Mmmm, mmmm. She moans in appreciation and ecstasy as I nibble her earlobe, matching my tempo with hers, trying to prolong what I imagine is our shared moment of intense pleasure.
Her breath comes faster, and I feel a juvenile thrill. I am making this happen. My superior skill set is bringing this worldly-wise, accomplished woman to melting point. I imagine her soul and secrets lay bare before me, that I can reach in and take until I have drained her of her essence.
I am not ignorant. I know women fake orgasms and diverse expressions of sexual satisfaction, but with Ashanti, my sexual prowess is never threatened. I never feel emasculated or debauched. No demand is too preposterous or met with an unbelieving gaze. She is my soul mate… do forgive me, I wax poetic. Ashanti is the audacious, sensual creature in whom I slake my thirst. Here, I drink unfettered, sufficient until our next assignation. She gives and I take, and we are content.
My wife’s perfunctory hug does nothing to dispel my good mood when I get home. Neither am I afraid of arousing her suspicions. If I said I was at a meeting, I usually had fool-proof evidence and colleagues willing to vouch for me. She has ceased to inquire too strenuously.
Settling in my accustomed settee with the deepening valley, I take cognisance of the facts that are ever before me. My wife is addicted to Mexican Soap Operas, and I despise her for it. Hers is a fantasy world in which men with ribbed stomachs spent their days seducing shrewd, treacherous women with luscious boobs and yet managed to plot the ruin of wives, stepbrothers and former employees. That this can never be her reality is evident for she is as bony as I am pudgy. And suckling two children has done nothing for her bosom. Plus, the most clever act of her life would be the coup of inducing our marriage, and that was five years ago.
Surfing channels, grim news awaits me. An Ebola virus is ravaging West Africa, crossing borders with impunity and leaving thousands dead. I shudder.
“Are you aware of this Ebola virus or is it only Telemundo you immerse yourself in?” I taunt. I have been told that I am incapable of affectionate dialogue. Kaelan told me.
Barely moving those wide lips, she replies, “Yes, it has been discussed on Facebook for the whole week.”
Hmmm. I forgot. That iPhone is an extension of her spindly arms. Telemundo and Facebook, a deadly combination, guaranteed to dull the mind.
“Ehen?” I prod further, rudely. She sighs as though proffering more information will tax her limited faculties.
“Ah! It kills within a week or so, it has no cure, and it is very easy to catch.” She heaves her shoulders, “God forbid! In the shop, I don’t let people shake my hand anyhow oh. I don’t even allow Joshua and Jemima to go and visit Auntie Frances since she returned from her missionary trip.”
“I didn’t ask for a blow-by-blow account of your anti-Ebola measures,” I reply disdainfully but unbidden. A sliver of fear has inserted itself in my thoughts. “Did they say there is Ebola in Ghana?”
“Hmmm, West Africa is one big family is it not? The virus is deadly. If you stay on one side of a boundary and sneeze, someone on the other side can catch it!” She concludes this statement with a clap of her hands, a trait I disdain. Oral exclamations accompanied by the clapping of hands. How crude.
I should pay more attention to the news, I think. Money matters have always been my forte, but this, this deserves some attention. Last week, Ashanti travelled to Ghana and battled a flu upon her return. It had been severe enough to keep her out of the office and my arms for a few days. You might think this is unremarkable except that Ashanti is a workaholic. For her, the job is never done, and for me, a driven, assiduous woman is the best aphrodisiac.
I swallow and pay closer attention to the news bar whilst the incalculably unattractive news anchor drones on about the crisis in Russia and the Ukraine. My inner turmoil is interrupted by a muffled shriek and jangling sounds.
“Ewooo, ooo, it has fallen!” It is my four-year old daughter and although perplexed that she is awake at this hour, something else has caught my attention.
“Ewo? Ewo?” I face my wife head on. “What happened to all the fancy phrases used to express pain or anger? Am I paying these exorbitant fees so my daughter can shout ‘ewo’ instead of ‘ouch’ like other children?”
I simmer, but the home-grown exclamation employed by my daughter quickly fades to the recesses of my mind.
“So are they saying that Ebola is inherently unpreventable?”
She glances up, surprise evident as she squints her conical eyes into narrower slits. “Prevent ke? Eh, by avoiding people that have it…”
“How do you know people that have it?” I mimic her.
