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Wednesday, 28 August 2013 16:18

Curtain Calls

My mother said ‘don’t be vulgar’

I was hanging on the window like an old curtain. Still pretty, rocking on a grass chair and fitting exactly well with the fall. The actual curtains, much like my skin, were dirty – the lines between their stains and mine withered into old winters, unclear memories, skewed lines of finished songs, somewhat completed stories, deep cuts, shallow dimples left by a few superficial kisses some lovers forgot to reclaim – I have a distorted memory, really, everything is a puzzle, its pieces are wrapped up in the sheets on my old bed, I can’t go back there – I lost the keys! I can’t remember room numbers. Old pictures are blurred by the dusty windows. It’s alright, no one cares anyway and my mother couldn’t possibly clean me up, I’m not a child anymore!

She walks in on the moon, something she’s done to discredit pain. She collects my pieces from the floor and says to be more careful with that stuff. She says to stop cursing. Her eyes are sharp, she sees into those rooms I said NOT OPEN 'MOTHER!' She rises the sun into my eyes – it’s bad enough that you can see these things but to set my sights on them is just fucking negligent, I mean, it’s very inconsiderate mother! I haven’t had my curtains open in years, it’s because Michael never came back. He said, ‘woman, I’m going to get a pack of cigarettes, I’ll be right back’

One morning while I was dressing my manikins for display on the window, a whore came by – a, a harlot. She wore red hair like an English bob – her hair was long and her beauty didn’t make sense with that nose. It was the eyes, they read me like dusty pages, I had all my palms open to her, bare my soul – bent over backwards to reach for my childhood, garnished it with velvet, handed it to her and had her lick my nipples like vanilla icing.

I didn’t want anyone to see what we got up to, so I closed my curtains. No, I didn’t want her to go away, I had learned closing in the summer by simply turning off my heart and forcing the sun to be warm. I locked the doors; made our world of four walls – turning off my heart had become impossible so I learned instead, to do beautiful things with my fingers, taught my tongue to make her laugh. I never let her climb on top of me, it wasn’t an emasculation issue- I don’t have a penis or issues with capable women, I’m not a man, that’s what I mean- I just didn’t want her to go away, see I’d given too much to recollect in a chase downtown, screaming ‘but you promised you’d come back’. It helped that no one could see us, I soaked in my own self, painted glorious portraits of her, got so caught up in feeling lit that I didn’t see it get dark. My curtains were closed so the neighbors couldn’t warn me. I was right there, sitting on the edge of the bed and I didn’t see her pack her stuff. Didn’t know she was gone because some time during the lovemaking and soul-tying, harlot became me.

I wore her like a calling. My curtains were still closed and all interactions were no more than orgasms and lip synched laughs. It was a sacred darkness – no one could see me but myself, I had all of her opened up to me like beautiful jazz, she was spiritual, I couldn’t touch her or cover her wounds. They were set alight and I couldn’t understand how none of those glorious Adams saw, how none of them felt. Jesus, I had Jesus in my company some days; He saw, felt but never said anything. Never answered if it would heal, if anyone else knew my name, He didn’t answer until one afternoon in the fall when Summer came, skipped a few April days and winter’s cold, stepped right into my whoredom schedule of four married men a week, right into my nothingness, walked me through spring. I’d done too much with my lips and curled up too many legs between my thighs, when I got tired and truth became be too hard to stand on, he said, ‘wait right here’ and came back wet with summer resting tightly on his back.

Michael, he said he was going to buy a pack of cigarettes and would be right back. ‘You keep calling me Woman, my name is Harlot’ I told him when we sat for ice cream on summer’s back. ‘You are not a whore, only a beautiful woman whose heart has loved generously’ he said. He was generous and soon Woman became my name. Now, she wore me like anointing, raised me ten years of wisdom and opened my curtains for the whole street to see my hair all grown. It was lovely, experiencing love in all its glory, he carried me on his wings, placed me on a pedestal by the window, played the piano to pull a crowd, preached my rebirth to them. I was born of him, a few ribs off Adam – it was the manifestation of the completeness of Adam with his Eve raised to help, it was love again, opening myself up to me and I gladded in the sparkle of her eyes. She was wholesome. It’s been five summers since last summer when he went to the shop. I haven’t allowed myself much change, my name is still Woman, and besides a few tattoos, a few more inches to my afro, I’m still the same. A few things were of course out of my hands and fell apart while I was still careful not to look any more broken than I’ve been, not to wear the pain of being left by you. I don’t close my curtains anymore, I did a lot of opening and closing, hoping you would show up for all the curtain calls; swore you’d showcase this morning and went to bed sobbing, still unable to curse you out for leaving me, it had to be important nicotine that you’d leave the sacred parts of you to get away from me.

I decided to leave the curtains open for the day that pack of cigarettes will run out. I have kept it as you left it so that you can recognize me when you come back. Don’t worry about all the incurred injuries; I think those old needles still exist so I can stitch myself together before you come. It’ll be like summer again, I’ll be her warmth, my kisses something of watered flowers. I’ll be how you left me, have you like you never did. I’ll call the curtains lift one more time and this show will be a monologue of honesty, we’ll call it the 'truth piece' and I won’t lie anymore, I won’t pretend not to miss you, I won’t pretend not to love you, not to carry you in my spirit.

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Ashley Makue

Writer, poet, public relations practitioner, womanist, activist. Ladies Empowerment Organisation ambassador and founder of the Lebohang Mokoena Project.

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