Varsha 2023 Stories - Nonkululeko Nxumalo


My husband woke from a coma this morning

By Nonkululeko Nxumalo


Six months ago, he’d been in a terrible car accident that almost killed him. He’d been working late that fateful night when I got a call from the police.


It was raining and I was stretched out on the sofa, with a novel and a glass of wine.

“Hello Ma’am, this is Officer Grootboom from the Heatherdale Police Station. Am I speaking to Mrs Mohale, wife to Mr Sello Mohale?”

I placed the book on the empty space next to me.

“Yes, speaking.”

“Mrs Mohale, your husband has been in an accident…” His voice faded.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Your husband, Ma’am. He’s been in an accident on Vooktrekker Road near Heatherdale and was rushed to MJ Heather Academic Hospital.”
I caught my breath. “Is he okay?”

Before he could respond, I said, “No, wait, Heatherdale? What would Sello be doing on that side of town? It’s almost an hour’s drive from his office. You must have the wrong Mohale residence.”

“The Mr Mohale I have on record lives at, uhm… 147 Buck Avenue, Pinewood. Is that your address, Ma’am?”

I felt an icy chill. “Yes it is.”

“I’m not sure what your husband was doing on that road,” Officer Grootboom said. “Nor do I know the extent of his injuries, but paramedics had to rush him to the nearest hospital. Would you like me to get in contact with officers in Pinewood to drive you to the hospital?”

“No, no thank you officer. I’m on my way,” I said and hung up.

Leaving the unfinished glass of wine on the coffee table, I grabbed my keys and rushed to the kitchen door. I paused midway after realising that I wasn’t wearing any shoes, so I ran upstairs, slipped on a pair of sneakers, grabbed a coat, and dashed out.

I drove for what felt like forever, praying that he was okay. At the hospital, I was directed to the ICU.There, the staff told me that my husband had been badly injured and was in a coma. Doctors had ordered a series of blood tests and a brain scan. He had Traumatic Brain Injury--TBI they called it.

The crash shook his head violently, rupturing his blood vessels and causing haemorrhaging to his brain. He was unresponsive, there was no movement in his limbs,and hehad no reaction to light, pain, or sound. They couldn’t tell how long he would be in a coma and gave me the worst possible outcome.

“His condition might worsen and result in brain death,” theyexplained.

A surge of overwhelming panic rushed through me.My heart was pounding, my throat was clogged, and I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was about to pass out when I felt a pair of hands on my shouldersand heard a voice instructing me to breath slowly. It was one of the doctors. She calmed me down and gave me a glass of water.

After sitting in the waiting room for some time, I was finally allowed to see him. I entered the unit and immediately noticed a pungent antiseptic smell that attacked my nostrils.And as I approached his bed, the stench became mixed with a faint, bitter scent of blood and pus. The smell was deathly and my stomach was in a knot.

I stood at my husband’s bedside and stared at a tube pierced in his throat. It was connected to a machine to support his breathing and had IV drips hanging from a long pole next to him. My head spunas I heard the beeping of the heart monitor echoing in my mind, overclouding the little hope I had. Fear that he might not make it gripped me and the thought brought me to my knees. I kneeled at his bedside and prayed, clenching his hand.

The following morning,I requested that he be transferred to a private hospital closer to home. While I was waiting for the paperwork to be finalised, another police officer came to the hospital to give me a full report on the accident.

“It was a head-on collision between your husband’s car and a delivery van, and according to evidence, the guy who was driving the van was drunk,” she said.
My husband had apparently been thrown from his car and was found meters away, in a criticial condition. Paramedics managed to stabilise him before rushing him to the hospital. The drunk driver, unfortunately, died at the scene.

“Another body was found,” the officer continued.

“He was drunk and had a passenger in his van?” I asked, perplexed.

“No. A woman was found in the front passenger’s seat of your husband’s car. Regrettably, she succumbed to her injuries and died at the scene of the accident.”
I was both devastated and confused.

“Her name was Monica Jali,” explained the officer, glancing at her notepad, making sure she had said the correct name.

I was still baffled, visibly so.

“Have you never heard of her?” she asked, after a short silence.

“No, I haven’t. My husband has never mentioned her.”The stillness continued.

She looked at me looking at her, and like two women whose instincts were almost in sync, we both knew…

Monica was my husband’s mistress.

How could she not be? What else would he have been doing on the other side of town that late at night? She must’ve lived in Heatherdale. That’s why he was on that road, to drop off his floozy after hours of screwing her while I waited at home for him. I was burning with rage and I thought of all the nights he would tell me that he was working late. My mind went back to all the cancelled dinners and weekends spent alone in that big, lonely house. Meanwhile, he was out there giving that Monica woman what he didn’t give me; what I longed for--the attention, his time, the love making… it all went to her.

