Each time I promise myself not to call you by that name, each time I try to call you by your name, my mouth suddenly runs dry, my tongue refuses to move; the taste in my mouth kills me again. Your real name is foreign to us, it always has been. So, allow me to call you baby this one other time, a name that reeks of identity; though it brings tears to your eyes; tears you struggle to fight because ‘you are a man’, and the world is crafted to believe ‘real’ men don’t cry.
Are you real baby?
I see you struggling to prove to them that you’re a man; hiding your brokenness behind your casual charm, hiding behind a colourful unemotional mask.
I see you baby. I do.
Every morning I wake up and look down on you. I hear your alarm go off, watch you curl your toes away from the numbing cold. You bury your head in the pillow, stretch your hands to my side of the bed. No, the side that used to be mine.
I see you longing to curl once again next to me on such mornings, kiss my forehead, poke my nose and whisper ‘good morning’ into my ears.
“Just one minute baby,” was all you ever pleaded for.
I see you drag yourself to the bathroom, turn on the shower then quickly hop onto the toilet seat. I know the water is cold. It always has been. You should turn on the heater baby. You deserve some warm water on a chilly morning.
“The water heater reminds me of her. She was allergic to cold water.”
I remember the pity on Ed’s eyes after you said that. He didn’t insist. He assumed you would soon get over it. But hey, look at you now.
Seven months down the line and all you do is sit on that toilet seat, replaying my giggles in your head; replaying the scenes of the nights you forced me to take cold showers; the nights you washed my hair in that same bathroom and made fun of my shampoo; the mornings we had a mini tug-of-war with the towel just to decide whether or not we would use the water heater.
Seven months down the line, they still think you’re depressed. Look at you baby. Look at us.
I see your head down cast throughout the day. I see you eyeing all the tiny girls that you come across in the malls, trying to find bits of me in them. I watch you go into fits every time they tell you they are not me; they are not related to me; they have never seen me; they have never heard of me.
I watch you ask for the day off. You’re sick. My images are threatening to burst your head.
The kitchen is foreign to you. I see you frying the eggs and letting them burn. These times, I want to laugh out loud till you sulk. At least that’s what we used to do each time you did the cooking. We used to laugh at the ‘mayai choma’, roll over on the kitchen floor, taking turns to pin each other on the cold tiles.
You won all these ‘fights’, because both of us know I spent all the time giggling because I seemingly had nerve endings everywhere.
You can’t do that anymore baby. Even if you wanted to, with whom would you do that with?
Every time that pungent smile chokes you, all you do is slide against the wall, cup your head in your palms and let the emotions sink in. Sometimes I see a tear or two. These times, I want to slide next to you, and for the first time in our relationship, be the stronger one. These times, I want to wipe your tears with the edge of my small palms, place your head on my laps and let your tears create paths on these yellow thighs you so loved.
During these times, I want to hold you close in an embrace, squeeze you and assure you it shall be well.
These times, times of our lives.
I remember the night I died. The panic, the pain, the frozen moments, the stuffed emotions. There were no tears. I understand. You tried being strong for both of us. I remember the bouts of back pains, the cramping on my lower abdomen, movements of the baby bump, you holding my hand, squeezing my palm.
We convinced each other I was going into labour, that it would soon be over. We would forget the pain after we held our baby.
Then the blood accompanied with chunks of flesh. Then the sweat, stained sheets. Then the continuous flow of something I have never known how to label it. Oh my, why did we get ourselves into this?
Then the car; the car you so much adored; the only thing that at times came before me on your priority list. That car died on us the day we needed it most. Not on the night we needed to bask in the city’s flood lights, not the night we decided to eat out because I couldn’t pick anything from the fridge, not the night we drove our friends back to their homes after a rendezvous. No. it chose to break down the day I died.
Then our friends. All their phones went unanswered. What were we expecting? It was two o’clock in the night. We understood their sleep. We let them be.
You held me against you shoulder, pleaded with me to try my best. You begged me to stay with you. There was a scare in your voice. There was sadness.
You were determined to get me to hospital in time. You said we shouldn’t wait for the ambulance; they would meet us half way. Each of my groans made you stride a little bit faster. You were emotionless; at least that’s what I felt. You were fighting so hard within you.
The pain was too much baby. I let out one more scream. I passed out. I didn’t know I already had died. I could hear the sirens in the air; they said it was going to be alright. And you just sat there, your palm on my forehead.
You chose to interpret the coldness of my skin as a result of the night chill. Death was nowhere in your mind. Of course, I couldn’t die. Why me? What is death?
They lied to you. They told you I was still breathing; that they would try to save both myself and the baby. Worst case scenario, just the baby. Your face fell. What would you do with the baby without me? How would you answer to the questions about its mother?
No. not you.
Hours later they came to you with sad faces. They said they were sorry; that they had tried their best but lost both of us; myself and the baby. They said I bled to death; that it was an unusual case of placental abruption; that you should sign somewhere.
But you didn’t wait to listen to the horrible details of what had transpired. How could you? You were too broken to endure. You were already soulless.
You walked all the way home; the rain doing a great job at washing away my blood from your clothes, your tears, pain, agony, anguish, anger. I watched you slide into the driver’s seat of our car, rested your head against the steering wheel and wept.
You wept for me, for our baby who never got to see the joy of daybreak, for the unanswered questions in your head, for the years ahead of you.
You wept for the looming years of solitude, loneliness and life without cause.
Tell you what? I sometimes wish we didn’t bow down to the societal pressure of having kids. We should have stood our ground, proved to them that there was more to life than bringing forth kids.
We should have fought harder.
Look at us now; apart in foreign places, away from each other’s arms. Are we happy? Are they? Tell me baby. Was it worth all the burden?
Then my burial ceremony. They called you names, blamed you for my death, for my pain, for our child’s death. They used you as a bad example; told their sons not to emulate you; their daughters to run away from you. They labelled you a societal misfit; for taking too long to let me carry your child.
They labelled you a rock because you didn’t cry.
“I loved her. I still do. I ever will.”
That was all you said. Then you walked away.
I cried for you. I wanted to walk down that road with you; to tell you I ever will love you. I wanted to be just us.
But I’m eternally doomed in this other world, watching you play Stromae’s Papaoutai in your head. That was our song baby. It still is.
I’m bound here, hoping and wishing that somehow, you find a way of healing your wounded heart.
And I promise to write these letters to you. You won’t read them, but I know you feel them.
Yours in another world,