The clock ticked above my head as I entered the living room.
“Check the pot on the stove for me, Akim,” Cythina called as her feet thudded down the hall.
The shower turned on and Cythina’s voice rang throughout the house. She sang bits and pieces of some song she heard on the radio. How could she be so happy at a time like this?
Birds chirped as I opened the window and pulled around the blind to allow light to come into the living room. On the windowsill were multiple plants. She had planted many in her time at home. It ranged from herbs to ground plants in the back of the yard. I turned to the small congested living room, my eyes rested on the dusty arch dividing it from the dining room. Another task I would push back in my mind for later.
I took a seat and turned on the small TV. The TV bellowed the current state of affairs of lockdown, vaccine distribution and a date constantly pushed back of when life might return to any state of normalcy. From doctor to president to news anchor the message of what was needed seemed to change as time went by.
I flipped the channel to HBO but the scene had not left my mind.
No one gave a damn to sympathise with you on matters outside of your control. Hardship constantly from squeezing the unemployment money and any viability to make a living. They all seemed to be clawing at the bits of fragments of your soul and today was the day that I would face my demons. It would be soon; every month the messenger of hell was always on time.
Oh, Lord, only you knew how hard I had tried. Two days of work at the restaurant was the most that I could get and still it was not enough. My stomach growled. Where ever I had applied there had been no responses. It was almost as if I was a ghost watching my world crumble from the outside. I would consider it tragic, maybe even laugh at it if I were not living it. Something I would have never foreseen or taken into account two years ago.
Two years ago, I had dreams, I had plans, and life was good. Had I taken it all for granted?
I pulled out my phone and it beeped to let me know it was on fifteen percent. On Whatsapp, high Covid numbers blared in every status and in the media the news pointed out the deaths. Comments rang out of one group against the other, everyone had suddenly become an unpaid doctor or a minister. They all had an answer: perhaps they all should be prime minister.
The local news for its part just reinforced this: Unvaccinated, unvaccinated, high Covid numbers followed by dead, dead, dead. There was not a silver line of hope in the paper.
Just drawing lines of segregation from one angle to the next. Had we not learned anything from our history?
The motorcycle thundered a distance before it came towards my house. It was like the grim reaper was coming for my very soul. When it stopped outside the engine still spluttered. The dogs barked with fear and excitement as one house of dogs caught on to the others.
I took a deep breath, scratched my head, grabbed my mask, got out of the couch and walked towards the door.
Opening the door of the patio I took my first step and butt my foot on a plant pot. The patio was covered with plants, hanging from above to the rail and the ground. From where I stood I got glimpses of the postman walking towards my gate.
He placed the mail inside the box as I walked towards him and we exchanged pleasantries. However, from the time I gripped the mail in my hand from the box, my heart dropped.
I turned and headed back to the patio where I opened the mail. Due to be disconnected, one bill read after another. The morning heat now sunk into my skin as I took a seat outside on the patio.
The postman nodded and waved. “Have a great day!”
He started his motorcycle and drove further down the gap as I rested the bills on a small wooden table: Light, water and phone.
Taking a seat in the wooden patio chair I squeezed the bridge of my nose. How would I pay for these bills? I had only a few days. My head burned. Maybe I could borrow some money? I scrolled through my contacts and called, hearing the same lines from one friend to another.
“It’s hard out here.”
“I ain’t working.”
“Man the Covid took my mother.”
“Things tight brother.”
“If I had it I would give you.”
When I reached the end I placed my phone down on the table beside the bills. How would I break this to Cynthia that I didn’t have the money? The neighbours would know when the candles came out the state of our affairs. What would we do then for water, a standpipe? Were those things still in existence?
I closed my eyes. The front door chimed as it opened and I sensed Cynthia’s presence over me. The sweet scent of the natural cream she wore lingered within my nose.
“I thought I asked you to check the stove,” Cynthia said there was a level of disappointment in her voice.
“It slipped me.”
She sighed. “The bills came in?”
“How bad is it?”
“Very bad,” I paused and scratched my head. “I can’t afford to pay.”
She shuffled through the bills and tapped them on the table. “Okay.”
I opened my eyes, my brow lifted. “Okay?”
Cynthia sat across from me. In her blue shorts and white tank top.“We are fine for now at least.”
“How?” I jumped up and the table shook. “Did you get another unemployment check?”
I started to assess how much would come in and if the money could be divided equally. It would be something to bargain with at least.
Cynthia flicked her black hair behind her neck. “No.”
My heart fell as my legs stumbled back.
“Haven’t you been paying attention to what I have been telling you?”
What you have been telling me? I brought my hand to my chin. What has Cynthia been telling me?
I stared at the plants above hanging from the ceiling. What had she told me?
“Did you find work?”
Cynthia shook her head.
“Then ho —.”
“You’re looking at it now.”
“The plants?” My gaze fell to her. “But we only have enough for ourselves.”
“I told you when you sat beside the TV so taken up by the news one year ago that I planned to turn the land out by my mother’s land into a farm.”
“ I don’t recall.”
“You don’t recall because your mind has been locked on many things.”
“The pandemic —.”
“Is outside of your control.”
“I have been trying since last year to do this. First here and then on the produce at home. My mother has been keeping track of and holding onto the funds for me.”
“I am sorry Cynthia I haven’t been paying attention.”
Cynthia got up from the chair and hugged me. “You’re not alone Akim, you’re never alone you and I are a team. And when things get hard,” Her eyes glanced at the bills. “We will always get through them together.”