“They are sick now, Jonathan. Anyone that falls sick now, hmmm. Fever, cough, that’s why I have decided…”
I cut her off with a flick of my wrist. I like my hands; they have remained slender even as the rest of my body has doubled in size. I am not interested in her ramblings, I just want the facts and I am constantly astonished at her ability to go off-grid. I turn to study her angular features, moronically fixated on her phone and I wonder again what mismatch of fate dictated that I would marry a woman who simply refused to evolve or excite me sexually or intellectually. Perhaps the lingering memories of watching my father beat down on my mother, physically, emotionally and psychologically propelled me to seek out the underdog, the castaway as a partner. I have never laid a violent finger on Kaelan, I am not my father.
Kaelan was the girl who was always a bridesmaid- and not a favoured one either- whilst everyone got married. She was the one you could rely on to assist with the cleaning, the planning and fixing and then disappoint without a trace of remorse. She was the best-friend-in-waiting constantly being pushed over, constantly awaiting the next user or abuser. She was the daughter of my mother’s best friend and at thirty-two had seemed in gross danger of becoming an old maid, until fate and treacherous mothers connived. I got her pregnant, did right and married her. I was more shocked than my friends were. The Slayer had come to roost.
In retrospect, it should have worked the opposite way. The obvious lesson of my parents’ unwholesome partnership was that the underdog is not a suitable mate for the alpha male. Alphas should mate with alphas and reproduce of their own kind. Ashanti is my alpha-female.
Kaelan remains hunched over her phone. The moment I leave she will snuggle in for a late night dose of Telemundo magic. Giving up the TV remote control is hard especially on a Friday night-in, but I have greater concerns. Goodnight Kaelan.
I wake up the next morning with a fever and a head full of granite. The gods must be crazy to prank me like this. I say nothing to Kaelan for strange as it seems, we still share a bed. Through gummy eyelids I watch her scurry in and out of our shared quarters, shouting instructions to the slow-moving housekeeper, perhaps the only other person more intellectually-challenged in this apartment. Feigning sleep is not hard but my curiosity is piqued as I wonder what the fracas signifies. We all sleep in on Saturdays.
Ah! The fog clears but the granite remains leaden. The last Saturday of the month means Kaelan spends the entire day in church at some never ending program. Sleep and every pretence of sleep flee and I roll off the bed, leaving rumpled sheets in my wake and make a bee-line for the bathroom. I am suddenly impatient to have a conversation with my beloved wife but dispensing stale morning breath is something I will never do.
“Kaelan, where are you off too?” I accost her in the brightly lit living room.
“Good morning to you too Jon,” she replies, not breaking her stride.
I am tired. My head is pounding and my tongue tastes like shit. I cannot act my part in this scene of the drama that is our existence. I lower my bulk to the bar stool at the island and contemplate the state of things.
She assumes that my presence there indicates food-readiness and in seconds a tray is placed before me. “Breakfast is served,” she announces about as cheerily as a soldier-in-arms.
I am grateful for the glass of juice with which I surreptitiously swallow the painkillers I palmed from the bathroom. I take a bite of ham sandwich, but it does nothing for my mood. The toast bread tastes like the newspapers I routinely chewed as a youngster; such had been the magnitude of my culinary experimentations.
I wrestle with guilt, fear and pride as I ponder my physical state. Was this state of affairs inflicted by my over-active mind? Was I presently a risk to my family, my children? Could Ashanti have contracted and transmitted this virus to me?
Kaelan observes me as she packs a lunch box. I never lingered at meals and I always left empty plates in my wake, just another one of the reasons I am called ‘the Slayer.’ I attack before she does.
“Where are you going to?”
She shakes her head and smiles grimly. “You know where I am going Jonathan, you know. Last Saturday of the month is the marathon healing and deliverance service. Or do you want to come?” That contrary smile again.
“You are going to church Kaelan? Church where there are over a thousand people in close contact? Breathing the same contaminated, spittle-filled air? You that will not let your shop customers touch your hands?”
I have gained her unwavering attention. A look of incredulity overwhelms her features, spreading from her tapered eyes, engaging the whopping nose and flattening the lips. “Jonathan Gam-Greene, are you saying I should stay away from the presence of God because of this devil’s disease called Ebola? Can darkness conquer light? Ebola dare not follow us into God’s presence! Ah, Jon! Where is your faith and belief? Eh? Where is it?”
