The time is 1 am and I’ve barely had an ounce of sleep. I open my eyes occasionally to check the time, hopeful that it will be the last time I do before I finally fall asleep. Closing my eyes is eventful. Memories of her come tumbling, accompanied by a cold breeze and it’s as if feel her presence. I see her walking around the room. The lazy walk she made during the last few months of her pregnancy in the bathroom. I open my eyes to rid myself of her sight. She haunts me.
We lost our first child minutes after it was born. Two of my older brothers came to the hospital, packed it up and buried it the same day. Both Melissa nor I ever made it to the ceremony. Nothing about it was ever said again, we just felt it but never mentioned it. Doctors were keen to mention that vaginal births would trouble her, so she needed to have children by caesarean section. There was a limit on the number of children we could have safely. A blessing in disguise for my peanut salary, Melissa was a housewife by choice.
We had our son, Saudal after two years. Another child would heal our ailing souls, they said. He had brown eyes and chubby cheeks and he smiled often. He was eating his feet the moment he learnt to crawl, and our families superstitiously said that it meant he needed a sibling. Shanna came with the prettiest eyes, a puppy nose and lithe skin. She was just a joy to watch and mine to adore. Except for the day we took her for ear piercings and her screams cut right through my heart. It’s the day I took a picture of her and had it as my wallpaper. The second pregnancy to get Shanna was a risky pregnancy and we almost lost both mother and child so the doctors recommended that we should not have another child.
Marriage was amazing for the most part. We cooked together and watched our favourite shows and the intimacy got better every day. We struggled with the decision to get on birth control because our church doctrines do not exactly support it. Until the time of her death, we hadn’t considered any option and I partially blame myself for that.
I had been cheating on Melissa with my colleagues at work and she’d gotten wind of it. I managed to convince her that it was the devil and that it would never happen again. She believed me, I guess, but the devil left me and covered my beautiful wife. It was the most shocking experience I had when I caught her cheating. It derailed me.
I accidentally saw her Facebook chats one night when she fell asleep on the couch while we were watching. The kids had been asleep for a while and I woke her up to explain the chats.
“He’s just interested in me. There’s nothing more!” she said.
“But you are always in constant communication. I can’t even get to your first conversation. Have you met in person?” I inquired.
“Not yet. Oops! No! We haven’t met!” she said defensively.
“If we go through these chats, are you certain there would be nothing incriminating?
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Melissa, answer the damn question!”
“I have seen him… once,” she hesitated her index finger in the air.
“Why and for what?”
“Baby I swear it was the devil.”
We all know what the devil does right? Melissa was having an extramarital affair with a monied old man. From the chats, he knew all about me and my shortcomings. She’d told him about our intimate secrets; things I cannot start to think about. The devil was marvellous with doing tours between us because when he got to me, to this day I regret my actions. I beat up Melissa. Terrible right? The worst thing is I took a pair of scissors and ran it through her hair. I wanted to do something that would make her less attractive to this man. The blows, the hair cut and for lack of a better term, the death sentence.
In the weeks that followed, I took over her Facebook account and conversed with all the people in her DMs. She was remorseful and had even sworn to delete her account if it would make things alright, but I needed more than alright. I needed revenge on the man that had slept with my wife and more importantly, for him to know that she was mine. I had him send Melissa money that I squandered on drinks and other stupid stuff. It must have been the money, it’s why she cheated or so I thought. My desperation to make my wife undesirable got worse, so I impregnated her.
Our families and friends were surprised by Melissa’s pregnancy. It was public knowledge that we couldn’t have more children because of Melissa’s birth complications and fear crept in as her tummy grew. We prayed often, asking God for a miracle. But really, we’re just putting God to a test. Her younger sister had approached us with the option to terminate the pregnancy to save Melissa’s life after she confided in her, but we rebuked her in the name of Jesus. When I finally settled on considering an abortion it was too late to go back.
Melissa sat alone in corners and seemed to be zoned out most of the time. I had to call her several times for her to respond. She was presently absent. She hugged the children longer, fell asleep in their bedroom and taught them to be self-sufficient. She wrote them notes and took pictures with them every chance she got. She scared me, how she seemed very present with us but absent in herself. She gave love more, said sorry often and reached out to more family members. She knew something we didn’t know or rather, she was preparing for something.
“Melissa, are you okay?” I asked.
“Why do you ask?”
“You have been quite different lately. A little extra is I must say.”
“What do you mean extra?”
“The way you are doing things is so unlike you…”
“Listen, I’m sorry I hurt you the way I did. I can’t change that, and neither can we change our current situation. Please take care of the children. Let’s focus on safe delivery for the baby.”
“Stop talking like that Melissa.”
“Like what? Like you put in this situation? Should we pretend that we don’t know the most probable outcome?”
“I’m sorry my love.” Tears were welling up in my eyes.
“What’s sorry supposed to do for me now?” she asked tears in her eyes. I saw her pain, her fear how she had ceased to exist among us.
“Switch off the lights.”
I couldn’t sleep that night, so I heard her. She started labouring at around midnight. We drove to the hospital in silence. Tears were running freely down her eyes. She had given up, it was evident. She didn’t respond to any of my questions, and neither did she hold me when I hugged her. She pressed my hand and gave me the saddest look I’d seen in my life. It’s the face that I see when I close my eyes at night.
I heard her screaming. She screamed in pain and she cursed. I heard our son’s cry after the loudest scream and I never heard it again. The nurses said she looked at it and then closed her eyes. Shalom was born a few minutes past 6 am. I left the hospital with two certificates. The blue one is my son’s birth certificate and the pink one is my wife’s death certificate. Shalom will turn three in March. He still doesn’t understand why we light candles on his birthday because he always races against his siblings to blow them off.
I have tried to meet new people, find love and maybe my children can have a new mother but emotions fail me. I miss her. The way she plaited her hair in bantu knots, her stunning nose piercing, the sound of her laughter and how she always joked about my bowed legs. Shalom has them too, but she didn’t live to see that. I’m not hopeful for love, because I’m still paying its price; grief.
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