Strength to leave

I read a blog post. Someone was writing a letter to a public figure (singer of mild fame) whose boyfriend, and father of her daughter, died in her arms after he had been shot.

He, a football star, had married a woman he had been in a relationship with for 7 years. In the 8th year of their relationship he met the singer who publicly displayed images of their relationship on instagram. Needless to say, the wife found out, but she stayed.

It is almost too easy to dismiss the sacrifice it takes to stay with someone who chooses to  hang on to you while reaching out for someone else. I cannot fathom it. What is easier to understand (from my point of view) is the choice to leave.

I tried to examine it once.

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Welcome to Your Home
A short story by Gloria Bwandungi

The evening sky was dark, filled with dark gloomy clouds that hoarded precious water from the parched and thirsty cracking ground. They raced across the sky towards the west, chasing the sun, as though they were afraid of the looming darkness of night from the east. A cold wind blew, lifting rust coloured dust from the unpaved road, leaving scattered little eddies that quickly died down.
The bus stop in the middle of nowhere rose above me, its rusted sign flapping in the wind, pinging against the metallic pole, the mournful staccato beat it drummed out sounding cheerful in contrast to the thoughts of my mind.
My large suitcase bore the marks of a long and arduous journey, having bumped and crashed against other passengers’ luggage in the compartment on the bus. A small tear I had hoped to repair had widened into a gash. I would have to replace it soon.
The cold wind bit right through my sweater, reminding me to move my feet, let go and continue on, no matter where this road would lead. But I was frozen to the spot. My feet had sprouted roots and in concert with my heart, were determined to keep me here, gazing after the bus that had deposited me. I felt like discarded waste.
My mind filled up with fuzzy pictures that mingled with the tears welling up from my soul that I could not control.
“Ma’am, you are going to have to leave the premises.”
The dark angry looking man with the severe red eyes said this to me when he asked me to leave my home. A home I had been building with him since the day we first met. We called it our forever home, filling it with the marks of our achievements, souvenirs of our adventures, jewels we had fallen in love with and paid more than we could really afford.
“Ma’am?”
The red eyed man had repeated his statement, speaking to me like an insolent, disobedient child. But he did not know. I could not blame him for doing a job he was being paid to do.
Another gust of cold wind blew red dust into my wet eyes, jerking me back to the desolate bus stop. I wiped my eyes and picked up the suitcase. It was time to abandon my haunt.
The buildings I was aiming for were huddled together, like little old women warming their feet around a fire. Yellow light gleamed out of the still open windows, flickering wildly in the wind, making the shadows leap up and crouch down in a crazy haphazard dance. The wind fought fiercely against me, so I leaned forward, pressing towards the cluster. It seemed to know that I did not want to be there and was determined to encourage me to stay at the bus stop.
Loud noises emanated from the buildings that were closest to mine, their conversation becoming a blur as my heart closed my mind to the chatter. A loud television commercial blended in with the clanging radio show and the sounds of pots and pans being washed in kitchen sinks. I kept my head low and walked as quietly and quickly through the group, careful not to be spotted by curious eyes. The misery that engulfed me did not cherish the idea of company. Not tonight.
The faded “Number Eighteen” sign stared cock eyed at me. It had been painted in white against the red brick wall and had been sprawled by an unpracticed hand, marking the location of my new home. Our forever home had been number fifty-six. At least I would not have to think about that every time I wrote my new address down somewhere.
The three stairs that led to the high door had been crudely constructed from cheap lumber and had been worn smooth by many feet. Two dirty bare foot prints leading from the door were the latest to grace them, leaving clumps of dirt as though the house had a mud floor. I climbed the stairs backwards, dragging the large suitcase behind me, each step creaking so loudly in my ear that I was sure everyone else heard it too. If they did, then no one came to look.
A simple latch was all the protection my new home had from intruders. The landlord had told me to bring a small lock to use. I opened the latch and tried to push the door in, but it stayed closed. I used my shoulder to shove it in, bursting into the small space with a loud bang.
It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the darkness inside the house. I left the suitcase at the door, peering inside to get a good look.
A long thin bed stretched across the longest wall. A thin mattress had been provided by the landlord and was rolled up to one side of the bed. It had borne many bodies and was yellow with age. Chunks of the mattress had been lost from the edge making it look like a giant rat had hacked and torn off bits of it to build a nest. The spring bed had a few springs missing and some had been stretched so much, they had deformed. It was going to be an uncomfortable place to sleep.
A small table stood on the far corner of the room. A hot plate, dirty with use, sat upon it and when I lifted it to look underneath, a few cockroaches scurried out racing for other parts of the room. I bent down to put the hotplate on the floor and dark gleam caught my eye near the door. When I approached it, it quickly uncoiled and darted out of the room probably more scared than I was.
A cheap oil lamp made from empty margarine tins stood on the surface of another table. There were matches beside it. I struck a match and lit the lamp, dark black soot lifting from it and filing the room with the smell of burning kerosine. It made me cough and stung my eyes. At least now if anyone came in to say hello, there would be a good reason why my eyes were so wet.
A small note had been tucked underneath the matchbox.
“Welcome to your new home.”
My new home. I looked around the room, my brain working hard to replace the worn mattress with the one I had shared with him. My eyes were seeing our small kitchen where our elbows constantly knocked against one another while we made dinner instead of the burned rickety table. I heard the beautiful music we played while we relaxed, filling our forever home with sunshine. I lifted my arms above my head, waiting to be twirled. Then I remembered, he had called me his sunshine. My arms fell to my sides and my chest convulsed with the pain I had been holding in.
He was gone. Completely gone. One cold look and the man I had known and loved had been transformed into a stranger I knew nothing about. I lost him. Now I lost my home and this wreck, this hovel that I was going to be sharing with wild animals and vermin was my home. How had it come to this?
I walked to the door, a thousand heavy thoughts weighing down heavily upon me. I dragged my suitcase into the room and unzipped one side. I pulled out the long blanket we had used to warm ourselves on the couch and wrapped myself in it. I zipped the suitcase closed. No cockroaches tonight. I laid it down by one of the walls and sat on top of the ever widening tear. This would be where I sleep tonight.
The still open door creaked back and forth as the cold wind blew into the house. Occasionally the sound of little pattering feet of my new roommates rose above the noises from other homes. My knees and elbows hurt from the discomfort, but it suited me. It suited my misery.
I reached up to my face to wipe some of my tears away and saw that I was still clutching the note from the landlord. It was crumpled and balled up. I smoothed it out on my lap and let the words blur as my eyes read the message.
“Welcome to your new home.”

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