Noma switched the treadmill on and programmed it for running at a pace of one kilometre every five minutes. She sipped her coffee and watched the machine run. She was dressed for a workout, an outfit she prepared the night before to motivate herself but as soon as the machine started running, she knew she would not run. The impressive machine was new and the friction caused by the running band intensified the smell of newness; Kay smiled satisfactorily at her latest impulsive buy. Her cellphone beeped endlessly, many of her work and social WhatsApp groups she set on mute but the messages were verging on a thousand; most of them were fear mongering messages about the virus. She scrolled down to Kay’s number, her manicured thumb hovered over the contact as she considered unblocking them, the thumb stayed in the air as she sipped her coffee and it quickly tapped the screen unblocking them.
She walked over to her work desk, opened her laptop and played Candy Crush, a minute after she checked to see if Kay had sent a message but nothing came through. She sent a message and only one tick appeared. She continued playing Candy Crush as if it was a war she had to win and thirty minutes after she checked her cell-phone again and still no response from Kay. She angrily shut the laptop closed and hopped onto the treadmill running as fast as she could, increasing the speed every five minutes, she ran until her legs protested in pain causing her to surrender and stop the machine. She wobbled over to the desk and logged onto WhatsApp on her laptop, sometimes the messages came through quicker on the laptop but still there was no response from Kay, she blocked the contact again, and played Candy Crush again. The wins at every level were both exhilarating and frustrating, each loss angered her and she made sure she never lost more than once at a single level. Candy Crush was a never-ending a game, a new level released every week. Kay thought of it as a mindless stupid game and Noma made certain to play it every time they visited to annoy them. She never played it at work; only in her high-rise apartment over-looking green Sandton.
“What is the objective?” Kay always asked.
“The objective is fun and believe or not, strategy is required” Noma naughtily explained over the clamouring background sounds of the game.
“I feel like the machine plays for you, also its just an unfair game” Kay stated with annoyance.
“Sometimes I’m given hints” Noma replied excitedly
“I switch those off when I play games” they proudly informed.
“Well I don’t. I like hints. I like being directed. I don’t have to pretend to be clever with this game” Noma defended.
“It’s just more thrilling to figure it out on your own” Kay countered.
“It’s more time consuming without hints, we both win anyway” Noma waved her off.
Noma did not feel like she was winning as she furiously played Candycrush with memories of her swimming in her head. She decided to block Kay after their fallout because she did not want the temptation of reaching out and apologising. She hated apologising, apologising felt like losing and besides Kay had always emphasised authenticity in their relationship and she was being punished for her authentic expression.
Noma’s mother, Nomasonto, deplored homosexuals which was fitting because her father, Nkosi, was the preacher at the Seven Day Adventist church. Noma’s brother, Buyani, was the favourite of the family: tall, slender, a charmer of note who had the ladies at church outperforming themselves for him. He had a voice that was as soothing as a cool breeze on a hot day and he led all the songs, sometimes he freestyled which upset his mother because it was wrong to diverge from the hymn book but his father delighted in these antics. Nomasonto revered the position of the preacher than her husband did. Nkosi was jovial, patient with everyone and preached like he was gently reprimanding his own children. He was generous too; he made sure all the orphans had school uniform, that the soup kitchen was always stocked with food, he paid car and house payments, visited the sick and elderly when they could not come to church.
Noma’s mother made five times more money than her husband, it was agreed between the two of them, as teens, that she would work while he attended to his calling of being a preacher. Nomasonto was birthed into an influential political family who revered education as much as political status. Noma inherited her fierce focus from her mother but one thing she did not inherit was her mother’s ignorant views about morality; it was her reluctance to accept her son as gay that drove him to his suicide. Nkosi was partially accepting but expressed that Amos could not live an openly gay life, that he would either have to get married and have children or not engage in relationships at all. Her mother’s actions were far worse, she stood up in front of the whole congregation and asked them to pray for her and her gay son, that God would forgive her for giving birth to a homosexual, she went on to count the ways she had been a good mother, then lamented the horrendous sin her son was committed to by being gay and to top off the one-woman show, she wailed on the red floor of the church like she was being tortured by unseen fires. Buyani killed himself Saturday night after the church service by lying down on the train tracks close to the church and that was the last day she attended a church service.
Kay did not know about Noma’s family because Noma spoke about them but she kept the suicide a secret. She was not ready to revisit the pain, she would not be the reason she broke the remaining half of her father’s heart and her mother, much as they hated each other, was the one who secured Noma’s job. She could not reprise the demon that broke her family, shattered their image such that her father became mute and could not preach again. She was caught between being rebellious and being loyal, being wild and being rational, being herself and being herself because she knew she had different versions stored in different compartments. She needed time to evaluate her sexual identity, it had been a year and she had not dated anyone but she knew Kay was the only woman she was attracted to, even if Kay said that she did not identify as a woman.
She played Candy Crush until her eyes hurt then shut down laptop and wobbled painfully to her bed. Her legs were stiff and heavy, she had forgotten to cool the muscles down or eat after the workout but her appetite was non-existent, gone like her sense of sanity in the lockdown. She scrolled down her cell-phone, examined the profile picture which Kay had not changed in a year, she brought the cell-phone to her lips and kissed the image then unblocked Kay again.
Lockdown Story is an original written creative work of Nobantu Shabangu