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si Kgaogelo Lekota

Shubnum Khan

There are no great signals when love enters your life. There are no claps of thunder or slow-motion shots or eyes meeting across the room. Love creeps quietly into your shadow; it walks delicately on its toes alongside you and nimbly dodges your sideways glances. It soaks into the walls and settles under the floorboards. It brushes past your neck and whispers into your ear and circles your waist for a lingering moment.

And then early one morning after eating cereal, you walk up the stairs and suddenly see it standing there in the corner of the landing. Big, awkward, like an overgrown teenager, panting in fear, pressing itself into the wall, trying desperately to cover the sudden nakedness of its unexpected metamorphosis. Like a sore beneath a scab it is revealed with tormented relish. And what do you do with it then? This awkward thing cowering in your wake. No one wants it. It won’t fit in the pantry or even in the garage. It follows you everywhere. Constantly demanding attention with wailing and crying. It keeps you up at night and just when you think it is quieting down it leaps up at you from behind corners and inside cupboards and continues with its din. It embraces you energetically and then pinches you in deep twists that leave your skin dark. It leaves you laughing frantically and crying restlessly. When you leave the house you have to carry it with you everywhere. You hide it in your pockets and your bag and inside the hollows beneath your eyes. You keep it a secret and you have to shush it when it wants to cry or whimper. You have to nurse it, but how do you care for something so erratic and volatile?

One day in a fit of rage you try to strangle it but it nimbly slips through your fingers. You become exasperated and depressed; it is a child you never wanted in the first place. This child that was never accepted. Never cared for by anyone, but you.

Eventually, though, after many fierce outbursts and bouts of melancholy, it calms down. It stops pacing the house and takes long breaks on the chair beneath the stairs. Eventually it creeps into a small space in your body and closes itself in there. Occasionally it is restless and whines a little but mainly it is still.

And after a while, except for the slight flutter, you don’t even know it’s there.

si Shubnum


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