seemed harmless and was one of the only half-decent English speakers on our street. So we said alright. I was pretty meh about it because I couldn’t be arsed about a thirty something coming over for tea. I figured he’d want to chat with my aunt since they were in the same age-bracket (known as Older Than Me). Also it wouldn’t hurt to know one of the local authorities, just in case we got lost or into a bit of trouble haggling with a sneaky vendor.

Last night he came over. It was uncomfortable to say the least because I was lying on the couch binge-watching Orange is the New Black so that I was fully ready for the release of season 2 in my fat pants and baggy top. Not that it mattered to me, on account of the fact that he was so clearly not going to be my friend. Turns out friendship wasn’t what he was after. Things took a turn for the highly uncomfortable when he sat himself down next to me on the couch, put his arm around me and started to call me baby. Then he took my phone and put his number on it, insisting that I send him a Whatsapp so that he would have my number. He would not get off the couch until I did. And even then he didn’t get off the couch. Turns out, the “Sorry, I don’t want to go out with you” card doesn’t work here. Nor does the “Sorry, I have a fiance” one. I know this now, because I’ve tried both approaches. I even wear a fake engagement ring. I also tried the “You can fuck right off” line, but that didn’t work either (and I thought French was supposed to have been the language of diplomacy). The only thing that did work was me getting up from my couch-bed and moving downstairs into my aunt’s room. Laptop in tow. But that didn’t seem to get the response I had hoped.

I woke up this morning to about 10 Whatsapps, a facebook friend request and a few facebook messages from him. It was crazy. I hadn’t even given him my full name and yet. There he was. On my internet. Right there. Naturally I blocked his number and his facebook from mine and continued about my day. Which was blissful, might I add. But I digress. Back to how I ended up in the cupboard.

He came back tonight. To our house. While I was packing my bag. I’d heard him chatting to someone outside while I was packing, so I knew he was around. After a few minutes he knocked on our door and called for my aunt to open up. I grabbed my iPod and my cellphone and dove into the cupboard without telling them. And you will not believe what I heard. Or maybe you will. I don’t know.

He’d asked for me immediately. I swiftly texted my aunt (in Afrikaans) to tell her that I was hiding in the cupboard and that she should tell him I’d gone out with a friend. She did. He came into the house and said that he’d seen me here just now. She said that he must have been mistaken, I had gone out not too long ago. He sat on the couch and chatted to her, asking about who I was with, where I was, when I’d left. My aunt made things up based on names she’d heard on the streets and the club that I’d gone to on our first night in town. He didn’t believe her. He then asked her to tell me to sleep with him. Just like that. “Tell her to make sex with me.” I couldn’t even. I. COULD. NOT. EVEN. My aunt told him to get out and he ended up going on this tirade claiming that I’d had sex with the pilav guy from one of my earlier posts. Which I had not. And even if I did. The audacity! To think that a woman having sex with one guy would then open the gates to whomsoever wanted to have their turn. I was baffled. My mouth hung open as I listened to him raving on about how important he was in the government and how dare I say that I wouldn’t have sex with him. He told my aunts that I was lying when I said that I was engaged (okay, granted I was, but like come ON) AND that they were lying when they said I hadn’t had sex with the pilav guy. Which they weren’t. Because I hadn’t.

So now I’m listening to his tirade about how I should feel honoured to sleep with a government dude and how the pilav guy was nothing compared to him. Which is true. The pilav guy isn’t a psychotic chauvinistic megalomaniac with obvious anger issues and probably a very small penis.

Istanbul. I loved you. And then you got dark.
I think I’m ready for home now.

From Inside the Closet.

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

It is said that after witnessing the Hajj, Malcolm X changed his ideologies on Black Power in favour of a more inclusive movement, while still emphasising Pan-Africanism. This is for him.

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
(Or ‘On Brotherhood’)

Today
I heard a voice call the words which were whispered
into my ears on the day I became Ameera.
I washed my feet,
hands,
neck,
face,
under a tap of marble and gold.
And I watched hundreds more do the same.
I knelt in the sun, between women
behind
men
the wind turning my face as blue as the sky above me.
Above us.

Today
I heard a voice call the words which wander through
the windows of the street that I grew up on
five times a day.
Now they wander in my mind
like pilgrims
each word stopping to kick through the sand
for water.
I am parched
but not barren.
There is an oasis of hope within me.

Today
I pressed my head to the ground
more times than I could count
to ask for one thing.
Strength.
The journey is difficult when minds are barren
and vast
as desert plains.
But truly there must be an oasis on the horizon.
Let us sit in these sands
and dig our heels
deeper
and
deeper
until a fountain springs forth to shower us
and quench our thirst for understanding.
Let us stand side by side
in this our most glorious hour of hope.

The desert is immeasurable
if walked in isolation.
Now is the time to walk this immense distance
together.

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz