As a child, he had thought of going mad. It was in that summer, with the smell of green trees and the rash smell of scent leaves from the kitchen being blown into the living room with the evening breeze, being nine or ten; it was with his arched belly and eyes, dim- but full of life and a sense of possibility- that he watched his mother start going mad from the stillness of her chin.
Madness was all he thought of later, when his father came home with the other woman that night and his mother dug her fist into the glass coffee table. Madness; that morning, the other time, weeks after the other woman spread her clothes outside for the wind to sigh on them and his mother- a woman, a full being, tall and slender– lit a match and watched the flames from the burning clothes dare to touch the sky. He had imagined the anger, the bitter taste of betrayal on his mothers tongue, coughing out words –and even short sentences- at the yellow flames- bastard, it will not be well with you; you will die a miserable death. That: those years of his childhood, the irrefutable geography of all the places his tears followed.
It was madness: the bang, the shout, and the scream. Madness was loud, but he was the only one who heard it when it later followed him through the hallways of his school. Then, he heard it in the sound of the church bells, in the voices of the pastors that tried to pray away his father’s infidelity, the humongous envelopes his mother gave them afterwards. Madness was palpable; he always felt it tighten in his chest and course it’s way through his veins.
When he was eighteen and away from home in college, he spent the long hours in the campus library, writing poems and reading Virginia Woolf essays. It was then that he was old enough to acknowledge the strength in the Republican party- Obama is an asshole, he would always say. He noticed that his eyes were shrinking behind his thick frames; that his shoulders were broadening like a crossroad by the street corner and his cheeks were fattening. Then he noticed the ladies on the bus; the ones with highlighted curls falling on their shoulders, or a pierced nose – the ones that believed that one day Hilary Clinton would become the president of the United States, the ones that spoke about feminism, about equal rights and the woes of double standards; it was right there, on that bus, in the middle of a hot day in May, that one of the ladies would try to kiss him. He kissed her back- he can’t remember which; what was her name, Mary? Jane? He kissed Mary on the bus. And when he got into his room that night, he couldn’t remember what it felt like. Kissing Mary wasn’t madness because the memory faded.
Now, he is on his bed; it is still a day, an ordinary day in September but he is twenty and back in Lagos; overwhelmed by the thrill of a city beaming with possibilities and blinding darkness. The cloud soaks in a dark shade of blue; a cosmic charisma hanging over the dry earth, gleefully, mocking him. Now, he wants to write about it, about the possibilities of his art, and the sly, dark glitter of the madness that would cause his heart to cease. And also the kiss; he would write about that too- the one from on Saturday of last week, not the one from his days in College-, but he felt empty, and so a vast anger confronts him, a desperate anger, to go mad. There was little of that night he held in long thoughts: first, he had greeted in a faltering voice, and then, for the rest of that night, he spoke without knowing what he was saying. And then, the kiss!
There’s a loud honk outside; the open window lets it cut through his thoughts! There’s a pang in his chest! He is present now, like then, being thirteen or fourteen and seeing his mother go mad; watching her throw all of his father’s stuff from the balcony; not then, in the college downtown Houston Texas, kissing Mary. He is present now, and all he wants to write about is the kiss that happened last week and the movement of your tongue in his mouth. He wants to write about it. How you filled his throat with the air from your mouth that he needed to breathe; he wants to write about the fluttering in his chest; the taste of midnight- then, on that other day; that moonless night, the smell of your perfume on your open chest, your green silk shirt flowing with the wind, the warm feel of your palm on his shoulders (he remembers how you held onto them when the waves caught your legs. You can’t swim. He won’t let you drown). It made him feel safe, then, that moment; twenty toes buried in the sand, more than twenty voices echoing, but it was yours- the calm of it; the serenity of lost hopes- that echoed loudest.
Restless, he moves around his bed, now, hoping for words to write. He puts a pillow in-between his laps, its warmth tingle the hairs on his thighs. Still, he wants to write about that moonless night on the beach: the soured hoax of crickets and toads; the sighs of weary ghosts; the cries of the deep blue ocean. Then: that night, that is what he wants to write about: the excitement before the kiss- no, not that, something stronger, something that resembled panic-, when you both talked about everything and nothing (like him, you had a frantic love for literature). But he thinks of your face, the carve of it, the arc of your eyebrows, the delicate structure of your cheeks, your paused lips; he thinks of it all and goes motionless.
