I killed you in your sleep.
I thought it was only fitting, what with “knocked out” being your default state whenever I was around.
You used to tell me it was because you found my presence so comfortable. Personally, I think I just bored you to the point where being unconscious was literally more appealing.
“That’s not true,” you’d have said, if you were alive. “And I invite you to lie with me sometimes.”
And that second part, I’d acknowledge. But even if you sometimes fell asleep holding fast to my body, you wouldn’t be out five minutes before your arms slid off, like silk ribbons unraveling. I wanted arms that held fast, like the tug-of-war ropes from primary school P.E. Ropes that grazed the underside of our upper arms while dragging feet created dust clouds along the barren ground.
But all your arms could ever remind me of was silk ribbons unraveling.
As I approached for my kill, your mouth was closed. Dry, white film welded your top and bottom lips together, although they seemed to want nothing more than to be allowed to crack quietly apart. My movements were so solemn, you’d have marveled, had you been awake. Not even I could remember the last time I hadn’t screamed your name and jumped onto you whenever we were close enough. But today, there was no enthusiastic flapping of arms. There was only the dagger I wielded in my hand.
Lmao who the hell ‘wields a dagger’ in this big 2019? you’d have asked, if you were reading this. If you weren’t dead. But you are, so I needn’t bother with an answer.
When the shadow of my torso obscured your head, I lifted my weapon high and drove it down, swiftly and single-mindedly, straight into the center of your heart.
There was blood. It began to leak and spread across your shirt, and that was when my heart broke.
Not because I had killed you, but because there should have been no blood at all.
And now I was flooded with regret.
Because there was blood but there shouldn’t have been blood and so I wrapped my right hand around my left hand which was wrapped around the hilt and I pulled with everything I could muster, because I was desperate and weeping, and the blade had to come out, but it wouldn’t come out, it was stuck fast.
I sank to the ground in despair and sobbed.
“No,” I moaned. “No, no, no, no, no!”
The blade should have gone in and come right back out, spotless as the day it was forged. There ought to have been nothing in that cavity but an empty, dark hole.
It was the only excuse I could accept.
Most of the time, I didn’t even have the energy to be properly infuriated. There wasn’t a moment of the day that I wasn’t exhausted, despite having done precisely nothing for hours. On top of that, I suffered the discomfort of having a tiny ball of water perpetually stuck in in the middle of my throat.
Maybe my “F*ck the World” playlist had helped a little bit in the beginning, but after weeks of near constant playing and very little updating, I was now almost as sick of the songs as I was of being awake. Still, if the alternative was silence, I much preferred the lamentations pouring out of the Bluetooth speaker on my bedside table.
At 4:30 p.m., I was curled up in bed, scrolling aimlessly through my music library on my phone—which was not at all different from what I’d been doing at 4:30 a.m., if I was being honest. The scrolling helped a little with the social media withdrawal. Besides the mechanics of the thumb motions, pressing on a song title and having it begin felt close enough to the way a silently playing Instagram video produced sound once you tapped on it. And if I really wanted to spice things up, I turned on the lyric feature and tried to mimic the motions of reading through a Twitter thread.
Pathetic? Yes. But better than accidentally coming across anything to do with you on social media? Unfortunately, also yes. Because, I am telling, you, there is nothing more infuriating than a person you have killed refusing to be dead.
I mistook the sound of the first knock for a beat in the music, but when it came again, I hit pause.
“Come in,” I growled. It was the first time I had used my voice all day.
My brother walked in, shirtless as usual, wearing sweatpants and rubber slides, and chewing a chicken drumstick. Whenever he was home, even if he was doing intense work, he maintained the appearance of sloth-like ease. Without waiting for an invitation, he flopped down into my armchair with such practice and familiarity that it was impossible not to be suspicious. I almost roused myself enough to ask him where he found the audacity to use my room when I was out of town—but I exhaled and let it go. There were bigger problems. Failed murder attempts, for example.
“I haven’t seen you all day,” Junior said through a mouthful of chicken. “I’ve barely seen you all week. And we live in the same house.”
I only huffed in response.
Junior continued to decimate his drumstick and I resumed the music at a lower volume. When there was nothing but bone between his hands and a song was playing for probably the seventh time that day, Junior said, “I won’t ask you to tell me what’s going on. But I’ll need you to get out of bed.”
“So that what?” I grumbled.
He looked at me squarely for the first time since he’d entered my room. “You look like you need some ice cream.”
“You sound like you want some.”
Junior stood up. “You should probably start bathing now,” he said, heading for the door. “We’re leaving here in thirty minutes.”
And that was the end of the conversation unless I wanted to get up and chase him, because before I could say anything else, the door had clicked shut.
