Bitch Slappedby Lwandile Fikeni / Illustration by Hugh Upsher / 23.04.2013
As I walk into my apartment I’m greeted by shards of broken glass and beer bottles on the kitchen floor. Outside, morning has begun to bloom. I tiptoe around the chunks of glass and splinters as though they were landmines. The clutter sets the scene to an unseemly evening: last night, the night of the final showdown between my flatmate and his girlfriend.
You should have been there.
I’d just returned from work late in the evening to find my mate’s girlfriend sitting outside our apartment with a faint scent of piss peppering the air around her. She’d been waiting for him to return from the bar. It had been hours, so she peed outside our door as a “gift” for him on his return. I, unfortunately, became the unintended receiver. She was seething with anger. Her madness drew dark circles around her eyes. She asked me to take her out for a drink and I obliged. My first mistake. We didn’t even make it past the lifts on my floor.
As the elevator doors opened, out sprang my flatmate as drunk as fuck. As he cracked his signature smile upon seeing us, a backhand from his girlfriend’s French manicured hands met his face. Kwah! Later, my flatmate would tell me, jokingly, about how that backhand made his life flash right before his eyes. It was incredible. It stitched and thundered into his face in a flash; it took me all of ten seconds to register what had just happened, and a few more seconds to wince, on his behalf. You see, dear reader, my flatmate is an affable chap with a broad welcoming smile. But this time around as he flashed his smile – showing his big grinning teeth – his girlfriend pulled a hot clap from somewhere behind her left ear with her right hand. Before it connected with his face the entire foyer seemed to fall silent. A door creaked and a fly flew past. Her delicate but strong hand cut through the stale air between them like a switchblade.
He didn’t see it coming. The backhand sent him staggering into the foyer before regaining composure and sobriety. Fuelled by shame, or anger, or pain, or bravado, or pity, or love – I couldn’t tell – he grabbed her by the throat and drove her into the wall. She smiled a wry smile. She had him where she wanted him. ‘You are going to pay, you fucking cheating bastard!’ She hissed through her clenched teeth. As soon as he let go of her she hurled herself at him. With a colourful mix of expletives coupled with bare handed clawing and scratching. She jabbed and spat at him. He was defter in his movements – a skilled fighter as far as I could tell. He bobbed and weaved like a professional boxer. He grabbed her with both arms and shoved her against the wall. She wrung herself loose and grabbed him by the nads, and from the contorted confused grimace on his face, I could tell that it hurt. I jumped in and pulled them apart the way one would two roosters in a cockfight. I asked them to take it to our apartment. Then I left them to talk things out while I went out for a beer. This was my second mistake, as I discovered this morning.
Amid the flotsam of last night’s lover’s squabble I find a dirty cup and rinse it. On tippy toes I grab the black kettle perched on the counter, next to the LG microwave, and boil myself water for a cup of instant coffee.
My roommate drags himself out of his room into the kitchen. His face looks like shit. He apologises about the broken plates and the glasses. I’m only thinking about the wasted beer. He assures me he didn’t hit her. I really do not give a fuck; I just want to see her. A fresh cut on his left cheek draws your eyes away from the hodgepodge of green, purple and pink, which masks the rest of his face. His girlfriend is passed out on his bed, he tells me, and I ask if I can see her. With a languid swoosh he permits me to go into his room. She’s asleep: her lips are slightly parted in a loose pout; red rouge sweeps across her delicate face. Her eyes are shut and she’s breathing heavily, as though she’s running out of air. Her body is a dangerous riddle of cuts and scratches and a painful hue of black and blue. I’m afraid to wake her up. Her skin looks raw. She opens her eyes and says, in a whisper, “it’s over, I am done with your friend.” I nod and tell her to get some rest. Before I walk out I assure her she’s made the best decision. I’m relieved it didn’t end with a cricket bat or a bodybag. God forbid.
*Illustration © Hugh Upsher.