Heaven In The Headlights (Long Read) | by Andanje Wobanda

I watched the approaching car. Blinding head lights; blaring horns. I stepped from my hiding spot by the side of the road. My clothes clung to my form, wet from the rain. I stretched my hands to my side and looked up to the heavens. “Come to the light”, a voice whispered. I closed my eyes. “Forgive me father,” I said as I felt the impact. I felt my body float into the air as the light washed over me. I was at peace. I thought of all the things I would miss. The people I had left behind, my wife Mary, with her beautiful smile and dramatic eyes. She would cry when she heard I was gone. She cried on every occasion; her birthday, our 6th anniversary, the birth of the twins. I loved her. I loved the kids.

No one would ever know my demons, unless Mary decided to tell them. Tell them the secret we hid. She may one day speak of how our marriage crumbled. As my life passed before my eyes I could see clearly how this had happened.

I had lost interest in the kids, for a while the twins had started to bother me. They were too noisy. I had fantasized on ways to shut them up. Mary was out; Grocery shopping. The neigh-bours’ kids were in school so I couldn’t send the children out to play. I sat there contemplating on what to do. My head was swimming. A headache had started from the back of my head racing to the middle of my scalp. My neck felt stiff, I brought my hands to my face and rubbed my temples. The twins’ voices were becoming louder by the minute. I caught their movements with my side-eye, a blur of red and blue. I told them to stop, to sit down. At least I thought I did. On and on they raced through the house.

The pressure in my chest was immense. It felt like a sumo wrestler sat on it.

“Daddy look!” they chorused

That noise. It grated my senses.

“Daddy look at me”, the girl said excitedly.

Be quiet. Be quiet.

They insisted that I look at whatever it is they were doing. I slowly turned my head. Little Maria was on top of the sofa. They had removed the cushions from the sofa and arranged them on the floor. I knew this game. They would stand at the top, hands balanced on the wall. Pieces of clothes tied around their necks, to resemble a super hero’s cloak. Today it was superman. Then they would jump, trusting their little feet will land on the cushions. The girl was daring. More daring that the boy. She balanced on the headrest, Looked at me and with a smile, jumped of the sofa.

Trust! That was a heavy word. How do you trust when even doctors lie? “You will be as good as new after these medications” he had said handing me a yellow bottle with white pills. That was twenty years ago. I was still battling the same demons.

“Get well soon”, a colleague had texted yesterday. Well from what? From the loneliness that seeped through my soul like a cold that refused to go away. I hated their messages. Their phony sympathies, none of them cared.

It was quiet for a while. The children had probably found something else to do, I thought resting my head on the sofa. I was suddenly too tired to find out what they were up to. I tire easily, the book from a favourite author lay in my closet. I was too tired to read.

I left work a week and a half before, after months of discontentment. I had walked out without a word. The boss had tried to call me numerous times. I watched as the calls went to voice mail. Mary had insisted I text him five days ago, to let him know I was sick.

This was not the first time I felt like this. It began when I was thirteen. I woke up and just didn’t feel like going to school. I felt the cold sip to my bones, became mentally exhausted and too tired to eat. No matter how many hours I slept, I still woke up exhausted. My parents worried about me.

“That is just examination fever”, an uncle had stated. I was sitting for K.C.P.E. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the exams; I just didn’t see the need to.

I heard glass breaking. I needed to see what the kids were up to. With snail speed, I went to the kitchen. The girl was on top of a shelf, shards of glass at her feet. How did she get up there? The boy was trying to pick them up.

I motioned for them to follow me. “Sit!” I commanded. The girl looked at me in defiance. The boy, bottom lip quivering, tried to defend his sister. “I told her to get the sugar for me’’. That meant equal punishment for both; the girl for being stubborn and the boy for covering up for his sister. I found the duct tape and rope on the top drawer in the bedroom cupboard.

“Hands on the table”, I commanded placing a knife, the tape and the rope on the table.

I cut and tied and stared at my masterpiece. Problem solved. I went back to my seat, rolled my head back and covered myself with a blanket. Finally, some peace!

The wife! I heard her scream. It sounded far away. Hush!Hush! I tried to tell her. She shook my shoulder. ‘Go away please’, I said. She ignored my pleas. She always ignored me, especially when she focused on those damn kids.

My eyelids opened slowly.

“What did you do?” she wailed as tears fell from her huge eyes. “You are sick”, she continued, moving towards the sleeping forms.

