The sound of metal clicking with glass as he stirred his ethanol-infused sugar to make tea, running tap water and the bright lights distracted my sleep. I was barely asleep, but I made a mental note to close my eyes tightly, lest I open them and sleep escapes me as early as 5 AM. He left at about six-thirty.
Andrew always left the lights on. But it’s not just that. He left the iron box plugged into the socket and the purple throw blanket he used to iron his suits on the study table, still spread. The wardrobe would always be a mess. I woke up to switch off the lights so I started sleeping all over again, and it occurred to me; he didn’t kiss my forehead when he left, nor did he ask me to open the gate for him so I could keep the keys.
As I pulled the ashy grey duvet over my body, I turned to see my body lotion sitting pretty on top of the drawer, on my side of the bed. Weird. Andrew, for some weird reason always applied my body lotion on his face. He would always ask me to pass him the Vaseline lotion, and it too, like the iron box and cutlery he used for breakfast would remain on the study table. I tossed and turned in bed, my eyes barely closing.
It was quite unreal that everything was left in perfect condition this morning. Even the throw blanket was properly folded away, and his cutlery washed. It must be the conversation we had last night. Well not a conversation; but a confrontation. I didn’t intend for it to be confrontational, but his tone messed everything up.
“Do you even care for my happiness at all?” I screamed at the top of my voice, but my eyes fell in shame upon the realization that I had raised my voice.
“Woman that’s no way to talk to me! Certainly not in my house.” He said, his right hand hitting on his left as if hammering a nail on a surface.
“I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry,” I offered.
“No! You are saying it just for the sake of saying it,” he added, his eyes blinking.
“What did I tell you?” He continued.
“I don’t understand,” I answered, confusion plastered all over my face.
“I have told you this several times, don’t make me get to the point where I tell you I’m tired,” he paused. “Hilda, I’m tired.”
I caved. Somehow, I had grown to think that this day would never come. I had done everything humanly possible to make our little undocumented marriage work. Especially, after we had Ian and he passed away a few minutes after he was born. He had big eyes, but they were empty eyes. I didn’t feel the joy Mama felt when she held me. At least not until Andrew walked in and broke the news of his passing. I was still in the hospital bed, and he held me clumsily, and uttered “sorry”. They buried him at the cemetery, just the two of them; Andrew and his older brother.
I named him Ian, but no one seemed to care that my dead child had a name. They all called him “it” or “the baby”, even Andrew. One would expect that he would be sentimental about it, but he barely showed it, and I detested that he didn’t mourn our baby, as much as he ought to. Both of our families came to my bedside as soon as they heard the news, they prayed with me, wiped my tears and tried to make light of the situation. Especially his mother. She had been waiting with expectation, to meet her grandson. She broke into a Luo dirge when she walked into my private room at the hospital, hugged me so tightly and said sorry endlessly. She urged us to never stop trying for a child so that the Lord would remember us.
Papa wanted me to come home. He cleared the bill and demanded that I come home with them. After all, my little marriage experiment had failed terribly.
“Hilda, this is a sign from our ancestors, please, let’s go back home.” My father offered that afternoon when everyone unceremoniously disappeared to go buy me something or to ease themselves.
“Papa, Andrew will come to pay dowry. His people are talking about it,” I responded, my heart hopeful that Papa would give up the conversation before any of Andrew’s family walked into the room.
“It’s just not dowry, child. It’s tradition. You are members of the same clan. It has never happened. It will never happen. Jowa! Tragedy and death hover over such marriages. Besides, Andrew, for his religious beliefs, has refused to perform traditional practices to take this chira away from your family. ” Papa said, clapping his hands the way he always does when annoyed.
“Andrew does not believe in those things,” I defended him.
“What kind of man rejects his own culture, when he’s fully aware of the consequences? Does he want you to die first?” Papa asked, looking genuinely concerned.
“Shindwe!” I rebuke. “Aaa Papa! Why would you say such a thing? Do you want me to die?”
Andrew walked in just when Papa was about to respond to me, “With all due respect Baba, allow my wife to rest.”
“This is my child, Andrew, I am concerned for her,” he replied, his eyes fixed on Andrew.
“Baba, understand your concerns, but you all may leave now, we will be okay from here on, ” he said, sounding more polite than rude.
Baba turned his head to me, shaking slowly, “Nyamama,” he pampered, “Is this what you want too?” He questioned.
I nodded my head in hesitation, my eyes shifting from Papa’s comforting eyes to my impatient husband, holding the door. He left, feeling downcast, promising to talk soon. I was unreachable for the next two years because my family’s interest in my marriage troubled us; so I cut ties with them.
My memories were rudely interrupted by the hooting garbage collector vans. Sure enough, Andrew hadn’t taken the trash out. There must be something he forgot. Everything he did that morning was perfect. As I reached out for my robe to take the trash out, I reached for my phone to text Andrew.
You forgot to take out the trash.
His reply staggered into my inbox hours later, while I was taking shelter from the sun in Marikiti, and I felt weak in my knees.
Hilda, please, let’s stop making this harder than it already is. I cheated on you three months after we lost it. Everyone was supportive of you Hilda, but no one cared about how I felt at that moment. They gave you all the support you needed, yet no one, not even my family, gave me that support. I sought it somewhere else, and while I regret it, it opened my eyes to the cracks in our marriage. We have talked about this, please, let’s not make this hard for each other. Your family will be pleased to hear this.
We have talked about this, eight months after Ian died, he confessed to me about his cheating. I was angry, but his reasons brought tears to my eyes. I thought that because he called Ian ‘it’ more than he did his actual name, he would never be hurt by his death. But as we struggled to find balance in our marriage, everything got worse every dawning day, and we were hanging on by a thin thread.
I look up from my phone, and stare blankly at the woman frying fish across the road, screaming orders to her children, or probably, teenage labourers. She reminds me of my older sister, Nse. The many messages she sent me before I blocked her, how she begged me to come back home, that it was useless to marry a man that abandons his traditions. What’s the guarantee he won’t abandon you too?
Two years of no communication, yet, I’m packing my bags amid tears, when Andrew opens the door.
” Hilda, what a surprise?” He asks, putting down his laptop bag.
“I leave tomorrow morning,” I mutter.
He comes around and hugs me from behind and whispers, “It’s for the best,” before he disappears into the washroom. He does not seem to care about my broken heart and all that I sacrificed for him.
He Abandoned His Family Because Of His Child’s Disability
For 5 Years He Kept Promising Her He Would Marry Her Only For Her To Find Out He Had Another Family
Her Mother’s New Marriage Could Expose Their Family To Potential Harm, But She’s Too Desperate To Realize It
My Family Objected To My Engagement Because My Fiancé Was White
My Wife Mocked Me Because I Lost My Job Which Led To A Divorce
My Daughter Keeps Messing Up Her Future Chasing Relationships And I Am Worried About Her
I Got Drunk And Messed Up & It Would Have Consequences That Would Leave Me With Regrets For Years To Come