by Leroy Mthulisi Ndlovu
Over the last fourteen days Ive been struggling with a lot of feelings I dont understand. One could say Ive been wrestling a demon. Fourteen days ago I had an experience that finally enlightened me as to why my life has been the way it has. My life has been no walk in the park. Oh fuck it, lets not be coy. My life has been nothing but a steaming pile of shit. Perhaps I should
go back a little bit and tell this thing properly. I am what people refer to as a recovering alcoholic. In fact I have been off the hooch for a little over two years now. Well, I had until two minutes ago. I just opened a bottle of Viceroy. Today is a special occasion. So special that I decided it deserved a more eh Sophisticated drink. You see, I normally drink gin. Let me take that again. I used to be a gin man; but like I said, today is a special occasion; therefore it deserves something for the
more refined tongue. If its any consolation I can personally guarantee that I will not be drinking anymore alcohol tomorrow. So here I am, in my grandfathers empty house. Its nothing monolithic. It is just a little house in an area of Lobengula West known as koma4.Ma4 coming from the fact that it has four rooms, not counting the toilet and bathroom. Consequently there also happens to be a ma3 and a ma5. After I finished the AAs twelve steps to
sobriety I sold off most of my stuff to generate a little currency before I could find employment. When I finally got work I just never had the time to go furniture hunting. So here I am; sitting
at the only desk I have, on the only desk-chair I have, furiously scribbling the rest of my pathetic life story in an A5 notebook. I havent written anything in about eighteen months. The last time I wrote I had just come out of the program. Any alcoholic will tell you they mean the twelve steps when they say the program. Anyway, the last time I wrote I had just come out of the
program. I was so excited about my new life and optimistic about the future. Its sad that this narrative comes at a time when I feel as though I am about to lose my mind. Let us see if we can squeeze eighteen months into the next few paragraphs shall we? Eighteen months ago I felt like
superman. The worst of my rehabilitation was over. I had beaten the odds. I had kicked the habit. Life was great. I had a new job. I didnt even think about strong drink anymore. I was the man. One of the suggestions they gave me was developing a hobby. It had to be something that I loved doing and that would keep me away from my old time killing schemes. I took up reading again. As a kid I used to read like it was going out of fashion. Something about words carefully combined and laid out on white sheets of paper to produce a sensible story always appealed to me.
So, I joined the public library. Yes, the one on Chitepo and Eighth. It was the only place I could think of getting books from. Many times I felt awkward when I had to go in there with all those
little high school kids standing outside but I had a hobby to pursue, and a silly little thing like pride wasnt going to stop me. It was at there that my life took an unexpected turn.
By the second month of membership I had developed a keen interest in the history of the Nguni and was looking for Peter Beckers Path of Blood. What better way to start off on the Nguni
than with uMzilawegazi, that great scion of Ndaba, and his ferocious Matabele warriors who struck fear in the hearts of many a nation? I was searching through the history section when I noticed a pretty small woman sitting on a chair in the corner, deeply engrossed in some enormous
encyclopaedia. Did I say pretty small? Perhaps there should be a comma between pretty and small You see she was both pretty, and small. I was gob-smacked. Never mind the fact that this was the first time I ever encountered a real live adult inside the library. This woman was simply captivating. She wore those skinny jeans that everyone is so obsessed with these days. They hugged her legs so tightly I hoped they would rip open, but they did not. Black skinny jeans;
and a black t-shirt that bore the legend: You call me bitch like its a bad thing. I couldnt see much of her face because she wore a khaki sunhat. Yes. It was her body that drew my attention. Small as she was something about her just said, Do not fuck with me. Ive been around the block. And of course there was the t-shirt. The t-shirt just screamed character. For the first time in my life I was tongue tied. I just stood there staring, Becker and Mzilikazi promptly
forgotten. Without looking up from her book she said, Take a picture. Itll probably last
longer.I jumped. Not literally, but she startled me a little. All the time I was sipping from the fountain of her pulchritude I had not imagined she might be paying attention to me.
Forgive me, I managed to croak. Its not every day that one stumbles, quite literally, on such beauty.
And what would one know about
beauty? Eyes still glued to her encyclopaedia. I couldnt help smiling to myself. Ever since I had read a poem on beauty in a book called The Prophet I had been waiting for any opportunity to quote from it.
Not much. I began still smiling,
Beauty is when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.
