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  • The End of All Things
  • Chekwube O. Danladi (bio)

I want to put my ear to the ground, feel the earth rotate around itself, and carry me with it; carry me somewhere closer to you. Sometimes I miss us here together. I fear that you have forgotten me here.

Do you remember our first winter in London? How we decided to travel here in spite of Aunty’s pleas? I think it was the only time Aunty ever begged for anything, for anyone. I remember her saying that one was not meant to be alone in a foreign place, so far from home. But that is all we wanted then, just that, to be far away. The promises we made about working a job to pay the cost of the rent, to be sure to eat proper meals each day. Convincing enough that she eventually agreed. “Don’t worry Aunty, I can take care of myself.”

I want to remember when the cold came and it became the loneliest time that we have ever lived. You know it is the winter in London when even the natives here stop smiling, even as they like the death of everything. The only thing that soothed the lonesomeness was to paint the walls white, full white. That eventual day, when there was no longer hope for sun and everything succumbed to darkness, if I could explain how my body moved to scrawl the walls every way that it could: holding brush to bucket and smattering, lobbing whole fistfuls on to free space and leaving clumsy handprints. It was the only way to keep warm. White walls allow everything to gleam with light.

Remember in this flat how there is just the one window. In the bathroom. I am told that when they converted the building from a warehouse that once housed death-marked chickens that didn’t need a view, it had been emptied and renovated, with each unit having a single uneven square of window installed on the far left wall next to the toilet. Ours looks out towards the yellowed brick wall blocking a view of the Thames. Even as you can’t see it, to hear the sounds of the river climbing over that wall is sometimes enough to sustain a fading life.

The window is the only thing I do not paint. Instead I pull the blinds up until they are tight at the top to let the light soak in. It is light that makes the place pure and whole and full. It is unfettered and free and offers some relief of my lonesomeness.

My dreams now are full of enough light for day living. Winter has come again, and I am able to dream of sun back home. Aunty worries that I am cold here, but I tell her I am warmed by my memories. I have my weeks of dreams and nostalgia to keep me, on repeat until this time has passed. [End Page 633]

I do not mean to begin with any pretense. This tale is very cumbersome. I thought it a dream, at first. My eyes were half open and clouded with the gum of sleep. It was as if I couldn’t see past my waist to the earth. The images came to me in the usual way dream pictures come and leave you in a haze: half of me with the most clarity and precision imaginable, even past reality; the other half a fog of white and unreal thoughts. I widened my eyes to find my palm grasping at a yucca bush of tall, thick, extending arms. It was night and the bush’s pointed shoots looked deep dark, blacker than the sky. Wisps grew from their edges, thin as hair along the nape of a neck. My hands searched in the thickness of it, this much I knew, but I did not know what it was I sought.

I felt the heat of Aunty’s anger, how raw it might be if she knew me out this late in the night. I knew what her eyes would do. They would sit still, the only unmoving thing about her, all else vibrating...


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pp. 633-640
Launched on MUSE
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