He was listening to his favourite music. It wasn’t until today that he noticed that most rhumba songs were over nine minutes long, he had always enjoyed them so much, he didn’t notice when they ended. It was always about listening to Franco singing about Kinshasa, gossip and mosquitoes, and not about how long he crooned about them. He loved Franco, so much, his hard disk groaned under the weight of sixty gigabytes of ‘The Grand Master of Congolese Music’. The song ended. Then he saw the phone vibrating, he disliked ringtones, he had read somewhere that one could be judged from the kind of ringtone that played on their phone. He hated being judged.
He let the call go unanswered. He didnt know who it was, but they could call all the times they wanted. What he knew is that she had to pay. Another song had started. He nodded his head, as he poured more vodka into his glass. He could feel his collar getting hot, and he had to squint to avoid the glare of the lightbulb. He knew he was was feeling the effect of the empty quarter litre bottle of Vodka that lay on his couch. He brought the glass to his lips, pursed them, then put it down, it was best if he did it while sober. He knew what he was about to do required extra courage, and he hoped his anger would mask his fear. He stood and went to the kitchen.
They were standing there when he first moved in, the house smelling of paint and the strong, acrid smell of pesticide. She looked so beautiful in the glowing light, and he couldn’t take his eyes of her as they ate a hastily prepared dinner on top of the unpacked boxes, his eyes never leaving her face. She had eyes that drew people into staring into them, big, brown eyes that seemed to get their enchanting allure from the stares of other people. They had made fun of how many mosquitoes were in the house, the weak insecticide to blame, using old newspapers to swat the daring ones, then after a long conversation, from plans of how to decorate the house, to how many kids they wanted, she fell asleep, and he cuddled her in his arms, staring at how beautiful she was, even when she wasn’t trying to be.
He returned to the couch. A mosquitoe had plunged its proboscis into his neck, he could feel the irritation, but he had read somewhere that they only sucked blood, the females that were pregnant, for the protein that it contained. He thought he should at least do an act of kindness before he could go ahead with his plan, sounded funny saying going, he wasnt sure if he was leaving, or going. It had been hurriedly thought of, his plan, as he had been hit with the news just as fast as he had to come up with a counter measure.
His face had looked pale when he hung up on the call, so pale his boss had told him to go to hospital. It could be malaria. Or typhoid. He knew what it was, and it was not something an injection and pills could cure. He had always had that fear at the back of his mind, that one day the dreaded phone call would come, the one where she said she wasn’t so sure she could be with him again. She had changed, ever since she had gotten that internship at Emptor&Co as a legal intern. The awkward silences when she stepped out of her bosss’ Audi Q7 didn’t go away even after he sped off. The only thing that went away was the time they spent together. Excuses as to why she had to work on saturday nights had gone from lame to outright embarrasing. She had changed. And he was about to change too. Forever. The lights went out. He lit a candle.
The lighting from the candle was sub-standard, but the food wasn’t, he had made sure of that. He had painstakingly worked on each dish, determined to impress her. He had intended to surprise her, a candle lit dinner, just the two of them. Talk. Solve the slight misunderstanding about her new job. And newfound interests. He had shaved. Bought new cologne, it cost him a lot, but it would be worth it. He waited . Patiently. She came late, but she always came. He waited. The food grew cold. He replaced the candles. His shirt got wrinkled from the trips to the window whenever a car came in downstairs. He gave up at one thirty a.m, though even in his posture in bed, he left space for her, so he could cuddle her to sleep when she came. She never did. She said it was a late night on a past-due project so she slept at a hotel. He knew he lost her when her big, brown eyes didn’t look back into his as she lied to him.
He got the things in place. He was smiling the whole time. He laughed. He shocked himself, he was so broken when she confirmed his worst fears a few hours ago, that she was leaving him for her boss, that she loved him, but she needed more than love. “Like a Q7. A Lumia. Plane tickets. A change of address”, he thought to himself. She had said she was coming for her clothes, as they said their final goodbyes. “Final goodbye alright”, he thought to himself as he taped the windows shut, he got a pen and he wrote his mother a letter. It was getting late. He lit the jiko.
He had checked on the net, that as the charcoal burns, the concentration of carbon monoxide gradually increases. Because of its toxicity (and not the exhaustion of oxygen as sometimes thought) CO concentrations of as little as one-tenth of one percent of the air in a confined space are fatal if inhaled over an extended period, hence taping the windows. The incomplete combustion of carbon produces carbon monoxide, which binds strongly to hemoglobin, rapidly decreasing the ability of blood to deliver oxygen to the body. This results in death due to hypoxia brought about by carbon monoxide poisoning. He wanted it “easy and painless” compared to other methods like jumping from their roof or cutting their throats with a knife, they wouldn’t have to endure more pain. It is the cumulative serum concentration of CO, not the depletion of oxygen, that does the trick. If they survived this method they would need intensive care. They might also have permanent brain damage. He liked that he said “they”, the first time they’d do something together in a long time.
He was scared of surviving, that’s why he couldn’t take chances, he knew she was expecting it too. She had once said it would kill her to lose him. He was just making it easier for her. He finished the letter. He looked in the mirror, and he couldn’t recognize the pale, flustered person staring back. What he could recognize however, was the soft knock at their door, she knocked softly because she always came late. Today, however, she was on time. As he opened the door with a crazed smile, he knew he was was looking into those big, brown eyes for the last time.