I pick my pen from the river of... Halt! Let's get to it.
The wall seems to be closing in on us; feels as though it would come crashing down any moment. I feel like the only thing holding it up is the tension in the room. It's the kind you can't cut with a knife, you would need a chainsaw or two.
"I'm really sorry, I shouldn't have done that." she apologized again.
I managed to tear my gaze from the wall, the flat screen TV and past the viscous tension, at her face. Beautiful Rosa. I grinned widely and said 'its okay'.
I even made a joke and we both laughed a bit too loudly. I've been at her parents' for twenty minutes. She kissed me twice in that period. I try to imagine this scene the other way around, if I had assaulted her with my lips... The imaginary slaps sting so much, It took clearing her throat to snap me out of my reverie and I realised, I was unconsciously rubbing my cheeks from the imagined pain.
I tried not to think of the events that led to this moment as I look in her eyes. She's talking but the words are flying past. Her eyes don't fail to convey the message though - I see yearning. The kind I really do not understand. The kind that's painful to see. Because I don't have it and I can't give it back. Like a message from another world, three words float to me in my own universe.
 "I love you."
"No. Don't." that's all I can say.
 I love you. It's a promise and a curse. A burden. My dad hates me. It's easy to live with him. He expects nothing from me. No word, no action, no emotion. I just exist to him. And it's easy to be just that. My mom however, loves me. At least I think so. All I see in her eyes is pain. I think she sees me falling, I wish she would hate me instead. That way she wouldn't care, and she'd be happy. She'd expect nothing from anyone, not even Father, and his drinking bouts will make her less depressed. She loves my sister too. So it hurts to see her sinking too, although, if you asked my sister, she'd say she was flying. Drugs are like that. My dysfunctional family. I do not love them. If I did, I would've done it a while ago. Everyday I sharpen the knife, reciting the mantra to myself.
"I hate them. I hate them. I hate them".
It prevents me from taking the knife and delving in biology experiments. Slice deep and see exactly what a slit wrist looks like. Hate keeps me alive.
My eyes are still on hers - call it Habit. I've learnt that eyes reveal truth. I wonder what mine are saying. Her eyes are asking questions. They ask if I'll be there for her. They ask if I'll be a shoulder for her to lean on, if I'll listen to every word, sit through every tear and promise that it'll be alright. I've been friends with her for years. I've seen her cry, and I've promised her it'll be alright. I briefly think on what brought me here. She was supposed to tell me what hurt. Listening to her is all that keeps me sane sometimes. Sure, her issues are nothing compared, but still, it felt somewhat good to be there for someone. Allow her let it out of her system then give promises I can't keep. It's going to be alright. But this time it's different. This time, she wants me to be the answer. She wants me to be her "alrightness". It's a request I couldn't keep, even if I wanted to. I don't have it in me.
I stand up and walk firmly out the door. Maybe not very firmly, I tripped on her brother's toy train. I think I recovered coolly enough though. My mind isn't racing. I know what I must do. Hate has always been easy for me. I wouldn't say second nature, but pretty close. It's why I let my sister sink. She wanted freedom, and love would've demanded I keep her chained to our reality. The reality that she couldn't be anything because we were nothing, the reality where her parents were in a constant debate on whether or not she should be sent abroad for prostitution. My father has her papers ready. Mother has to struggle between threatening to burn the house if her daughter leaves and keeping the said daughter sober. A strange cycle I have to watch every other week.
I hate my mother most of all. She could be so much more. But here she is, shackled to three misfits. Struggling to keep the balance between a drunk husband, a drug addicted daughter and me. What's my burden you ask? My mind. It makes me understand enough. It's not a lot in itself, but it's enough to hurt. So I understand that my father doesn't drink because he's poor. He doesn't drink because he's trying to escape his problems. He drinks because it makes him happy. That's also the reason my sister does what she does. A friend once told me that life was the pursuit of happiness. We all deserved to be happy. I laughed when he said this. I realised, a lot would be fixed in my home if we were all a little less happy, and hated a little more.
When I get home, they're all still at the table though they've finished eating. Beans and garri. It's the same thing we ate yesterday and the day before. I kneel before my father and kiss his hand. I do the same to my mother and sister. I go inside to pick my knife. Sitting back at the table, I just stare at them. Wherever they are, I hope my mom is happy. My dad and sister, not so much. Their happiness tends to hurt others. I did this for them. I hope people will someday understand. No one will. There's no rational explanation for this. Its hard to explain to others why I poisoned all the food in the house. But I know. I know why. I did this because I realized eventually. I lied to them and to myself. I love them. I wish I didn't but I do. It hurts because, I let them all slide and I did nothing. But this will make it all right. I know it will. I love her too, Rosa, in a sad way. Sad because I have nothing to give her. I'm too weak for her to lean on. I can't make anything alright. It's easy just playing friend. But promising to always love her is different. There's a possibility that I'd fail. There's a possibility that her tears would dissolve my paper fa├žade and she wouldn't like what she sees.
I've been playing with the knife. It's time to go now. I hope that when people see this, they won't cry. I hope they don't start thinking of ways they could've helped or think back to points when we might've been "crying for help". I hope they just see this and pass, like they always did. I hope the gossip continues and the rumours eventually prove true. We were a cursed family. I hope most of all, that they don't call me a monster.
I saved this family.
The sound of my pen dropping to the white tiled floor reminded me how still silence could be. Till next time...
Victory Okoyomoh, pen name - Victory Wrights is an Optometry Student at the University of Benin. A writer,  both prose and poetry, his works have been published in some anthologies and other websites.  He also run an instagram poetry account - @victory_wrights

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