by I.V. Olokita
A finger is almost touching another’s. It is the last stretch of each wrist between her palms and stretched-out forearms, her shoulders virtually out of sight through the bluntly stretched shirt. Their bodies tilt toward one another; he looks up at her as if pleadingly, and she faces him strained, almost weeping over him. Soon she will reach his fingers; it’s a matter of a slight wind that passes between their fingertips. For a moment she is still sure it will work as it always does, that there is one last effort to make, to keep him safe, to save him from hell he is about to fall into. How to be a steady rock she learned from her father. At first, she didn’t understand how or why father was doing it at all, and then she watched his actions until it came to her naturally. Dad always said that being a rock is not a good thing, that it’s something best avoided until there is no other choice. Because when you’re a rock, then everyone clings to you, and you rub and rub until there is no strength left in you to be a rock anymore. But she didn’t believe that and thought rocks were the most stable and most reliable things there were, that they always stayed whole and hardy, at least for her lifetime. Because that’s how Dad was when everyone around him had broken. When she was only six years old, she had heard Dad talking to Mom about buying a gun just because of it, but in those days she didn’t even understand what ‘it’ was. And suddenly now she realizes; for half an hour she has been looking down at it from above, precisely at his pleading eyes. And he looks back at her. His hands are stretched forward toward her, but there is no movement or trace of effort on his part. An hour before, his world had stopped. Like a noise that happens when you make an incorrect movement with your neck, and something in you breaks down, shortens your life. The body wants to go on ahead, but the brain empties or fills with too many thoughts. And this had happened to him several times in past years, and each time she rescued him from this abyss that opened beneath his feet. He hadn’t asked anyone for this disease. It had just struck him one day in such a strange manner. After the first time, she took him to a particular doctor to get it out of him. At first, he was careful to take the pills that the doctor ordered but later preferred to procrastinate and forget. So now, once again, this illness had come to freeze his world and send him halfway to hell. But she was always there for the rescue, like a rock, as she had learned from her father. Stretching her arms forward to the limit, holding him from falling. And he never asked her to do so. One day he just bumped into her, as if she was a damn rock stuck in the middle of the path or a big stone to rest on, in a field of rock. She was always there. Now with his hands spread out she struggles to embrace him as if she were part of his frozen body — to be that rock you can never uproot from the middle of your field. Now she stretches her whole body until the toes can stretch no longer till it hurts. She remembers Dad’s words and how he ended up weeping for Mom and then breaking down. And suddenly heavy rain has started; big tears falling on his head from above, wetting him thoroughly. In his mind, he suddenly realizes that he hasn’t felt such tears since — ever. She looks at him through wet cracks left in her red eyes, while he promises himself that after this time, he will take the pills. And she thinks it’s so bad Dad was right, that wet rocks sometimes break up.
I.V. Olokita has been facing life-threatening situations for most of his life, specializing in the management of disaster areas.
He is a happily married father of two and a foster father of five cats and two dogs.