I found myself unable to write what I was supposed to for this week’s post. So to make up for my postlessness, here is a story:
I sit on my bed, hands clasped together, legs bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet. I can’t stop fidgeting. Who could, if they were in my situation? Brian is downstairs, probably pouring himself my mother’s apple juice. The nerve of that man sometimes. But Mother likes him. A lot. Last week she said that I would be very reckless to let this one go, and then she turned to him and said, “Na unaleta ng’ombe lini?” He laughed—that full-throated laugh of his that was delightful to hear at first but scratched the sides of your ears if it came too frequently—and said, “Ngoja tu. You will be woken up one morning by the sound of cows outside your house.” To which my mother responded with a chuckle and a loving pat on his shoulder.
She will be irritated by the fact that somebody drank her apple juice again, but will be considerably calmed upon finding out that Brian is the culprit. I wonder if it is because she has no sons. But isn’t that supposed to be more my father’s concern?
It’s been over ten minutes and I cannot bring myself to look. The test is sitting on my bathroom sink. I cannot muster the effort or the courage to walk the five steps there. It was on an afternoon like this that it happened. Probably. There have been so many afternoons like this in the past 10 months. Afternoons when the sunshine kissed my skin gently, lightly, and the breeze made my blinds flutter like butterfly wings. Afternoons when the clock ticked slow and the September air mixed with the scent of his cologne. Afternoons when his arms were strong against my skin and his breath hot on my neck and his mouth soft on mine. Afternoons when my parents weren’t home.
But that particular day, Brian didn’t have a condom with him. It was cool, he said—after all it wasn’t the first time we didn’t have it. So he didn’t stop and neither did I because I didn’t want to ruin the day. See, he had been super sweet and charming that day, and I was neck deep in positive energies. When we were done, he rolled over, checked his watch and said, “ We have time for a movie, you game?” I was, and for two hours I watched cars blowing up and thought of my friend Susan who got pregnant the very first time she had sex. “What were the odds, really? I didn’t think it would happen then,” she had said in between sighs. “I know we were taught all this and I should have known better…it just doesn’t seem fair that it would happen the first time.”
We had been at an abortion clinic.
I blink continuously, my eyes on the double lines. I should fall to my knees dramatically. Tears should cloud my vision and shock numb my body, leaving me empty, staring into nothingness. But I blink again and again, wondering whether I should be checking my pulse. Finally, I simply rise to go downstairs. I find Brian blacked out on the couch, an empty glass on a stool beside him. The television is blaring—some show about cars. With British commentators. I nudge him on the shoulder.
“Brian wake up.”
He pretends he doesn’t hear me. “Brian.”
He adjusts himself, three-quarters asleep. “Brian is not here.”
“When he comes back tell him that he’s going to be a father,” I say quietly. I stand up and walk back upstairs.
Brian is standing at my door. He looks at me long and soft. As though he is trying to look into my uterus to determine the veracity of my words. I half expect him to blow up, yell at me for not telling him that I had the stick taken out of my arm and kept procrastinating getting another. But he sighs in exasperation a lot when he’s mad, and keeps touching his thumb and index finger to the bridge of his nose. He is doing neither, and instead just looks at me. I falter under his gaze and look away; instinctively, perhaps, at my stomach.
He walks towards me and sits down.
“So what are we going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m scared too.”
I looked at him. “Are you going to bail on me?”
“Well is that my kid or not?”
“Then there’s your answer.”
We sit in silence a while. Brian flops himself onto the bed so that he’s lying face up. He brings his arms up to his head and the right one goes around the small of my back and rests next to my thigh. “Your mother might not like me quite as much when you tell them,” he mutters. I can tell he still has sleep in his head. I turn around to look at him. His eyes are closed, his breathing deep.
Brian rouses from his power nap and kisses the nape of my neck.
He doesn’t say much. “Obviously I can’t deal with this situation right now, so I’m going to head out. If it works for you, I’ll pick you up tomorrow and we can go someplace and talk. Okay?”
I nod and he rises. We walk quietly down the stairs. He stops at the door.
“Are you going to tell them tonight?”
“Yeah…I think I will. I’d rather deal with the consequences sooner than later.”
