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Petty Blood Sport, Efemia Chela

[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” ]This is one of the stories that came out of the  Writivism 2014, a  project of the Centre for African Cultural Excellence, with the assistance of several partner organisations, which identifies, trains and engages readers and writers in public discourse through literature. As part of this years activities, they will have The Writivism Festival from 18 – 22nd June 2014. Like the Facebook page for more updates


Petty Blood Sport

He injured me is how we met. He kicked me in the shin in the line for free wine.

My little world {Is this oaked?




                                                           There are so many people here} jolted.

Suddenly my hands were empty and everything was cracked. Though it wasn’t my fault I said sorry. He was sorrier. My silk shirt was stained and blotchy and red like my cheeks when he bought me another glass.

“It’s a thing. I’m sorry. It wasn’t deliberate. I can’t help it. It’s a-.”

We murmured late into the spring night about what made us both wrong. There was a lot.  I write too many lists. I can only cry out of one eye. The left one is too sentimental and the right one too cold. We both understood trouble and what it was like to have half of you propelling forward and the other half yanking you meanly back. A constant gripping of the back of your neck. Or even worse, the imagining. The anticipation of it. The fear-in-waiting.

He kicked me again while we were goodbying.

“I can’t help it. Fuck. Shit. Cunt. Fuck. Sorry.”

“Neither can I,” I said leaning in for a kiss using his ear as a handle.

He said it was to be goodbye. I didn’t know what that meant. For our petty blood sport to be over. No more bruises pepper my pallid body. And no kisses follow to soothe them after. No one tells me to quit smoking these joyless fags. Or quashes them when I fall asleep. I woke up one day and his side of the bed had burned. The sheets and pillow and most of the mattress. All from a lazy hand and a stealthily glowing butt. Fire had eaten it away. A friend of mine told me it was a sign to move on. Lucky I wasn’t fucking dead, is what she said.

But I don’t choose to keep Sam burning on. I love him like a reflex. Another in my list of bad habits. The only animate one. So animate people thought he was beating me, when he wasn’t. I reach for him in my mind when I’m alone. In the gaps between things, meetings and people, he waits. Beckoning, then dissipating. Leaving me full yet wretchedly empty. My memory is full, but I am empty.

Filled with the scent of wild sage.

Wild sage crisping up is what Botswana felt like. When we drove through it, all dust and acacias and a heavy dry heat sifting into your throat filling you up until you thought you’d combust. We were road-tripping along and he wondered what smelled of sausage and mash? This black Englishman who should know his colonies better. The sage surprised him. We stopped to pull up a bush. It wasn’t too committed to its home. It shook loose easily. A stride or two and a few clods of dirt and we put it on the back seat.

“Should we water it before we go onto the pan?” I asked. Parked at the edge of a cracked mirror, the dried up salt pans, I felt like we were on the final frontier. Together in the same space. Sam was so dark it was always a surprise to see his palms or soles. A flash of white lightning. As shocking as this other world. Coruscating, blinding and alien. We walked along it. Too dazzled to take photos. Just looking. Seeing. Absorbing. And letting our retinas be seared with the memory of salt.

When we got home we spent a lot of time at train stations. He saw me off to work. I hated sitting in traffic and he could barely commit to the same a vehicle for the whole holiday let alone settle on a car to buy. The train was always too late or too early like all the big events in life. Never on time and never fully wanted. It just zoomed up upon you. Too loud to ignore. It creaked like an old man during the rains. Then hordes of people bustled on and off. Frowning and sighing while being swallowed by this city beast. Whooshing through its entrails then being spat up somewhere else. It was a busy summer, wet and sunny. Humid, the days groped and fondled. They left their sweaty handshake on you.

Essentially, expensively, he couldn’t sit still. Or work. He was the bull. The world an exclusive china shop. It was a condition. There were medications I would remind him to take. There were appointments he would choose to forget. It was worse when he was stressed, then he would buck and quake for minutes at a time. My graceful lover gone. His arms and legs the devil’s playthings.

By Autumn we were just alone together. There was never a right time to talk. He just sat, collar ripped and dangling, around his collarbone. He waited for the next forced puppet show and sat by all the things he’d accidentally punctured or broken, vibrating from the recent violence. I hesitated to clean them up. Not knowing when to move in. We were out of tape again. I felt like we were always running out of tape. And out of breath. I had to stop smoking so much.

We were waiting on the platform. My left eye (disobedient thing) cried as he broke up with me. I tapped my feet and wiped roughly at it to try and get it to stop. The left shoulder of my jacket was beginning to get moist. I hated the smell of wet felt. Time was frozen. It bit at my nose. I watched him lean into death. His last movement, one he meant.

He said it was to be goodbye. 


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