It is 1 p.m. on a Friday, and the black t-shirt and grey jeans I am in have started to feel uncomfortable. My beloved, one and only black bra; the one that has held me through all my thins, has given up on me, finally, and I so badly want to unhook it and let the children out to play. I can feel my toes suffocating inside my black rubber shoes, as the sun mets its heat upon my mask. I, again, want so badly to remove my mask, but I am not about to risk my frail wrists being cuffed and parting with a cool 2,000 bob. Not in this Nairobi.
I hurry past the guard at the entrance to the Java on Mama Ngina Street, who comes after me and asks, ‘Madam, usaidiwe aje? Hujasanitize.”
I mumble my apologies as I rub my palms together, my eyes wandering about for a place that can accommodate two. Why? Finally, I am meeting Pesh. The Pesh with the widest smile you will ever see on earth. The Pesh whose dreams scare the hell out of me. The Pesh who talks to me as if I am the most valuable person she has ever come across; with patience, with love, with affection, with care.
There is a beautiful empty spot at the corner of the Java’s basement. I breathe a sigh of relief. It is a safe distance from the rest of the tables, which gives me the chance to rant, on and on, without anyone getting wind of it. It allows me to write my heart out in my diary. It gives me the privacy of spilling my food all over my t-shirt without attracting weird glances. It gives me time to reflect on the week’s choices, just as I do every Friday.
Only that this is not my typical Friday. My typical Fridays are spent indoors, my turmeric mask on my face, book in hand, and legs under my body. My Fridays are spent indoors, allowing myself to wallow in my pain. Allowing my body to breathe, and rest from the week’s ups and downs. Allowing my spirit to cleanse itself.
My Fridays are spent indoors, thinking about my purpose in life. Facing my dreams head on. Nursing my fears, begging them to let go.
I begin to walk towards the basement corner before it hits me; Pesh!
I walk out and into another restaurant, and I smile widely when I spot another corner spot that seats a maximum of 3 people. My toes have cooled down, and with my bra finally unhooked, the nervousness of meeting Pesh starts to clog my heart.
What do two people meeting for the first time talk about? What if I am not as jovial as I am on phone? What if she doesn’t like me? What if the words dry out in my throat whenever I try to talk? What if we cannot keep a conversation going? What if it gets awkward? What if she does not laugh at my jokes?
The what ifs become too much that I start thinking what if she doesn’t show up? I smile at the thought of me finishing my ice cream in solitude, and going back home to my peace; alone.
But when Pesh shows up, all the doubt and fear in my heart melts away. She fills the table with her wide and radiant smile, reminding me of the reason we are friends; happiness. When she speaks, her voice is calm and powerful at the same time. It melts my heart and dispenses the awkwardness off the table.
I do not remember the randomness we talked about, but I remember the calm in her eyes when I said, “I do not think I want to have babies ever.”
“What did you just say?” She asks.
“I do not want to have babies.”
A beautiful silence settles upon us as I push away my plate of leftover biryani, rub my palms together, and look straight into her eyes. I await the judgy lecture. I await the ‘that is so mean’ comment. I await all manner of pep talk. My heart is prepared for all that.
When I finally find my tongue, I tell Pesh that although it is something that has been on my mind for quite some years now, I have never said it out loud. Not to anyone, whoever they are. Of course, I have thrown hints here and there, but I have never spoken out the words. I tell her I am still teaching my heart and soul to understand that it is what I want, and it is okay to want what I want.
When she finally speaks, the only thing Pesh asks is, “Why?”
I tell her I do not think my body can bear the changes bound to occur over the nine months of pregnancy. I tell her that my hormones are wild, usually, and I can bet the pregnancy will be a chance for them to show off; the hormones. I tell her that even if my body surprises me and the nine months end smoothly, I do not think I am ready for the labour pains. No, I have never given birth before. I do not know the magnitude of the pain firsthand; I have only heard stories. But I get my periods, religiously, every month, and the cramps I experience are something I would not wish even on my worst enemy.
I tell her that even if my body, again, surprises me and manages the hours of labour pain, I do not think I have the strength, mentally, to raise babies. I do not have the strength to give up my all, just for them. I tell her that one of us will be on the losing end; either I give up my dreams for the sake of my babies, or they lose out on my maternal bond because I won’t be willing to let go of my dreams. Why? Because I do not have the strength to handle both.
When Pesh speaks, again, she asks, “Why are you living then? What is life, to you?”
I tell her it is something I am still learning. I am reading. I am listening to podcasts. I am researching deeper, on the meaning and purpose of life. I am teaching myself to live for myself only, and if I leave this earth behind one day having just lived, then it is well with my soul.
When she asks whether that scares me, I lose track of my words. Because I have not thought as far as that. I have not thought, yet, as far as what this means for the people closest to me. Why? Because this is my life; I am the only one who gets to live it, at my own terms. Is that selfish? Maybe, but I will cross the bridge when I get there.
We do not talk at large about my dreams about marriage. We do not ponder on what marriage looks like, if I am not willing to have babies of my own. We do not discuss what my heart wants when it thinks of marriage. I tell her that I hope when the time comes, the person who walks me down the aisle understands my wants, and doesn’t push me beyond my heart’s desires.
When I finally get back home, Pesh’s words stay with me throughout the night:
Maybe the real reason why you do not want kids is that you have struggled so hard to attain the level of peace you now enjoy. You have been through all the fires to get your stability, mentally, and you are afraid of anything that risks you losing it all. You are afraid of going back to square one. And that is okay. Nothing surpasses the peace of mind. It is okay to not want to have babies. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to live for you, and just you.