Yannila is what she calls herself a silent reader, she would read and only reacted to my stories but never commented. But she’d always slid into my inbox to tell me what she thought about a particular story. That turned into flirting, and flirting turned into serious interest in knowing more about each other, and knowing more about each other turned into a long distance relationship. Eventually we made plans to meet in person. With her living in Eastern province and me in Lusaka province.
I managed to scrape enough money for a week and left for Eastern province. A whole week there meant that I had to leave my grandmother alone.
I should explain about my grandmother.
My parents died in an accident when I was 3 years old. My grandmother is the one that practically raised me, and when she had a stroke, it became my responsibility to take care of her, because the stroke left her unable to move or show any reaction to most things.
Some people have told me that once someone is catatonic they can still see and hear in their condition. Others say it’s just blackness, like sleeping without dreams. I always agreed with the seeing and hearing part.
My grandmother always told me that deciding to pull the plug on my parents was the most painful and traumatising decision she had ever made in her life, and that if I were ever in her position, I was to keep her alive for as long as her money allowed it.
She has more than enough money so I’d never have to worry about having to make that decision.
A male nurse— his name is Chanda
— stops by her house every day for an hour to take care of her, but let’s be honest, Chanda’s attention is split between how many patients he is caring for in a day. My attention is only for my grandmother.
I didn’t always hang out in her room when Chanda was there because it gave me a chance to do some other things. I usually just left him alone and let him do his job so he would move on to his next patient for the day. Chanda taught me how to do several things (like how to give my grandmother a sponge bath, how to clean any blood or saliva that leaked around the hole she got as a result of her tracheotomy, how to change the catheter, etc).
Yannila and I would sometimes video chat on WhatsApp and I even introduced her to my grandmother so they both could see each other.
Yanilla talked to my grandmother like the old lady could understand her. That really hit home for me. A lot of times when people met granny, they just talked really loudly. You know, like those people that don’t speak your language and think that yelling their own language to you louder and slower with each word repetition will clear things up. Yannila didn’t do that and I appreciate it more than she will ever know.
The week in Eastern province went better than I ever expected. While there, I realized that I loved Yannila. I had just gotten out of a serious relationship with a girl that was emotionally and verbally abusive. After her I went through two more girls, each more broken than the last before realizing that although they each had their own issues, the real problem was me. I was avoiding girls that had it all together and picking the damaged ones.
This was my own fault and I realised it.
Yannila was complete, and I loved that I didn’t have to change myself to fit her mold of what I should be as her man. I didn’t have to impress or pretend anything with her.
It was nice to be myself around someone who just loved me for me. She felt like home. She was the one that I wanted to be with.
Over the following months Yannila and I talked every day. We planned out her move to Lusaka. She applied to a thousand places and got rejected a thousand times. She finally got a job and everything sped up. She moved here in late May.
We were beyond excited over this. Instead of living provinces apart, now Yannila only lived about 30 minutes away from my place. We spent almost every day with each other. That meant that I was spending less and less time with my grandmother.
Occasionally when I got to spend time with her, my grandmother seemed to have no energy or any sort of enthusiasm. I know that seems like a silly thing to say. She’s catatonic to start with, so how could she be anything but lacking energy and enthusiasm?
But she was. It went the opposite way too. I could tell that she seemed to perk up when I brought Yannila around.
My grandmother got sick on the 27th of June. Yannila and I took her to the Levy Mwanawasa Hospital and the doctor said that she had a minor lung infection, that it was nothing to worry about. He said there was some irritation around the place where she had had her tracheotomy. He assured us that it was nothing to worry ourselves about.
My grandmother got better within a few days, and everything seemed to be going well until on the 8th of July. When I went to visit her that night, she was pale and hardly breathing. Blood dripped down her neck, dotting her white pillow on either side.
She died that night, and I truly believe that she waited until I found the person I was meant to be with before she left me. She wanted to see me happy before she finally let go. That’s the part that hurts the most. Her dying.
You see, I showed my grandmother a picture of every girl that I was dating or thinking about dating. When she saw the picture, she would either sigh through her catatonic state or do nothing at all.
When I introduced her to Yannila over the WhatsApp video call the first time, I could swear that she hummed a single note. It was high and sweet and reminded me of all the times when she’d be cooking nshima for us in the kitchen, just humming up a sweet melody, happy in her own little world.
I believe now that my grandmother went through Hell while she patiently waited for me find my significant other.
When the doctor from the Levy Mwanawasa Hospital told me that she had died, he also asked me a few questions that were very strange. I didn’t understand them at first, but when I found out that I had been helping Chanda kill the woman that raised me, the woman that I saw as a mother more than anything, I wanted to drop dead there and then and just die with her.
I was told that the doctor had found sperms in my grandmother’s lungs, I realized that when Chanda taught me how to clean up her tracheotomy hole, he had also taught me how to clean up his sperms after he was done rápíng her.