As told by Mel
At the terminal, along with other eager family and friends, bored hotel chauffeurs and impatient children, I wait. I’m wired and I can’t stand still. There is a swirl of perfumes so potent they haven’t worn off this late in the afternoon, sweat and the stiff smell of new suitcases and luggage from faraway places. It’s making me dizzy so I pace. A horde of travelers that I hope are from Jonathan’s plane comes through the doors. There are cries of joy and a sharp ululation that draws everyone’s attention to what appears to be a prodigal son, red with embarrassment.
When the excitement dies down and the group leaves the terminal, a scene unfolding by the door catches my eye. A boy, who looks to be about three, is jumping up and down like a feral monkey and I gather from the exchange with his mother that this debacle is about a juice box. Realizing her mistake, she’s taken it away from him but it’s too late. He’s already in the throes of a fresh sugar rush that won’t wear off for another forty minutes. She has dark circles around her eyes and fine lines just above the bridge of her nose. She must scowl like that all the time. God she looks exhausted.
She sighs deeply, hands him back the juice box and then leans on the thick metallic railing with her back hunched. The boy runs across the hall, past the designated waiting area to a security guard, where he fiddles with a radio clipped at his waistline. The mother does nothing. She is defeated and reduced to pretending she’s there alone. And I’m about to have one of those? Lord help me.
Jonathan finally walks through the door dragging a small suitcase on his side. I see him before he sees me. He’s wearing a woolen jacket over a white shirt and black, well-pressed slacks. His eyes search for mine across the room until we lock. His hard look softens, he flashes his boyish smile and I feel myself thawing into my leather shoes.
He comes to me, stands the suitcase on its wheels and cups my shoulder with his palm. With his arms, arms that are stronger than he thinks, probably from all those years of gripping the control wheel and pushing the throttle levers, he squeezes me into him. I feel small, like a kitten on my human’s bosom. I breathe him in. He smells clean, not like he’s been on a plane the last seven hours at all. I feel like rubbing my fur all over him and just bathing in his scent. His hair has grown in the ten days he’s been away – a thick, curly fro that I sink my fingers into. It feels as soft as walking in a garden of mosses. He kisses me on the forehead, then on the lips, and leaves them tingling with the taste of mint sweets.
We swing by NextGen Mall and grab takeout that tortures me from the backseat the rest of the way to Jonathan’s place. We talk about his flight back and the only free afternoon he spent roaming the streets of Amsterdam all the while. It takes enough time for me not to have to talk about my day. His phone buzzes from where it’s tucked between the sofa cushions but he ignores it. Instead he takes out a gift bag that I rummage through. It’s an array of nifty little things – a box of perfume samples he got for free at a mall, a satin scarf he bought on the street to tame my hair while I sleep, foot cream, facial soaps shaped like butterflies, lip balm…
“A scented candle for some reason?” I say, taking the items out one by one.
“I only had time to go to the mall,” he says, hands up.
“Chocolate balls…okay…” I unwrap the foil off of one of them and take a bite. At the bottom of the bag is a smooth, purple item. “What is this? Some kind of … hidden lipstick? No…what is this? It kind of looks like a thumb, but like, a giant ogre’s thumb if he had weirdly smooth, sculpted hands. What is this?”
He looks at me with fascination as I fumble with it.
“Press here,” he says, leading my finger and pressing over it.
“Aargh!” I jump and toss the purple smurf onto the carpet. “It’s alive!”
He falls over laughing as I lift my feet off the buzzing carpet.
“What in the world is that?”
“Your gift. Your real gift, for when I’m away. Coz I’m going to be away a lot from now on.”
“You kinky devil!” I laugh. “Oh you only had time to go to the mall?”
“And a sex shop. One sex shop,” he holds a finger up.
Goodness. A vibrator? This is why I’m pregnant!
I consider saying it aloud, but I tense up and lose my nerve. We’re both so happy right now and I’m not sure we’re going to be this happy again. I just want to soak in this moment. Besides, there’s talk of giving the new equipment a test run and I don’t want to kill the mood.
Afterwards I’m lying next to him, twice satiated. He’s knocked out cold and I’m trying to figure out how to tell him I am pregnant. Should I make him breakfast in the morning, assuming that by some miracle I’ll wake up before he does? Or should I go big, order a surprise cake or something? We don’t even have pet names for one another. What should I call him? Sweetie? Swiry? Ha-ha. Sugar? Babe? SugarBabe? Babes. Ha-ha. He would hate that.
Google ‘pet names for him’. Daddy? Big Daddy… Fitting but so weird! Papa? Papi? Sigh. Love? Lovebun? Bunbun. Bear. Poobear. Pookie?
Google ‘pet names for your lover’. Bed torcher? SugarD– mmh mmh. I came to the wrong streets. I’ll just go with Hun.
Hun, we’re pregnant!
Hun, you’re going to be a daddy!
Hun, remember when you said your pullout game is on point and I said it better be? Well it’s not! We’re having a baby!
Sigh. I swing my legs out of bed and hit the shower before I drive myself crazy. I’m excited to try all the soaps and creams, so I take my time in there. Then I take his laptop, put the headphones on and settle on the couch with my chocolates for episodes of The Crown.
