I woke up that morning feeling like a rock, just sitting there at the mercy of all the elements of Mother Nature’s wrath. I took a shower but I was even too dull to clean myself. I constantly drifted off as the water ran down my body. For an hour I stood in the shower, on and on until the water turned cold but I felt no difference. As the second hour passed while I was in the shower, a knock sounded on the door. It was my mother, not always so subtle in her most kind of sentiments. “Wake up before you destroy my shower.” That was a cue to leave that even a comatose person had to listen to. I got out of the shower and got dressed, trying to find something to wear that I would feel comfortable in. In my mind I was seeing all my friends, for today I knew I would see them all in one place; see the pain on their eyes and the disbelief in their tears. Clad in a white shirt and a black jean with white sneakers on, I left the house. As I walked slowly towards the bus stop my phone rang. I did not recognize the number but I felt obliged to answer. “Hi, is this Corey?” I didn’t recognize the voice either but I responded affirming it was indeed Corey. “Hi Corey, can you give me directions to Belana’s house from the city center?” I didn’t want to entertain too long a conversation by inquiring who she was but the way her tongue molded the word “the” made me realize that it was Tyranda, one of Belana’s close friends who was not so close to me but we were acquainted. I directed her with great courtesy and she was well enough on her way. As soon as I ended the phone call, my phone rang again and this time it was someone I knew indeed. It was Randy, Liandra’s partner who also happened to stay quite close to where I stayed. “Hi Corey, can we meet up and go to the funeral together.” Though I wanted to be alone, how could I say no, to one so dear to both me and Belana. Without too long a moment to spare he had caught up to me as I had waited for him. He didn’t say much for most of the way, he couldn’t believe it either. I guess we were all stuck on a place of trying to find reason, trying to understand how one so one could be taken so early. Without too much time passing we had reached Belana’s gate. Today I had no excuse for I could recognize some of the voices inside. My phone rang before I stepped anything, it was Adrian highlight he was on his way and he would be with me shortly. He hung up the phone and I knew it was time, time to face oblivion with nothing more than a bruised soul.
I walked into the wide open gate and it became quite obvious to everyone that I had finally arrived. Belana had not been sparing in her acknowledgement of me amongst all who knew her. Even her mother knew exactly who I was! I walked in at a slow pace, trying to shake off some emotions that were coming up. I remembered her house quite vividly. I had been there some months earlier on her 18th birthday party. I could hear the echoes of that day in the air, what a time that was for her! She forced me to dance, quite daring if you ask me considering I am not at all moved by the concept of dancing but over the few years she had discovered how to bend my resolve to her benefit at times. I greeted a man not a stranger to me, it was her father. Sitting outside with what looked like close relatives. He looked broken to the last thread. Him being a military man, he had always shown composure and command but today he was just so broken. I looked into his eyes as I greeted him, maybe I shouldn’t have because I saw the will of a broken man in him. He had lost his hope; he had lost the child who had his favor. I did not exchange words with him, for what could I say to him that could make anything better considering I could not conjure up words to console myself. I continued towards the front door of the house but stopped after I noticed the inside was quite full already. I opted to stand outside; who wouldn’t for I knew the mother and I did not want to see the look on her face! Without too many minutes passing by someone walked out the door. She caught my gaze, it was Michelle. Her cheeks soaked in tears she approached me trying to stop crying but she exploded into more tears as she fell into my arms. I almost started crying but held back the tears. I couldn’t cry, not in front of everyone for I had always been a form of strength to them, someone who they could count on when they needed help. Who was going to be my pillar, I had no one! For some minutes Michelle kept crying and I held her strongly for I promised her that in her time of need I would stand strongly by her, she would not fall while I was there. After some time she seized crying and wiped away the tears and raised her eyes to meet mine “Are you ok?” I nodded my head breathing out “I will be ok!” She must have known I had always been a terrible liar for she hugged me and walked to Randy.
