He stared into the dark blankly. All around him was a flood of fear and uncertainty. He could not sleep, he could not rest. His heartbeat was no longer regular. It took certain jerky loops; especially on the thought of his veiled possible demise. A wave of heat too swept through his bosom.

Robert was like a political prisoner thrown in a dungeon indefinitely. Pitch darkness hiding his future mutilated his efforts to think clearly. He wondered where the course of his life was taking him. Was this his destination?

It was already the small hours of the morning but Robert was still a wish away from sleep. He turned. His head came short, trying to connect one end to another without much success. Worries pulled him back each time he attempted to come up with better ways to handle the mess.

As his deep thoughts abated for a little while, he realized a sore sensation on his throat. It felt like it had been scalded. Was it the onset of the common flu? Was it the manifestation of …? No, he did not want to take that sadistic route. He could not just bring himself to that tormenting possibility.

He turned.

However much he tried to avoid thinking of it, he kept on veering onto the thought and had to bring himself back. He had read somewhere about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones as a technique to controlling ones’ mind. He did this over and over until the curtains on his room window were glowing.

Robert’s roommates could not spot his tribulation. They joked and laughed. Alex even made fun of him and his pathetic appetite joking that he was perhaps ‘ill’. This remark hit Robert at the core and he stood on the verge of breaking.

Even in the tunnel of self- doubt, Robert attended classes hoping to meet someone who could help. He passed by the notice board to check on events yet to happen perhaps even one would address his fears. He was disappointed. It seemed everyone was occupied in other important issues. He was alone. The Strepsils tablets for his aching throat he bought at System Shop proved useless.

Pain trickled down Robert’s being, scorching his withering soul and frustrating his overworked brain. But the question still lingered around like a hangover from a mix of hard and cheap vodka; did he have to go for a test?

The evening came and he could not notice it for he was already in the darkness of his world. Pretense protected him from pestering but exposed him to restlessness. He laughed the loudest the hollow laughter of concealment.

Then the dark of the world came. Robert was once again cast into torment. His thoughts replaced his sleep and his once warm homely blankets became hot. He looked back at his life. The trek he had made was not without slipping but there had been one that had kept him down.

He thought of all the girls he had trapped in his web, those he had devoured and those that had escaped his grip. Their faces slid through his head one after the other as if he was looking at slides on a projected screen. Then Sally’s face got stuck on the screen.

Robert could still remember this face vividly. The big lazy eyes, soft thin lips and shimmering long dark hair. This was the last face that had arrested Robert’s heart and aroused unwavering lust in him. He could even remember the broad hips, those he always craved, and the busty round posterior that made his heart race.

Even in the hot blankets, Robert’s body heat up at the sight of Sally in his head. He almost smiled when he discovered some movements in his boxer shorts.

With all his heart, soul and mind, he had hopped onto the girl whose face was staring at him now. He had been looking for far too long and his time to enjoy had come for bigger and better rewards. He never paused to think for his head was on hold. And even then, whoever drinks his whiskey in a sealed bottle?

Suddenly, Robert’s thoughts rattled him back to fear. His heart thumped under his chest like a bass beat oppressed under a swift guitar tune in a Kamba song. He could not summon sleep nor command his brain to take some rest. Without much deliberation, he grabbed his phone and googled ‘HIV/ AIDS signs and symptoms’.

The results he got threatened to give him a heart attack. Drops of sweat collected on his spine like dew on a broad leaf in the morning. Confusion clouded up his mind. He did not want to live anymore. What would his friends think of him? How would he pop pills each waking day for the rest of his life? How would his parents respond to this? Would he stand the shame and stigma?

Questions without answers entangled in his mind. Perhaps someone out there could help, perhaps not. Dark figures started giggling and eventually burst out into annoying sarcastic laughter. Robert was doomed. Tears squished out of his eyes. From all the options he could reconstruct, death was the ultimate contender.

Come the light of the world, he would not accept to be left in the gloom of his own world. He would jump into the way of a speeding truck, or just run to the falls and dive into his death, or overdose himself to an eternal sleep, or take the rope. From these, he would adopt one option after he walked out of the VCT holding a purple card with his name and date of his death.

No, he would not write a letter of departure.



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