What if you don’t cry enough at your mum’s funeral? You know, until your eyelids are the colour of tomatoes, and your puffy face looks like you were almost drowning. That you feel guilty because you only cried when they let the coffin down into the earth, because that’s when you realized you won’t ever see her again. Hear her voice. Taste her food. See her name lighting up your phone.
People wouldn’t understand that you mentally buried her months ago, that all this time they were raising money, putting hours into prayer, visiting doctors, you were mourning. That you would cry yourself to sleep every day, that your body ached from all the hurt you were going through. You saw her at her worst, saw how badly the human body takes a pummeling from disease. How skin sags, how etiquette is violently tossed out the window, how frustrating it is to go through it when you did nothing to deserve it. How images of walking along the aisles of Uchumi Ngong Road, pushing a trolley laden with supplies and treats, seem like they belong to another life time. Not this one. This past five years have been hell, hot like water from a faulty electric kettle, the kind that keeps boiling even when the hot water is sputtering all over the kitchen counter. You’d take pushing a trolley indefinitely, smelling the fresh bread in the ovens, listening to in-house radio as announcements keep breaking up your favourite song, over this any day.
The pictures will show you in a crisp but creased white shirt, your tie hanging loosely, your hair unkempt. The image of carelessness. But nobody had the courage to ask you about it, because the picture couldn’t capture the alcohol in your breath, and nobody was willing to risk a scene by asking you to look good for the pictures. Pictures that you care very little for now, but that had kept you up at night, finding, dusting, cleaning, peering into, analyzing, concluding. She was a beautiful woman, with her afro and floral print dresses. Was. Will never be again, because the disease was too strong, and her afro withered, like spinach before, and after steaming. The pictures will show a pensive look, they won’t capture the questions and thoughts behind the look.
That when people were still mixing sugar and water for Aunt Gladys, who fainted from all the wailing she put people through, you were debating with your conscience on whether you’ll delete her number, or you’ll keep it and hope it never calls you. Because you’d recite all the three bible verses you know and throw your phone away in horror if it ever did. You were in the car park,listening to your uncles tell you that they will always be your family, and everybody got a chance to speak, and all you picked up was that your rent would always be paid, that you were welcome anytime, that God is never wrong, even when he seems to be. Your mind wandered while their lips moved and your aunties firm hands rubbed your back. To their phones and how they ignored them while they rang, and it made you feel important, like they meant what they said. To their shoes, and how muddy they were, and how Aunt May’s strap had come off, but she was here still standing in the light showers nodding her head to everything people said. You wondered when the extension would be exhausted, when they’d see your face at their doorway and cuss inwardly, ask why you came to their place and not to the other people. Then you looked at the sky as they prayed, and Uncle Martin looked at you with an eye open, but couldn’t ask you to close your eyes in reverence for the Lord.
Because that’s when you started dying, that they saw a broken, grieving young man, but all the while, you were always a breath closer to dying.