It’s forty past seven when he wakes up, talks on the phone, and then showers. He paces around the house, towel slung precariously around his waist.
“Are we going somewhere?”
“Umh, yeah, I’m going out for a bit. Bob and the boys want to buy me a drink…seeing how, I’ve crossed the threshold.”
“Oh. And Bob is…?”
“Just a colleague. I won’t be long,” he says picking out a pair of leather plimsolls from a shoe rack in the hallway.
I’m conflicted. I thought I’d have to make up an excuse not to go. If I go and he orders me vodka and I don’t drink it, it’ll be a dead giveaway and I don’t want to break the news of our baby at the club. But, he’s not asking me to go with him. Why isn’t he asking me to go with him?
“Is it a plan for the boys?” I ask as he heads back into the bedroom, ironing box in hand.
He doesn’t add onto that which is very unlike him. But he’s already spent time with me and I don’t want to be clingy or overbearing so I let it rest. In any case now that he’s home the news is grating me from the inside. I’m not sure I can spend the whole night with him without blurting it out.
When he emerges he’s wearing jeans, a white t-shirt and a sweater jacket that is eerily similar to the one Kagwe was wearing earlier today. I realize, with relief that I haven’t thought about him since Jonathan got here. But, now that I’ve thought of him, I won’t be able to stop thinking about what he said.
Well, it’s good I’ll be alone then. I’ll have some time to think.
“You know where everything is, right?” he asks, tucking his wallet into his back pocket.
“Okay,” he kisses me on the forehead. “Don’t wait up. I’ll be back.”
“Sure. Have fun.”
When I think about it, when I really think about it, it’s not a question of ‘either or’ for me. Kagwe can’t take Jonathan’s place. He certainly didn’t want to when he had the chance. Even so I find it would be difficult for them to coexist in my space just as it has been for Kagwe’s wife and I. I just wish it was easier, less complicated.
At 2:13 AM, when the credits of the final episode of The Crown roll up, Jonathan still hasn’t come home. It seems to have eluded him that when I said, “Have fun,” I meant, “Don’t have too much fun without me. In fact, don’t have fun at all. Send me periodic texts about how miserable you are and how much you can’t wait to get home.” It’s not Morse code!
Don’t come home at 4:10 in the AM in a jolly mood – like he does – so I know without a doubt that you had such a good time the only reason you left is because the bouncers asked you politely, (and then not so politely), to leave. By all means, don’t sing Eledumare bless you with body baby oh out loud as you peel off your shoes. And certainly don’t shake your butt as you lean into the fridge and decide to eat all of the pizza we said was for lunch tomorrow!
If you know what’s best for you, kick your shoes off like they’ve been pinching your ankles all night. Crack your bones and complain about the stiff chairs at the club. But most importantly, look me in the eyes and say earnestly, “I should’ve never gone without you,” so I can tell you, “I told you so!”
In the morning, way earlier than a person who stumbled home at four o’clock should be awake, Jonathan calls out my name. I awaken to the smell of eggs wafting from the nightstand on my side.
“Morning sleepy. I made breakfast,” he says. Not breakfast for me, just breakfast.
“Okay,” I sit up in bed, fix the bow of the satin scarf on my forehead and rub my eyes.
“Are you craving salt or sugar this morning?” he asks.
He doesn’t even know how dead on that question is. I start to answer but the deadpan look he’s wearing makes me uneasy.
“The cravings. It is salt or sugar?”
“I don’t understand.” Does he somehow know? Did I leave my prenatal vitamins out? Or perhaps my prescription?
“You understand. You understand perfectly. I on the other hand don’t understand why I have to hear it from someone else that you’re pregnant. Why’s that Melissa?”
Ah hell. My plan has gone to shit.
I sit there twiddling my thumbs. My mind should be racing. I should be trying to figure this out but there’s just this whooshing in my ears, like I’m underwater, or on one of those roads where your ears slowly block as though your head is being pressed in a timber vice.
“Is it true?”
“Is it mine? Nah ah. Don’t look at me like that. Is it mine?”
“Oh? Why does he know and I don’t? Does that sound right to you?”
I shake my head. Godamnit Kagwe. What the hell?
He proceeds to give me an earful about it but then I start to think, this is fantastic. He’s not being passive aggressive. He’s not yelling at me, not slamming the door behind him or things around the house for that matter. He’s not ignoring me. I don’t have to guess what he’s thinking or wonder if he even has feelings at all. I don’t have to put out feelers for whether his energy is reserved or receptive. I don’t even have to be patient while locked in an unnecessarily prolonged stalemate. He is letting me having it. A genuine expression of displeasure here and now. And in words no less, in words!
God I didn’t realize how high-maintenance emotionally constipated men are. It’s like a smog in my lungs has lifted. A smile starts to tickle the edges of my mouth.
“What? What are you smiling about? This is a joke to you?”
“No, no love.”
That seems to soften him up a bit, but I can still see the ice in his eyes, ready to cut.
“You’re going to tell me what the deal with you two is, and none of that sanitized bull either. I want to know where he fits in all of this. Because from where I’m standing, there’s only room for one and it’s already taken.”
Okay. Okay. So that line has been drawn. Now what?
Taste of Mel continues here: Blurred Lines as told by Jonathan.19