Short Stories

Battleground
September 13, 2018
7
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Photo by Carlos Vaz on Unsplash

Previously in Taste of Mel…

As told by Mel

*

When I look back on this day, I’ll remember the smell of eggs on the nightstand, no longer sizzling as they go cold. I’ll remember the silver rays streaming in through a parting in the bedroom curtains. The blue light of the stereo blinking in the living room. Lana Del Rey’s smoky voice traveling across the house like early morning mist rolling down a hill. And that look on Jonathan’s face. That haunting, wounded look I don’t ever want on my conscience again.

It is early Thursday morning. I’m three weeks pregnant. My baby’s father heard the news on the grapevine and is currently hella pissed at me. I see now that he slept on the couch. He’s drawn some firm lines, issued an ultimatum.

“You’re going to tell me what the deal with you two is,” he’s said. “And none of that sanitized bull either. I want to know where he fits in all of this.”

“I don’t know what you want me to tell you.” I say. “I don’t fully understand it myself.”

“Try.” he says. He’s dug his heels in.

I have to think over my interactions with Kagwe to answer that question. “Have you ever met someone and just felt like you knew them?”

Our meeting was the most unlikely of scenarios. Mother Nature decided to throw a lightning festival in our honour that was so electric, his flight was not delayed; it was cancelled. That’s the only reason he made it to the after party where I was with Mwai. On second thought, perhaps it was the most typical of scenarios. I’d picked the wrong guy to go out with, yet again. Mwai went on and on about his ex.

If I had been bored that night I would’ve left, but I wasn’t bored. I was numb. It wasn’t a feeling exclusive to that night. The numbness had become a constant interloper in my life since the miscarriage, subdued only by the occasional triumph at work. I sat there listening to this crazy ex drama, feeling nothing in particular, right up until the moment I wriggled my fingers through Kagwe’s to bum a smoke. They were warm; he was warm, like the burn of a good vodka.

“It wasn’t something I sought out. We were just sort of drawn to each other by some unseen force – see I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

“No I’m listening,” he says.

“I can see the scepticism on your face, you can’t even help it.”

“I’m not sceptical. I’ve seen you together. I know what you’re talking about. Call it chemistry or whatever.”

I don’t know why that stings, but it does. I wouldn’t call it chemistry… It’s more a cosmic connection than anything.

“I have things to offer you that he can’t, not in the way I can anyway. And you deserve that. I think we can be happy together, but if you think you have a shot at happiness with him, or anyone else for that matter –”

“There is no one else,” I say.

“Then we’re just hanging in the balance. I need to know that the scales will tip in my favour.”

“The scales have already tipped in your favour. I’m carrying your child.”

“Is that the only reason they’ve tipped? An accidental pregnancy?”

“No. Why would you say that?”

“Does he make you happy?”

“Not everyone comes into our lives to make us happy.”

“Okay. What value does he bring into your life?”

I sit up and tuck my ankles tighter between my thighs. That’s another layered question that I have to think through.

When Kagwe and I met, two years had passed but the wound of my miscarriage was still smouldering within me. Bill and I would have the most savage fights about my pregnancy. He’d say, “At this point it’s just a blob of cells. You take the pills and they’ll take care of it.”

I would boil with rage. “Your tongue is just a blob of cells. How would you like it if you had to take a pill that caused contractions so powerful your tongue was dislodged from your mouth?”

“Ah! Don’t be grotesque!”

“Grotesque? You find that grotesque but not what you’re asking me to do?”

“It’s not the same.”

“You’re right. It’s not the same. Your tongue doesn’t house any life in it, and I mean that in more ways than one.”

He could never understand what I was saying. I could never bring myself to tell him how his words devastated me. Even so, they weren’t half as bad as losing the baby. Now that, had me levelled like a Taliban village on the wrong end of a missile. I hadn’t wanted the child, to be honest. But then it vacated my womb and the emptiness became palpable. On top of the loss, I had to deal with the guilt of not wanting the baby in the first place amidst a cocktail of other conflicting feelings.

Then enter Kagwe stage left. We might never have become anything had he not asked me about getting a frame for his sonogram. It was encouraging to meet a man who acknowledged his child in the womb. Then he told me that he’d lost his boy. I saw how broken up he was over it. We were both drowning in our wounds; his raw, mine festered. I couldn’t say anything. I just held his hand; it was like finding another soul in the darkness, hearing their heartbeat and deciding, Let’s find our way out of here. I’d kept to myself in my state for so long. Finding him felt like I’d taken a big gasp of fresh air after being underwater. It was finding my lungs again, breathing in life force, pure from the source.

He’s my escape. My kindred spirit. My undoing. Everyone’s got their poison. Kagwe is mine – him and vodka. When he comes into my life, everything levitates. Life as I know it, everything I thought I knew about myself, all goes out the window. That’s the beauty of it though. Sometimes, when you’ve woven yourself all wrong, you need someone to come and undo you. As many times as it’ll take you to learn how to do it right. What value does he bring into my life?

“Healing. Growth. Adventure…”

“I’m hearing words. I know what they mean individually, but when you put them together like that they don’t make sense to me. In simple terms, what would you say if you had to describe your relationship?”

