This post first appeared on Novel Afrique on the 8th of October, 2016.
The room is dark and hot, the windows are shut against the cold, the curtains drawn. Behind those, there’s only darkness outside.
She groans. The room reeks of age. The stink is solid, like an old sentry grunting from a corner. He cannot remember a time when it wasn’t like this. Ten years ago, before he left finally and she was all alone, it was there – milder maybe, but present still.
‘Mum, I’ve to tell you something.’
The words leave his mouth without his consent. She opens her eyes and lifts her head an inch, groans with effort. He hears her bones crack into place.
‘No, please, just…lie.’
She obeys. What is she now? Sixty-five? Seventy? She hasn’t aged gracefully. There’s nothing remotely elegant about her: not in how she’s lived, nor in how she will die.
The words he wants to say won’t come. How to tell her? How to say to this mother that he, her son, of whom she’s had high expectations – good heart, good job, mannerly wife, respectable children – is a failure? How to tell her that he doesn’t love as she expects him to; that he’s quite different – perverted? But he must. If she’ll be dying, then he must. It is the one most important thing he wants her to know.
There’s a thunderclap. Her breathing becomes fast and laboured; the angel of death is here. He holds her hand. ‘Stay with me.’
In a minute, the noise of rain is about, and her heart has stopped. The hand he holds is stiff and cold, like a branch of a tree. But, he doesn’t feel. Can’t. Won’t – ever. Because she’s not really dead. Because he still needs a chance to what he most wants to say: that he, her son, whom she loves, is gay.