Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Short Story
By: Ngozi Chukura
It is the dead of winter. I sing:
“Summertime/ And the living is easy/
Fish are jumping/ And the cotton is high/
Daddy’s rich/ And your/ Mama’s good looking
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry…”
I don’t know the other lyrics. I sing in the dead of winter. I sing in a resonant, sonorous voice. As the words form in my mouth, and I push them out with my hot, moist breath, little clouds of mist form. The air bites my face.
I always get things backwards. I don’t care; this is one of the eccentricities about myself that I like. My psychologist quotes Freud a lot, when we have our hourly sessions, once a week in her office which smells like too many cigarettes. She sits across from me, her arms folded, elbows bent across her huge breasts, (I wonder how she manages?) She peers into my eyes and occasionally unfolds her arms to take notes. As soon as she drops her hands, her stature deflates a little. I find this hilarious.
Apparently, I haven’t developed a mature object relationship and this is causing me to have unrealistic relationship goals, which in turn is why my marriage is falling apart. I always just thought that Thato couldn’t stand my propensity for getting things backwards. It eventually drove him a little mad, I think.
I pull my coat a little tighter around my neck and glance at my watch. It’s really a cheap watch, but I like it because it refracts the light, throwing little shards of rainbow every time the sun shines on it. It is twenty-five past seven. I am half an hour late. I am always late. I think it’s because I must be a little bored with life; the excitement of waiting for my dreams to come true was eventually eroded by my waiting for my dreams to come true. Now, I make people wait for me. My psychologist has a term for that, too; but I forget …
The city is alive, now. More and more people brush past me, on their way to wherever they are going. I stop singing, I don’t like being watched. I, however, watch the passers-by avidly, reading the swing of their arms; the hanging of their heads, I somehow discern their stories. Their monochrome apathy belies the tapestry of techni-coloured dreams that, like my excitement, were gradually buffed to the grey that clings like soot to their personalities. I smile at an old lady I recognize. I think she works at the store, and there; a glimmer of real warmth. I am reassured of humanity. I see the ember under the ash, the ember that glows a little less brightly with the passing of the years. How sad. I pick lint from my coat, and walk, with the others, to where I am going.
I used to love him, but now I don’t. The words come from my lips matter-of-factly. There is no emphasis, no pause. Our marriage was, for a time, a vivid flame, a tango. It’s not, anymore. Dr Reteng says that our relationship has become toxic and we are constantly manufacturing violent behaviours; that we are feeding each other’s masochism. We enslave each other. Thato doesn’t protest I think that he, too, is exhausted. He doesn’t blame me; he doesn’t blink. His shoulders, though, are heavy with my words. He nods, slowly and stretches his arm across the table. He opens his palm and I hold his hand. He understands; he knows that it’s been hard for me, too and that we were a bright, beautiful flame that licked and burned and ate itself up.
I see a tear and I feel my own roll down my face. I lick my lips, the tears are salty. I kiss his palm, it is fleshy and warm. I stop at a street vendor. Mmangwane greets me, we exclaim about the cold. She is wearing a white hat. I buy one loose cigarette from her. Yes, ke tla tsamaya sentle auntie. I am almost at the bridge now; there is a serpentine movement in my stomach. I recognize this feeling and smile. After breakfast, he sits across from me, nervous. I don’t know why we often made arrangements to meet like this, for breakfast here. I ask him what the matter is; is there something you want to say?
“Lesego, will you marry me?”
“Yes, Thato. It will be a beautiful journey.”
He reached across the table and I took his hand. A ray of light caught my new watch, casting shards of rainbow into our future.