It was a cold night, but the man could not feel it because he was drunk. The streets were empty, and the man walked slowly, swaying from side to side, as if he did not want to get home. As he turned the corner into the street in which he lived, the pole light went off, plunging him into a sudden darkness.
“The witches are already out, at this early hour, fok man!” and he laughed in an attempt to diffuse the nervous energy that had overcome him, the sudden turning off of the light had unsettled him, and he could feel the dull buzz of the alcohol slowly fading away, together with the glow of happiness that had so far enveloped him.
“Fok man.” he said again, leaning against the wall to take a piss. Afterwards he took out his half drunken bottle of gin and emptied the whole bottle. He felt satisfied with himself again, and confident enough to shuffle his way home without fear of any witch that might come his way.
He found his wife and two daughters sitting in the living room, watching television with incredibly tight mouths, and eyes that looked at him as if he had walked into the wrong house. Thirteen-year-old Bongi, who was once the daughter who preferred to sit with her father instead of her mother, and listen to all the funny stories he used to tell, back when his stories were still funny for her. Fifteen years old Thandi had always been distant, had always been her mother’s child, even though she looked so much like her father. None of them looked like him now. Not on this night. In fact, they looked so much like their mother it scared him a little. He didn’t know why, but looking at them sitting like that, looking at him in the way in which they were, put the fear of god in him.
“Don’t get up,” he says “it’s just me. How is my wonderful family, how are my girls?”
“Tiro, please. You are drunk again! Just go to bed okay.” says Noxolo, his wife.
“Will you be joining me dear wife.”
“Don’t you dare go into my bedroom. don’t you dare! You know where you sleep, use the guest room.”
“Okay, okay. I get it. No marital bed for me. I am a guest in my own house. Well…goodnight then.”
Before he turns to leave his eyes meet those of his elder daughter, Thandi, and he is surprised to see that her tight lipped mouth has turned into a smile. The kind of smile that you are more likely to see from a cold blooded predator. It looks even more scary from the lips of a fifteen-year-old girl, his fifteen-year-old girl. He tries without success, to picture what she looked like when she was a baby. It seems to him that she has always been the surly teenager, disgusted at her own father.
He drags himself to the guest room.
The guest room is not really a guest room; he finds the euphemism really funny. In that time when they used to have guests, usually his wives’ in laws, one of the girls would give up her room, it was always the older one who would move into her sister’s room. She can’t imagine Thandi giving up her room for him. And if she were to do so, it was more than likely that she would put a snake under the covers, to kill him while he slept. It pains him to think such thoughts about her own daughter, but that is the state in which things have deteriorated.
This dark room in which he now finds himself in has always been used as a storage room, for putting in anything that serves no decorative purpose, such as cleaning chemicals, gardening tools, dirty clothes, or any other thing that was no longer wanted, such as himself.
It is a small room nestled under the stairs which admit no natural light on account of the broken window covered with a dark tape. For some odd reason he was never motivated to put in a new window, preferring instead the dungeon like atmosphere which hung about the room. Little did he know that someday this small hovel would be his to sleep in. Yet even now, since the place had become his sleeping quarters, he was still not motivated to fix the window. There was something about staying in this dark room which reflected well the state of his soul, or it may have been that the state of his soul had been turned dark because of the environment he found himself in. Either way, this room and his soul complimented each other well.
As he laid out his temporary bed, made up of a thin, dirty, worn out sponge and a single blanket, he got to thinking about his wife, as he did every other night before going to sleep, the floor lulling him with its gentle rotation. For a long time, he had been trying to solve the puzzle that is his wife, trying to trace out the exact moment at which things fell apart, and he found himself sleeping next to a stranger who was ready to plunge a knife into his heart. The moment that his children turned against him, and he found himself wondering if they were indeed his kids. For thirteen years he had been living under the illusion that he was a happy man in love with a wife who was also happy and in love with him. With children who loved their mother just as equally as they loved their father. Then one day everything changed. He came back from work and found his wife in a strange mood. Then later, in the middle of the night, he woke up to find his wife standing over him, holding a knife which hovered about his chest, directly where his heart would be, with murder in her eyes.
“You think you could just cheat on me and dare to sleep so peacefully.” she hissed, her powerful thighs locking him in position.
“You are so rotten you even do your nonsense in front of my children, with no regard for decency whatsoever.”
Apparently he had been seen, by his own children, embracing and kissing a strange woman in public, right at the bus stop, before the bus pulled up and the woman got in, but not before pausing at the door in order to blow him some kisses. The embrace, and the kiss, apparently, was highly charged, and made people who witnessed it extremely uncomfortable.
He never got to know why his children would weave together such a fantastical story, he was banned from ever speaking to them, lest he should traumatize them any further. The wife kept a close eye on them, and made sure that no encounters ever took place. For his part, he too was traumatized after almost dying from the kitchen knife wielded by a crazed wife.
He can’t recall exactly how he managed to convince her not to kill him, but he remembers fleeing afterwards, to install himself into the storeroom, with the impulse that it was probably the safest place in the house, with weapons, in case he needed to defend himself. And he has been hiding in that storeroom for close to three months now, cleaning out all the tools to make it more comfortable, and gradually finding extra comfort at the tavern, and at the bottom of the bottle. With alcohol, there were no difficult puzzles to solve. He wondered briefly, just before he fell asleep, why his wife had never asked him to leave.