These days, I’m stuck in a constant rut, praying that my writer’s block will lift, and then trying to make time to write properly. Life has been happening so much, I’m just so happy to have this half-hour to put this up! Here’s to me trying to get back to writing more often! And I’m excited to hear your thoughts on this.
Cheers to a restful weekend!
For days, Talata held on to the note from Teju. She would grab it multiple times daily, to re-read. It had her wondering what kind of father he’d be.
What kind of mother would she be?
She wondered also what kind of pregnancy she would have; wondered if all of this would have been any different if her mother were alive. She thought about her father. How excited this news would make him.
It had been so weird around the house since the near abortion. She refused to talk about it and changed the subject whenever he tried to bring it up. He’d started noticing changes in her body, and he knew she could see them too. She acted as though pretending the pregnancy was non-existent would take the baby away.
Teju set up her first appointment. He had it arranged with her personal assistant and sent her a text that morning.
“If you want me to, I’ll come with you.”
She didn’t want to go. Because what if seeing that child made it harder to decide? Would she become attached to the sound of a heartbeat? Or would she just show how truly heartless she was?
She did go. Alone.
A nurse confirmed her appointment, asked her to fill out some forms, and gave her some forms for the lab. Even before she had finished filling out the intake forms, she knew coming had been a mistake. Or maybe it was coming without Teju? She needed him there. Needed him to ground her. Needed him to make sense of this for them. She started sweating profusely, and before the nurse could approach to ask her for the forms, she walked out of the reception.
He didn’t reply immediately, and she contemplated calling. Maybe he was in a meeting? Or maybe he was tired of her acting a fool?
“They’re going to ask so many things. I don’t have any answers. I still don’t even know if I can do this.
She sat in the car, trying to calm herself. Was she going to go back or was she just going to go home? Just before she could ask her driver to take them home, Teju replied.
“I’ll be there in 12 minutes.”
“Sir, my name is Father Bose, and I…”
He hesitated for a second.
“I have some information for you.” The silence dragged for a while.
“You uuhm… you have a son.”
If he hadn’t been looking for a distraction, Akaa would have cut the call. Of course, he had a son. He’d seen the boy just a few hours ago! And he wasn’t wasting roaming call time on fraudsters.
“Of course, I have a son! What’s wrong with my son?”
“I’m calling on behalf of a young woman called Lina.”
Akaa shot up from his chair immediately.
“She is at the Catholic Hospital in Battor. She delivered your baby two days ago. She is not doing very well, and she asked me to contact you only if anything happened to her. There are also a few things she asked me to give to you.”
His baby? He sat back down, dizzy. His mind wasn’t computing anything.
“How do you know it’s my baby? She’s been gone for so long it cannot be my child. She had a negative pregnancy test the last time I saw her. You must have the wrong person. It can’t be me.”
Bose remained quiet.
Akaa was suddenly furious. The thought of Alima with someone else’s baby didn’t sit right with him. Plus, she’d run away from him, hadn’t she. But was she dying?
“Did you say something happened to her? Where did you say she is?”
“The Catholic Hospital in Battor.”
“Can I talk to her?”
Bose did not speak, and Akaa could tell there was something really wrong.
“I’m not in the country. I will be back in a few weeks. Does she need anything?”
Still no words.
“She asked me to hand you something in case she uhm…doesn’t make it.”
“I will call you when I return. Please…” He cleared his throat as if it would remove all the emotions he felt unexpectedly lodged in his chest.
“Please take care of her.”
Bose said nothing.
“Can I call on this same number?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
Granted, he didn’t know Alima very much, but Bose had never seen her this way. Anyone could tell there was something terribly wrong. Her eyes had always been eager – sad, most of the time too, but that enthusiastic sparkle never left. Now, her eyes looked dead. Almost as if she had been drawn, and the artist forgot to outline her eyes.
She didn’t look him in the eye, she refused to look at the baby the first few days. She only stared at the walls and obeyed commands. She did not talk. She didn’t smile. She didn’t look at anyone – especially not her son.
Alima felt as though gravel had been poured into her mouth, and cotton had replaced her brain. She couldn’t think straight, and everything required more effort than she had ever thought possible.
Who was this human that was so heavily dependent on her? And why? Didn’t he know that she wasn’t reliable? Didn’t he know that he was better off with someone else? He looked at her in a way that always cut her insides. Almost as if he was saying that he trusted her. Well, that wasn’t a good idea, was it?
