Unscripted love Chapter 83 - A - Mzansi Stories

Monday, August 8


Unscripted love Chapter 83 - A


The worst part about pain is that the minute you think you’ve past it, it starts all over again. Meredith Grey.
Someone knocked on the front door but I had no intention of opening the door. I heard the sound of keys rattling the lock. For a moment I believed it was Our Love. Kagiso walked in and looked down at me with sorrowful eyes.
I only nodded to acknowledge his presence. He reached into the bag he was carrying and pulled out a covered dish with a foggy lid.
“My mother made this for you.” He said.
I took the dish and held it to my body, basking in the warmth.
“Thank you,” I mumbled.
He studied me, eyes narrowing slightly. I could feel him continuing to stare while I glanced down at my feet, which were still cold even with socks. I was always cold.
“What time do you want to drive down for Our Love’s funeral? Do you need me to help with anything?”
I looked up at him, mentally fighting with myself not to cry in front of another man. I knew I couldn’t be afraid to answer the simple questions. I shouldn’t have to be…. but I was.
“Yeah, um, it’s,” I paused, breathing out hesitantly. “I spoke to her aunt, Sbhale’s mom, everything has been organised. I’ve settled all the invoices.”
There was a raw numbness in my voice. I clutched the warm bowl to my stomach before setting it down on the kitchen counter.
“I still can’t believe it.” Kagiso whispered. “We used to hang out with Sandiso. He looked like a normal guy…. a normal likable guy. I had no idea.”
I gulped nervously. I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want to talk about Sandiso with Kagiso. Yet, I’d shut everyone out and been alone for so many days, I felt the urge to talk to someone, anyone.
“It still doesn’t feel like she is gone.” He watched me intently, almost protectively. My eyes filled with tears and I lost the fight to keep them bottled in. “Some part of me hopes that today or tomorrow or next week she’ll come back home. Every day I wake up forgetting what’s happened for a split second, and then I remember it all. All of the pain comes rushing back and hits me like a brick wall.”
I brought my hands to cover my face as tears fell down my cheeks like raindrops. “I can’t live like this any longer.” I sobbed.
He touched my shoulder with his fingertips. They were warm like the casserole dish. I didn’t realise it until that moment, but I craved comfort. I needed to feel something other than grief.
After a few minutes had passed, Kagiso reached down and took the dish, along with the bag he was carrying. He led me to the kitchen, set everything on the counter.
“I am sorry for inviting myself in.” He said.
I just shook my head and grabbed the bag. It was full of cards and notes scribbled on paper. I recognised some of the names, but others were from complete strangers who’d seen the story on television or in the newspaper. Big bold headlines informed the world that my wife was found dead, burnt to death by a man she once loved.
It was strange to think that whilst alive, Our Love did all she could to avoid the spotlight. I was still shocked that she put all of that aside to sing for me. I watched that video over and over ag-
“Levi?” Kagiso’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Sorry,” I murmured.
“Do you want juice?”
I shrugged, brushing him off. It just felt wrong to eat, drink and carry on like nothing happened. I sat down on one of the bar stools and sighed.
“I’m just tired. I don’t know how I went from paying for tickets for a surprise holiday just before going to London to paying for her casket and food to feed masses of people that didn’t even know her. Her entire being has been reduced to black bones, I didn’t even meet my first born. All I have are scans of him or her. We were going to name the child Bokamoso but we didn’t even know what it means.”
“It means future.” He said and gave me a pitiful smile before taking the lid off the casserole dish. The smell of freshly made mashed potatoes and lamb shank overwhelmed the house. The feeling of nostalgia hit me, Kagiso’s mother made this meal for us on so many occasions when we were younger.
“Your mom is a good cook and it’s very nice of her to make this, but I’m not hungry.”
“Are you sure?” Kagiso seemed doubtful, but I understood why. I didn’t look my best right now.
I nodded. “I just need to sleep.”
“I’ll put it in the fridge for later.” He said and sifted through the bag. His hand emerged with a small packet of cocaine and he gave it to me. “Nose candy will numb the pain for a little white. You’ve been through enough, you need a break…. for a little while.” He cajoled.
Kagiso was right, I needed a break but I fought the urge.
“I can still hear her voice, her laugh.” Pearl watched me from the couch but didn’t say anything.
“All this time I’ve been here, just thinking. No matter how many times I replay that day over and over and over again, it’s never satisfying enough to convince myself that I’m not guilty. The second I knew my wife was gone, I was gone too.”
I was curled up on the living room recliner, hugging a scatter cushion to my side tightly. I started crying again. I squeezed my eyes shut, desperately attempting to stop the sudden flow of tears. Pearl came over and knelt down in front of me. When I opened my eyes her hands were resting on my knees. She was patient, waiting for me to relax but I shook when I spoke.