I had known Michelle for some time now. We had grown terribly close as I had walked with her from days where she was nothing more than a person who lacked confidence in front of people and shied away until she became a person not afraid of anyone. She had always reminded me of the softer side of me, the side that reminded me that irrespective of my composure and resolve, I was still very soft inside. She had always been one to cry and that hurt me. I could tell when she was crying for I could see the invisible stain of tears on her cheeks every time she cried. I could only imagine what was going through her mind. Michele and Belana had been outstanding characters in my life if not heroes. Michelle was now strong; she was a testimony of great change. I couldn’t bear seeing her cry, it tore my heart to shreds and all who knew her knew that to come against her was to come against me and all had avoided that. What could I have done? What could I have said that would have wiped away her tears? Every moment she cried I drew close to blowing up. How can a wound bandage another wound when it doesn’t know how to take care of its own wound first? After some moments Liandra walked out of the door and she had purely just lost it. Tears hard rolled down her cheeks onto her neck and she was purely just in deep shock and horror. She collapsed straight into Randy’s hands. Where else could she go except there really? She cried and said some horrid things that made me bleed inside. “My Belana, My Belana of all people. Really, my Belana of all people.” Her voice cut straight into my soul and I turned to face away from her because I just almost cried at that time. I rushed to get a grip of myself, I could not fall apart; I really just couldn’t! Without a moment parsing she was right behind me, tears, words and all. Liandra was certainly not the most intelligent of people, but she knew how to read people, especially their emotions and her sharp and penetrating voice could cut down even the most proud of men. I turned to face her, maintaining a face I had been known all too much for. A face that held strength in times of dire distress. She reached out to hug me as she cried, “Corey, she is gone. How can she be gone? Not my Belana!” I held her trying not to collapse myself. Her words were too much; I had to pull every ounce of strength to avoid tears. Her words cut deep into me and even up until today they send chills down my spine as I think of them. Liandra was a very gentle person; she brought out the blondeness in herself and everyone around her. She was not too concerned with many things like I was; she took a step at a time, figuring things out as she got on with life. She had a lot of love for people, she always held orphans walking in the street, sharing jokes with them and showing affection I only associated with her. She was our Captain Caveman, a bit blonde but had something we all admired about her, her persistence in loving others around her unconditionally. To see her like this, so broken to the point of vocally expressing such dire emotions crushed me inside. What could I say, “It’s going to be alright; it’s just all a dream?” What could I have said that would have made the situation better, even I in all my knowledge and wisdom lacked the words to say? Liandra released me and went over to Michelle and I could hear tears starting again. My eyes graced me with sights I would never forget that day. I paused for some time just grief struck, looking at my friend in tears. I stood in disbelief at having to bear this sight. It was not something I had envisioned as happening so early in all of our lives. My pause was broken by someone who came out of the door, it was Gabby!
Gabby walked out of the door with her hands covering her eyes, her feint voice jumping forward from the assumed comfort of her hands. Pain raced down my throat, branching off into every nerve, every organ, into anything capable of feeling pain! All she knew of a friend, a sister she could always call on was Belana! Most would miss the story behind what time calls the tide of change, the beginning of all new things! Gabby had been a simple nothing, poor in all aspects! She used to have one outfit to wear to school and she would wear it to school and wash it when she got home for the next day. She had never been one famous for being socialite or acceptable with the mere masses. She was never anyone who got any eye of acknowledgement from anyone, just a puff of the wind, a mere no one! But in all things came a tide of great change! Belana saw in her what most never thought of looking for. She saw the potential for great change, the need for affection. Gabby had been so foreign to affection that to her the mere concept was like asking her to cease existing. No stranger to tears she needed someone and Belana had been it. An instrument, a beacon, a pillar to lie on, he advocate! Belana became a sister, someone Gabby could not pass a day without talking to. And now, what could she do, tainted by a stain so great tears were only to follow. I stepped towards her and embraced her and the wind carried her voice “I can’t believe it, she is gone!” For some time I held her, what could I possibly say really! Everyone had always seen me as a pillar of strength, fortitude, composure and deepened sense but I had been undone! She wiped her tears finally and lifted her eyes to meet my gaze. I looked away, purely just overcome by emotion! I had just seen close friend after close friend disintegrating before my very eyes. I think she saw it, the pain was just under a think membrane in me, not all can read me but few who can would have noticed. I released her as she went to Tyranda, who had extended her hands to her. I walked away from the door and sat at a rock outcrop near the front door of the house. I sat there with everything bare before my very eyes, but I still could not comprehend the truth. I had to see her; I just could not accept it. My emotions raged, I guess they had thought it true but my mind wanted sight as a vindicator. Tyranda came and sat next to me, holding my hand and staring at me. I turned to meet her gaze as she asked “How are you holding up?” I didn’t respond at first, just breathed out and nodded my head in disbelief. “I don’t know, I just don’t know” I added. Belana’s laugh crawled into my thoughts from my memories of her. So clearly I heard it as if she sat next to me. I turned my face from Tyranda as tears rushed to my eyes. A tear broke off from my left eye but I quickly wiped it away. I fought back all the tears at that moment but it was a moment too late, Tyranda saw it! I turned to look at her and she smirked at me, trying to find words but failing.
