LOVE In A Photograph – Grace Ochigbo
Linus jumped up as if it’s an emergency, as if sleeping had become a dangerous thing. His heart beats even faster and there was a buzzing in his brain and together they were as panic walking on two legs.He felt like his brain was a flat battery, the exertions of the night before like a marathon. It was right on one of the dusty chairs surrounding a large dirty table in the area where he was sure used to be the dining that he’d slept off out of exertion.
While he slept, he forgot about the awkward disappearance of the strange man. Now he felt like he was hooked to a naked wire. No sleepiness, no slow warming up. Within seconds of realizing he was unconscious he was on his feet, eyes wide. Aside from his own noisy breath, there was nothing to be heard and the house still felt as eerie, if not worse.
On impulse, he sneezed loudly and affirmed that the pain in his body was still there.
As he tried to make sense of the whole situation, his imagination began to supply horrors to fill the voids in his thoughts. After a minute or two, the sound of running water came from the room adjacent to the kitchen he’d been to last night.
“What was that?” He asked no one in particular as he contemplated going in to check or not.
He wanted to run, but with scared slow steps and raised hands, he moved like a sick child in the direction of the sound. He wanted to silence his feet, but all he did was step on rusting woods and broken ceramics raising more and more dust as he proceeded. The lazy wind pushed against the curtains behind him and the flapping sound as they hit the window frame almost made him lose his mind. His hand reflexively went out for a lone wood on the floor and was ready to break the head of whatever…whoever was behind him.
Lo, it was just the wind.
He cautioned himself to stay calm.
He couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. Quietly, he held down the half broken knob and slid in quickly, the wood in front. His eyes darted from one corner of the room to another. Toothpaste splattered mirror, toothpaste stains on the counters and sinks, mildews growing around the rusting faucets, peeling the tiled floor trapping blackened dirt. To the left corner was an overflowing laundry basket, dirty clothes on the floor, clothes with the closest resemblance to rags. He approached the bath-tub, dust and hair everywhere. Assortment of shampoo bottles, all empty, little pieces of bar soaps welded to the edge of the bath. Pile of old razors and a rack half hanging on the wall containing five neatly folded dusty towels aside the used damp towel that had been cast on the floor in a crumpled heap. The tiles of the wall were falling off. Linus wondered how the interior of such a beautiful mansion could look so deserted and abandoned.
The door creaked open and he jerked back in horror. He gazed at the old woman before him. At her age, she should have one foot in the grave. She stepped wobbly from the doorpost into the bathroom proper.
“Ehm!” Linus stammered, trying to hide the fear in his eyes. “I am sorry, old lady. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“No, son.” Her voice was faint and weak. “I brought some of your things.”
She nodded in the affirmative and managed her way out of the bathroom without breaking as Linus thought she would. He wore a puzzled expression as he watched her go, his legs grounded to the same spot. He had apologized to her on the assumption that the house the strange man had brought him to belong to the old lady. Perhaps, she had beenstuck in the rain last night and couldn’t make it home.
She’d called him ‘son’.
And which of his things did she bring?
He’d left the FCT with only his car and though picked two more shirts and a pair of trousers which he’d been alternating over the months, the old lady couldn’t have found where he’d hid them in the shack.
He stormed out of the bathroom immediately, someone must explain things to him. He checked the hallway separating the bathroom from the kitchen, she wasn’t there.
“Ma’am!” he called, opening the kitchen door. Still she wasn’t there.
As he approached the sitting room, he noticed sunrays streaming in and by the time he got there, he saw the door left ajar. The same way the strange man had left it yesterday.
“She’d left too.” He announced to himself, defeated.
The whole place was a disaster and his mind was still a surging perplexity. The way the woman spoke made him think that she cared, cared enough to have a conversation with him, to tell him where he was and what he was doing in this mess. But she’d left. Hot coals of anger burned inside him when his eyes caught them. Behind the old settee were some items. He rushed there to see. There were empty cans of beverages, a loaf of decaying bread, opened can of sardine that had some insects hosting a party in there. With his hand, Linus scouted through every single item on the floor. There were empty or decaying or dirty. There were thrash. Wastes that should be disposed.
“So why had she brought them here?” He was with his thoughts when he heard a tap on the door.
The door opened before he responded, presenting two young people, a man and a woman. They looked to him like newlyweds and a beautiful smile coloured their faces. Linus heaved a sigh of relief ‘finally’ and wanted to speak but they were swifter.
“We thought to leave this here.” There said, pulling a medium sized jerry can through the door.
“Wait…” Linus called out as they turned to leave.
Turning, he crashed onto the settee hard and the pain from his foot coursed to the utmost part of his brain.
“Ouch!” He lamented but didn’t wait.
Dashing through the door, the bright flash of sunlight nearly blindfolded him. He used his right hand to shield his eyes before letting them scout around. The lawn stretched out beautifully in front of the house, green grasses radiating in the early morning sunshine.Drops of the rain from yesterday still rested on the petals and leaves of the colourful flowers. He looked intently but behold, the couple were gone… too.