Mildly irritated, I raised the speaker volume to an obscene level and turned away from the door—and the little ball of water stuck in my throat suddenly expanded into a balloon.
Because there you were.
In retrospect, it was surprising that you’d even let me go a whole week without showing up in my bedroom. Not too long ago, it had been one of your sanctuaries too. How many times had you lain in this bed, just like you were lying now? With your eyes closed, lips together but threatening to pull apart, chest heaving almost as though you were having difficulty breathing.
The rage and hurt returned and I knew that this time, I wouldn’t kill you as coldly, quickly or calmly as I had before. Now, you would feel my pain as you died slowly. The rope in my hands was strong enough to do the job, and the muscles in my arms were angry enough. Tug-of-war. Fiber ropes. Fuck your silk ribbons.
With one end of the rope in each palm, I climbed over you, straddling you as though adjusting into a horse’s saddle. I stretched my arm out and let the rope slide down the back of your head, rest behind your neck. Then I switched the ends of the rope between my hands and began to pull
I didn’t stop until I heard your neck snap, and then I sat back on my haunches, panting heavily and glaring at your dead body with eyes that would have incinerated your carcass if looks could cremate.
I played with the idea of ignoring Junior. In the end, I only agreed to his proposition when I looked down and saw the cord pieces in my hands. I was going to have to be nice to my brother if I wanted him to let me borrow his charger.
The trouble with Accra is how tiny it is. If you really want to avoid seeing someone who also lives there, you’re best off never leaving your house. It was a small miracle that I’d even gone this long without a soul outside of my household knowing that I was back. But now, here I was, exposing myself to the streets once more.
Each time I saw a car that looked even vaguely familiar, my heart did a frog leap. Considering the lack of vehicular variety in my area, it was no surprise that I was taut as an E string by the time we were even halfway to the ice cream place.
“Three months in Mauritius, and you’ve already forgotten how to drive?” Junior teased.
“Feel free to take the wheel if you want,” I retorted. He said nothing. “That’s what I thought.”
It had been six months since he’d nearly killed himself and two other friends on their way back from a night out. Although he’d been driving for a year before this incident, it was taking him a long time to emotionally recover. His body was miles ahead in the healing process, though. His scars weren’t even obvious anymore unless you knew exactly where to look.
Another moment of silence between us. Another episode of me nearly having a spasm because of a random car’s model and color. Exhausted by my own antics, I decided to take my mind off the surrounding traffic for a bit. I glanced at Junior. Compassion softened my voice as I said, “You’re going to have to get back into the driver’s seat eventually.”
He pretended to be loudly offended. “Ei! Why are you trying to rush my healing? Have you seen me trying to rush yours?”
The irony was so obviously unintentional that I couldn’t hold back the burst of laughter. It was my first expression of genuine mirth in weeks.
Junior and I were the only ones in the ice cream shop, except for a Lebanese-looking man who may or may not have owned the place. It was neither late enough nor early enough in the day for the shop to be getting much business. The workers, after robotically serving us our ice cream, had resumed their gossip session behind the counter.
“So, when are you really going to tell me about Mauritius?” Junior asked.
I cringed as I forced down another spoonful of the lemon ice cream I sincerely wished I hadn’t chosen. “You know I can’t. NDA.”
“I’m not even asking you to spoil anything, sis. Just give me one name.”
Junior sucked his teeth impatiently and complained, “How can you be gone for months and the only thing you’re allowed to tell me is that the weather was nice?”
I gagged on another spoonful. “It’s like they took multifruit Kalyppo and froze it, then added Fanta Lemon, and now they expect me to believe it’s ice cream.”
At last, Junior’s attention was diverted. After declaring that it couldn’t possibly be that bad, he reached over to pull my bowl towards him and—
I was on the floor.
I had no memory of toppling off my stool, but suddenly, I was on my hands and knees on the ground, heaving, and fearing that my heart was going to burst out of my chest. I was certain I’d just had a near-death experience, which made no sense whatsoever.
For a good while, I couldn’t process anything about my immediate surroundings. Degree by degree, I realized that I was crying, that the hairs on my arms and neck were all standing on end, that Junior was calling my name, and panicking, and had a hand on my back.
“Akua? Akua! Akua, what’s happening?”
I lifted my head slowly and tried to get him into focus through my tears. “I don’t…” I whispered. “I don’t know.”
Maybe I was finally wrecked. Fully broken, and permanently out of my mind. I thought I had splintered and pieced myself back together enough these past few weeks, but clearly, I was wrong. Each night, for that last month in Mauritius, I had allowed myself to break apart and die, resurrecting each time by morning, maybe with less of me than I’d had the day before, but there was always still something. I thought I had cried it all out by the time I came back to Ghana. These days, I fantasized about stabbing and strangulation to mitigate the crippling pain I had no interest in feeling.
