[Content/Trigger Warning: death of a loved one and graphic description of sex]
May 20th, 2019
“I don’t want to forget the present is a gift, and I don’t want to take for granted the time you may have here with me,” – Alicia Keys, ‘Like You’ll Never See Me Again,’ (2007)
The girls were spending the week with their father and his new partner in Pretoria. Nomsa and I had the whole house to ourselves. For an entire week. She loved my daughters and enjoyed having them around the house as much as I did; but we both deeply cherished having time just to ourselves. My naked body was plastered against her equally nude one and our dark brown limbs were bathed in the golden winter sunlight that poured through the doors which led to the balcony outside my bedroom. My heart was unbearably full and my cheeks ached from smiling and laughing way too much. I couldn’t believe just how happy I was, lying next to that woman. Everything had happened incredibly fast after I had approached her in that restaurant over a year ago. She had been surprised but pleased to see me. She was happy to exchange numbers. The excitement and enthusiasm I expected love to consist of came effortlessly with her. We spoke on the phone till sunrise. We exchanged stories about our careers in the medical field. She worked for a big public hospital and had so many horror stories to tell about the government’s negligence towards poor patients.
She talked me through my divorce from Dr. Radebe and was there to hold me as I wept with shame that I had failed at marriage. She convinced me to start therapy and accompanied me on my first few tentative attempts at it. She provided the therapy I needed, however; even though she’d be the first to deny it. She told me daily that I was valid; that everything I thought and felt was real and valid. She believed anything I said the moment I said it; took my word at face value. She listened intently when I spoke to her about the residue of my relationship with Leroy; the way I still felt unworthy of happiness, my resentment that Lee could be a good and loving and healthy partner but had chosen not to share any of that with me. She affirmed me in her thoughtful, soft-spoken way, telling me that the way that people chose to treat me was not a reflection or quantifier of my worth. She never raised her voice with me nor was she ever cold or harsh even when I did something that displeased her. Being with her felt like being born again. She made me feel like a child; innocent, pure, worthy of being doted on, held, loved consistently and deliberately. She praised the little things I did for my girls to sooth my worries about not being a good mother. When the sadness, which still set in sometimes, came, she’d get underneath the covers with me; bringing snacks and quiet funny anecdotes and long, warm hugs when the tears took over.
Being in love was grand.
I ran my fingertips lightly over the soft, smooth skin of her belly, staring at her perfect face. She had long, naturally curled eyelashes and the deepest dimples. Her mouth looked like a bunched up brown heart that was always on the verge of laughter. Her large breasts were swept apart on her chest and rested gently on either side of her tattooed ribs. She was the most divine creature I had ever seen.
“You’re doing it again,” she whispered with a giggle.
“What am I doing?” I demanded, a smile already spreading across my face. Her cheerfulness was infectious.
“Staring at me as though I’m going to vanish,” she responded, turning in the bed to face me. She brushed the tip of my nose with one of her long fingers and grinned.
“Sometimes I’m not entirely sure that you’re real,” I said, pressing my body closer to her and drinking in her smile as though it were the freshest water.
“I’m real, baby, I promise.” Her expression suddenly became serious. “This is real. We are real. This beautiful life we are building together is absolutely real. The joy we bring to each other’s lives, it’s real and you deserve it, okay?”
I wiped away the tears that had crawled out of my eyes and nodded, too stunned by my love for her to speak.
She leaned her lovely head forward and kissed my cheeks, wetting her mouth with my tears. She kissed my face along the trail of my tears and kissed my closed eyes increasingly fast until I was giggling under her gentle assault. She chuckled at my child-like mirth and kissed me on the mouth. When I felt her tongue travel along the edges of my lips the nature of my laughter changed entirely. I kissed her back, sliding my own tongue against hers and allowing her to pull my body on top of her. I straddled her and held onto her as our kissing intensified, my body heating up with a vicious arousal only she could elicit in me. She massaged my ass and breasts alternatively; giving each of them careful, slow attention while her mouth continued to send shivers down my spine. I ground my crotch against her pelvis and could feel my wetness spreading across her smooth, waxed skin. She shifted her hips and flipped me onto my back, kissed me deeply before leaving the bed. I took deep, steadying breaths as I watched her saunter towards her set of drawers in the closet. She pulled out a purple dildo and harness. She slipped her thick, hard thighs into the harness and fitted the vibrating plasdick into the silver-ringed hole built for it in the harness. She grinned at me with her newest accessory jutting out from between her legs and approached the bed again.
