The sound wave hit me with the staccato of a jackhammer, syllables resonating until my eyes grew wide and my jaw slacked. I searched around the room for a fellow reaction. Our eyes locked and we swallowed our faces. Tearing away our gaze, we feigned an indifference we did not feel. Allowing feeling would put us in harm’s way so we joined in the revelry until such time as we could leave. I pretexted a headache, not really a pretext as the tightening of my jaw was threatening to detonate my head. I did not acknowledge to myself the depth of the despair that had engulfed me.
I left the party early as it was a school day. My fellow gazer was retching outside. I had consumed two beers before hearing the news – my lips had touched the rim of the glass since but nothing else had gone down. The plants near where I had stood all night would be pretty hung over in the morning. I waited for him to regain his composure and we walked away together, though we had been stranger before that eye contact.
I had rehearsed the discussion many times during the evening but now it all seemed superfluous. Of course he knew her. How they had met did not really matter. Their relationship was obviously strong – he did not strike me as a possible sibling. Perhaps boyfriend material or confidante. I bet he was asking himself the same thing. What I wanted to know was if I could count on him for action. And did he have a plan? We turned to each other at the same time, eyes locking again, again refraining from talking. Ears everywhere. He indicated a trail in the bush and took it without checking whether I was following. I was, of course. We walked slowly, with an economy of moves. I felt numb, focusing on being discreet, summoning my inner tracker, the invisible one who walked noiselessly. We happened on an old silo – that was to be our destination. He knew the way in. The rust and dust reassured me. It was low and confined. There was no other exit than the entrance. Not an ideal scenario but the fact that he knew of its existence hinted at more.
I was not guarded around him and allowed myself to turn my back to him as I took in the surroundings. Some type of husks on the dirt floor, obviously remnants of the foodstuff the silo had housed. A pitchfork in a corner, its tines twisted so that it was no longer usable as a tool or a weapon. He showed me wires, the pitchfork, made white noise with his mouth. Ah, it used to connect to one of those devices that made white noise where clandestine meetings were held. I raised my eyebrows. He shrugged. We moved on.
We sat on the ground and spoke in hushed tones, the emotions we had withheld rushing out in a cascading river of hurt and urgency, boulders of silence diverting the flow now and then, eddies of anguish throwing us off course until we settled on an unhurried pace, dried tears on our cheeks. Our moist eyes and bared white fangs gleamed in the half-light. He was more practiced in the art of survival. He did not seem overly affected by the drinks he had imbibed earlier. His mind seemed clear, his plan simple: revenge at all costs.