My phone vibrated in my pocket, I pulled it out and it was Adrian. I answered the call and without too many words he asked me to meet him outside. I got up and made my way to the gate. As I got out I saw him, disembarking from his father’s car. I met him halfway with a traditional hand extended to each other. I didn’t have much to say and he pretty much picked it off. He had always been able to read more like a book than a person. We walked towards the gate together and one by one all my friends came out. They greeted Adrian and exchanged a few words; Adrian was quite inquisitive of what had transpired prior to his arrival was filling the air with some questions. Bobo also came out of the gate, followed by the gaze of all of us! Bobo was Belana’s baby brother, the one who lived in the shadow of Belana. He had not been needed to carry any burden for expectation had not been rested on him; it had all rested on his sister. It had all changed now! Adrian asked him what had happened, how Belana passed away without even one of us having a clue. Bobo knew such a moment would come and he had to tell now. With a deep breath he told us, “After cooking dinner, Belana complained of having a headache. Belana dismissed it as one of her migraine headaches but her mother offered to take her to hospital of which Belana refused. She thought it was nothing to worry about and went to bed. Belana actually woke up just before midnight and came into the lounge. She said she was feeling better and went back to bed. After midnight she woke up and went to the toilet where she vomited. She had been sharing the room with cousins who after some time noticed she had not returned. They got up and sought after her. After discovering her in the toilet unconscious with her body rock stiff, they woke up mom who woke up everyone else. Attempt after attempt to wake her up failed until we put some water with sugar on her lips and then she opened her mouth. We quickly took her to the hospital at dad’s work place and after some time they told us she was getting better, nothing to worry about. A few hours passed and while mom was with her, out of nowhere she started seizing, and started vomiting blood. She was jerking uncontrollably and then just like that she just passed away as mom held her. The doctor’s diagnosis came after she died, all too late.” Everyone held cold silence as the images of what really happened materialized in their minds. Bobo had to fight between emotions and trying to talk as he was overcome by grief. After explaining to us what happened he said they wanted to pray inside and had requested that all of Belana’s friends come in. I guess it was time to see for myself what state the mother of my closest friend was. We all went into the yard and entered the house one by one. I came in last, not wanting to be seen, afraid of what I was going to see. She sat on the floor amidst the people, tears on her cheeks. It is hard to see your friends cry but it is harder to see a broken mother mourning her child who happened to be your friend! I ran my right hand across my face, trying to see if indeed this was a dream but I was not asleep! Silence came in the room as we had been requested to sing a song in remembrance of Belana. We sang her favorite song, which required a more cheerful and vibrant set than the tears of a torn people. Michelle led the song and time and time again I could tell, she was just fighting inside, this was so painful. As I sang I remembered how vibrant she was every time she sang it, “Eeeeehhhhhhhh my God is good oh, eeeeehhhhhhhh my God is good oh!” I had always hated an aspect of myself at times for I had a very thorough memory that captured too many details in one thing. Today I had to remember the tone of her voice, the smile that cut across her face the last time I saw her singing it. She had braids with maroon tips, in her more than regular red outfit with no worry inside, hands extended in the air as she sang her lungs out. The song drew to a stop as we were requested to pray. The responsibility fell upon me as my friends thought it right. I started praying asking for comfort, for everyone, asking for peace in our hearts but that was just mere lip service. God knew what was now transpiring in my heart! How could he let her die? It was neither time nor place for me to vent my anger or to find someone to blame. I prayed, saying words most would understand but not airing out the emotions and words I really wanted. Now was not the time! I closed off my prayer with an Amen; having to open my eyes to meet the mothers gaze, she recognized me all too well. There was only one Corey in Belana’s life and that was me! We exited through the same way we came in, and sat outside trying to build some conversation but all things boiling back to the reason why we had all come here. Every friend of mine had an emotional scar, a deep road of emotional turmoil; some so great mere