Every night she awakes robotically, knowing that her days are merging but still hoping that each somehow becomes distinctive – still hoping that, even through the decay, every morning will be a fresh start. She applies lipstick as if she’s going somewhere – even though she’ll remain in her house the entire day. After making a cup of coffee, she progresses to a chair by the window. The same chair, but every day it is different in a way that she can’t explain.
There is no reasoning for her emotional or physical position – all she knows is that every action she makes is scripted (or at least that is what she’s adapted to believing in order to not to become psychotic.) It’s Wednesday the 13th of July and the smell of lilac in the air is so ubiquitous that it’s become the only scent she knows. The warm air encompasses her like a blanket, or like a family. The autumn bird songs whisper in the breeze and she hears the whistling of the kettle accusing her from the kitchen.
As she sits in her rocking chair by the window, her voice tallies the men who walk by one-by-one – “Patrick” she whispers whenever a tall, masculine figure with a strong jawline appears. No matter the size, race or age, they are all “Patrick”- that name etched into her tongue like a chocolate stain from a bittersweet bon-bon, it’s a souvenir from the war. A war was the level of conflict they’d both come from – but hers was not the Vietnam or Afghanistan, hers was internal. She’d fought a war that took her around Harlem to every doctor in Uptown and Hamilton Heights, and when they’d eventually told her “something in your mind can’t be fixed”, she’d surrendered and gone back to him. And like how cicadas that sing proudly in the spring turn silent in the winter, “we will fight this together” transforms into “I can’t be around you anymore”, and then the days continue in a dynamic yet similar fashion.
Every day at the window, she whispers “Patrick” over and over again – if hope were some kind of garment or blouse, she’d pull it over her body and never remove it.
Mzwandile Poncana is 21 years old and is currently pursuing his B.A in English Literature at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. He was raised in Gaborone, Botswana. He has spent all his life reading contemporary writing and has a strong passion for fiction of all genres. His short story ‘The Babysitter’ was published in The Book a Break Anthology 2016.