C7 THE VISIT
A L E X
". . .so I punched him in the face."
"But why did you punch him in the face, Mr. Moore?" The policeman cocked his head like he was expecting to hear something along the lines of 'well, because after x and y, the next alphabet wasn't z.
I stifled my look of irritation, fast, and answered tiredly. "Because he was badmouthing my wife and talking about her in a disrespectful way. You don't get to talk bad about a man's wife and expect not to get punched in the face."
The five police men looked at each other and nodded. "He's right." One of them announced.
"But where were you exactly?" The one in the middle asked.
I lifted my hands that were propped on my knees and put them on the table. The policemen close to my left must have thought I was going to bring out a weapon or something, because his hand went to the waistband of his trousers and hovered there. When he saw all I did was change posture, he relaxed, but I noticed his attention was drawn to my knuckles.
Part of the skin on them was scraped and they were caked with blood.
The paparazzo's blood.
It gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I opened my mouth and began to relay exactly why I was sitting in front of a five-man panel at the police station.
Three hours earlier, I had just left my lab. You know that feeling that comes with a sense of accomplishment?
Best feeling ever!
It bubbled to the surface and pushed the grief that kept plaguing me to the back burner. But it wasn't just a sense of accomplishment I felt, it was of relief as well. Relief that what I had set out to do would finally come to an end, and all my expectations would be established.
After ten long years of back breaking research and holing myself up with my team in the lab, day in and day out, it was finally here.
The end result.
Exceva would be birthed.
What tied everything up was the call I got from Kelly.
Naturally, the first person I thought to got to with the news was Aretha. I remembered she loved the colour yellow, and fresh yellow tulips were her favorite flowers. When she was alive, I always got them for her. I wasted no time, for once I left the lab, I went straight to the nearest florist.
Luckily, there was one on the same street the laboratory was situated at, so I headed there.
To my disappointment, the florist said she had just sold the last batch of yellow tulips and would I like to take the red or the pink one's?
I told her I didn't want any other colour apart from yellow. She advised me to go for the yellow roses instead, because they technically represented the same things which were peace, love and joy. I agreed and picked two bouquets of yellow roses.
While she was ringing them up, I noticed a coy smile appear on her face and I knew what would happen next. She looked up at me and smiled. "Forgive my asking this, but these roses are for a special someone, I believe?"
"Yes, they are." I replied a little curtly but followed it with a smile to tamper down my words.
She was quiet for a bit. Even though her fingers practically raced across the keypad, I wondered why she was taking so long in registering the flowers. I had the sneaky feeling she was stalling in order to ask me further questions. Then she looked up, and that coy smile sat wider on her face. "She must be something special."
It was my turn to smile coyly. "Oh my wife definitely is, but now she's dead."
As her mouth fell open, I picked up the bouquet of flowers from where they lay on the counter and walked out. I wasn't ready to listen to her sympathy. Once I got into the car, I told Eric to take me to Rose garden cemetery where Aretha was buried. Some minutes later when we got there, I took out the package beside me as well as the two bouquets of yellow roses and left the car. Eric proffered his help in carrying them but I shook my head.
This was something I needed to do on my own.
As I walked forward, I felt the unwelcome presence of despair once again. It's cloying tentacles rose to take root in the centre of my chest and I felt the beginnings of a headache at my temples. I saw the caretaker in the distance but avoided his eyes. I didn't want anyone's company except Aretha's.
As I walked my way to the back where she lay, I saw a couple to my right. They spoke quietly as they knelt with their heads bowed low in front of a tombstone. I knew it wasn't any of my business, but I looked anyway. Anything to keep the despair at bay that was making it's way to my throat and clogging it.
My mouth fell open when I saw the year on the tombstone - I closed my eyes in pain for them. The person in the grave must have been their child. I shook my head to try to clear it of my sad thoughts and kept moving forward.
Aretha's tombstone reared up suddenly and I realized I had spaced out on the short distance here.
"Hello, my love." I placed the package on the ground and put the yellow roses on her tomb. "Short time no see." I chuckled mirthlessly.
"So I wrote a little something for you." I took out a piece of paper from inside my jacket. It was all crumpled and the ink had run into each other, messing up the words.
I couldn't for the life of me remember what I had written on it, but I'd be damned if I didn't try. I threw the crumpled paper away and cleared my throat like I was about to audition for a role in 'America's got talent.'
"Roses are yellow, violets are blue, you left me suddenly, but I'll always love you."
I shook my head, trying to rid it of the tears that sprang to my eyes. I smiled through them and got down on my hunches. I removed the bottle of wine and two glasses from the bag. After pouring a reasonable amount in each glass, I clinked the glasses and put her's on her tombstone.
"I got the best for you, baby-Don perignon. Remember you always liked to take it with strawberries. I didn't bring any through."
I took a sip from my glass and grimaced. "You know I'm more of a hard liquor person." I chuckled once again.
I had suddenly become sweaty so I removed my jacket and draped it on my knee. "Remember when we went baby shopping because we found out you were expecting junior?" That was actually the beginning of our troubles. "We both had baby fever, because we just found out it was a boy, so you dragged me - yes, I dare say it."
I lifted a finger in the air, smiling as I remembered. "You dragged me to that store. Not the one close to the house, the big departmental one on district road where they sell wholesale baby stuff. You said since we were going to be rich anyway, thanks to Exceva, we should buy a year's worth of baby things."
The smile faded from my lips. "Good thing we never made it there. The call came just on time, the call that changed everything, the call that was the beginning of the end."
I shook my head, remembering it all. The memories flowed into my head like hot larva, smouldering everything they touched. "Perhaps it would have been better we never got married, just like mum said." I shook my head, annoyed at the words I had just uttered. "I've never been able to understand why certain people are so hooked on the colour of people's skins."
I looked down at her tombstone. "To me you were perfect, my love, and you would always remain perfect in this life and beyond."
I looked up and noticed the glass I poured for her was still full. "Drink, my love." I stood and poured it in front of her tombstone.
"My condolences, Mr. Moore."
I turned round sharply to see a man pointing a camera at my face. A flash went off, momentarily startling me. "Are you for real now? Can't a man mourn in peace?"
"Sorry for your loss, once again, but just to be clear, was your wife African American, 'cause I wasn't quite sure when I saw her pictures. She looked quite light to me. I had an argument with my friends that she was probably a mixture of a white dad and a black mum, but between you and I, maybe she was just using a lightening cream?"
The audacity of this man was ludicrous.
I didn't think, I just acted. I flung myself across the short distance to him and unleashed all my pent up anger on him. Each time my fist landed on his face, anger surged through me. Anger that Aretha had not lived long enough, anger towards myself for being angry, and anger towards a society that couldn't just live in peace with other people irrespective of the colour of another person's skin.
Over and over again, my fist met with his face until someone pulled me away. By then, his face was a bloody mass of pink and red.
When I looked up to see who still held my hand, it was the man who I had seen kneeing in front of his child's grave.
"Wow!" One of the policemen exclaimed when I finished relaying what happened.
Lesson number one: Money and power earns respect. That was probably why I wasn't in a jail cell right about now.
"He shouldn't have said those words." One of the policemen shook his head.
"No! He definitely shouldn't have." Another one reiterated.
"Would you like to press charges?" Another one piped up suddenly.
I sighed and shook my head. "That won't be necessary. I just need to go back to my wife. We still have a pending discussion." I shrugged.
"Of course, of course." They all chorused.
And I walked out into the waning sunlight.