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The painting

Dec 15, 2011, 3:11 PM | Article By: Isatou Dumbuya

It happened on his way from work. He sped to his home and did not even wait for the Gate-man to open the gate for him as he horned once, twice.

He opened the door to the car and rushed into his home, forgetting to shut the door to the car. He rushed into the sitting-room where he met his mother, prayer beads in her hands.

He stood there looking at her with a frightful deadly glare in his puppy - dog eyes. She stopped chanting her prayers and stared back, thinking that he must be in one of his funny moods again.

“No good evening for me today, son?” she asked breaking the deafening silence with a welcoming smile.

She was in her late-forties but her larger – than – life eyes, up-turned nose and heart-shaped lips belied her age. She must have been a beauty during her time. Her welcoming smile was all he needed to make his day after work, but today he seemed absent. He kept on staring at her like she wasn’t there. It scared her. When she thought that he was never going to greet her, he said, “I keep seeing things ma.”

His eyes roved around the sitting-room and finally rested on the expensive African painting on the wall; a painting he did himself.

“Now the pain travels here and there,” he touched the back of his neck and finally stopped on his forehead.

His mother’s eyes flew open and her heart-shaped lips dropped into a silent O.

“Are you sure that you keep seeing things?”

He didn’t give an answer. He walked to his painting. It was a painting of an African woman selling fruits in a busy market and a girl, beads around her waist, dancing near her. He ran his left hand on it as if his life, his sanity depended on it.

“And the pain, does it keep travelling?”

“Here and there,” he touched his nape and forehead again.

When she wanted to speak again, he cut her in mid-sentence, “This face, it seems familiar,” he said pointing to the woman selling fruits in the painting.

“Is this not her sister dancing?” he asked and gave a loud laugh which made his mother’s hair to stand on end.

His mother’s heart flew to her mouth and sweat started breaking from her forehead.

“I think I have her number here,” he fumbled for his black berry in his pockets and searched for his contacts when he finally saw it.

Suddenly, he stopped searching and headed to his room, dragging his feet along. A habit he always hated. His mother sank back on the soft sofa he bought last month when he got promoted to Managing Director. The realization dawned on her that her son must be on the brink of madness. She hurriedly draped her veil around her and made for Pa Modou’s home.

Pa Modou was a renowned Sooth-sayer and when he told her that it is relatives who didn’t want her son’s progress, she didn’t think twice.

The following day he didn’t go to work nor the third and the following days to come. He coiled into himself and always had this far-off look in his eyes.

She gave charity as per directives of Pa Modou. A hen today, a sheep the other day, pieces of white clothe and a goat every now and then.

She now slept at the foot of his bed, waiting for him, always at his beck and call. Sometimes in the middle of the night, he would let out a bloodcurdling scream - calling the name of a girl - which would violently wake his mother and send chills running down her spine. He would sit on the bed sweating profusely, eyes bloodshot.

When she asked who the girl was, he would grunt and drift back to sleep.

She did not trust him alone in the house. One day when he said that he wanted to go for a walk, his mother decided to go with him despite his protests. They haven’t walked hundred meters when they saw her. His mother noticed that his face lit up when he saw her. She was not the kind of girl whose beauty would turn heads anywhere she went to. But she had an aura about her which commanded respect and attention. He walked up to her and offered his hand. They kept smiling at each other without saying a word. When his mother neared them, she felt like she had known this girl from somewhere. Then she realized that she was the girl dancing in the painting. When she said hello, the girl was all smiles. His mother used to think that she had white teeth, but when she saw the girl’s perfect set of white teeth, she knew better.  His mother walked away from them after exchanging pleasantries with her and sat under a mango tree, waiting for his son.

Under the tree, she observed them, the way they talked and laughed like they shared a secret the world knew nothing about. Finally she saw them part after exchanging numbers and pecks on the cheeks.

When he walked to her and wrapped his right arm around her shoulder, she knew that her son had come back to her, forever this time.

“Ma, I finally got her number,” he said beaming with a smile.

A tear escaped her eye and she smiled, her throat became air-tight. When she finally managed to speak, she said, “Let’s go home and tell me all about that girl and that painting, will you?”

Their laughter could be heard a mile away as they walked happily.