tears could not suffice. Adrian and I kept it all inside, though I proved weaker than Adrian in plain sight. We lingered around for the whole day as people poured in to offer their condolences, hoping I guess for all of it to be a joke. Word came that she would be buried the following day at a cemetery on the other side of town. There would be a church service before the burial and the body viewing would be done there. It was getting close to 1500hrs and I decided to head on home as there was nothing more I could have done in that moment. Adrian joined me along with Randy. Michelle and the others grabbed a public taxi and headed their way. Adrian got picked up by his father at the front gate of my house and I escorted Randy and left him halfway to his house. I walked home alone, seeking some solitude while trying to grasp all that I had seen; my friends crying, Belana’s mother, Belana’s father, Bobo and all the disbelief and pain that had filled the place. Nightfall found me wanting to be away from everything. I did not want to talk, to be bothered or to even be reasoned with, I simply wanted to be left alone! I didn’t sleep much but I locked everything outside because I had a feeling that the following day was going to be the day it all goes wrong.
The sun did not rise the following day. It was overcast with moments of rain drizzle. I woke up and prepared as best as I could trying too much not to think too far ahead. I left the house and met up with Randy. While on our way I received a text message from Gabby, “Her body has arrived”. I called Gabby back who answered with tears starting to become audible, there was singing behind her and I knew indeed it was time. “Corey, she is here. We can’t see the body; have to wait until we are at the church.” Adrenaline cut in as I terminated the call, wanting to get to Belana’s home in a split second. We got there and also joined up with Adrian who had just arrived. We all trickled in as the hearse moved out of the yard slowly. We were directed to the buses provided for our transport. Adrian and I boarded one bus quickly while the others got into the other bus or into friends cars. It didn’t matter really; we were all going to meet at one place for sure. The convoy started moving and all that was in my mind was what I was going to see. I had never seen a dead body let alone the body of one I cherished. The church was not so far from where we started off and soon enough we were disembarking from the bus. We had congregated outside the church as the body was carried into the church. We followed the body into the church also trying to avoid the rain that was choosing an awkward time to fall down. We all found seats at the back; I had preferred it that way as I wanted a reason for avoiding to see the body. Quite a paradigm I was now in, I wanted to confirm she was dead but didn’t want to see the body yet I wanted to see it! Service started and due to shortness in time the program had to be rushed. Only two friends of Belana were allowed to speak as well as a representative of the family and of course the church father. Monica, one also close to Belana had a few words to share about Belana. I was glad it was not me; I simply would have self destructed! She didn’t say anything we didn’t know already and thus she didn’t manage to draw my attention from the white casket where Belana laid. My eyes were fixed on the coffin the entire time. Lyn, also close to Belana shared a bit but I didn’t get distracted. There came a woman, her origin I could not ascertain and she started speaking about Belana. He words caught my ears for she had no idea of the person she was talking about. I almost erupted out of my seat to charge at her and order her to sit down. Emotions were slowly escalating inside me and I was now entering a very fragile state. The remembrance that Adrian was next to me calmed me down as he also seemed to acknowledge that the woman purely had no clue about the person she spoke off. I cleared her words from my mind instantly and chose silence. A better part of the congregation seemed to agree with me and soon enough she sat down. There came another woman, one handpicked by Belana’s mother to speak on her behalf. She spoke quite energetically about Belana, spoke about how she loved people, always was there for people, was a great cook and had a heart that most did not. I nodded my head in agreement as she spoke, I elbowed Adrian slightly and whispered to him “There is one who knows Belana.” He nodded his head in agreement and moments later the congregation said amen agreeing with the words she was saying. A man also in the nick of time stood up and shared on how Belana always filled his tummy with treats and remembered her well for her baking and her willingness to share. He didn’t say much but you could see the old timer was broken. He sat down and the father of the church came in. He had the usual words of such a moment