The room was set up in such a way that mourners came in through the front door, viewed the body, moved on to pay their condolences to Chris and I, and then exited to find seating in the tents erected in the compound.
There was a constant stream of human traffic made up of a whole mix of people ranging from relatives, friends, and socialites to curious residents from the neighborhood. I received their condolences almost mechanically, with a nod and murmured thanks, most times not even looking directly at the person, but past them, gazing forlornly at C.G’s coffin.
Hours passed in this manner, and when the line eventually thinned and then pettered out, dinner was served though neither my sister nor myself were able to eat anything.
Chris had said he needed some air, and was about to go out and join the men around the fire, probably wanting a drink rather than food, when there was a stir in the crowd outside, and moments later, it parted and Greg, accompanied by five members of his usual entourage, walked in.
A hush instantly came over the room, even a group of old women that had been singing hymns in off-tune, pitchy voices fell silent, and the nervous anticipation in the air was palpable.
I felt Chris and my sister on either side of me tense up, and I have no doubt that I did so myself as I stared at him slowly approach the coffin.
He was wearing a cap, but took it off and respectfully held it against his chest as he viewed C.G’s body, while the press who did not have such qualms, once again went to work, clicking away on their cameras.
Greg stayed by the coffin longer than most mourners had, and I wondered what he was thinking as he looked down at C.G; was he remembering the times C.G had asked him to go “voom voom”? Or the time he had taken him on a crazy shopping spree? Was he wishing he had gone to visit him in the hospital, or at the very least, called to tell him to get well soon?
When he eventually moved on from the coffin, and came to the couch, I was afraid Chris would cause a scene but, to my surprise, he did not, quietly accepting Greg’s proffered hand and sympathies.
And then he was in front of me, holding out his hand and saying; “I’m sorry for your loss,” just like he had done to Chris.
I felt myself begin to tremble with rising rage, and prayed it was not evident. Is that all you can say? I wanted to scream at him while pummeling him with my bare fists, but of course I did not; the press were watching.
And so, just like Chris, I accepted his hand with a quiet “thank you”, though I only took it for a fraction of a second, like I could not stand the feel of his hand in mine.
If he noticed my coldness, he gave no indication of it, as he moved on to my sister, and I turned to receive the condolences of the rest of his entourage.
Once they left, the silence that their arrival had brought lasted only a few more moments, before the off-tune hymn singing resumed, and the room slowly returned to its original, mournful setting.
Hours later as it approached midnight, the room finally fell silent; Chris was out back with the men by the fire, which was where most activity was still going on, and the rest of the compound was scattered with small groups of slumbering mourners, only a few quietly exchanging stories in valiant attempts to stay awake.
Only the house was completely quiet; my sister had fallen asleep right there on the couch, and a thoughtful relative had brought her a pillow and blanket. Around us, mattresses and mats with sleeping women covered almost every inch of the floor, so that to move anywhere, one had to be extra careful not to step on any limbs.
I hadn’t managed to get a moment alone with C.G all day, and now seemed like the perfect time to; so, careful not to wake my sister, I got up and moved to the coffin. He looked like he was asleep, and I felt a rush of love and pain for this child of my womb.
“Hey baby, it’s mummy. I love you so much,” I whispered as tears trickled down my cheeks. Since there was no-one watching me, the press thankfully having left, I took off my shades and just looked at my son, soaking in the sight of him, painfully aware that soon I would never again be able to do even this.