So, what was this new thing, and would it keep happening, and would it always be so debilitating and unpredictable?
While my mind spun with these thoughts, Junior had been asking me questions I hadn’t heard.
I was once more on a stool, with no recollection of ever leaving the floor. I refocused on Junior, who was now apologizing for making me go out and insisting that if he’d known there was something physically wrong with me, he wouldn’t have pushed it. He asked me why I hadn’t said anything and whether he should call my psychiatrist, or his godfather, who was a medical doctor.
“Junior, shush, ah,” I moaned. “I’m fine.”
“Like hell you are! Shit. Okay. We’re going home.”
That didn’t sound like a bad idea at all.
I lifted myself with some effort and tried to pick up my bag, but he snatched it from me like one would snatch a box of matches from a toddler’s hand.
“If you think I’m letting you take us back home, anka m’agyimie.”
The sacrifice of his executive decision wasn’t lost on me, I swear. It’s just that every time I tried to express my appreciation, I broke out into heavier and heavier sobs. From the moment I sat in the car until we’d been home for nearly fifteen minutes, I cried uncontrollably. Junior stayed with me until I stopped and fell asleep.
Later that night, when I could finally rouse myself to do something other than stare at the ceiling, I gave into my impulses and re-downloaded Twitter. Of course you were right at the top of my feed. It hardly mattered to my timeline that I’d progressed from having you muted (ridiculously ineffective, by the way) to having you blocked. We had too many online mutuals for me to be able to purge you from my feed without blocking over a hundred people, and it was these very mutuals that brought you back to the forefront of my mind after some hours of relieving mental vacancy.
The fact that you were blocked meant I could see that your Tweet was being quoted, even if I couldn’t read the Tweet itself. I scrolled right on by, but there was another person having quoted you again, and another a couple of Tweets below it, and several more below that. Each quote was either expressing surprise or offering sympathy. Since my mental state was already in shambles after having seen your username at all, I figured I had nothing more to lose by reading the original Tweet. Once more submitting to impulse, I clicked the blue link.
“I was a second away from a fatal accident today. It was hours ago, but I haven’t stopped shaking ever since.”
When the madness hit again, I went cross-eyed. Because I knew, this time, how close I was to success.
I approached the flesh solemnly, devoid of all the hesitation I’d had when I wasn’t yet sure I didn’t want myself alive. In my right hand, I gripped my weapon, and when the blade’s shadow was imposed on the skin of my left forearm, I lifted it only marginally, and began to stroke. It was like cutting cardboard with an X-Acto knife. If it was painful, I couldn’t have been paying much attention. I was singularly focused on seeing the blood flow.
My memory caught up and transported me back to the last time I was in this position, when I wasn’t yet sure I didn’t want myself alive. Three days before then, I had tried to explain to you how sorry I was that I couldn’t do this anymore. Two days before then, I had skipped all my classes and refused to get out of bed. The day before, I had cried myself into dehydration and a pounding headache—both from the crying and the hunger and perhaps the withheld urine, if that was a thing that could give you headaches. The day of, I had gotten out of bed only because the knife was all the way across the room. I had just texted you goodbye.
They hadn’t been deep, those gashes, but you felt them. There was no blood, only numerous, blackening scars. You were there ten minutes after I started. You’d left work and driven over. When you reached me, you snatched the knife from my hands. When I asked you through my sobs and hiccups how the hell I was supposed to chop my onions without a knife, you said you would chop my onions for me. You chopped all my vegetables for me for a month before you returned my damned knife.
That man who used to cry from my pain, I would resurrect him.
In the present, I switched hands. Just when I began forming some brand-new gashes, my phone began to ring. I saw your name out of the corner of my eye. But I no longer wanted your attention, your compassion, or even your concern. I just wanted to kill you from all the pain I was determined never to feel again.
I remember how we discovered the bond. It was maybe in the third year of our friendship. I was explaining to you how my left leg had been feeling like it had been on fire since the day before. In response, you lifted the fabric of your loose jeans and showed me exactly where the iron had burned you twelve hours prior, and an ugly dark scab was making itself comfortable.
The bond should have been my first weapon, but I’d taken it for granted over the past few years, enough to forget about it entirely. I could have skipped past all these months of torturing myself with wondering how to force you to care about my pain.
Drops of blood on the carpet, a growing faintness in my head. The phone went silent, then started up again. More blood, more blade, more silence, more ringing. You were frantically trying to reach me. I was desperately trying to kill you.
The phone rang.