which I had not time to listen to purely out of choice. I drifted off on my own to distant memories trying to relive some of them in my mind. The time came; it was time to see the body. The father requested family members first followed by friends, viewing and then going outside the church and waiting for the body to be loaded back onto the hearse so we could proceed to the burial site. As requested, family got up first followed by friends. Due to the fact that I was seated right at the back I was going to the one of the last people to see her. The line moved and soon enough I was the one in front of the now ending line. Adrian followed me and as I walked towards the coffin a fear I cannot find words to describe set into me, I attempted to step back and run but Adrian put his hands on my back and urged me forward. I walked forward and soon enough I saw what I had dreaded. My heart went into total darkness, it was her! It was Belana, in the coffin behind a glass cover, just lying there motionless! The darkness in my heart spread into my mind as total silence reigned inside me. I stood speechless, Adrian standing next to me in silence. I could not compute; I simply could not process it! There she was; Belana my friend now dead. Lying there like a vegetable! I could do nothing in all my strength, in all my courage and in all my bravery I could do nothing. In all my knowledge and in all my willingness to help people I could not help the one who mattered to me so much. Tyranda’s cry broke through the church as she wept; joined by companions they broke down at the sight of Belana lying there. I had no words; I just stopped processing anything in my mind! Maybe tears would have helped but they didn’t come, I just shut down completely. Adrian urged me on and I walked past on my way outside. I had never wanted to bury my friend; I wanted her to bury me for I felt she deserved a lot more than I did. We stood outside the church as the coffin was loaded onto the hearse. We boarded the buses and vehicles and went towards the cemetery. Adrian sat next to me and not a single word was exchanged during the trip. Adrian, whom most people deemed my puppet was one of the few individuals well acquainted with me to know what I was thinking by just reading my body language. I just gazed out of the window as the world sped past me. It didn’t matter I just could not process any of it. We got to the cemetery and disembarked of the bus. We made our way to the grave and gathered around it. The coffin came in through the crowd and was laid on the belts used to lower it into the grave. Many words were spoken during that time as we stood there by many a manner of people who knew Belana. I didn’t listen to it; I was too far gone to be worth considering as a safe pair of ears. Honestly I didn’t want anyone to speak, I had now desired silence but I knew that was not the place for it. It was now time to lower the body into the grave, the body started going down into the hole and I waved goodbye. I could not process it at all, I was waving goodbye to Belana, my Belana! The coffin rested at the bottom of the grave and people went to get roses to throw into the grave. I picked mine and threw it into the grave. I walked away to a distance so that others could also do the same. The mother came along as it was her time to throw her rose in. I remember her words ever so clearly, “my child, if you died peacefully then rest well but if someone killed you fight back!” I acted like I didn’t hear it but surely I did and up until this day I have not forgotten those words. The wrath of a wounded mother is the likes no lurking beast has ever seen for it looks like dementia and knows no forgiveness. Some more people spoke while at the grave including a more prominent member in our ranks who spoke of how the wickedness of the earth took our friend and not the hand of God. I could have chosen to listen but I would have had none of it. Crying was still quite around and it wounded my soul completely. I spoke to Liandra and Gabby trying to make them strong, who was I fooling? Maybe I should have used those words on myself first. Gabby told me the last thing Belana had told her about me, “I love my friend Corey, he is such a great help. If I think of all he has helped me through I don’t know what I would have done without him.” I took the words up and remained quiet, shifting my attention to the caretakers of the graveyard who had just come along. They had come along and started filling the grave with red muddy earth as it had been raining for the past few days. I watched shovel after shovel as it went into the grave. Psychologically, I was literally a vegetable as I could not make sense of what I was seeing anymore. In no time at all the grave was filled and relatives put flowers on top and the sign with her name was put on top. I read it as I walked around the grave and just could not believe it. She was in there, my