There is a knock on the door which we both ignore. Eventually Clara will crawl over there and get it. She is in the end, a distant cousin of the snail family.
“Oh Kaelan, you believe in God, but you won’t let Jemima and Joshua visit with Frances’ family. The God that protects you in church cannot protect your children in the neighborhood? You are not going off to bring a life threatening disease into this home, you hear?”
She looks ready to burst into tears. “Jonathan! Jonathan! Are people not going to work? Are campaigns, conferences, seminars not being held every day? Why then do you think it is the church that will bow to Ebola? Why?”
“Morning,” A baritone greets, interrupting my well-reasoned argument. Clara made it to the door without incident. Hallelujah.
“Good morning Uncle Kay,” Kaelan greets ever so meekly.
Uncle! Arggh! Kaelan will refer to the security guard as ‘uncle’ if the merest possibility exists that he might be a day older than she is. Her world is peopled by uncles and aunties who are in no way related nor will ever be. She thinks it’s a sign of humility. I think it’s demeaning.
“Kave-Man, top of the morning. Just a little chit-chat with the wife. You brought papers?”
Our little weekend routine. Kay and his wife Frances live in the adjoining apartment and we read the papers together and generally jaw around whilst the wives put their acts together.
“Uncle Kay, what can we offer you?” Kaelan butts in, ever the dutiful hostess. 6ft and counting, she towers over us both, but seems to shrink when she plays her hostess role-as though bothered that her height will get in the way of her humility.
“Shortly Mrs G; dare I inquire as to what life-threatening disease the Slayer is worried about? Something we should know or is it entirely personal and non-contagious?” he asks with a laugh, settling on a settee and setting down a pile of Dailies.
Kaelan shakes her head. “Eat something first, Uncle Kay…”
Okay, this guy lives next door! He is not starving Kaelan! “Ebola!” I interrupt going to my special chair. I am winded but I won’t stand down. “With a deadly, contagious virus on the loose, you would think my wife would have the good sense to stay indoors and reduce our exposure.”
“Ebola is not air-borne, so it’s not as though merely being around people gets you infected.” Kay offers.
“Ehen!” Kaelan and I say in unison but for different reasons. I glare at her, how could I have trusted information received from my wife? I should have very well asked my four-year old to share her knowledge of gestation from start to finish. I am feeling better already.
“Ah, Slayer where have you been? There are some suspected cases at the moment, but nothing has been confirmed last I heard.”
“Heyyyy!” Kaelan exclaims. My locally sourced raw material never fails to remind me of her pedigree.
My good feeling dissipates quickly. “For real? If this thing isn’t airborne, then what’s the biggie?”
“People exchange body fluids at an amazing rate each hour on the hour Slayer. Blood, spittle, sweat,” he laughs “Semen.”
My blood runs cold. There is a sign here, a reason Kay is saying this. I turn to Kaelan. “This is exactly why you should not spend 24-hours in a hall with a thousand people who have been only God knows where! Churches should shut their doors!”
“Whoa, hold up Slayer. Churches can’t shut down because of Ebola. Your office won’t shut down, neither will mine…”
“Ohooo,” She mutters.
“Are you serious Kay? Measures can be instituted in an office that will never hold water in a church.”
Kaelan interjects, arms flailing. “God does not need ‘measures’ to protect his children in his sanctuary. If we apply measures, where is our faith, eh?”
“I beg to disagree Mrs G. Churches like every other institution have a duty to protect its devotees. God granted humans common-sense and intelligent suppositions for a reason.”
Ah! I think. Intelligence, if he only knew.
“Frequent hand washing, increased personal hygiene, the use of sanitizers are the best methods of prevention, so what bars a church from installing a sink, sanitizers and the like for its congregants? Or …”
“Uncle Kay! The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church of God! Ebola will bow to us, we will not bow to Ebola! Ah, if you are an unbeliever…”
Lord have mercy, she rants on.
“And you come to church and see sanitizer or disinfectant because of Ebola, will you not laugh and say these people are not serious? I have come to God for healing but even his disciples don’t believe he can save them.”
Silence. Kay tries again.
“Mrs G, I think the church has a duty to society and its members…”
“The church’s only duty right now is to close its doors to the public. End of discussion,” I interrupt tiredly. My head throbs.
