It would take me less time than it took to spell ‘tolerance’ to spit out my scorn for that word. Tolerance is defined as my mother getting up at five, every morning, sauntering off to go water her pale garden vegetables that would always eventually die or better, yield sickly profits in the market.
I always watched, the dark hue of the sky obscuring the hateful glint in my eyes from casting rays. I hated it: that we could not afford clean, even cheap things; that my mother had to water her plants with the black water the gutter just refused to swallow. I despised her for the torn clothes we wore to church, for her voice that rose and floated above others when we sang hymns. She received stares made razor sharp by the dislike that produced them. She knew. But she tolerated. She faced the demeaning stares, faced the vegetables and all the nothing it yielded, she tolerated poverty. It seemed to me she viewed our suffering with a quiet relish.
I knew I had become another object of study under the lens of my hate when I began to curse the day I was born; when my imaginations began to weave me possibilities, things that would have been and would not have. Life, for me, would have been different if I was formed in a different womb; if I was found in a family like the one that owned the storey building towering over our dingy bungalow, threatening to smash us to pieces at the quickest whiff.
One morning mother did not come out to water her vegetables because she was dead. She could no longer tolerate life’s snot and I saw this in the relief that creamed her face. Right then I knew the burden that had clogged her heart and squeezed the life out of her.
I knew I could not stay in that house. It had marks of tolerance written over it: from the walls that turned to dust at the slightest touch, the cracks that ran around the house in beautiful web designs, to the ceiling boards that looked like father’s bloated stomach before he crept into oblivion. I stared at the bottle of kerosene under her rickety bed, till it drew itself on my mind.
I ran from home that day, the flames from our house making everywhere glow an eerie red. I ran, never stopping, convincing myself at the same time that tolerance had died with my mother, it would burn with the house.