As told by Mel
Time dilates when you’re sitting on a toilet seat waiting for a blade of paper to tell you whether your life has changed irreversibly. Three blades of paper to be accurate. One line says, “Huh. His pullout game is as strong as he said.” Two lines thrust you out of the nest and yell, “I’ve seen the size of his head, good luck! You’re going to need it!” as you plunge into the freefall that is motherhood. My future hangs in the balance and here time is, stretching like a powerline on a hot day.
I called Sally hoping she could come help me wade through this muddle but she said Leiyan lured her to the navel of Kajiado County with the promise of meat, milk and hopefully no blood.
“So he’s finally introducing you to his folks?”
“Well…He hasn’t exactly said that, but I better not be out here eating dust for nothing.”
I laugh. “Well, take photos. I think we cracked the code with that photo essay and if we keep giving them great content they might even start paying for – hello? Hello?” Agh. Network.
So I called Nina and told her to come home, bring three home pregnancy tests and don’t tell mom. She said she’d be here in an hour and then showed up three hours late, during which time I had peed thrice and couldn’t tell whether it was a symptom or just the damn cold.
“Has it been five minutes yet?” I ask.
Nina looks at the stopwatch on her phone. Three minutes forty five seconds. Forty four, forty three, forty two –”
Outside the sky is gray. I imagine Jonathan is on the other side of those clouds somewhere over Greece or Serbia or Hungary thinking how much better the view would be from the cockpit. He’s already going through a big transition. The timing is awful. He probably doesn’t want this, although I don’t know why not. We’d make beautiful babies. If they took his small ears and my small nose, those would be the only small parts they’d have because none of us hails from skinny genes. But they’d also have his full head of hair, his boyish smile, and his smarts. One of them would no doubt pick up my brooding ways and carry my cold finger affliction, perhaps with a warm manner to balance it out. All in all it’s not a bad lot to inherit.
If Jonathan doesn’t want this baby, I know enough of him to know he won’t tell me to get rid of it or drop off the face of the earth deadbeat style. He might stay begrudgingly, and tell everyone at family gatherings how I trapped him every time he gets drunk. He’ll joke about how I’ve stifled him all these years, cunning woman that I am, but we’ll both know he’s being passive-aggressive.
I’ll have to be the long-suffering wife who laughs at jokes made at her expense because tempted as I would be, I’d think better of discussing his pullout antics with the aunties. So I’d be reduced to slapping him a little too hard on the belly and saying, “Such a comedian this one,” while the light faded from my eyes as I slowly died inside. And do I really want to be the sorry aunt with the vacant eyes, who is the butt of her husband’s jokes?
“Aki Nina, if I’m not pregnant, I’ll stop these stories for pullout. I’ll stop going out with people’s husbands, I’ll call mom more often, and when she asks if she should give Jack the phone I’ll say yes. I’ll talk to him in more than one word. I’ll even call him stepdad if I have to, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.”
Nina nearly keels over with laughter. “Stop. Stop, you’re killing me. You should probably still do those things though.”
“I’m terrified. What if I really am pregnant? I can’t raise a baby right now, much less alone! I mean I can, but I don’t want to. I’ve just scraped enough to buy a new car. Okay a new used car but still… I was so looking forward to get rid of the van. If it dies on me I’ll have to sell it for scraps. I don’t want that.”
“So this is about the van?”
“It’s not just the van. This is life-changing. I’d have to stop drinking for like a year. A year! Can you imagine?”
“Oh and you’re an alcoholic,” she says, sarcasm dripping from her words like honey from a honey dipper.
“You joke, but this is next-level adulthood. I’m not ready.”
“No one’s ever ready. You figure it out as you go. The way I see it, you hit the jackpot. No periods, or cramps for nine months? I’ll take that.”
“And morning sickness, chronic bloating, swollen feet, and let’s not even talk about labour.”
“You’re spiraling. Don’t do that to yourself,” she says rubbing my calf. “Okay, they’re ready.”
“Oh gosh, I can’t look. You tell me. No, wait. Okay turn them, turn them.” I heave a deep sigh and examine the tests. “Is this a faint line over here?”
“I don’t know. This one doesn’t have one,” Nina hands me one of the sticks.
Two of the tests come out negative, but it looks to me like one of them has a faint line on it. Nina and I can’t agree whether it’s actually a line.
“It could be a false positive,” she says. “Maybe it’s just PMS on overdrive this month.”
“Maybe. It’s too early to know. I have to wait a week to know for sure.”
“How do you feel though?”
“I don’t know… I feel pregnant.”