Kaelan squeals “Touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm! Have you not read in Psalm 91 that no plague shall come near our dwelling place?”
Kay stares fixedly at the TV screen. Perhaps this is a version of Kaelan he has never seen. She is standing tall and unbending, bony arms gesticulating wildly. My spider wife.
I hear the chatter of children, Joshua and Jemima have awoken, and the enormity of my dilemma hits me like a punch in the guts. If there is something more to my throbbing head and general physical discomfort I can’t be around my children. I lumber up.
“Kay, raincheck, somewhere I have to be.”
He is surprised but I will offer no explanations. I can barely meet his eyes. How he must be laughing at me.
“Kaelan get my keys, I have an errand to run. And do not leave the house till I return.” The most captivating feature of a face with a double chin, and drooping jowls can only be the eyes. Mine are as hard as flint when it suits me, and now, I give Kaelan the 100th degree. She wilts and goes to do my bidding.
Thirty minutes later, I arrive at the hospital and conclude that without a shadow of doubt, I have bitten a bullet. This isn’t my psyche playing games with me. It’s been almost seven years since I put my health in the care of these medical practitioners and they have not failed me yet, I hope they won’t fail me now. Blood and urine samples are collected albeit with a great deal of caution and averted eyes.
In an out-patient ward where I have been sequestered to await the results and further consultation, my thoughts meander to Ashanti, my lover and maybe murderer. If I have this virus, she gave it to me. The only question would remain, ‘Was it always her plan to slay the Slayer?’
The minutes pass. There is a flurry of activity outside the room. A nurse looks in, mutters an apology, and hurries off. I wonder about that. Kaelan calls, I ignore it. She probably wants to ask where I am and whine about been denied the opportunity to spend her day in an Ebola-conducive environment. My head throbs a little harder, and I am immediately contrite. Maybe God is punishing me, for though I have hated my father for most of my life, it seems I nevertheless morphed into a chip off the old block. Maybe Kaelan’s God was set to rid her off me in as shameful a manner as possible. The headlines would be riveting, sure to sell tons of otherwise worthless Dailies. ‘Man contracts deadly Ebola disease from Mistress.’
I decide I won’t make it easy for him. The merciful God Kaelan brags about even when I am clearly her benefactor can be appealed to can’t he? A deal is in order.
“Dear God,” I groan, sliding off the chair and kneeling, “Kindly ensure that I have not contacted this Ebola. I have been a good provider to my wife and my death would leave her in want…” I pause, wrestling with my lust. I disgust myself, refusing to let go of Ashanti even in her new role as my self-appointed Angel of death. “Today will bring an end to my dalliance with the seductress. Our relationship will remain strictly professional and I will devote myself to my wife and my wife only. Amen.”
I remain on my knees because my strength is dissipated. Did I play the right hand?
The door swings open and Dr Ten my personal physician makes his way in. There is a story behind that name, but let’s save it for another day. He seems relaxed, garbed in tennis attire and not poised to deliver news indicative of my speedy mortality. He swings a medical chart and observes my position.
“Why are you kneeling? Is the Slayer praying? Has the Slayer found religion?” His words are coated with layers of sarcasm.
I struggle to my feet, empowered by his demeanor. “Yeah, my own brand of religion anyways.” Indicating the file he carries, “What’s troubling a brother?”
His face hardens and he tosses the chart into my paws. “We ran through the usual suspects, and syphilis is looking guilty as hell.” A pause, “Jonathan, I really don’t get why you don’t get this! If you are going to slay them all, protect yourself! A randy 18-year old knows this. One day it won’t be little old syph…are you smiling?”
Yes I am! As wildly as the Cheshire cat in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. I scan the test results quickly, familiar with the medical abbreviations. I am so relieved that my head might just detach itself and embark on a smiling spree. I grin wildly at Dr Ten, life is good again. The Slayer took a gamble and God met him halfway. Didn’t Robert Stevenson say ‘compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer?’
Bewilderment, disgust, or stoic detachment; Dr Ten’s stippled face is a smorgasbord of fleeting expressions. He quietly reaches for his chart and leaves. Usually, I would do my best to smooth ruffled feathers and ensure that no need ever arises to breach our doctor-patient confidentiality, but not today. Today, I fall into a chair and smile at the white walls. God met me halfway with old Mr Syph and I had to return the favor.