When she was leaning over me, her smile was replaced with a look of silky desire. She looked intently into my eyes.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” she whispered, reaching a hand between us to slip her dildo into me. I gasped as the tip and then the full length of it entered me.
“Thank you,” I murmured as she began moving in and out of me in an agonizingly slow pace, “Thank you for taking me back.”
“Of course,” she breathed against my cheek. “I love you.”
“Good God, I love you,” I whispered, grasping her butt cheeks and pressing her deeper into me.
September 10th, 2019
Toya, her wife Portia, Leroy and Lindiwe were in my kitchen laughing and chattering over glasses of dry red wine and platters of snacks they’d all brought over for the evening. My girls were in Thembi’s room with Toya and Portia’s daughter, Yolanda, watching the TV I’d put in there because the lounge was sometimes occupied by adults and their various smoke and drink based activities. Nomsa was heading home from work and I was feeling pretty fine. I sipped on my Merlot and gazed at the collective of beautiful, happy women in my kitchen and my heart swelled with joy. If someone had told me 12 years ago that I would be this joyful and at peace, I would have laughed derisively at their delusion. It had been a very long time since the Sadness had come for me and things between Nomsa and I were steadily improving. Lee had forgiven me for coming in between her and Lindiwe and we were all on pretty good terms with one another. I no longer felt weary about Lee being healthily and happily in love with someone else and my love for her had settled into the comfortable recesses of platonic compassion.
Toya and Portia were still smitten with one another, twelve years into their beautiful marriage and the rest of us declared their love a love we would all be aspiring to.
I was certain their love was attainable for Nomsa and I. She still made me giggle nervously when she walked into a room I was in; I was always proud to point her out as my woman. She took cute little pictures of me and the girls to post on social media and took me out on fun-filled, thoughtful dates. She gave me toe-curling orgasms and lavished more love on me than I’d ever imagined possible. I was ready for her to come home so I could love up on her and we could get this little party really going. We had all gotten into the habit of hosting little parties and sleepovers at our various homes because we felt too old to do the whole clubbing till we stumbled into cabs in the early hours of the morning, spiel. This way, we could get inebriated, smoke the sacred herb, dance our asses off all while in the safety of one of our homes and we needn’t organize a baby-sitter for any of our children, since they were pretty well-disciplined and thoroughly entertained while we had our fun. I sometimes felt compelled to pinch myself when I thought about my life; it felt too good to be true. I had never imagined this level of joy and contentment as a possibility for me. And yet here I was, surrounded by a group of gorgeous women who loved me; healed from my traumas and waiting on the love of my life to envelop me in her warmth and unconditional acceptance.
It took a minute for me to hear my phone over the Nina Simone record Lindiwe was having us listen to. When I saw Nomsa’s name on the screen I signalled to the other women that I had to take the call and slipped into the guest room downstairs.
“Please tell me you’re on your way home, sexy?”
“I’m 10 minutes away, gorgeous. Do you need me to bring you anything?”
“Just bring your fine ass home, baby. The girls brought enough drinks and food to feed an army,” I chuckled.
“Alright, I’ll be there in nine. I hope the girls won’t mind if I sneak you upstairs for a little quickie,” the seduction in her voice instantly made my clit throb.
“You better come home this instant Miss Khumalo,” I growled into the phone.
“I’m almost – a blood-curdling screech cut off whatever Nomsa was about to say and the line went dead after I heard the loud crunch of metal slamming into metal. I felt my blood run cold. My heart started beating too fast. I looked at the phone in my hand as though I expected it to explain what the hell had just happened. With trembling hands I re-dialed Nomsa’s number. It was ringing. I felt warm relief wash over me.
“Hello?” the voice on the other end of the line was unfamiliar. I sank onto the queen sized bed in the guest room.
