Your foot is still stuck between my ribs. Again. I have resorted to lying on that side, hoping the weight will cause you to shift, but I always give up after a few minutes, just as I have today. It is me that will feel the pain, not you. Certainly not your little foot. I cannot sleep. So I have to whisper to you.
Your uncle has not been around the house for a while. I see your father ignoring his calls and for the longest time, I did not know why. They are close. He does not shut people out. That is me. So I asked and I pushed. He only speaks when he is ready. I know this but still…so I stopped. It is just today that I learnt why.
We were at Kwaso’s today. Remember her? She was here the last time you left, madam instant-pregnancy-just-add-water. I still marvel at how fast she is able to catch a child. Maybe in my next life, I will ask her. Perhaps; but not today. Not soon.
We were at Kwaso’s today. She lost her youngest. They say it was pneumonia. She did not know, she said. Maybe if she would have paid more attention, he would still be alive, she said. Kwaso is not my favorite person. Yet at that moment, I looked at her and saw myself. They say only the corpse knows the torment of the grave. What they say is true. I sat by her side, and we held her, you and I. I said nothing because I know not to say. But we heard everything. Everything at least until Sister Florence said it. God needed him more. And your father slapped her out of the house.
People have asked, in whispers, slipped in during prayers as they plead for the fortification of our marriage and once in a while, as a sigh. Something said seemingly to end a conversation. A question even. “I do not know how you do it…how have you made it through?” Not once have I ever answered but because it is you, I will tell.
Your father and I, we have a synchronised dance. I think of a raging storm. Striking hard and precisely at the core. Not numbing but consuming it all that, so much that you can barely breathe. I think of lightning, striking once, twice. Trees crashing. Hard pellets hitting down on swelling rivers bursting banks and sweeping everything in its path. First the massacre. Then the ebb. Then the silence. Breathing again. The storm, having done what it came to do, stops as suddenly as it began. Maybe the following days will be cloudy still. Maybe the sun will dare to find its way through. It usually depends on many things. But that is what it is. Your father’s turn to lead the dance moves fast. And then it is mine. We do not lead at the same time, we cannot. That is how we stay alive. He feels, then he breathes. He does not park thoughts until he feels ready to explore them like I do. He is first to lead the dance, then I will follow. I did not know it was his turn. Which is why we had to head home.
Your father’s brother had said the same thing to him. He can’t remember which time it was, which time you had left. But he remembers feeling stabbed. As though Koja had taken a knife of some sort and dug it into his heart.
Why do people feel the urge to say this? He asks.
The raging storm. I listen.
Him: God needed him more? For what? FOR WHAT?
I listen. Kwaso’s child.
Him: Do not say to me God needed her more. Because God had sent her to me…to us. She was ours. OURS. No one has the right to say that. Not when I have lost my child. NOT EVER!
I listen. It is you.
He hits the wall. Crashes the lamp on his bedside. Reaches out for something on the table then stops.
I listen. Trees crashing, river banks burst.
He says he is sorry. I hold him.
We cry. I am not sure if it is for Kwaso’s pain or for something more familiar – leftover pieces from ours.
The storm has done what it came to do. We will cry, then we will breathe.
I will go by Kwaso’s in a few days. Hopefully, the mourners will have trickled down. We will not attend the burial. I am not allowed. Tradition. He will not go. Pain.
Him: I know they mean well. But if only they never spoke words they did not understand. So many ripples come from just one drop. It is not some part of a grand plan to lose a child. It is not. Do not say to me, “God needed her more…” Not unless you are God. Because I will want to know why you’d have thought we needed her less.
We pick up the pieces of what was the lamp on his side of the bed. He hardly used it anyway. We clean up. He holds you, makes you promise you will add another day. He sleeps.
I lie awake.
Kwaso, tonight, my tears are for you, for your loss. As for Sister Florence, she should now know better to keep away from my husband and me by now. We do not mean to scatter the words off her tongue, but then she opens her mouth and someone has to stop her nonsense. Maybe this time we will apologise. I do not have the energy to think of that now.
We do not wish for death. Still, it comes. Burying one’s child is taboo. I cannot speak for myself, it is clear even the gods make exceptions. But tonight, I will pray for you. God did not need him more Kwaso, but may he rest with the angels.