“On Skeletons and Tea” by Lydia Kasese

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We had been seated at the botanical gardens for a good hour debating about ladybugs and how half the ones you have known in your life were not actually ladies. Nothing like the Virgin Mary the “lady” in their name refers to. You said they were pretentious and deceitful creatures who wore their sins as dark spots on their red coats. You wondered if they knew their transgressions were displayed for everyone to see, or was it God going for a sense of humour? I did not know the answer to this. This was some weeks ago in my previous life.

Today I am sitting in a cafe. Despite the breeze from the jacaranda trees, the heat finds ways to molest my skin and I’m a waterfall of sweat. The only thing holding me together at this point is hope that the drink I ordered some thirty minutes ago will arrive any minute now. When you have all of eternity at your disposal, you are never really in a hurry to get anything done. Ask the waiter and cook, they will confirm this to you, as they have to me.

Across the street from me are a couple of used-to-be bodies in light conversation. Bone thin, they hold glasses of wine and whether it has started to get to their heads yet, or not, I can’t tell. Maybe that is irrelevant. Every few minutes one or both of them rolls their head back in laughter whilst holding their rib-cages, perhaps praying that their used-to-be guts don’t spill out through the spaces in their ribs. Every once in a while one of them reaches out and holds the others’ hand, a gesture I assume is of deep affection and I can’t tell if the used-to-be being smiles at this and wishes that it still had blood pumping through its heart so it can say to the other, “See how my heart beats for you” A waiter walks to them and places something on their table. One of the used-to-be beings gets down on one knee and as a proposal is made I find myself lost in their moment. Perhaps even consumed by it.

I have been told that I am on the other side of heaven. I’m not sure what you’ve heard about hell. I’d like to assure you it is not fire and brimstone. It is not the gnashing of teeth. It is the skeletal lovers of unknown sex having tea under jacaranda trees. The waiter eventually brings me my mojito and as I start to light my cigarette he whispers, “Can you believe those two lovers are both male?” As he walks away with an approving smile, I decide I’m where I should be.


Lydia Kasese (@Ms_Lilly_Py) is a Tanzanian poet in her early twenties. Having been raised in four other African countries, she is multilingual. She studied Industrial and Economic Sociology at the University of Rhodes. She currently works as a writer and journalist, among other things, in Dar es Salaam. Her Writivism mentor was Clifton Gachagua, and wrote On Skeletons and Tea and Inside-Outside under his guidance. Inside-Outside was longlisted for the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and included in Fire in the Night and other stories: the 2014 Writivism Annual Short Story Anthology.