I should’ve known he was having an affair. The signs were all there--the mood swings and the endless rejection when I would initiate sex. I guess I didn’t want to believe it. I constantly reassured myself that he was just under a lot of stress with work and all the fertility tests. We’d been trying to have a baby for almost five years.

After a long battle, we decided to consult a fertility specialist and even after months of treatment, we still weren’t getting any joy. I made excuses for Sello while completely neglecting myself. I agonised how all that was weighing onhimyet he never entertained a single thought about how itaffectedme. It nearly killed me to know how desperately he wanted to be a dad. Would I ever be able to give him a child? Would our lives ever be complete? Every day was a struggle--one it seems I was fighting alone while he fucked other women.

With that realisation, I couldn’t sit at his bedside looking at him any longer, so I left.

That night, I drowned my sorrows in wine that I took from my husband’s collection. I finished two whole bottles and cried myself to sleep.I woke the following morning with puffy eyes and an excruciating headache. I lay in bed for a long time, staring at the empty space where my husband was supposed to be sleeping. Loneliness crept in. Also rejection, bitterness and rage, all at the same time. Sellow as the love of my life and had been for 17 years. With a pain my heart couldn’t endure, I wept, screaming into my wet pillow while my head throbbed.

I got a call from the hospital later that day and was told that he had been transferred. I didn’t go to see him though, I just couldn’t stand the sight of him. Out of curiosity and in search of answers,I looked up Monica Jali on social media. Scrolling through her LinkedIn profile, I saw that she had worked with my husband at his previous law firm as a legal assistant. That must’ve been where they met. He left the firmtwo years ago for a better position at another firm. So, even after he left the company, he and Monica continued seeing each other.

Ithen went through her Facebook site and noticed tons of ‘check-ins’ at hotels and holiday resorts. That son-of-a-bitch!That’s where our money had been going.
I moved on to Monica’s Instagram account and there I saw something that downright broke me. In a post, dated just three weeks earlier, was a picture captioned, “The love of my life.” It was a photoof a little girl who looked about a year old. She had big, beautiful, light-brown eyes and under the caption was written #daddy’ slittlegirl. I looked in those eyes and there it was; my husband’s eyes and every strand of his DNA. She looked so much like him.

My heart sank. In fury, I threw my phone against the bedroom wall and it fell to pieces.Monica is dead. How do I send a text to a dead woman demanding that she stay away from my husband?How? That I couldn’t do so only intensified my wrath.Not knowing what to do with those feelings of anger and despair, I went downstairs and opened another bottle of wine, rage still pouring out from inside me as I clutched the glass in both hands, trembling.



As time wore on, days turned into weeks and weeks into months. I wanted it all to go away; the humiliation, the betrayal, the loneliness. All of it. I went through a whirlwind of emotions, veering from sadness to anger to hopeful to vengeful. On some days, I’d miss Sello and go to see him, andon other days, I hated him. I wrestled with my thoughts. Do I forgive him and never mention Monica or his illegitimate child? Do I tell him I know and still forgive him? Or do I leave? File for divorce and wage war?

I needed to press pause and just breathe.I took my time processing and getting over the hurt. Eventually, after going through all that turmoil and coming to terms with my reality, I felt an ounce of forgiveness and thought maybe we could work through it. I had healed over the past few months…or at least I thought I had.
Earlier this morning I went to the hospital to see him. He had been recovering, slowly. The medical team had removed the breathing tubes because he could breathe on his own, and what once was an open wound, was now almost an invisible scar.I was reading a book when his fingers moved. It had happened before and the nurse had said that it was a normal occurrence, so I didn’t pay much heed to it, but when his eyelids moved, I sat up. His eyes slowly opened and I knew I had to call a nurse, but when he spoke, I decided not to.


His lips moved and the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “Monica.”

In that instant, six months of healing disappeared like a day dream.In my moment of anger, and almost like I went into a trance, I grabbed a pillow from his bed and put it over his face.Holding the pillow tight against him,I smothered the life out of him. With every single twitch, I could feel his body shutting down. I hoped it would end before a nurse walked in. It did. It was silent and effortless.

My husband woke from a 6 month coma this morning. Five minutes later, he was dead.


Nonkululeko Nxumalo is a South African writer whose passion for writing grew from a childhood hobby. Her work has appeared in several print and online publications. Nonkululeko has also written content for the University of the Free State and her short story “To Whom It May Concern” was featured in an anthology of writing and artwork titled “Is My Queer Body Not Strong Enough? Pan-African Writings and Artwork. She currently lives in Bloemfontein where she continues to hone her craft.


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