“Hi, could – could I speak to the owner of this phone please?” I could hear the stilted sounds of an ambulance siren, many, many voices in the background of this person’s breathing. I wanted only to hear Nomsa’s voice and I was becoming increasingly annoyed that her phone was not being given to her.
“Do you mean Miss Nomsa Khumalo; the owner of a red Renault Clio?”
I didn’t understand why I was being asked asinine questions by this stranger.
“Yes. Her. Give her the phone please,” I said through gritted teeth. I was trying not to be impolite.
“Ma’am, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Are you a relative of Miss Khumalo’s?”
I inhaled through my nose and breathed out, slowly, through my mouth.
“I am her partner; her lover. Is – is she hurt?” I regretted asking it the moment the words left my mouth. I shouldn’t have been putting such negativity out into the universe.
“Huh, well. I am so sorry to inform you that Miss Khumalo was just involved in a fatal car accident. A truck skipped a red robot and slammed into the side of her car; on the driver’s side. She was killed instantly. Her phone was, uh, tucked between her legs,” the person on the other end of the line spoke in a tone that suggested that they thought the things they were telling me made any sense. I had just spoken with Nomsa. I wasn’t ever worried about calling her while she was driving because I knew that she used her hands-free set in her car. She was always careful. She always kept her valuables hidden when she drove so that hijackers didn’t snatch anything from her car at a stop light. She was always careful. She was always care –
“Sorry, ma’am, are you still there? Would you like to know where we are and which hospital we’ll be taking her body to? Perhaps you’d like to start alerting the rest of her family? Someone will have to come identify her body –
I don’t know when I started screaming; I only know that once I started, I felt as though I would never stop.
September 29th, 2018
I still hadn’t cried. Not when I confirmed that the mangled, broken and bloodied body they’d led me to in that hospital was indeed the love of my life that I’d only been reunited with for less than two years after over a decade apart. Not when I called her mother and sister to inform them about what had happened and they’d arrived at the hospital and instantly shut me out of the process of laying Nomsa to rest. I hadn’t cried when my children had asked me where she was and why she hadn’t come back to make them pancakes and syrup and kiss their foreheads after reading them bedtime stories and watch the Cartoon Network channel with them. I hadn’t cried on the day I knew her family was having the funeral I was forbidden from attending. And I hadn’t cried when her sister had arrived at my home, our home and demanded I hand over all of her clothing and possessions so they could get rid of it according to their familial customs. I hadn’t cried while my house was emptied of any intimate sign that she had ever lived there. I hadn’t cried. I knew that she was dead. I knew that I would never see her deep-dimpled smile or her long, naturally curled eyelashes up close ever again.
I knew that I would never feel her on top of me, making love to me; never see her looking intently into my eyes while she made my body unravel.
I didn’t wear black or lock myself away in my bedroom. I went about my life as though nothing had changed. I mothered my daughters, I managed my practice; tended to my patients. I saw my friends when I could; they fussed over me, worried about me because I hadn’t had the break down they thought was inevitable. I didn’t think that break down would happen because there was nothing left to break. Nomsa had died with me. I was merely going through the motions of my life, putting one foot in front of another because that was what I was meant to do, but I was not really here. I barely saw my children even as I hugged and kissed them and brushed their hair and bathed them and put them to bed. I barely saw my staff or patients despite seeming to be fully present as I worked with them and tended to them. It felt as though I was separated; one part of me, functioning, moving, living, breathing, talking, eating, sleeping, waking, mothering and the other part of me, dead. The other part, the dead part was like a dark corner in my mind that seemed to be gradually growing wider as each day passed.
I was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards when I heard a knock on the front door. For a brief moment my mind allowed me to believe that Nomsa had returned. I blinked to dissipate the delusion and moved on unsure legs towards the front of the house. The girls were with Dr. Radebe so I was home alone.
I was surprised to find Leroy standing on the other side of my front door.
“What are you doing here?” I sounded colder than I’d intended, but I didn’t really care.
“I feel like I ought to ask you the same thing,” she had an odd, determined look on her face.
“I live here? Are you drunk?” I was not in the mood for any of her bullshit today.
