BATTERIES NOW INCLUDED

Today, a pair of dry cells hangs on our wall. A strange but powerful décor, if you ask me. Never mind that it is a replica.

I was in haste to open the package yet my hands hesitated and lingered a while to finger the wrapping and tag at the string. This parcel bears no name. There is, therefore, no telling who it is addressed to. That it was delivered by DHL underscored its importance and urgency. The courier had found me on my way out, but I decided to stay a while, puzzled. I had to attend to this.

I remembered the Ankole proverb that always came in handy whenever I needed to cover up my selfishness. “Otariho tagweerwa muti” (The absentee cannot be hit by a felled tree). The ‘tree had fallen’ on me. I had to deal with it. I would have to get the perfect excuse to find out what it was. What if it is a bomb? Maybe it could wait. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday, nor was there any special occasion I could think of. Who had sent it?

My anxiety levels shot unreasonably high. The kind that takes over your life and heart beat when that annoying voice on your cell phone announces that your credit is running low; when you notice that with the gadget you bought last minute and carried to the remotest village, no batteries were included; your laptop battery beeps a warning when you are in the middle of an important assignment; your camera battery dies out on you when the village party is counting solely on you to cover the occasion. I could go on and on and on. These mishaps are associated mainly with the use of modern equipment, designed to ease our lives but turned stress-inducers. My breathing labored and sure, my ‘credit was running low’ if I didn’t do some breathing exercises. No, not another panic attack.

I carefully placed the now delicate parcel on the coffee table and walked to the balcony to catch some air. This was undue excitement. Martin had stormed out of home in the morning, barely touching his breakfast. As I relived the morning’s events, I felt a head rush and leant against the corner pillar. Yes, I could do with some support right now. I plucked a rose flower twig that had crossed boundaries from the garden to the balcony. I teased its green leaf delicately from hand to hand as thoughts raced through my mind. A sharp pain on my finger roused me to wakefulness. I had mercilessly tortured the leaf, and got a thorn prick. Ashamed of my failure to calm myself, I opened my fingers and let the crushed leaf fall on the terrazzo floor. My ring finger was bleeding. I put it in my mouth to soothe it. Perhaps if my ring had been on, it might have protected my skin. I had taken it off in anger; yes, I still behaved that childish!

I had to get a hold of myself. I struggled to take off my high heeled sandals in vain, and had to sit on the steps and undo the straps. This slowed me down somewhat, and was, surprisingly, helpful. I walked onto the lawn, bare footed. The grass felt cool to my feet and refreshed my entire body. I felt like stripping and rolling on the grass for complete therapy.

Why would Martin walk out on me over a mere misunderstanding? But how could we have resolved it, when I was talking non-stop, accusing him and defending myself in the same breath! He sometimes said, in our jovial times, that he would have been happy if I had been installed with a timer he could control. Martin was a good man. He always tried to resolve our disagreements as amicably as he could. He was always calm, and this annoyed me because I always fired up. Yet ironically, today’s unprecedented walk out on me was unbearable.

All of a sudden I wanted to be that village girl balancing the water pot on my head. To hear the birds and smell the rotting leaves of the forest as I gathered firewood. When life was simple and I innocent. I burst out in tears like a little child. All the bottled emotions over the years overtook me. There was no holding back. It cannot be sheer coincidence, I assured myself as I sobbed uncontrollably. How can this mysterious parcel arrive the same day he has stormed out in anger, totally out of character!

I sat down under a tree shade, drew my knees up and held my legs tight as if to stop myself from running. I watched the shadows of the leaves and branches dancing around me. The sun rays filtering down kissed my bare shoulders exposed by my low-cut blouse. I allowed myself to soak in the warmth and feel the occasional breeze.

I do not know when or how long I slept. I was awakened by a tap on my shoulder. Martin, in his usual calm, but annoying demeanor, held out his hand to steady and support me to my feet. I was too ashamed to look up into his eyes. I held back my hand. He sat down beside me.
“It’s okay; and I am so sorry for upsetting you”, he said, looking straight ahead. I could feel the pain in his voice. From the corner of my now puffy eyes, I saw him stretch his hand to touch me but withdraw it suddenly.

This is what I had reduced myself to. A viper, a porcupine! I had to learn to say sorry, if only to begin by voicing it out to convince Martin. Perhaps I too could learn to be broken of heart, with practice. I stretched out my hand, my fingers dancing on the grass towards him; and desisting from touching his bare hairy legs, I rested it on his faded jeans shorts. Martin let out a sigh and rested his hand on mine. Cupping it in his strong hand, he lifted it to his lips and gave it a gentle kiss. His silence made me feel awkward.
“I am so sorry Martin”, I said, turning to look into his face. He smiled, and held my hand firmer.

“There, in that box, is an important accessory for this home”, he said, lifting to my feet, and dragging me like an excited school boy. It had to be chocolate. He always used it to bribe me, taking advantage of my sweet tooth.
“But why is there no name, and why the courier service?” I asked.

It still lay on the coffee table, undisturbed.
“Open it my love”. My fingers shook as I untied the string; this time not in anger, but in anticipation. It was light and yet wrapped with layer upon layer of wrapping paper. I finally got to a small plastic box. I lifted the lid and, in shock, turned to look at him. A small note, scribbled on the back of our most recent photograph, read:
“Honey, Batteries now included”; and under it, a pair of rechargeable Duracell batteries and a charger.
Martin rose from his seat, hugged me tight and whispered into my ear:
“We shall always charge our love – together; no need to be dysfunctional”.
I was humbled.
He reached out for a bar of chocolate from his pocket and placed it in my hand as he kissed me tenderly. I lost myself in his embrace.

Alexandra Kukunda ( 2015)

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