He sits up; his chest feels too heavy that the weight of it heaves out rapidly from his nose; it feels like then; that same night when your perfect perfume mingled with his lungs. Now, the air is stiff; the room feels clustered, yet he is alone. Madness, then; when he was seventeen or eighteen, and his mother said she was hearing voices, and her pastor, the other one that prayed on salt and water and oil and made him sprinkle them around the house; it was that pastor who said that father’s spirit wives were cohabiting. Then; the months following, his mother always felt choked- clustered, having to live with all the spirit wives. What is this, now; right here, what is this inadequacy he felt? What is this that choked him- made him feel clustered- in his big room? He wanted to write, that was all!
One simple wish: to write about the kiss; to write about them, two of them, and the many reasons why he swallowed large lumps of angst at the thought of you. Would he fail, if he dared to write about the romance? How your body brushed against his, slightly, purposefully, when you both watched the crashing waves. He wanted to write about the soaring, burning desire, so profound, so searing, that it’d accompany the both them to their graves and beyond. But now, in this dark room, this colorless room- he didn’t need colors when he couldn’t even ignite a speck of light- with his body now curled up, leaning against the wall, with his knees to his chin; he can see the blood of his futile, restless heart seeping out over his chest and arms and legs, flooding across the titled floor, out of his room and down the narrow stairs, flowing into the all the empty rooms and all the gutters. These were the empty rooms in his house where they were meant to put their feelings; all of their thoughts, and then drown them in the thick sweetness of their sensual excess. Madness, now, right now: a quiet despicable imbalance now clogged his reasoning.
The clock ticks into another day. It will be the tenth day since the kiss: a demanding, soul-searing kiss that nearly knocked the earth off its axis. And now there was nothing left inside of him. The ocean had washed away their footprints from the shores; the wind had carried their conversations through the Atlantic; the moon had gone full, half and pale; but still the smell of your skin still lingers in every empty space. He lays his head down on the floor title and stares at the ceiling; the fan doesn’t roll.
Madness; then: when he was eleven or twelve and he saw his mother standing on a wooden stool underneath the fan in her room. Now, a new day in September, those three blades are still; their whirring doesn’t whisper secrets anymore. Their stillness is his grace, and yet he feels emptier than he was before he turned thirteen. How was it possible that he could actually die in the early hours of a September day; die, cease to exist, be empty while still living, while still thinking. Death was nothing. It was this that scared him: a hollowness- such emptiness, such franticosity; a vast longing for someone- how could that dig so deep and make him go mad?
It wasn’t tangible he thinks, as the crickets harmonize behind his window. In four minutes, it would be another hour: four hours and several crumpled, white, unused folded paper spread across the room, rigidly, like they were players on a football field. Still his heart won’t bleed through his pen because you are there, not here in this clustered room with apportioned air; there, being twenty three years old, having a rush for life, and maybe you would never be here, in this quietness with him, this shifting patterns of his ordinary pleasures. Maybe you would be with a guy, later, riding the subway in New York, or in a little café with indie music and other ordinary people hiding their madness, having a strawberry shortcake ice cream or black coffee, or red wine; maybe if the earth shakes, you would be with a girl, slowly hiding your own madness, choking, sniffing air from trees.
But now, he decides not to write about it anymore. He would write about it when it was weighty, when it had a little substance, and not over this useless fluttering and midnight haziness. It was just a kiss. And maybe there are no words to describe it, because what it was, in itself, was two strangers, meeting on the mouth, on an ordinary day in September. And what they shared that moonless night, though it seemed like a lot of possibilities; it was not happiness, but hideous grief. He couldn’t write about that; it was feeble. And potentially fleeting; this fluttering in his chest.
Photo Credit: madamenoire.com
Keside Anosike is a 20 year old who spends his days as a realtor and his nights as a dreamer. An avid lover of wine, indie music and art- all forms and types. He’s a story teller; a little reluctant to call himself a ‘writer’ because he feels it’s a bit disingenuous to hang his entire identity on an activity he does only 5% of the time.He spends 33.3% of his time sleeping (or trying to sleep) and he doesn’t go around calling himself a Sleeper. Or even (more accurately) an aspiring sleeper.