SHORT STORY: I am dying to see the light

Friday October 18 2019

I know I should go back to school but I want to

I know I should go back to school but I want to stay here, look at the water. Try and challenge it to flow uphill. But it keeps flowing downhill, angrily hitting against a rock and forming white foam. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG 

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That evening, as I strolled past the Lana Bridge, overlooking the running waters and the shrubs and trees that lined the path made of a wooden bridge, I realised I had planned for everything except the one thing that I had to do. Die!

I felt my legs walk to lecture halls and heard voices reverberating across the sad blue painted walls. Blue, the colour that breathed life and hope.

I saw the blueness of the walls fade off to non-existence. I was there when it happened. I saw my feet go to the bathroom, to the canteen. I was there, but I did not feel it.

When Michael walked up to me after a Psychology lecture and said to me: “Wazup man? You’ve been behaving weird, you know you can talk to me.” I saw the words coming out of the mouth of his shadow.

I stood right in the middle of the bridge and looked down at the water. The sun saw me and decided to walk away. It left an orangeness that tasted like bitter lemon.

Except for the rattling sound of the water, there was an uncomfortable calmness. Or maybe I’m not used to this kind of calmness. The voices in my head never leave, they sleep and wake up with me, like an unwanted shadow.


“Water and life are synonymous, water flows the same way our lives flow through the years; endlessly, tiringly. I’m tired of my life flowing downwards. I want to flow upwards. I want to gain momentum uphill.”

I can hear my voice and it’s clothed in fear and tiredness. A tiredness from living. Thinking...breathing...all seem like too much work.

I can’t tell how long I’ve been standing there, it’s almost dark now. I know I should go back to school but I want to stay here, look at the water. Try and challenge it to flow uphill. But it keeps flowing downhill, angrily hitting against a rock and forming white foam.

On the other side of the bridge a girl appears, followed by a boy. The boy wraps his arms around the girl. The girl laughs. They smile at each other, laugh again and then look down the river. Perhaps their love is also flowing downhill.

“Hello man, are there animals here?” the boy asks.

“I don’t know, it’s my first time” I say.

“Is it safe to swim here during the day?” the girl asks.

I look at her, nothing striking I think. She is excited and her cheeks are happy.

“I ask like I could even swim, I’m afraid of water. I can’t look at my reflection in the water, makes me feel like I could drown,” she says.

I know her type. The kind who look at you like their eyes can swallow all the pain in yours.

“Are you scared or respectful of water?” I ask.

“Both, actually. But I hear flowing water is better than still water,” she says while sucking her cheeks and there’s a sadness in her eyes.

“What are you talking about? Janie, let’s go,” the boy says.

I can see that the water discussion makes him a little dizzy and uncomfortable.

“J-A-N-I-E,” I want to ask her how she spells her name but I don’t. I want to spell it as J-A-N-I.

I know it’s her. When God was carving her face and putting in those I-can-swallow-your-pain eyes, he must have been shaping my heart and connecting veins to it; veins which are now tired. We were supposed to die together.

Jani glances at me, long enough for me to feel her eyes on me but short enough for her boyfriend not to notice.

He wraps his right hand across her waist, but this time, she does not do the same. Even with her eyes looking in the opposite direction, I can feel them on me.

“Please let’s stay a little, that’s why we came, right?” she asks the boy.

I look back down at the water. We are doing well looking at each other without really looking. He grudgingly lets her go and she walks towards me. I can feel her running towards me. The boy doesn’t, he lets the butterfly fly away hoping it will fly back to the nest. It won’t. I know.

“So, what is your name?” she asks me.

“Does my name count? What is in a name?” I answer.

“You are weird- which is nice. OK then, who are you?”

“I don’t know. Do you know who you are?” I look at her, but she seems deep in thought. Perhaps she hasn’t thought of herself beyond her name.
“I do know one thing … You are my partner in death,” I say.

She laughs.

I do not struggle to get her into the water. We are together in this. It is a quick flight down to the future; to us. We land with a splash; we cause more than foam. We cause a revolution.

For the first time in months, I’m happy. I’m not fighting for breath, but she is. The cold of the water cuts into my heart. I do not want to die but I do not want to live. This is the only way out. Soon I’ll look at death in the face.

I feel for her hand under the water. I can hear the boy screaming in the distance. He must be calling out her name.

She is not fighting the turbulence, we are going on a journey together. She has let go of her soul. She is numb to the pain of the world. To the hopelessness of the rising sun.

I do not hear anything now; not even the splashing of water above my face. My lungs burn for oxygen but they are full with water. It is the kind of fullness I could not have found in life.

My life flashes before me; I see the loneliness, the rejections, the hurt, the pain. Then I see my mother. I pray that her pain will die with me.

I wait for death to claim me, to reach down and guide me to the next world. We will walk to the mountains beyond, without feeling thirst or hunger or pain or life.

Darkness will fold into tiny pieces of nothingness, and there will be light.