You are 20 weeks old today. I told the doctor to stop with this ‘weeks’ nonsense and tell me how old you really are. He laughed and said twelve weeks. I smiled. Not because I am happy with his insistence that he will say what he says even when he knows our ears count months and not days. But because maybe this time, he will convince you to stay. Me? I refuse to Nnwa. If you come, come. If you will insist on leaving, Can I stop you? Thrice I have tried. No more.
I should be calling people like your father. See him beaming the room into a shine. I find it irritating. This celebration of uncertainties. You would think he has not lost children the way he is calling everyone and sending your picture everywhere; even when I have told him he is feeding evil eyes like a blind man. But he will not stop. You were never this old before. You have given him something I thought he could never build again. I want to say it is hope but it seems like it is so much more. You are giving him back pieces of his heart. So I let him dance. At least that way when the beat changes, he will already be standing, and there will be no need to stop.
They flood in like clockwork. Every drive for the next check-up is a drive through memory lane. Even the people in my head sit quietly because when it rains, it floods. I have willed myself to forget the parts where you exist. Even if in the slightest. Those ones I could not bear to re- live. But the voices will not go away.
Your father’s sister: But will you cry until you die and kill my brother for me? It is just blood, you will get another.
Let him drown in my tears if he can…it is just blood…just blood…
Mama Nena from two doors down: Life must move on…it has happened eh, but we must move on
We? Shut up. Do we share a womb? Did we lose my child that I carried? Shut up!
Mama: It is all God’s will…all that happens is on God’s will. Take heart, my daughter.
Eih! I wish you had not spoken because now I do not know what to feel when I look at you. For long time I will think of my mother and think of these words. It is God’s will that my child dies three times before I can see them, eh? It is God’s will? It is only because you are my mother that…
And then there was Kwaso. Bouncing her baby number something or other on her hip. I saw what she was doing; staring at your father with eyes promising she could get pregnant for him if he just passed by her side. ‘Tried and tested!’ I heard her whisper not so quietly once. She has been chasing him around for months. She seems to forget that I am childless, not blind. Instant nine-month pregnancy, just add hot water. I almost smile at the thought. It would be funny if it were not so sad. She can keep children but no man. I am the other. This life. I want to ask her why she came because is she not the one that said your father should stop wasting his time with a ‘woman that cannot prove her worth’. Is she not the one carrying wine to a drunkard’s house? I look at her and smile. Because that is what you do when guests come to your house. And I have no energy to swat off flies.
…Maybe he should marry again…just not Kwaso…isn’t loving someone letting them go? Ah! Too many thoughts.
Father: Let her be. She will mourn until she is ready.
Say it louder. I want to beg you to say it louder. I cry more because for once, someone sees that this is my own…can’t they listen to you and let me be?
Drink this, it is good for you. No, eat that…are you supposed to be drinking that this early?
…go away…please…I will mourn how I will mourn. Can I not even do that in peace?
She really should let someone carry her load ah ah! Why does she keep trying when the signs are clear?
Sister Florence: …but is she the first woman to lose a child? I am just saying she has mourned enough…
Mourned enough…mourned enough…
They go on and on; rolling into one another until my head aches and I sleep dreaming of how good it felt to slap Sister Florences’ face. I remember because she is now here. They are all here. Because it is God’s time, they say, they have come to greet you. I told your father not to call them but here they are with gifts I will burn when they leave. I do not want their words soaking through the sweaters they have knit and choking you; stirring you to leave again.
I know you can see my thoughts. I don’t know if I care. Not anymore. Thrice you have ripped my heart apart. It has become our dance, yours and mine and it seems I will only be happy when I die. For even if you stay, every waking moment will be spent keeping you; ensuring you do not leave.
You will consume me Nnwa. You have destroyed me. You are the fire that burns me and the fire that makes my tea. To kill the fire would save me from burns but yet kill me with hunger. If you stay, stay. I know it is not for me – that much we have established. Is there an altar I did not sacrifice, gods I did not pray to? Stay, at least for your father. If only so I can wake up to see the way you fill him with light each day.
You are twenty weeks old today. If you listen to your mother, listen. Stay, if only for your father. But this time, I will not beg you. If you will stay, stay.