By Nkatha Obungu

I am going to die today.

Those were the words that rung in his head when he opened his eyes that morning. He had been roused from another one of his nightmares by the shrill blare of the digital clock at his bedside. It continued to ring persistently but he did not move to silent it. The sound only registered in a dull part of his conscious which he reckoned had died a while ago. The cold permeated his bones but he made no attempt to wrap himself in the sweaty blankets that had been thrown off in the middle of the night.

Purely out of habit, he glanced at the side of the bed, knowing that he would find no-one. This was not even his bed. Well, technically speaking, it was; considering that it was in the guest room of his house, but in all other senses of possession, it was not his. It was a cold bed, inhabited by whatever friend or relation that had spent the night at their house; his and Sheila’s. Sheila.  He winced as his subconscious dredged up an image of her; crying. He had tried to drown out that image. It was an awful image; of her looking pitifully wounded. She had always had a child-like round face and when it scrounged up at the horror of her discovery last night, it was enough to make a grown man weep. Weep, he had. All through the night. Both in the nightmare of his realities and the guilt of his troubled dreams.

He slowly woke up and dressed; paying no attention to the fact that he had worn those clothes last night. If his senses were alive, he would have felt grubby, but as it was, he barely had the strength to exist, leave alone, notice comforts or the lack thereof. As he finished dressing and began walking out to the living room, a cold sense of dread enveloped his gut. He did not want to face Sheila. Not after last night. The look in her eyes had emasculated him; made him feel worthless. And why shouldn’t he? He had destroyed the very thing he had vowed to protect and cherish. He had betrayed her; betrayed the sanctity of their love.

The house was eerily silent and all at once, the knots of dread in his stomach unfurled and then quickly twisted into grief. She had packed his suitcases and left them at the door. Kind Sheila. Thoughtful Sheila. My Sheila. There was no note next to the bags. Wounded Sheila. Hurt Sheila.

He took a writing pad from the bureau and started writing a note. He felt inadequate; how could you begin apologizing for defiling something so precious? After a few agonizing seconds of pen poised over paper, he settled on the only thing he knew would be important. “Goodbye Sheila.” Without picking any of the bags left for him, he walked out into the street; under the drizzling rain.

His gait had often be termed as masculine but as he walked, he almost laughed at the irony of it all. The man with the masculine gait had finally succumbed to his secret longings of being with another man. It had always been a ridiculous fantasy; one that convinced him he had lived in Europe for too long. But they persisted; and after festering since his childhood, he had succumbed. Gavin was just a distraction; an exciting morsel of fun that he permitted himself sparingly. He neither loved him nor cared for him; because the great love of his life would always remain Sheila; his soul mate. It had been stupid to bring his gay lover to the house when Sheila was away on a business trip. But then again, getting involved with Gavin had been a stupid idea all along. Most people feel remorse at getting caught; but what he felt was regret. Regret at having given leave to a ridiculous temptation that he had known all along would suck the very joie de vivre of his life from him.

Sheila had wanted to surprise him by coming early. She knew he liked surprises. She had no way of knowing that it was she who would be surprised by catching him and Gavin on their special love seat in the living room. It killed him just to think about it and he tried his best to suppress the image of her horrified face.

He stood facing the bridge. The expanse of water below it was foggy and deathly still. The rain drops fell on his face in urgent drops; as if trying to talk him out of it. He tried to look for alternatives but it was no use. He knew his life was over. He started climbing on the ledge of the bridge; the stone wall scrapping across his palms and drawing blood. The blood glistened on his hand; bright and shiny ; yet quickly dissolving in the urgent rain drops. He stopped suddenly. God! What was he doing? He couldn’t leave Sheila alone in the world. They only had each other. All at once, it dawned on him; he would go back and wait for her. And when she came back, he would apologize over and over until she forgave him. He had broken his vow once but he would not do it again. He would never leave her again.

He quickly got down; his mind whirring at the various forms of apology he would offer to Sheila. He was ready to get humiliated. He deserved it after all. His mind was so occupied that he did not notice he was walking smack in the middle of the road. He was like a demon possessed as he counted and recounted the cost of getting her to trust him again. He did not see the Jeep coming towards him at full speed. He barely heard its angry skid on the slippery road. All he felt was an impossibly strong force lifting him off the ground and the angry whiplash of gravity setting him back down on the gravel tarmac. He felt shattering from within ; everything blurred. All he could think of, even as he took his last breath, was “Sheila. I can’t leave Sheila.”