She looked up at me for the first time, exposing her striking brown eyes and a smile that stole the breath from my lungs. It was a smile that would bless my humble eyes repeatedly over the next sixteen months. And thus I met Thandiwe, the love of my life. We had what the novels call a whirlwind romance. Before I knew what was happening she had become my world. We were in love. Over the next year and a bit I spent most (if not all) my time with her. At times when I was not with her I felt like I would die. I know how corny that sounds but give me a break. It was my first love. I have been with many women, and none possessed me as Thandiwe did. Her image was constantly in my head. My love for her was like the rising sun; mellow as it begins its ascent of the sky and eventually burning bright and hot enough to fry eggs on boulders like the fellows in the old westerns. I was smitten.
Two weeks ago I developed a head splitting headache at work. I held the fort until lunch, at what time I decided to go home. Upon my arrival I found the door locked. Thandiwe and I had
been living together for months and I was starting to warm up to the idea of marriage. Having her close to me all the time melted my soul in a way which words cannot begin to describe.
Finding the door locked did not seem odd to me. I just assumed she had gone to the shops. I unlocked the door and strode to our bedroom. My head was screaming by then. I remember thinking that I probably would not be waking up again if I took a nap. Little did I know I would not be sleeping for the next week. I opened the door to my bedroom and was confronted by the convulsing buttocks of my neighbour, Mr Nyathi. For a moment I could say nothing. And
the two illicit lovers were unaware of my presence. I stood there and watched. The old geezer writhed with passion, on the verge of drooling onto my Thandiwe who squealed like a pig beneath him. I was overwhelmed by rage. I grabbed the old man by his neck and pulled him away. I beat him up like he well, like I had caught him with my wife. I dont know how long it
was before my other neighbor showed up to stop the fight. I do know Nyathis beating was so bad that he spent the next week in hospital; and I spent it in confinement at central police station locked up with my own thoughts. I came very close to losing my mind. Leave a man alone in the dark long enough and his mind will become his worst enemy. I prayed. Yes. After a life of making fun of Christians about praying to Senior, Junior, and the Spook I prayed like hell. That was probably not a good simile, but you get the point. I had time to think about what I had done and the consequences. I told God that if he let me out of there I would never harm another human being again. I had lied.
The charges were dropped. Apparently old Mr Neighbourly did not want his name dragged through the mud. When I was discharged my mind was clear. I had to get an HIV test. I remember
sitting at New Start a few days ago. I was still praying. Hoping that this was the first time Thandiwe had double crossed me and that I was not infected. I would have asked her, but you see by the time I got home she had been gone for days. I was alone, and my heart was bleeding profusely. All the time the old woman at the testing centre was doling out pre-test counselling I was scared to death. The idea of being held at ransom by a little virus seemed unbearable. By the time my results came back I was on the verge of collapsing. As soon as that woman opened her mouth I knew my worst fear had come true. I am HIV positive. When the woman finally spat it
out I was numb. I am going to die. Finally the world will be able to clean up its mess. That is my great epiphany. I am simply a mistake. The unexpected spawn of two teenage lovers, one of whom had a deep desire to show her mate how much she adored him, and the other with a deep desire to satisfy a bulging erection. All my life the world has been trying to eliminate me. That was the last straw. I began to feel a familiar itch in my throat. Donald Gilbert was calling my name again.
That was last week. This week I spent a lot of time thinking about birth. When I was born I wept and the world rejoiced. Today they shall weep as I am born again into a new world. My vodka
is almost finished. The Viceroy met its end when I was about to tell you how I met Thandiwe. In fact that pretty small line came to me on the way to the shops. The room has been getting
smaller for about an hour now. I suffer from mild claustrophobia when Im drunk. Did I tell you about the revolver on my desk? I was surprised by the ease with which one can get ones
hands on a gun in Bulawayo. I always thought it was like trying to find a white cow. Obviously I cannot tell you how I acquired this little tool, but acquire it I did. In just moments I shall finish the
job that nature has been trying to do for 33 years. If the drugged liquor fails the revolver will tuck me into my eternal bed. Today is a special occasion. On my thirty-third birthday I will take the path taken by many of the greats. Ernest Hemmingway, Kurt Cobain, Ingrid Jonker, and Shakespeare too Ive been told. Guns are petrifying. I hope what I am now feeling is the poisoned liquor at work. I must go now. I called my friend Patrick about thirty minutes ago and told him my intentions. He should be here any minute from now.