Cabin Fever: A short story by Phumlani Pikoli

We haven’t left the house in over two weeks now and she’s starting to feel some type of way. I hate her timing, though. Does this argument really need to go down while I’m on the shitter? Can I squeeze these tennis balls out of my expanding sphincter before she harps on about cabin fever? The lack of an open-door policy doesn’t apply to her, so it really doesn’t matter when and where she kicks off. Maybe we do need a bit of air. Or, maybe, she just needs to cool the fuck off, and let this shit fall out of me in peace.

“’Cause I don’t fucking want to!” I scream. 

She won’t give up but, what more can I say? There’s no point in being out there — everything we need can be delivered to our doorstep; we have a heater and AC; so, what’s the point of leaving? There’s no one I’d like to see or talk to anyway.

“Please, Layla, just give it a rest for a bit,” I manage to choke out. 

My muscles are so knotted, I can’t help but wonder about the viciousness it takes to argue with someone mid-food-abortion — she’s so calculated! It’s like I’ve swallowed a lump of hatred that solidified before clawing out the ends of an orifice so sensitive, it’s left skin-searing acid stains for posterity’s sake. As if the pained stains are the hieroglyphics of their time. The beaded droplets that have come together in a tribal dance of perspiration on my face savour their time on my skin. Sporadically, they drip past the  tips of my lashes and, with salted enthusiasm, swim in the already lubricated corners of my eye holes.

“You know why!” I scream at her useless fucking question. I wish she didn’t need me to exist. “I can’t fucking replace you and you know that, so what’s the fucking point?”

Why does she have to do this? She’s been fucking relentless since her death. Why I allow her torment is beyond me. All I want is to join her. She’s all I’ve ever wanted; all I ever want.

As the last golf ball moves through me and splashes with finality, I ask her the same question that silences her whenever she starts a conversation: “Where else do you expect me to find someone willing to let me fuck them in the ass before cumming in their hair?”

I wipe my ass and wash my hands. It’s hot out there; I’ll lie on these cold, naked tiles, so I can talk to her in the haunted dream of my life.

‘Layla, I hate this city. I love you.’

 In April 2021  Cabin Fever  was forwarded to his publisher at Pan Macmillan, who obtained permission from the family to have it lightly edited and then published in the Mail & Guardian as a token of appreciation.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Phumlani Pikoli
Phumlani Pikoli is a multidisciplinary artist. He had his multi-sensory exhibition with the British Council in South Africa and Tmrw Mixed Reality Workshop, based on his acclaimed debut collection of short stories, The Fatuous State of Severity In January 2020. His debut novel Born Freeloaders was released in 2019 and published by Pan Macmillan.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

‘Justice for Marikana will only be served if we see...

The mineworker union’s Joseph Mathunjwa spoke at the ten-year anniversary of the massacre

US conduct regarding Taiwan evinces a dangerous and ignorant strain...

It underestimates the role of face-saving, which is central to Chinese culture, and the country’s priorities, such as attaining the Chinese Dream

Eskom: Stage two load-shedding tonight

Continued blackouts highly likely on Wednesday and Thursday, the energy entity added

MPs dismiss Mkhwebane’s call to subpoena Ramaphosa

The president’s evidence is not necessary to determine whether she is guilty of misconduct, the section 194 committee concludes

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…