archive - issue 20
Monday, 03 April 2017 22:33
How Are You Brother? Amen. It was 4p.m when the yellow van arrived, and I was glad. The Sunday breeze was slightly tinged with the suburban chill of 4pm. The Jacaranda serenading us with the purple truth of Sunday. The marquee I had organised for the Sunday lunch also looked slightly shrivelling, as if also impatient, and suspicious. I was nervous. What if the yellow van did not come? What if…? I pondered and wondered in the labyrinth of guilt and my own madness. Checking my watch now and then for the time. The yellow van did arrive, and I was glad. In the caverns of her innocent heart, my sister, the Lady of Christ, was blind to the ways of a sinful world. Or rather, she closed herself into a darkness of her own creation - a din of imagined sin where the Falcon of Grace laboured with its beak the ill coloured monstrosities of divine justice by pecking at her eyes with the vengeance of a born again devil. My sister was a spider, afraid and entangled in its own web, and Jesus Christ was the mystic pendulum, dizzying her, confounding her with movement so precise you’d swear he was an old lover of hers in another lifetime. A lover she had forgotten and had only just remembered. With such fervour did my sister love Him. With the little time I had between her and the yellow van I etched as slowly as a centipede into the vault of memory, I reminded myself, why, why was I doing this? Yes. I was doing this because her innocence and love for Him was a crimson orb of her own whimsicality. I recall that it was in 2002, right in the middle of a hot summer, that Sophia single-handedly painted “Healing Jesus” on the front wall of her house. This to me was the first instance of her insanity. A red flag; what I saw as her inconsiderate nature towards others: in red on a white wall, smeared like the blood of His holiness in a bold font. I’m surprised Hans, her husband, kept up with her shit, I mean, after that? So yes, I was glad when the yellow van arrived. My sister is completely blind now. She no longer knows me, and I her. She stands before my eyes as The Lady of Christ. An abstract form. Something distorted. No relations. She is Madame de Cintre, spiralling in a delightfully vast nunnery. The Lady of Christ is cordial, but cruel. She is clean, yet unfriendly. Sophia is tall, and prayerful. Always prayerful. Yes. A wind of divine logic rests in her chest. Her spine is a cathedral of morality and divine sight. Her morale: the unyielding force of steel, and weakness. Even cathedrals topple down like a stack of cards. Even birds that fly and reach the limits of heaven itself die and fall to the ground. Back to the muck of existence, subjected, like the rest of us, by their own physicality. The law of gravity. The law of being here. Here! “Here Hoffie! Here Hoffie!”; and the terrier bounces off in a flash fetching the ball Hans has thrown in a game of fetch. We are sitting in the lush garden where the grass is a resplendent coat of a rich green, luminous, almost unbelievable. Hans is telling me the latest of my sister’s religious insanity. I tell him to relax. Relax Hans. She’s always been like this. It comes and it goes. Okay Hans? Okay? “Okay”, Hans mutters back. “Okay”, this time to himself. At the age of twelve, and I was fifteen, Sophia had already blinded her own eyes with the crystal and glittering lights of religion. She prayed like a nun, scaring our mother, a devout alcoholic. Sophia (against Mama’s will) began to engrave herself into the Catholic Church; covering the almond-shaped eye of our forefathers with the dark and streaming blood of Jesus Christ on a wooden cross. He was the bogeyman who led her to the gates of hell (if there are any). He was but wood, painted white - a celestial martyr. No man on earth like Him. When my sister fell in in love with Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ was not omen, but flesh. When Sophia fucked I imagine she did it for Jesus Christ. In Memoriam. Seeking Him in the emptiness of her own carnal desires. For fuck's sake, she married a white man! Hans was inconsistent. A fool. But white. I hope he knows now that Sophia amounted to a specific sort of the female population; that lethal, yet incoherent, and slightly beautiful sort of woman, whose beauty amounts to nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing but a stringed guitar nabbing at a dead tune. No song whatsoever with Sophia. Just melody. You know, just plain endless melody. “He’s dead, Sophia, he doesn’t exist,” I used to taunt her in our teenage years. Flouting the earthly happiness that radiated within her venomous and implacable love for Him. Jesus Christ is dead. Jesus Christ is dead. Jesus Christ is dead. Jesus Christ is dead! It was at the age of forty, a married woman with no children of her own that Sophia became partially blind. The iris had failed to control the amount of heavenly light that reached to the far back of her eye. She became even more of a Jesus fanatic, claiming that every night she dreamt of Him in a pool of light. “What?” I asked, struggling to comprehend. “I see him more clearly than ever…" she says, biting her lower lip like a saved whore who's been called into the Holy Trinity. A sorceress. We are at the St Johns Eye Clinic when she tells me this shit. Earlier on, I had found her outside, engaged in a long and pleasant communion with Jesus Christ under the clinic's only tree, which had orange blossoms springing from it. Trees. She’d always loved trees. Smelt like them too. Especially when they bloomed with resplendent colour. She turned them into sanctuaries where she, the praying mantis, feasted on the benediction of colour. Colour she witnessed, with her own eyes. Heaven on earth. The glory! Blindness turned her into the deranged woman sitting under an unnamed and forbidden tree where the unknown fruit of this tree burst into ripeness at any time and she devoured the secrets of the fruit, sucking the nutrition with a madness and greed that surpassed religious exaltation. I began to visit her home sporadically. Hans called her a crazy bitch when she started praying in tongues before and after she laid his supper on the wooden table I had sent to them as a gift. He called me and told me my sister was mixing with the wrong church this time, that he was noticing signs of a new madness in her. “A new madness, what the heck do you mean, Hans?” I barked into the telephone. Hans was a nervous man by birth and I cannot even imagine the shit he went through with her like that. I decided to pay her visit. I had stayed away for more than six months, dealing with my wife’s infidelity. Hans’s calls were becoming frequent. I was getting worried. The woman I met was dressed in a fading white dress that undignified purity. She was not just ugly, but dirty. She sat on a huge brown bunk stool with her bare feet before her, and made frequent attempts to mutilate the buzzing flies that surrounded her. My sister was dying. I neglected to kiss or hug her, rather, I looked at the time, I was missing a flight to Cape Town for a conference the university thought would enhance my research on psychoanalysis – shit! The flies drew attention to her uncleanliness, her hands flicking and attacking the buzzing flies with a nonchalance that compelled them towards and not from her. “The devil wants to sleep with me…” She kept saying this, flicking the flies as an invitation to her dirt. “Such things happen to women who pray too hard,” I thought to myself, finally recognising the little that was left to recognise. She wore shades to protect her eyes from the sun – making her look even stranger, but who am I to judge? I mean, I saw this coming. It was 4pm when the yellow appeared, looking more like an ice-cream van than anything. I was pulling A Streetcar Named Desire on her. She was crazy. I ordered a yellow van, like the one Stella had for Blanche. I invited her church cronies in on the plan. My sister was delighted for the Sunday lunch bullshit I fed her. She ate my plan like scavenging dog. Thanking His Grace for bringing me to the light, for she had been dreaming of me in a pool of my own blood. On the Sunday, Hans and Hoffie looked gloomy, terrified of betraying her. Hans was apologetic, Hoffie confused. I was… okay. I was okay with this. I knew my sister was crazy. I knew I wanted her to be okay. I ate as much as I could. Laughed, and actually prayed with the loonies. It was quite clear that it was not just my sister whose screw had been pulled by the wooden figure of Jesus Christ. One of the ladies muttered an amen after every sentence. “How are you brother? Amen.” “May I please have some salt? Amen”. By the time the yellow van came through, Sophia was silent and suspicious. A woman of steel, gazing at me, reminding me of the mother we had both lost to the bottle. Her glasses were a permanent fixture by now, her sight worsening by the day. She struggled to get into the van even though I had made sure to have an image of Jesus Christ pasted on the outside. She seethed at the mouth. I told her I loved her whilst they struggled to get her inside the van. Some of the church group people were weeping. Hans and Hoffie had disappeared, and by the time the van reached the street corner, dissolving my sister, the Lady of Christ, into the abyss of prescription drugs and psychoanalysis; I muttered my own “Amen”, for I had finally seen the vanity of chastity, of religion, of God's uselessness. I saw the light.