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When she falls apart she falls apart with precision, cuts half a tomato for the stew, and seasons it with the salt from her tears. She burns the toast ritually, to a crisp, and scrapes off the blackness with a butter knife while the kettle boils for tea. Pain is scheduled into Rita’s routine. It is allocated to its own sacred slot within the timetable of her life’s events. She tries not to stain her clothes with the evidence of this heartbreak and burns the remainder of his things in the kitchen bin. Flames lick the edge of the photographs, smoke fills her nostrils but his scent still remains, stubbornly lingering in her consciousness.
She takes out a mug from the top cupboard and presses her lips to its rim. Everything is tainted. The ghost of his kiss still lingers on this. She rinses the memory of it under the tap and fills the mug with coffee grains and hot water. He liked it black. She dilutes his preferences with two heaped spoons of powdered milk and sips triumphantly. The hot liquid scalds her throat. The phone rings. She does not pick up. She dips her burnt toast in the stew and bites a chunk of her heart out. In the line of women she comes from, one deals with pain the way one takes out the trash, neatly packed away and compartmentalised into biodegradable and recyclable sorrows.
The phone rings again; she ignores it. Her coffee is a bit too strong. She rummages the cupboard for sugar…nothing. She goes to check the pantry, nothing. The kitchen tap is still running, a steady stream of flowing water. She is oblivious to the tap, to the phone, to herself. There is no sugar in the pantry. The blood rushes to her head, boiling. What were his last words to her again?
“I’m just popping to the shops to get some sugar babe, we’re all out,” he had said. It’s been a week since he left in search of sugar. She falls to a heap on the floor, despair dissolving the remnants of any sane thoughts she has left. She wonders to herself when exactly their love ran out and why he didn’t ask her to come along with him to the shops. They could have stocked up on supplies together but love, she has come to learn, is a reciprocal thing. Perhaps he never wanted things to get better with her. Perhaps he was okay with a house empty of sugar and love, at least then it gave him an excuse to leave. It gave him an excuse to look for sugar next door.
She picks herself up from the floor; the phone rings again. She closes the tap, but the one to her stream of consciousness still flows. This time she answers the phone.
“Rita, thank God. Why aren’t you picking up?” Her friend’s voice permeates the air. “Babe, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your man is getting married as we speak. It’s all over Twitter.”
Static fills her ears. The world is a little fuzzy around the edges. She cuts the call and inhales a sharp breath. In the line of women she comes from, one does not acknowledge a pain of this magnitude. She takes a slow, decided sip of her coffee. Disappointment like sugarless coffee is an acquired taste. His absence will soon be a welcome flavour to her. She checks the time; it’s been a half hour. It’s time for work. She folds every sentiment and insecurity away and neatly into the crevices her mind. She makes a mental note to purchase new locks for the house and throw out the pot plant they bought together. In the shower she hums softly, immersing herself in soap and oblivion. If sugar can be replaced so can a man who no longer loves her.
Chioniso is a passion spoken word poet, writer, singer and filmmaker based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Some of her work has appeared in Brittle Paper.