“Kagiso brought a bunch of cards yesterday but I stopped reading them after I realised that none of the people who wrote them know what it’s like to feel so accountable for this kind of loss. I was supposed to be home with her but I was partying with you guys. Thando called me but I didn’t answer.”
Pearl gripped my knees tighter.
“I could have saved her,” I shouted, completely frustrated. “I could have done something, and every damn minute of the past week of my life, I have blamed myself.”
“Levi, please,” my mother’s eyes were wide when she came scrambling in the room having heard my distressed screams while she was making dinner. “You need to sleep. Pearl, please leave. He needs to rest.”
I shook my head. Apparently, my mother didn’t understand as much as I thought she did. “I need Thando back.”
“Levi you need to speak to the grief counsellor.”
“Mom, please don’t start with that again.” I begged.
My mother asked Pearl to leave again and pulled the blanket off the back of the couch. She draped it over me and tucked it in around my neck and feet. I didn’t protest because she wasn’t wrong. I needed to sleep but I couldn’t. I couldn’t face Thando in my haunting dreams.
“Try to get some rest, Levi. I don’t want you in a car in this state. I’m going to book our flights and pack your bags. We’ll fly down to Durban first thing tomorrow morning. The rest of the family is coming too.” My mother turned on her heels and walked towards the kitchen.
“Wait, please,” I whispered, and she stopped. “Don’t leave.” The distress in my voice was evident. I liked being alone. I wanted to be alone, but right now, I was afraid my thoughts would kill me. I couldn’t bear to think that I would be burying my wife in two days.
My thoughts were scattered as I smoothed out my long black dress. I was surprised at how normal I appeared to be. It could be deceiving if you didn’t know what I was on the inside. I pondered over whether or not I was actually clinically depressed, because depression is a dark and lonely place. I was at a low I never thought existed. I thought I knew pain. I thought I knew hurt but nothing compared to this. Nothing.
I wiped the remaining tears off my cheeks and slammed my eyes shut for a few seconds before ultimately deciding I was presentable enough to leave the house and bury my sister. I made sure to dress well, I figured Sister Thando would be watching us and she wouldn’t be pleased if I did not make the effort. I was also hoping that maybe if I looked remotely okay then people wouldn’t ask me the questions I really didn’t want to answer. I preferred it if I didn’t have to tell the world what was already too much for me to keep inside my own mind.
“I’m strong enough to do this. Isaiah 55 verse 8, God’s ways are not my ways. Romans 8 verse 28, ALL things work together for good for those that love God. He is Jehova Rapha, my healer. Jehovah Nacham, my comforter.” I whispered.
“Did you say something?” My aunt asked. I looked up to see her taking her coat off my bed. She pulled it on over her black dress then grabbed mine.
I could feel the body heat from her chest warming my back. It made me lean into her touch as she stretched the coat out, allowing me to slip my arms through the sleeves snugly. She grabbed a scrunchy and tied my braids into a bun.
“Thank you,” I muttered.
She stared at me and sighed deeply. “Are you ready, Futhi?”
I thought I was but when she opened the door and I saw Sister Thando’s coffin in the adjacent room my eyes quickly filled with tears. I bit my bottom lip to stop it from trembling. I walked over and stopped in the door frame, unable to move any further. Sbahle held out her trembling hand but I did not take it.
“Futhi,” Sbahle said gently. “It’s going to be okay.”
“When?” I sobbed. “When am I going to stop feeling like this? I have prayed and prayed but the stabbing pain in my chest won’t go away.”
My grandmother stood from the mattress and took my hand tenderly, wrapping her fingers around my palm. I tensed as she pulled me closer to her chest. Her other hand rubbed my back as I cried against her shoulder, shaking in her arms.
She whispered apologetic nothings in my ear, but they only made the tears come faster. I gripped the blanket draped around her shoulders securely to pull her closer to me. To think they always say a parent should never have to bury their own child. I could only imagine how it felt to bury a grandchild.
My eyes hung low and I gawked at the ground when it was time to leave. People prayed, they sang tired songs as the mourners left the house and my sister’s casket followed. My grandfather didn’t say anything as he led me to his van. Maybe he didn’t know what to say at a time like this, or maybe he still hadn’t come to terms with what had happened. He simply couldn’t understand how we could be sure it was my sister when all we had were bones. Dad tried, but failed to explain the concept of DNA and the fact that they compared my sister’s dental records to the skull that was found in the torched car and it was an exact match. Science said it was her.
Then again the Counsellor Levi’s mother organised for the family said that the first step is denial then there is grief. Grandpa was still in denial. My dad thought the idea of seeing a family Counsellor was stupid and it was something that white people did but I think it helped. Mom, dad and I stopped grieving separately in our own rooms following that session. We had each other and we were starting to look like a family again. It was such a pity that the Cohans, Khozas and Mmolas met under such circumstances. We could have met at the lobola negotiations or traditional wedding. They all seemed nice and those that met my sister spoke fondly of her, but then again who speaks ill of the dead?
