Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women. Rooms where the sound doesn’t travel because it doesn’t know how. Shelters for all those things we think we shouldn’t be.”
“Hiding places,” he said, translating her words so they made sense to him.
“No. Places where we keep. Where we hold and isolate.”
“Prettied synonyms for hiding,” he insisted.
She hated that he spoke in unfinished dissenting arguments. “But hiding implies shame, like our concern is with how we will be perceived if the contents of these rooms were to spill out onto white carpets in daylight.”
“Maybe not shame. Fear perhaps? Why lock the room if you are not wary of what it will reveal about you?”
“My fears are already written in my deeds. I speak them daily in many languages heard and felt.”
“So unlock the rooms.”
“Why? What is your obsession with my room?”
“What is your preoccupation with a room I’m not in?” He paused. “Why would you cultivate something that is of you out of my reach?”
“You are so desperate in your aim to become what sustains me.” Her growing frustration was beginning to show.
“I should be what nourishes you. Am I not sustenance enough?” In his mind he held his hand out for her but reality rescinded his gesture.
She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, not at all tempted to submit to him.
“You’re too old to endorse your own chaos. These ifs, buts and maybes you entertain into the early hours of dawn will only embarrass us.”
“So what do you suggest I do? Cheat your shadow out of a job and follow you around until we are indistinguishable? Until your sickness is mine and your thoughts represent our democracy? Should I smell like you and eat what you eat—”
“You always do this! You poison my words with your own concoctions to make me sound and seem unreasonable.”
“You just suggested that you alone are enough to feed my entire soul!”
“And what’s so God-awful about that? About me taking responsibility for you and you thanking me by withholding nothing!”
“What is this brand of love you tout that must be accompanied by ownership?”
“Stop running from me!”
“I couldn’t run if I tried! I’m drowning in your insecurities.”
He grabbed her by the arm, forcefully turning her toward him. “My insecurities? Are you seriously—”
“You’re suffocating me!” She cut him off, tired of being the only considerate party in their conversations. “Your insecurities are becoming unpalatable.”
He loosened his grip on her, visibly challenged by her words. “You want to talk about insecurity? Stop hiding in your head and be here in this world where no one pays mother dowry for her words.”
“I confront reality as courageously as you do. I’m not running from you, I haven’t built a sanctuary to hide in.”
“Yet you feel the need to harvest yourself in a locked room inside of you.”
“The room’s locked, not impenetrable.”
K. A Gendo is an aspiring African writer hoping to tell the kinds of stories that will live forever. She is also involved in advocacy work specifically aimed at the endorsement of women’s rights in Kenya.
This story was published as a finalist of the 2018 AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word response to a prompt from Warsan Shire’s poem, The House. It reads: “Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women.” The winning story was selected by Warsan Shire and announced at Africa Writes 2018.
Related country: Kenya
All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not repost or reproduce this material without permission.