“I know you think it’s bad timing, but I’ll be thrilled if you’re preggers,” she says getting up with a shiver. She’s been sitting on the numbing floor the whole time. “I like Jonathan for you.”
“Yeah,” she says from the hallway. “He was the only guy who could get you out on a date after cyclone Bill.”
“Not really, si I went out with Kagwe,” I say following her to the kitchen.
“A real date, not whatever y’all two were doing,” she says waving her fingers at me. “When Jonathan left you just went back to drifting.”
“What do you mean ‘drifting’?”
“You know what I mean,” she says taking out two glasses and a carton of juice from the fridge. “You haven’t gone on a serious date in over a year. Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s almost as if you were waiting for him.”
I laugh. “I definitely wasn’t waiting for him. He didn’t even tell me when he left.”
“I think you’ve been secretly bearing a torch for him this entire time. He’s not even back in the country two days and you fall right in his arms ready to have his babies?” she laughs.
“Pssh, Girl! I’ll spare you the details but best believe this was unplanned. What are you talking about anyway? I went out with Harry, didn’t I?”
“Old man Harry with the ex-wife problem?” I laugh aloud imagining Harry flinching at being called old like that, like the next thing after the forties is hearing aids and arthritis. “Tell me you see a pattern here.”
“I know what you’re about to say –”
“That you always go for men who are unavailable in some way?” she side-eyes me.
“Yes, but it’s just my luck.”
“It’s not just your luck Melissa, you choose these men. You choose them because you can keep them at a distance and blame it on the wife or the ex-wife and not have to address your own avoidance. Jonathan is the only man who’s gone out of his way to choose you and pursue you. You’re all about him when it’s fun and games but as soon as you get scared, you’re going to push him away. You’re already doing it, talking about raising this baby alone. Poor Melissa, she’s got the pilot’s baby but she’s gonna raise it alone.”
Of course Nina would say that. She knows how it’ll get on my nerves but she’s right, she’s knows she’s right and she knows that I know that. Well, if anyone is to hold up a mirror to the cracks in my life, it should be my sister.
She hands me a glass of fresh orange juice. “I think he’s the grounding force you need to center you. I think you should stop talking about raising the baby alone and give your relationship a real shot. He’s your type… he’s good to you… doesn’t hurt that he’s a pilot…” she gives me the side-eye again. “What more do you want? What are you so afraid of?”
“You make good points,” I say, walking past my studio towards the living room, Nina behind me.
She refuses to let me hide my eyes from her. I have the answer swimming around in my head but I’m afraid that if I say it aloud, I’ll be exposed for the world to see. Here lies my most daunting fear, my rawest wound – stick a spear through it.
“What are you afraid of?” she echoes as we plump ourselves on the sofa. “It’s not a rhetorical question.”
“That he’ll leave,” I mumble.
“That he’ll leave. He’ll leave me. Men always leave.”
“Not the right kind,” Nina says taking my hand. “Jonathan is not Bill, or Kagwe, or Harry…or Dad. Although to be fair, Dad didn’t leave, he died.”
“Yeah well, he still left us and it still hurt.”
“And you’re putting yourself through that pain over and over by choosing men you know won’t stick around for you. I know they seem safe because you figure you’ll see it coming when they decide to leave, or you can’t really lose something that wasn’t yours to begin with, but it hurts the same, doesn’t it? I know you know it’s true. You keep creating this self-fulfilling prophecy that you need to break out of. Why don’t you do that for the love of you?”
Ah, she’s done it. I had on purpose called Sally to avoid this exact situation. I knew Nina wouldn’t let me fret or feel sorry for myself. It’s just not our way, not the way our mother raised us after dad died. I don’t know when she became all steel and wisdom and took over my big sister role. But she did it and now she’s cleaved me open and tears are pouring out.
“You should’ve been the therapist,” I chuckle amidst sobs.
“I could never be a therapist,” she smiles. “My gifts are for a chosen few.”
Exactly seven minutes after Jonathan’s flight is scheduled to arrive he texts me on WhatsApp.
‘Miss you already, landed safe.’
I feel all warm and fuzzy inside and the rest of the week passes in this warm, fuzzy blur. In the evenings we video call and talk about his classes, his exercises on the simulator, the Amsterdam summer, the Kenyan winter, my photography gigs…He pounds the details of my day out of me but I demonstrate the kind of strenuous self-discipline I imagine is required to raise a child, in resisting telling him that I think I may be pregnant.
On the day before he comes home, two days into my late period, I take another home pregnancy test. Two lines, clear as a runway on a summer day.
I’m going to be a mom!
Taste of Mel continues here: Gray Areas