On The Page is a series of writing and poetry submitted to the Centre for Stories as part of the 2019 Centre for Stories Inclusion Matters Hot Desk Fellowship.
Tinashe Jakwa is a Zimbabwean-born African-Australian writer and researcher based on Noongar Boodjar. Tinashe is a PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Western Australia. Recently, she was a Visiting Scholar (January-June 2019) with the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa Institute and Department of Political Sciences.
Get to know more about Tinashe here.
A Body Stands in Unison by Tinashe Jakwa
Two knocks back and a cackle. Three strides and a prance. Four shots and a smile. Five gasps and a shock. Those empty barrels. The scent of decadent sweat wafting through wide open windows. The world whirls around with the wind as still air wafts into this and that room. Sweat dripping from days before and traces of sleep etched in abandoned eyes. A body stands in unison with the sound of late night parties in neighbours’ backyards and front lawns. Ears erect to the sweet melody of boisterous voices oozing love and desire. And this one, dancing to the anthem of a transient life, weaving in-between derelict spaces. The loudmouths, confused, the expectant, captivating, the lovers, zealots, the mistaken, philanderers, and I, the voyeur. For all this, graves painted on longing faces persist on their own, the fading mythology of lives from which we run and yet crave. And I, strolling on the verge of ecstasy. Five knocks back and a faint touch. Four strides and a kiss. Three shots and a dance. Empty ruins, fleeting gestures. This and nothing more.
It goes like this. I smile at strangers to the hum of silent sinewy cries. It is here. I find it at the supermarket while making chit-chat with the cashier to pass the time, groceries paid. This is the only time we can speak; she will not remember me. At the park. I swing back and forth on contraptions I am told I am too old for by disapproving parents. These are for their children. That notion, it follows. I share a moment of laughter with that woman and that man I met and took a liking to, never to be seen again. It is in the loud and gentle footsteps outside my door, in unmarked pages. The sun and moonlight that obscure as much as they uncover. It is that feeling there, those missives, proclamations, and outstretched hands. I know that now, moving to the wave of a hand from a child whose father’s admonishment sees it fall by the wayside. It is here, in staying long enough to say hello, the overheard conversations.
“Africa left the door open,” they say.
“And all of this found its way inside?”
“Because she left it wide open.”
“What did she let in?”
“Dust, only dust.”
“Well, she will have to clean it up.”
“Are you there, Africa? We know you can hear us,” their voices are loud as I emerge from the quiet grip of torpid bedroom walls. The plain battered white paint and the caution. No signs of discolouration. Stray winds can open doors inviting all manner of things on your behalf. Their stares. The broom. The thorough cleanse. Satisfaction invites itself onto their faces with the hint of a question.
“Do you not like us?” they ask.
“Do you not enjoy our company?”
“Do you not wonder about our lives?”
“Or do you prefer to listen from behind those walls?”
“To imagine we are mad?”
“When you look into that mirror, do you not see us?”
“Will you join us for tea?” they ask.
Two bodies seated, close. And I, standing apart with a roughshod smile. Three sips and a step back. Five strides and a gasp. For a moment, they wonder, about the finished cup of tea and my smile. About the silence and the echoes. The exit. It is only for a moment and I have had my share. It is that strange notion. I am passing by.
“Can’t you see?” I hear their voices.
“See what, man?”
“This place, here and now.”
“What about us, man?”
“This is it.”
“Are we, man?”
“This is all there is.”
And I, seated on the edge of an ocean, watching the slow movements of the water, and wondering about the lives of the two figures above me. Lives full of demands and commands. Disappointment has never been known to be sweet. A set up. It is all a set up and they are none the wiser. There is no more to it than that.
“And then I said no, you know?”
“And then he sulked, you know?”
“And then I took his hand, you know?”
“And then we just sort of walked home, you know?”
And I, slipping into the water, watching the ripples form. I imagine they will carry me away, wondering about what had led her to say no. A touch of the hand to placate, and a stroll to walk off the dismissal. I slip further and further. I imagine myself under. The water reaches my ankles and the ocean smiles. I had not been seen, had not wanted to be seen. Always the footsteps and the voices.
“What do you know about this place?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you know?”
“I don’t know.”
“I said what do you know about this place?”
“I told you.”
“What do you know?”
And I, greeting the ocean as the water reaches my shoulders, wondering about what this day held for them. The longed for affirmations. He knows. This much she knew. I slip under and allow the water to envelop me. I swim from the edge only to return. Serenity is known by so few names. Six bodies saunter by, one stands still, staring in my direction. Two knocks back and a cackle. Three strides and a prance. Four shots and a smile. Five gasps and a shock. Enough to say hello. Enough to walk away. Enough for me to breathe.Copyright © 2020 Tinashe Jakwa