“That’s not what I mean and you know it. You haven’t cried about any of it. You haven’t expressed any emotion since it happened. And when it happened all you did was scream until we came into the room to see what the hell was going on. You didn’t cry when her family forbade you from attending the funeral or helping out in any way. You didn’t cry when they came to take her belongings from you. Have you even accepted that she’s dead?” I had turned away from her and started walking into the house; she had closed the front door and was following me into the kitchen.
“Malaika, Nomsa is dead,” she said softly. I didn’t look at her. I continued tidying up my kitchen cupboards. “Laika?”
I ignored her. She walked towards me; placed a hand on my arm. She touched me gently, but I flinched. I caught the hurt in her eyes when I glanced at her briefly. She removed her hand from my arm for a moment. Then gently pulled my hands from inside the cupboard and turned me around to face her. She touched me as though I was an egg she was afraid of dropping. I avoided looking into her eyes but I stood there, in front of her, my arms hanging limply at my side.
“Nomsa is dead,” I said quietly. Leroy nodded; her eyes sad and concerned for me. “I know she’s dead. I’ve accepted it. I have not been in denial about it. I haven’t cried about any of this because I feel like crying, feeling this pain is going to kill me. I can’t leave my daughters without a mother.”
“Feeling your pain is not going to kill you, Laika, I promise.”
“Leroy,” I chuckled humorlessly, “That woman was my happiness, my heart. She was my joy; the light of my life. The love of my life. She was my anchor. Without her, everything is colorless. When we were together I constantly felt life coursing through my veins. I felt alive. When she died, I died with her.”
“Laika, that’s not true. You’re still here. You’re still here.”
“No. I can’t still be here. I can’t. Not here, please. Ha.” I was laughing derisively now, cackling with a sharp cadence I didn’t know I possessed. I felt hysteria build up in my belly and rise up into my throat. “Hey! I cannot still be here, okay? Do you hear me? Not here where someone so pure and wonderful dies and I hear her die because I’m on the phone with her. Not here where I’m asking myself, was she holding that phone in her hand when she was speaking with me? Did she perhaps not see the truck because she was busy on the phone, speaking to me? Ha. Please. Let me be dead, Leroy. Let me stay dead. I don’t want to come back to life and have to answer those kinds of questions. I don’t want to come back to life and have to confront the gaping void of my loneliness; only made more pronounced because there was someone so perfect, so ideal who’d filled it up before. Don’t bring me back to a reality where the longest relationships I was in were the ones I was most unhappy and this one was cut short in the cruelest way. Please this life you want me to live in is too unfair. I fucking refuse to come back, do you hear me? Let me stay dead Leroy. My God, let me stay dead.”
But as I raged around my kitchen, wearing an old t-shirt of Nomsa’s which had been in the washing basket when her sister had come to collect her belongings; I felt her joy and warmth and laughter all around me in the house she had blessed with her jovial life. And the tears came. They flowed with the memories of her making a big mess of my kitchen with my daughters because they’d found some cake recipe in a magazine that they absolutely had to try out. I laughed through my sobbing remembering the three of them giggling and covered in flower; my counters covered in heaps of cocoa powder and chocolate hundreds and thousands. My crying became mournful when I recalled how she always helped Nto’s little injured critters; far away from me and Thembi but with an earnestness that made her the first person Nto called whenever she discovered some creature that needed healing. I remembered how she had healed me when she came into my life and the magnitude of her loss rocked me on my feet. I fell backwards and Leroy rushed forward to catch me before my head struck something hard or sharp.
I rocked back and forth, grief curling my body inward; making everything inside of me feel tight, painful, deprived of oxygen. Leroy held me, gently, lightly, careful not to comfort me too intimately lest she step into and erase the physical memory of Nomsa still embedded in my body.
“Every time you hold me, hold me like this is the last time. Every time you kiss me, kiss me like you’ll never see me again. Every time you touch me, touch me like this is the last time. Promise that you’ll love me; love me like you’ll never see me again.” – Alicia Keys, ‘Like You’ll Never See Me Again’ (2007)
Read the entire series of these stories under #LetItRainSeries, published every Wednesday. For all the articles and pieces on #QueeringTheCloak (our series on abuse and violence in queer women communities) click here.
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