“Okay.” He kisses me lightly and then turns and leaves. I watch him walk away, fascinated by his gait—somewhere in between a swagger and a strut. I hope he will stay.
Mother usually gets home at about 7 pm. She kicks off her shoes at the door and asks what I’m making for supper as she starts up the stairs. She comes back down after a long shower to watch some TV as she waits for food. She doesn’t really watch though. The TV serves as a companion as she zones out into…I don’t know. I don’t think even Dad knows. She doesn’t like to be disturbed then, even if it is clear she is doing nothing. She will go through this routine today, except that I will disturb it with my news and nothing in this house will ever be the same again. I am sitting on my bed, unable to move, unable to call her to ask what she prefers to have for supper, unable to think. She has always been an allowing parent. I wonder if she will regret not being strict with me. Dad is not around so I am not really concerned about him. Mother is the one who will break the news to him and deal with his initial reaction. I am relieved about this even though I fear my mother’s reaction more than his. I am more afraid of his disappointment than I am of her wrath.
She is home early. I am in the kitchen cutting up onions for the stew. Peas. She hates peas. Just my luck. She greets me and sighs. She is tired, she says. Rough day at the office and she just wants to eat and sleep. Just my luck. “Will the food be ready soon?” she asks as she turns to leave the kitchen and go upstairs. I open my mouth to say yes, in less than an hour. Instead I say, “I’m pregnant.” I keep slicing as though I have just announced that I have bought milk today. I hear her turn to face me. The kitchen is suddenly cold. Nothing comes out of her mouth. We stand, the only barrier between us is the sound of the blade on the chopping board. I turn to face her, blinking back the sting in my eyes. There is nothing for me to read on her face. “Are you sure?” she finally asks. “Yes. No… I don’t know.” I am looking straight her and she at me.
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I mean that I know what happened and I probably am but I’ve done the test only today.”
She turns her gaze downward. “Brian?”
I wonder why she is asking. Whether the situation will be altogether more bearable if the baby is his. Whether she will see him in a different light and be upset that she let him drink her apple juice. Whether…
“Yes. Of course.” Does she still want his cows? Will I still be reckless to let him go?
She says nothing more. She turns to leave. And the kitchen is warm again.
I am in bed and I can hear her on the phone with Dad. The walls in this house are thin. One of the best things about my mother is that she never raises her voice, no matter how angry she is. I know that her words are measured even now as she tells her husband that their 19 year old daughter might be with child. But is anger what she feels? I don’t know. The conversation has been going on for ages. After she ate—I couldn’t—she simply said that we would go to the clinic tomorrow. She didn’t cry or insult me. She didn’t lament or lecture me. Nothing. She sat in the sitting room staring, looking into a future, maybe, where she is a grandmother before she is fifty. The TV was off. She didn’t need the background noise today, I suppose. I washed the dishes as quietly as possible, taking my time, listening to the clinking, listening to the water run, listening to the sound of Brian’s voice in my head telling me, two weeks ago, that he feels that he can do anything, go through anything, for as long as I am with him. I left her sitting there still and came to bed.
Now? What now?
My hands slip down to my mid section and I feel only flab. It doesn’t seem possible that there could be a baby there. I wonder whether I should call Susan. No. I know what she would say. That I should do what’s best for me. Sigh.
My phone beeps and it’s a text from Brian. I haven’t heard from him since he left.
“Hey…Did you tell them?”
“Yeah. I told her. She’s talking to Dad now. I’m scared.”
“I know. I don’t know what to do.”
“Are you drunk?”
“Kinda. I didn’t know what else to do. I’m in an uber right now. Heading home.”
“Are we going to be okay?”
“I don’t know.”
I turn so that I am lying on my back. He doesn’t know? I am annoyed for a bit and then I am not. How can I expect him to know? I don’t know either. What do you do when the only thing you were sure of becomes your biggest uncertainty?
My mother’s conversation has ended. She begins to hum her favorite hymn and it makes me feel sick.
“On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand…”
Outside, I hear cars speeding past and a dog barking in the distance. My chest feels smaller and it is difficult to breathe. Sinking sand, sinking sand, I think. “I don’t want a baby,” I whisper. The room hears me and is silent.
When the tears finally come, they are hot and send a sharp pain through my forehead.
…Sinking sand, sinking sand…