She wanted her mother. She knew that her mother would be so mad at what she’d become. But at least she would bathe the baby and take it away. That’s all she wanted now… to sleep and sleep and sleep. And forget that she had brought a thing into this world that would be a constant reminder of the man she had loved – still loved – and would never have.
Talata went in and completed the form to the best of her ability. Teju arrived as she sat there waiting to be called in. He locked eyes with her from the entrance and walked briskly towards her. He sat next to her, grabbed her hand and just looked at her. There was a strange silence between them, punctuated by the sound of an orderly wheeling a cart around.
“I think it’s a girl. Do you want a girl?” She still looked panicked. “I don’t even know what I want. The nurse called me in earlier, but I told her you were coming. What do we want?”
Teju tightened his hold on her hand. He didn’t want to hold on to any hope that she would really keep the baby.
Her name was called before he had to reply. He did not care if the baby was a duck. All he cared was that it was theirs.
Alima was discharged two weeks after the baby was born. By then, she was at least breastfeeding him. He was a calm baby, not fussy, barely ever audible. It was as if he knew the weight his mother carried – as if he could tell that she was not in the frame of mind to deal with a tedious baby.
“Postpartum depression is not uncommon. We just don’t talk about it as often as we should in these parts. Several women experience this after childbirth. With time, support, and medication, most of them make it out.”
Bose was so confused. How could women do this? And more than once? And sometimes even back-to-back? Every single child seemed like a potential trip to the grave! He quieted his thoughts and took note of all the medications Alima had to take, and all the other instructions the doctor had given. Alima sat there, quietly holding her sleeping son. She only responded to questions with nods or shakes of her head. She looked at her son from time to time and sighed. It was a vast improvement from her staring at walls, and it made Bose believe that at some point she would return to normal.
The first two weeks back home were the toughest. He felt completely helpless. She barely spoke and barely ate, and that meant her milk flow was not great. She lacked the glow and excitement that women who had just had a baby had. But then again, he realised he only saw these women ceremonially – for baptisms, or naming ceremonies, or planned visits. Maybe this is what they dealt with when it was all over? What were the odds that they constantly put up a front for everyone?
Talata was asked to sit next to the water dispenser and drink as much water as she could, while she waited for her turn to get the ultrasound. Her doctor had been a very young chipper girl, probably in her twenties. She had asked Talata a few questions and then called her pregnancy a high-risk pregnancy – a geriatric pregnancy. At that point, she really wanted to smack her. “But that is not a problem, we deal with them daily, it just means we must have a different hospital schedule for you, and you might have to be a bit more careful. And lucky for you, just like me, we don’t look our age!” Teju smiled. She did not.
When it was her turn, the panic started to rise again. Teju saw it. He felt it.
“Hey.” She didn’t respond, just looked up at him.
“You don’t need to do this if you don’t want to.”
Her bladder was bursting, and her heart was racing. “I still don’t know what to do.” She squeezed his hand and walked into the dark room, holding on to him for strength, and her sanity.
Initially, Bose felt guilty. The first time he attempted to read them, the guilt made him stop. Later, when his curiosity got the better of him, he justified it as his way of getting to know this woman, so he could help her. He read every single one of the entries Alima had written. He read them multiple times. Some of them made him ache for her, others brought out a feeling he couldn’t quite place. Others were entries he read to get himself off.
Remember that first night at the agency? Your fortieth birthday? In hindsight, I realize that is when I fell in love. I have been so naïve. You were my glimpse into what a beautiful life could look like. You were also my first taste of real heartbreak. But I would give anything to feel the way I felt those first few days with you. One day, I hope I get to feel it with another man.
Today, I woke up to dreams so vivid that I thought they were real. You were right in this room, and it was on this bed. You were just snuggling up to me initially, and then you were entering me from behind. You rubbed your hand over my belly, and kissed my neck, biting at my ears. Your thrusts were so gentle, almost as if you thought you might hurt the baby. And then just before you came, your hands came down, rubbing me slowly. I can assure you; I woke up wet, throbbing and with a tingling neck and ears …I miss the way my body felt in your arms, Akaa. I know for a fact that you have ruined me for anyone else. And I wish I could say the same. I just hope that one day, if ever, I don’t lie in the arms of another man, thinking about you. Because I know that you certainly do not!