There was something about Marianne that human things do not have in real life.
In books and creative writing sessions, people with the gracious smile of her exist as created by fanciful writers and wild poets. Within the blankets of a poetry book, you can find a sensual cheerfulness in personas of her nature. Beyond that, the only place you find them in real life is nowhere but Marianne.
Marianne was not Leticia, the girl next door.
Unlike the girl who had let me feel what lips tasted like, Marianne was full of honour and grace such that in her laughter all that one felt was a gentle censure. It was not loud. It was meek. One could hear the bleating of a lamb about to be sacrificed in it. Leticia was loud, not on anything but laughter. Her laughter was what attracted me to her in the early days.
I surely know little of what I found interesting in it. Today, hearing it again, I would close my ears. However, she is dead and I will never hear it again. Not in this life.
And, in the other life if she ever decides to use that laughter of hers again then I will choose a side that has no her. Most probably, that side will be a hell for I had heard that in her last days she had just joined the Pentecostal movement and had become one devout follower of it. She was a born again Christian and had abandoned our traditional Presbyterian calling.
But then, I had heard a lot after her death. I had even heard that she had confessed a lie on her death bed. She had said, so they said, that I had made her pregnant and had forced her to abort. Not once, but twice.
Now, that was never true by any sense of imagination.
I was young the time I was going out with Leticia. Not only that, I was innocent also. I had fondled with her breasts of course, had tasted the sour sweetness on her lips in more instances than once but that act of making love to her I had failed with a clear distinction. Not that the thought never crossed my mind. It did. More times than I can sit down to count. I could not, however, slit my mouth open to ask for her from it.
There were moments, in the heat of our passion, when I could feel her melting in my hands – her eyes dilating, her kisses more passionate and violent, her hands all over me threatening to tear the buttons off my shirt, her legs wrapping me but when I tried to reciprocate the gesture, the holy spirit suddenly got hold of her.
“Oh no,” she would moan, “it is not good.”
I was young then. Her moan silenced me. It battered me into submission. I would free her from my embrace. Then, moments of a deliberate shame would come in. Silence. Nobody would say a thing. Each would face her way. I did not know what she would be thinking. I do not remember what I would be thinking by that time.
Darkness would set in. We would then leave, unsatisfied and unexplored, the foot of Mulanje Mountain where the tea estates were to our respective homes. We would chatter on our way home and none of us would raise up the subject or make mention of what we had just done or had just failed to do.
On Sunday, we would again sing in the same church choir. Me, the choir master giving out vocal directions and – like a traffic officer – swinging out my arms in this and that direction to the group of young musicians who all let the soprano voice of Leticia lead them on before they followed with their disjointed voices that had nothing in common but the message put across.
In the afternoon, we would get back to the same foot of the mountain, in the tea estates, and the same routine would replay itself: chatting (usually about the sermon of the day), accidental kissing, accidental fondling, passionate madness and then – bang! Consciousness.
“It’s a sin,” she would moan. “Sex outside marriage is a sin.”
That was Leticia. My first love. The lady with no sensual tingle in her laughter. The lady with a flat and long face. The one who died a month ago. At least, she died with grace unlike Marianne.
Leticia did not hang herself. Terminal cancer terminated her life. There was nothing she could do.