Yes I was sick. The doctor had first claimed it was thyroid disease. “That would explain the shakiness and exhaustion” he had explained. My parents were willing to accept this. Further prodding and testing proved it wasn’t. The alternative was worse. Melancholia!

“What will other people say if we tell them he has a mental illness?” Mother had wailed to the doctor. My father had sat there with a grim face. The solution was simple, tell no one.

The family started to look at me different. I was now in the same league as uncle Kombo, the mad man. Madness did run in the family. The people in the estate knew it. The children in my class knew it. They talked about my madness behind my back. The teachers looked at me with worry. I was a ticking time bomb.

It wasn’t the first nor the last time I suffered from depression. In my third year I had been too sick to do a major exam. I dropped out then and found work as a sales person. The hours were flexible. I worked hard when I could and stopped when the depression set in.

It was during these bouts that I met Mary. Sweet Mary with her disarming smile. Finally I had found someone who loved me for who I am. Six months later I had married the beautiful bank-er.

“What have you done?” She said over and over.

I look at the boy and girl. They were asleep. Hands tied to the chair and mouth covered with duct tape. The wife had tears running down her face.

“You tied and gagged your own kids?” she screamed yanking the ropes from their hands.

The kids awoke. The boy hid behind the girl. The girl looked at me scared for the first time in her life. I moved towards them.

Maria blocked them with her body. “Stay away from us”, she warned. She looked scared, she was shaking.

I needed to clear my head. I walked out of the house. Maybe if I got some air I would feel re-morse. Then I would explain to her what happened. Those damn kids would not stay still for five minutes. I have been too tired lately to deal with their hyperactivity. I walked through the street. Walks had always cooled me down. Today, I did not enjoy the quiet of the park.

I came back to an empty house. Mary and the kids had gone. Sadness weighed down on me. ‘I had no one now,’ I thought as I walked through the empty rooms. I crawled into bed and slept, finding solace in my dreams. The idea of ending my agony seduced my senses. It would be easier if I ended the constant loneliness and sadness. The next day I called her. She did not pick on the first ring, neither on the second nor the third. She returned my calls a week later. The twins had forgotten the episode. They came back home.

“Promise me you will never do that again?” Maria had pleaded. I did try after that; to not sleep all the time, to not let their voice grate my nerves. The easiest way was to stay in the bedroom when they were home. It helped if I didn’t see them during these episodes.

“Daddy is sick”, I heard the girl tell her brother. She was five. Five year olds should never have to justify their father’s actions. After this I tried being more involved. I went back to work. I picked them from school every evening and helped them with their homework. I even played their silly games and tried to laugh when they told their lame jokes. Everyone was happy. Ma-ria seemed to have forgiven me. Until the day she came home and found me asleep on the couch.

“Where are the kids?

“In school”, I said. I had been too tired to pick them up. I could sense her withdrawal. The rift grew. She slept most nights in the kid’s room. The loneliness started to sip in. I was surrounded by people but felt so alone. That’s when I decided to end it.

It was a Friday. Maria and the kids had gone to her parents. I knew it was just an excuse on her part. She had been doing that a lot lately. I tried telling her I could never hurt the kids. “You never wanted them in the first place!” she had pointed out.

“I thought we were past this!” I had screamed with frustration. If she had only listened to me, we wouldn’t have been in this situation. My plan had been to never have children. I did not want to pass this on. The sickness should end with me. Now I had to worry about whom among them will turn out like me. Not having a child was a small price to pay and I had explained it to her. I had relented eventually. I loved her too much not to. She forgave me for that. Maybe she had grown tired of forgiving me.

In my nightmares I flirted with different ways of ending it. I had danced with death before. I was fifteen, two years after my diagnosis. I remembered the small white pills in a yellow bot-tle. I took fifteen. I felt them pass through my throat washed down by a swig from the Coke bottle. It was the easiest decision I had ever made. It had not worked. Mother had found me writhing on the floor and rushed me to the hospital. My stomach was pumped and I was put on suicide watch. I would never repeat that.

By morning, I knew how I would like it to end. I dragged myself from the bed, body trembling. In the shower I stood as the hot water scalded my skin. I was preparing for the pain to come. I reached into the closet and pulled out an outfit. White trousers paired with a white shirt. I looped the black belt around my trousers, it matched the black shoes. Before I walked out the door, I remembered Mary. I thought of writing a note to her. I would explain why I had to do this. Except, I had wanted it to look like an accident!

Andanje

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