“In what way?”

“What would you call it? Are you friends? Exes? Did it ever go beyond friendship?” I flinch. “No judgement. Just tell me.”

“Tsk! You’re just saying no judgement now –”

“No. I take my word seriously.”

“What does it matter? It’s in the past –”

“It’s not in the past. It can’t be in the past if I’m finding out that you’re pregnant from him. It’s happening now, in real time.”

“You realize I didn’t plan for it to happen –”

“You could’ve told me.”

“Will you let me finish?”

He takes a deep breath. “Go ahead.”

“I didn’t want to tell you over WhatsApp. I waited to tell you in person. It was hard as hell, but I waited because I wanted to do it in a meaningful way. I didn’t plan on meeting Kagwe at the doctor’s and I certainly didn’t like, purposely break the news to him to steal the moment away from us. I’m sorry it went down the way it did. I’m sorry the moment is ruined.”

At this point I’m thinking he’ll let it go. I’ve apologized, I feel terrible about it. I’m thinking he’ll say, “It’s okay, apology accepted. No, don’t cry. I’m not mad anymore.”

But nooo, he has to go and ask the one question with the power to turn a half hour talk into a three-hour fight. A three-hour pointless, meandering fight.

“Did it, ever, go beyond friendship?”

“Don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?”

“You’re fixating on the wrong thing.”

“I’m not fixating. It’s a simple question with a simple answer. Yes or no?”

“What does it matter?” I raise my palms over my temples. “I had a life before I met you. You knew that. And I know you had a life before we met too but you don’t see me asking about Becky.”

“Who?”

I roll my eyes. “Oh you don’t like the taste of your own medicine?”

“Becky has nothing to do with this.”

“Really? So that wasn’t her calling yesterday in the car?”

There are two types of men. Men who subscribe to the maxims of deny, deny, deny and flat out lies, and good men. Keep in mind that the term good as used here is relative. Good men, eligible, marriageable men don’t flat out lie. They are economical with the truth. You know you have a good man in your grip if you have at some point had to learn the difference between lies of omission and lies of commission. Just because they are good men doesn’t mean they’ll hang themselves out to dry though. No. They choose from one of three responses when cornered.

The first and most familiar is silence. Not just silence, weaponized silence. Silence that kills. The problem with this strategy is that they don’t have the stamina to keep it up. If you wait it out, eventually they buckle and you can circle back to your question. It is at this juncture that they will engage second gear. The case of selective amnesia, a sudden, convenient affliction that manifests in the words, “I don’t recall. I’m busy. I have a lot of things on my mind.”

This one is hard to get around. If you push it, it degenerates into a he says, she says kind of situation that accomplishes nothing as regards that self-damning confession we women are always seeking. But if you’re lucky, if your man is like Jonathan and he fancies himself a real Zorro, he’ll try and turn the tables on you with something like, “Did you go through my phone?”

He’ll use that tone men practice in bars because it’s universal to the male human species to make you feel like a crazy woman. He’ll lay on the how-dare-you undertones thick.

“Pssh! Jonathan please! I’m a psychology major. I know it’s her because you use your cockpit voice when you’re talking to her. ‘I’ll call you back shortly.’”

“First of all, that’s not even what I sound like and what do you know about my cockpit voice?”

“That is exactly what you sound like and I know plenty about your cockpit voice.”

“Are you actually bringing Becky into this to deflect from telling me about this guy? It’s that bad?”

“I’m not deflecting. We kissed. One time. And then he ended it.”

“He ended it?”

“Yes. It doesn’t matter who ended it. The result is the same. We’re not in each other’s lives.”

“Even when you’re not in each other’s lives, you’re in each other’s lives.”

I laugh. Goodness! That’s the truest, funniest thing I have heard in a long time!

“I don’t want him to be a problem between us. It’s not fair to me. I shouldn’t have to compete with that. I shouldn’t have to worry about not knowing what’s happening in my house when I’m away.”

“And you don’t have to. Yesterday was an anomaly. A bleep. All right?” I sigh. “I’m tired. I don’t want to fight about this anymore.”

“I’m only going to say this once. I’m in. I’m all in. If we’re doing this, I need to know that you’re all in too.”

“I’m in. All in.”

He sighs. “Good. Good girl.”

***

Taste of Mel continues here: A Sax Affair

24

About author

Wanjiru Ndung'u

Wanjiru Ndung'u is a Published Poet and Founder of The Hooting Owl. She is an irretrievable, tea-loving nightowl with an ardor for matters of Personal Development.

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  • Kate Were

    yay. we are back!!!!…nice read….

  • maria kivuva

    ‘am in.all in’…i love this already

  • Sash

    I’m all in too…. because this is too addictive. Welcome back Wanjiru, I missed you.

  • Ken Otulo

    The way you play with words is akin to the melt of sweet ice cream in the tongue!! Awesome. Glad you are back. But this Mel lady is a femme fatale. aii hapana! Me I just have chills. Yani all the while been silently screaming, run Jonathan, run!

    • Mercy J Mwangi

      yooow why?

      Problems aren’t resolved by running

  • Mercy J Mwangi

    oi… i love Jonathan!!!

  • Minnie kang’ethe

    nice read