friend was in there! It was time to get back on the buses and head back to Belana’s house. I walked slowly back to the bus with Adrian joining me. We got on the bus and slowly the bus rolled out of the graveyard and rolled towards our destination. Again I was sitting next to a window. On my I-pod a song was playing and the tune of the song drove me into my deep road. The Coldplay song “Cemeteries of London” playing on repeat brought the images I had seen that day into my mind over and over. The image of Belana in the coffin played over and over in my head and I did not fight it away, I just left it there! One of the buses in our convoy got involved in an accident. Its side was scratched by the trailer of a haulage truck on a bridge. The bus I was on passed the accident, I didn’t look back. I just didn’t care anymore, not an ounce as I felt I had been wronged! We arrived at Belana’s residence and disembarked from the bus. Soon after disembarking I met up with Liandra and Michelle outside of the gate. They seemed more at peace than before the burial. Adrian was close to me as well but I think he saw that something was completely wrong. I was now standing in front of the gate, looking at the house. I had frozen in time, completely motionless as if I had been locked in a form of stasis. Michele was to my left and Liandra was to my right. At that moment that is when it finally hit me, at that moment my brain finally processed one thing and drew a conclusion, “Belana is dead, you buried her just over an hour ago. She is dead, gone. She is not coming out of that house.” I stood looking at the house and I turned around trying to look away from the house, as I turned my face went past Michelle’s eyes. My eyes opened in deep horror as everything in me began to feel pain. My moment of truth had finally arrived! Liandra grabbed my left hand and rubbed my back, I closed my eyes and in the moment I opened them tears trickled down my cheeks. They were not little streams that I could hold back but they were flowing straight from all I had ever felt. I almost fell to my knees had my two friends not held me up. I opened my mouth cried like a baby. It didn’t matter anymore who saw me cry, I was hurting beyond the point of comfort. I had always been pain tolerant but this was a pain to great for me. Tears trickled down my cheeks and I didn’t wipe them away. I was no longer going to fight it; I was broken, I had lost all my strength and all my resolve! That was the first time my friends had seen me cry. The only friend of mine who had seen me cry was Belana. I do not know what went through my friend’s minds as they saw me crying that day. I had tried to be so strong at the cost of my own emotions. In a sense my father’s doctrine failed to hold water that day. I could not be like a vegetable and fail to show emotion, I just couldn’t. Liandra and Michelle stuck it out with me trying to calm me down but I wouldn’t stop crying. Adrian stood at a distance; it was too much to bear for him to see me like this. He might have been fighting with himself at the same time. Bobo arrived from the graveyard and saw me in tears. He took me further down the road from everyone and when I set my sight on him more tears rolled down my face. It was drizzling but what did I care, nothing really mattered anymore. He managed to stop me from crying further, how he did that still puzzles me considering his words were not at all spectacular. “She is dead, let’s just accept it and move on. Stop crying please Corey!” After I had calmed down I came back to my friends, Liandra almost amazed by the fact that I cried hugged me. Adrian did not share any words and Michelle looked into my eyes and just said “It will be ok.” We remained outside as the rest of the people came back to the house. Time passed and passengers from the other bus arrived as well. We decided it was now fitting for us to leave as it seemed that as friends we were now out of place. Adrian called his father who came and picked Randy, Adrian and I up. Michelle and the rest of the gang made their own way home as always. I remember hearing Belana’s mother breaking into a screeching cry as Adrian’s dad arrived. She had lost a son before who was also resting at the same cemetery and now a daughter had been lost as well. I could never fully understand the depth of her pain but that cry horrified me as I got into the car. I sat at the back of the car distant from all sense of reality as we rolled away from the house. Adrian and I didn’t talk much either, we have always been too alike and I guess we were all in the same season at that time. Adrian and his father dropped me at my house and went off with Randy. I was no longer talking at that time; I had now just completely imploded and locked myself in. I got into my house and went straight to my room, drew the curtains and sat on my bed in silence. I was now in my deep road, and I saw no end in sight.