Coming Back

Coming Back

A writer is asked in a radio interview why he made the absurd choice of returning from exile before the conflict is resolved. He finds himself asking the same question on his way to visit a friend in hospital. (This is the first half)


Literary fiction


Philani A. Nyoni (Zimbabwe)

The media always ambushes you. As a friendly tip when they ask you for an interview always prefer it in an email, unless it's going on air live and it's a panel, then you are screwed. They always want to hear you say things you don't want to say, because you are human and you want to appear normal, because well, sometimes you just want to be left the fuck alone.

They always ambush you, like when Dorcas diagnosed me live on London radio. She's a mental-health practitioner by the way. But that wasn't the worst part, I can deal with being diagnosed, I have learnt to live with what I have, I know what my demons eat so I feed them in good time, and when that doesn't work, I close the room and we battle it out, bang out a few words and create the shit that has made my name synonymous with Marechera's. Rest in fucking peace, I'm two weeks away from twenty-seven, if I get ten more years from here here's a happy ending for all of us.

No, the on-air diagnosis wasn't the worst part, nor was it having to comment about it. My condition I mean. You see, I am a boring person in interviews, and in real life; because most of the time I just want to be left the fuck alone. But you can't have it and eat it, you can't bear your wretched soul to the world and not have them want to autopsy you while you walk the street, to see what maggots crawl in there, drinking hell-fire and pissing holy-water into the open mouth of Jesus Christ fingering the Madonna with lightning so he'll never be born, somewhere between your abdomen that's trying to find a reason to prop you up: am I fighting for God or fighting God? and you brain that's ascended to the highest realm of morality: atheism; but still swirls the same putrid questions in the drunken twilight of consciousness: should we stick around a little longer and find out what the fucking point is while babies are being ripped back to nonexistence where He sort of exists by the determination of a grown cock, probing in ritual to cure AIDS or find wealth...or should I just leave?

I digress. The on-air diagnosis wasn't the worst part, the worst was when she asked me why I chose to come back to this wretched land. I know the answer the audience wants to hear, we are their fools aren't we? They cheer us blaspheming the self-proclaimed man-gods I will further profane by leaving nameless, and cheer us to the guillotine when the system has chosen to make an example of us to them, and the system works because the clever ones take their lot and leave, leaving us to be spectacles, the sheep slaughtered to the gods of their cowardice. They wanted to hear me say I will fight for my homeland, like being born in a place deserves my allegiance. They want the sexy story, they want the tortured artist then put him on an easel before their friends, his book still intact in the binding, the pages crisp as from the press but the cover stained with finger-oils of being passed around at barbecues, reading the blurb, watching the demented figure in the little square on the back and mouthing, "that's the guy?!" All the while waiting for their next entertainment: twenty-two freaks in shorts chasing a pig-bladder around for ninety minutes a session. At least those get paid for their ridiculousness.

I still love you Dorcas, it's just these see things you see, inspiration comes from a lot of corners. And romanticisms insult us, "how do I become a writer?" You fucking write, but you don't write for the glamour. Maybe because we walk around looking normal to the best of our abilities. "When I read your work I feel like I can also write." And she actually said that in an email. How does one stinking letter confuse so many multitudes into believing there is something more to being a writer than to...write? "And why don't you write...WHATEVER-THE-FUCK-THEY-THINK-SELLS?". If I wanted money if could have become so indifferent to things and made a killing saving lives and calling corpses cadavers. Or "Have you considered the Christian market?" Right before I considered selling drugs. But I will never give that answer because I like to walk among you and not be probed.

I don't know about the others, we are largely solitary creatures but I am so sensitive to shit, yes, even God's bullshit. I spend my spare time cursing him with tears in my eyes, howling at minds that will not see the irony of pastors who preach meekness while spraying me with dust on my way in the same direction while his wife looks like the first-lady more and more everyday in attitude and facial features, towards the side that I never found attractive. Sexually.

I told you I still love you Dorcas, don't get it twisted, I am not responsible for the way I feel, it's just that we writers have a filter that doesn't work so we blurt everything out instead of keeping it in like most people, letting it fester inside while asking Jesus to deal with it and not acknowledging the hypocrisy of expecting the wound to heal while the spear is inside. And I am tormented, at least I can draw the dots sometimes, and they call it a well-woven plot, a story with a twist.

You'd be surprised I bring it out now, but I heard that question three times today and it wasn't in your voice, it was the other mind that plays sane, the finger of God trying to justify his wretchedness to himself through a dialogue whose replies are our lives. It first came gentle then accusing as the day precipitated.

First I met a boy who once thought my life was a premonition of his. I told him that before he envied me there was another, a fellow mercenary with whom I shared a column, the first job I ever got, supplying fiction for the Sunday News for 1 cent per word. He turned up with a mug just like mine and I wished him luck. What kind of a man envies another man's demons?

The boy I spoke to today once dragged me to his mother's living room to convince her he should drop out of school and become a writer. I sided with his mother, but told her ultimately he would do what he wanted to do. You see, people are always looking for answers, for saviours, messiahs and Jesuses, when you do well you are their hero, but then they turn back to your misery and say 'see?' I told you I would get a 'real' job and be smart. He too made the mistake of envying my demons, he only sees the gold and fame they deliver unto me, but never hears their harrowing carousing when they bay for my blood. When the demon God in me asked why I came back then, I said, "To cut the path no other man can walk."

He kept me company long enough, one day he will make it as a writer, Noviolet was 'young and talented' at thirty-three, I was tormented ten years before that age, he might be happy ten years after. Maybe even a genius.

I rode the kombi to the hospital, all the time listening to a woman complain about how drivers should check their wheel nuts before driving off because yesterday the wheel came off and overtook them before the front axle ploughed the tar as they turned into Vic Falls Road...on her way to visit someone in hospital. She called it incompetence I called it God being an asshole. Nobody fucking checks their wheel nuts before they drive off! You check tire pressure, you check for dumb babies sprawled behind the car, you don't check wheel nuts, and whoever last fastened them wasn't a psychopath or an idiot.

Her story goes: her kid was knocked up by a fellow student from the polytechnic. That explained the dampness of her mood. Twenty year old thing, boyfriend sending the mother text messages explaining how he had nothing to offer her in her predicament. Sounded familiar. About the time I took my things and left my girlfriend too was pregnant, we were about that age, but I wasn't dumb enough to fuck her without a rubber when she asked me to. I waiting enough time for her to come back and tell me what a good guy I was but she had fucked up. On her back. But while she was crying on my shoulder, her bastard in my lap, I had already left.

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1


Read Reviews

Review 1:

Compelling hook?


Strong characters?


Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Quite a story. I loved the passion in it.