Throughout the entire drive my cousin, Thuthuka seemed restless. His fingers nonchalantly tapped against the van’s steering wheel as he moved it back and forth to stay within the lines of the road. He asked a few questions, even though I was curled up in the passenger seat and basically unresponsive.
“How are you?” Thuthuka’s simple inquiry caused me to bite my lip.
“Okay, I guess,” I whispered, trying to focus on breathing before more tears inevitably fell. All of a sudden I preferred my grandfather’s silence, at least then I wouldn’t have had to think about what I was feeling.
“I’m sorry, Futhi.” He knew I was lying.
“Did you know all along?” He asked suddenly.
“Know what? That Brother Sandiso was abusive?”
He shook his head. “That we are siblings. My aunt…. mom? Told me last night. It took Thandolwethu dying for her to tell me that she is my mother.”
I slammed my eyes shut and turned my face toward the window, burying it in my coat. “I didn’t know I had a brother.” I stated honestly and I had no capacity to digest the new found information.
Now I realised exactly what I felt. I felt defenceless, damaged and drained. Maybe what I felt was parallel to dying. Every part of me that had my sister in it died too.
I sensed everyone watching as I walked through the crowds of people, my hand firmly gripping my husband’s arm. My eyes were bloodshot beyond repair and I hid them behind Thando’s glasses. People watched us as we walked in the massive hall. Some knew Thando or her husband and others were there due to the media attention. Thando’s uncles blew a fuse when they found out she was married, they didn’t recognise Levi as her husband because he did not follow due process and they didn’t want him and his family at the funeral. Mayihlome and I couldn’t care less about what they thought. Ultimately we were at peace with the fact that she was married when she moved in with Levi which meant that she wasn’t condemned to eternal damnation for living in sin. I took comfort in knowing that she was in a better place.
The hall was packed full, there were no seats left open. People stood in the back row, holding their children tighter to them. We started walking to the front row, reserved for close family and friends. Those who recognized me from various places held my hand or my shoulder as they offered their teary-eyed condolences. I acknowledged them politely and bit my cheek to keep from completely breaking down again. Pretending to be strong when I was completely shattered inside was the hardest thing I’d ever done.
By the time Levi’s brother, Thando’s cousins and uncles brought the casket to the alter I could no longer stand. It was hard, especially when I saw a picture of my child dawning her big dimpled smile.
I looked away, gasping for air. The room was oppressive. “It will be over soon,” Levi’s mother said from behind me as she gently placed her hand on my shoulder. I appreciated her reassurance, but it had not even begun. This wasn’t over. I was going to find Sandiso and I was going to kill him. Even then it wouldn’t be over.
The room went silent. Nobody coughed, or moved and I think a few people stopped breathing when it was my turn to speak. They all watched me as I slowly climbed the steps to the podium. I wiped my cheeks with the back of my hand. I didn’t bother hiding the pain in my eyes as I spoke.
“My wife was only twenty-three years old but she had the soul of someone well beyond her years. She always had a smile on her face, and she couldn’t help but love everyone in her life with everything she had….”
As I continued to recite my prepared speech I thought of telling everyone the truth about how lost I was. I could have told them that every morning I expected to wake up from this nightmare that had become my life. I could tell them the truth – I was not okay and I needed illegal substances in my system just to get through the day. But I didn’t, because people wanted to hear about the strong man who was fighting through this tragedy with courage. They wanted a success story, and I needed to be a man and give it to them.
“…. Even now that she is gone, I will continue to love her beyond measure for the rest of my life because, exactly two months ago, I stood before a Magistrate and promised her that not even death would separate us. I miss her with every single breath I take…”
I spotted Solomon walking in and I glanced over at Futhi. She was perched next to her grandmother, her eyes glistening with tears as she smiled up at me as I went on to speak about how Thando and I met, our incredible friendship and how she saved me from myself. My throat closed up and my voice waivered as I began to sob. I forced the words out. “….We all long for unconditional love and acceptance. Even when we know that there is a lot of room for improvement. We just long to be loved as we are, and to be loved while we become. We long for positive feedback in the process of transformation, we long to hear nice things. The things we getting right. I got that from her even though I am a flawed man. I have made mistakes and poor choices in life but she never dwelled on that.” I paused. ‘And I believe I am in this position today because of those mistakes,’ I said in my mind.
I know someday I won’t break down when I mention her name, but smile, because I got a chance to spend close to two years of my life with the most incredible girl. I was also lucky enough to experience once in a lifetime kind of love.
We attach ourselves so strongly to the people we care for that when they are gone, a part of us leaves with them. So, I want to promise myself that whatever the future may bring, I will never let my wife become a memory. Thandolwethu Zenkosi Cohan and our child, Bokamoso will always be the part of me that I keep close to my heart.” I closed my eyes and let a breath escape my lips as I turned to look at her casket. “Baby, I still believe in fate and destiny, I also believe we are only fated to do the things that we’d choose anyway. And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.”

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