Frustration builds in Linus so much so that he thinks he might explode. He took in a deep breath. He wanted to shout, throw a tantrum and beat his hands to the ground like a toddler. He wanted to vent, let it all out but he couldn’t find the words as he trudged back into the house. Unaware and deep in thoughts, he didn’t know when his leg hit the jerry can and splash!the lid dropped off. It was too late by the time Linus caught it as almost all its content had spilled. A terrible smell stung him from the condemned engine oil that just splattered everywhere.
“Oh damn!!!” He held his head with both hands and push himself to the ground, tears welling up his eyes. His brain was on five percent battery now. He was tired, so very, very, tired.
His eyes settled on the floor that was now smeared with greasy oil. Oil mixed with dust and a smell that could kill demons. As he thought about what to do, he saw the large TV screen that had beendetached from its original place on the cracked wall and now standing on the tiled floor, facing the wall. He wondered why a TV was backing the room when he noticed something.
One moment, Linus was rushing forward, eyes on what he’d seen and face showing his boyish exuberance. The next he was flying, his expression that of shock and horror. His left foot had slipped through the oil and for a full half-minute he went downward at a speed that constricted his throat so that he could hardly draw breath. In the seconds it took him to reach the ground he knew it was going to hurt badly. He groaned loud enough to shake the foundations of the house. The oil splattered all over his face and he struggled to keep his mouth shut so nothing enters into it.
As he struggled to get up, the oil flowed thickly over his hair down the back of his neck into his back. The already torn shirt on him felt heavy as it soaked in more and more oil. His body shook in severe pain as he cringed and tried to get up. When he finally did, he glanced at himself. He looked like a snowman dipped in frozen red oil while he approached his initial destination. Behind the TV screen leaning against the wall was a mop stick lying on the floor. He stared at it with blood shot eyes.
“Just to get this little piece of shit, oil everywhere now.”
He hissed dryly and tried to pull the objectfrom behind the TV. He would get some water from the bathroom and start by mopping off the oil on the floor after removing his clothes. When he’s done mopping, he would dust the couch and try to clean the house beginning from this sitting room.
Just a second before the entire mop stick pulled out of where’s been stuck, the air was suddenly rent by the sound of breaking glasses. Before his brain could register the sound, his eyes shut tight and a million new knives fell sharply on his exposed skin. Linus froze, all but his heart stopped working and heremained glued to the wet tile. When finally he allowed his eyelids to push open he saw the ruin on the ground.
The TV screen had shattered completely on the ground. At the full realization, the pit of his stomach stirred, and he collapsed onto the floor neglecting the effect of the broken glasses on his skin. From out of the very depths of his being, flowed all his emotion, and as the groaning flew past his lips, it became a cry of agony, a wall reaching out for help.
“Please, help me. Please, I am sorry.” There was a scream from deep within that forced its way from his mouth, as if his terrified soul had unleashed a demon. The scream tore through. He felt his eyes widen and pulse quicken.
“Help me. Please. Help.” The scream came again, desperate, terrified… human.
Amidst his struggle, he turned,
“Help me! Please…” He beckoned on the strange man who was now standing over him. The last breath appeared to be pulled from his lungs. “Please, I need help.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to arrange this house all by yourself?” The man’s voice was full of compassion.
“I wanted to… I thought I could.” Linus stuttered.
“I couldn’t find you last night. I didn’t know how and when I lost you. When you were with me out there in the cold, I felt secured. I felt safe. When you left me in here, I felt lost. Jerked up, moved in shadows all morning. People brought in wastes. They said there were my things.”
His eyes welled up with the sadness of his soul.
“There were wastes, sir. Dirty smelling godforsaken things.” He pointed in the direction of the dirt the old lady had brought in and the can of oil that spilled everywhere.
The tears burst forth like water from a dam, spilling down his face. He heard his own sound, like a distressed child, raw from the inside. The tears took something out of him he didn’t know he had left. That’s the way it is when people are hard. There hide an injury no one can see.
“My attempt at cleaning messed it all up the more. Everything keeps drifting away as I try to fix it, always slipping past my hand. Things keep getting worse at my every attempt to salvage. Please help me. I have no strength left in me.” His eyes dripped with tears. His walls, the walls that hold him up, made him strong just… collapsed. Moment by moment they fell.
The strange man stretched his right hand and helped Linus’ weak body up. He stood shivering. There was a rawness to his tears, like the pain from an open wound. The pain came off like an uproar from histhroat.
“Please he…” Linus started but was interrupted as the stranger closed the gap between them and pulled him closer, wrapping his arms around him.
The man’s embrace was warm, and his big, strong arms seemed very protective when he wrapped them around Linus’ frail body. Linus didn’t want to leave. It felt as if when he was in the stranger’s arms all his pain went away – mental and physical, mostly the depressing pain from his past. He wanted to stay here forever, safe. For the first time in months, he felt genuinely loved. This was the love. Real. Reassuring.
And in that instance, as peace like a river attended to his soul, he heard the stranger whisper to his ears,
“Welcome home, beloved!”
To be continued.
I am sure we are coming off the confusion little by little. If you’re still confused, just wait a little while as each episode will break light more and more until the perfect day. I pray you find help and rest from all theaches and pain around and in your life.
Our next episode (6) would be on Monday. Wait, don’t groan, I said every WEEK DAY 8pm (Weekends NOTinclusive)
Stay safe, stay home and pray.
Have a beautiful weekend.