Here’s an odd little story I submitted to a local literary magazine for their ‘Siblings’ issue.
It didn’t make it through to selection, and so I share this tale of strangeness with you here.
I Feel You
At 3pm, in the express queue at Checkers, an orgasm begins to jelly Minnie. She pretend-sneezes and squeezes inward to keep her bits together. It passes just as the cashier asks, “Would you like a packet Ma’am?” Minnie shakes her head, hands the cashier a folded plastic samoosa to unravel and fill with four tins of baked beans.
Minnie walks towards her car, plumbing the depths of her handbag for keys when the contractions ripple through her again, this time the feeling is like washing gloves drubbing against a draining board. Minnie is 35 and a generous portion of her life has been complicated by a series of phantom sensations visiting upon her at random intervals.
When she was 15, her left collarbone throbbed for three weeks while her arms felt like fleshy tubes encasing splinters of bone. The x-rays showed nothing unusual. There was also that winter where she walked around barefoot, in shorts and t-shirts, as if the ghost of a holiday sun burned just under her skin. Minnie’s foster mother took her to spiritual healers, convinced of some dark force at play. Minnie was prayed and pissed upon, given distilled water and aloe juice enemas. There was even a doll made in her likeness, soaked in holy oil, and placed in a box with a Bible, to be kept in a cupboard where no ill could reach. That didn’t stop Minnie’s lungs thickening during her Matric Biology exam. She was about to answer Question Five on the Krebs Cycle, when fingers of chlorine pushed into her nose and she fell to the floor in a fit. Minnie remembers her tongue lolling against the coolness of the brown scuffed lino and that Petrus Meyer wasn’t wearing socks. The entire class had to retake the test. No one asked her to the Matric dance.
The orgasms were the most terrifying until she learnt to control her physical responses to them. They rarely came during the day, but when they did, she was able to suppress them, like an urge to scratch her bum in public.
It took some time before she was able to accurately discern between real sensation and what she calls, Spooky Feels. They are almost always preceded by a slight tingling in her stomach or heat radiating from the back of her head. When doctors ask her to describe the experience, she says it is like someone calling her from across a ravine, that the pain, or the elation, is diluted, strained even, as if it has already passed through something.
When Minnie found a job with a good medical aid benefit, she went for a CAT scan. Like the x-rays from years before, the doctors found nothing. She started seeing a psychologist who suggested her episodes were a result of an unresolved childhood trauma. Minnie, who’d never known her real parents, was happy to accept his theory. It made more sense than her foster mother insisting that Mad Aunt Clara was pushing pins into her ragged effigy every night.
As Minnie drives home, a ball of fire rips through her belly. She swerves and misses a telephone pole by centimetres. The pain persists, and though she can tell it’s another Spooky Feel, there’s something different about this one. It burns as it contracts, and with each ebb, it grows distant, fading, and then it’s gone. Minnie is bereft and she doesn’t know why. Other motorists have stopped their cars, they knock at her windows, “Are you okay?” She nods, her eyes just streaming, blind to everything.
She can’t remember how she gets home. She thinks someone may have followed her to make sure she was safe. Strangers are the kindest.
Minnie is in her kitchen looking for her sharpest knife. She knicks it across her thumb. The blood lines the cracks in her palms and it stings. It is real.
Days later, Minnie is back at Checkers to buy baked beans and candles. It is pay-day weekend and the long queues are perdition. Minnie picks up a newspaper, skimming over tired headlines; crime, corruption, loadshedding. She flips through to the entertainment section but is startled by her face on page five. “Woman and Lover Dead. Boyfriend Arrested.” Minnie reads that a woman and a man were found dead by neighbours last weekend. The man had been shot in the head and the woman in her stomach. The boyfriend turned himself over to the police. The article identifies the woman as Diane Ronalds, 35, estate agent. There is no other information. The picture in the newspaper is taken from one of Diane’s real estate ads.
Minnie taps the shoulder of the man standing in front of her. “Do you see this woman?” she says, tapping at the picture. “Does she look like me?” The man, who has just lost on level 75 of Candy Crush, is ready to dismiss Minnie but he looks at the newspaper anyway. “Yah, you do look the same. Identical, check, even your eyes. She could be your twin.” He’s suddenly interested, and wants to ask Minnie what happened, but she’s blanked out, and he thinks maybe it’s just as well, this is chick-drama he can do without.