These four whose destinies met at that one junction, at that one moment; none of them knew they were going to be at that spot at the same time with the other ones. It was a beautiful day, anybody would want to be outside but it ended in tragedy, leaving a frozen smile on the face of one of them who was left dead on the tarred road.This story shows the futility of life when considered from the perspective of more than one. One minute you think your life is perfect but you get to that point where it intersects with the supposedly perfect lives of others and you realise that life is just messed up. The girl, her boyfriend, the shop owner and the driver of the jeep make up a story that will never be forgotten.
I am the shop owner and I would be telling this story from my perspective.
I always like sitting in my shop facing the window, looking at life through the plane window; people moving in different directions, some with smiles on their faces and others frowning as if the world had thrown bullets at them that they could not escape. It is always amazing to see that I could almost analyse the very lives of every person that walked across the window, many of them who took little or no notice of the man behind the window who could almost swear he could see through them. I was not so old but I had spent a lot of years in that town. So I practically knew everybody. I knew the woman who walked across the window at about 5 p.m. from her shop, going back to her children who would have been left in the house for hours on end without food. It wasn’t like she did not care, she just was limited in how much she could offer for these little ones and I know about the man who was always in a black suit and a dark tie who always walked past my shop just 30 minutes after her. He was a single father. His wife had left him for someone richer. One would think that he was rich enough to have everything ever craved in the world but it was not so for him. His wife wanted more than he had so she left him and left the children. He would come home from office at about 5:30 p.m, stop by the restaurant near my shop, get plates of rice which he and the children would eat before they slept. I also knew that beggar who sat it the market begging for alms, pouring prayers and blessings on everyone who passes by him in the hope of getting some money. I knew he was not lame for at the very end of the day, when everyone had retired to their homes, he would stand up, tall and proud and wal. Both legs functioning properly. It was his way of making life work for him and as long as his benefactors did not know he could walk, everything was fine.
I saw her walk by through the window of my shop again, the third time within the hour. She looked very nervous as she wrung the edge of her long scarf around her index finger. She would look across the road, try to stretch her neck over the bend and sigh, obviously not seeing who it was she was expecting. I was just the shop guy. It was not my business. She was not a regular customer of the shop. The few times she came, she was with her younger sister who always had to have a sweet before they left. Sweet little thing. I heard she died some months ago from what no one knew. Her family had been the average family; average income, paying their bills and having enough money to eat and maybe put some clothes on their backs. They never had the luxuries of life but they were happy. Father, mother and the two daughters, looking at them from outside, one would wish to be a part of them. They had the loudest laughs and the widest and genuine smiles, always with a good word for anyone they met on the road. Theirs was the perfect family until things started going downhill for them. First, the father lost his job. Any other person could have lost that job out of the hundred plus employees, why did it have to be their father? He was a good man, hard working, diligent and very honest. Maybe the factory owner thought he was being funny when he decided to lay him man off. It struck a big blow on the man and on the family’s income. In the midst of his joy and carefree life, her father probably never thought about what would happen if he lost his job so they had no savings, nothing to fall back on considering that the wife was a full housewife. They could not pay their bills anymore and food became a luxury.
It did not take long before sickness came calling. It was first her mother who started coughing violently. This cough did not respond to the local herbs used in the town. She went to the local pharmacist who prescribed drugs for that temporarily relieved her of the cough. When the cough came back again, it came back like it was sent from the hell fire. Neighbours and relatives advised that she be sent to the local hospital where she could be taken care of properly but there was no money to do so. She kept coughing till blood poured from her mouth like a tap. This was when the family realized this cough was very serious but it was too late. She died and left the disease with her husband. He did not even last as long as she did. His body had already been battered by the bottles of beer he got across the street after he lost his job. The blood from his mouth came barely a week after he started coughing. He was too frail, too fragile, too weak to even fight the way his wife had fought. Concerned neighbours had taken the sisters out of the house to protect them from the disease.
A year had passed since their parents died when one morning, she woke up and found her sister dead on the bed, just beside her. The cold feel of her sister’s dead body on her skin probably triggered her psychiatric break down. She screamed and kept screaming for hours on en. The kind neighbours who had taken them in took her to the psychiatric doctor at the local hospital. They gave her drugs and injections, they even put wires on her head to shock the psychiatric disease out of her body. None of those things worked. She said she could see her parents and her little sister talking with her, beckoning for her to join them in the life after. Everyone at the hospital had given up on any recovery for her. Till he came around. He was the son of one of the nurses in the hospital. He had walked by her room when he came to see his mother on his way back to school. She did not know him from anywhere but when he walked past her door, she called his name and unlike every other person, he did not cringe or seem afraid. He walked into her room and started talking with her. After he came back from school about a month later, he started visiting her regularly, singing for her, playing his guitar and making her laugh. The improvement was amazing. Soon enough, the doctor decided she was well and fit to be discharged from the hospital. The young man had spoken with his mother and he was convinced that he wanted to live with this beautiful angel who life had been unfair to. His mother agreed as she knew the lady was a very good girl who would make her son even happier than he was already. He had gone back to school for a few more months and was coming back to take her along with him to become man and wife.
She had stopped pacing. She was looking at him, a young man with a guitar slung across his left shoulder, waving at her with his right hand. Smiling. I could imagine she was smiling too as she crossed the road to meet him. Did the smile remain on her face after her head hit the tarred road? Did the drunk driver of the black jeep see that smile before he hit her? What of the young man across the road? Did he cherish that last smile?
This time last year, I saw futility. She was the only one left. Her parents died from an unmentionable disease. Her sister, cause of death unknown. And she?
A smile splattered on the tarred road.