A certain someone I respect greatly gave me an idea for the blog. Writing about women and especially mothers talking about the men they have loved. Specifically telling these stories in the presence of their children. I loved it. So over the past couple of days, I have been badgering a select group of my people to let me talk to their mothers. They said no, but I insisted. If you know me, you know I have a divine ability to pester you into submission. A lovely lady challenged me to go into the future and pull her story as a mother from there. This is what we find….
6 March, 2048.
My 33 year old daughter calls me in the middle of the night. At 11pm, just as I am getting ready to go to bed. It seems that is all I am doing these days…going to bed. Perhaps, it’s life’s way of preparing me for death. Sometimes I miss it, the days when I could work 72 hours straight attending to patients. But my days as a doctor are long gone. She sounds very excited over the phone. Talks about this friend she really likes. She tells me his name is Cj. Who calls their child that? A name without vowels. I wonder who his mother is. As if she could not be bothered to get more letters to give him a proper name. I digress. She wants me to talk to him. Apparently he is a writer and he is writing about mothers and the men they have loved in their lives. I wince. He wants me to tell her this story as he sits, a passive onlooker. As I tell her the story of my life. I have, I think only ever loved her father. Those before him were lost in the enormity of the way he loved me. I hate the story though, always leaves me crying like a teenager. Crying at my age can no longer be categorized as cute. Plus, the tears well up in my wrinkles and make me look like an old woman. Which I am not. Life begins at 57.
My daughter insists on me talking to this writer and telling him my story. She begs, I agree if only to give myself time to find an excuse to bail on it. I fail. I think what she really wants is to hear the story of how we created her. She knows her father was not her biological dad, I told her the truth when she was became an adult. Her father when she was just 10. Barely a human being. She often tells me the only thing that she can remember is him carrying her and singing terribly. His voice was atrocious when he sang but he sang constantly. It was his big middle finger to the universe for giving him that voice. Though the universe gave him other uses for that mouth. And I was particularly adept at enjoying them.
The young writer suggests that we have drinks as we talk. I refuse. I know these young boys, they have no manners and might try to get an old lady drunk. I ask him to come to our church cafeteria on Saturday. Just after the afternoon mass. He comes. He is handsome, not very. But I would not mind being seen by him in public. Though I definitely do not want his babies. He sits and fiddles with his pen anxiously. Eager for us to begin. My daughter sits beside him apprehensive. The writer is the only one excited about this. I ask him to start.
The first question floored me. I was not prepared by the suddenness of it. “Did you love him?” 23 years since he left, and the emotions came flooding in. I loved him, I swear I did. Not with every fiber of my being. This was different, it was a quiet love. The way a gentle stream hides the depth of its water. I do not tell Cj this. I tell him yes, I loved him and I bid him continue. He smiles. He wants to know the story of how we met. The way I remember it. The details are foggy…
How we met
My mind takes me back, some 33 odd years earlier. We met on Facebook. Stop rolling your eyes, that was how we did it back then. We met people online not like you young people nowadays. I was just minding my business uploading pictures to get all the brothers thirsty. Back then this behind did not just wiggle, it created music just by me walking. Now, the years have dulled it somewhat, but if I walk into a retirement home. I bet some of those old geezers will die from High Blood Pressure. I have always had that effect on men.
The gentleman liked all my photos, and not in a cute way. Where you like just 3 of the most recent pictures. No, he went back a full decade and liked my photos as a child. Which were nothing to write home about. You know the pictures of you and your parents posing in a studio. My mother had just slapped me and ordered me to smile. My teeth were showing but you could feel the anger 4 decades later simmering in that image.
I remember the way he got my attention. Sneeky at first. He would comment on some of my posts on Facebook. I ignored him. So he found me on Instagram and sent me a Direct Message. Guess what his opening line was. Cj’s eyes light up eager for it. I make him wait. “What?” he asks impatiently.
He said,”I wonder if you lie to men sometimes?”
Me: “yes, why”
Him: “Because I was wondering if you could lie to me you that you love me,perhaps for the next decade…”
The line was so awesome I felt a bit of wetness in my nether regions. I do not tell this to the young writer, of course. That is how our love started, with a bit of foolishness.
He was working at the time. Nothing glamorous, barely enough to put food on the table. He made up for it in confidence. Your father lacked many things, but confidence and words were not some of those. I fell for him, deeply. And he loved me, I know he did. I never had reason to doubt it. It was everywhere, from the way he talked to me. To the things he did. Did you know, that he used to come to see me in Eldoret every month? Traveling some 700km to see me. Of course, this messed up his finances. He used to say I was worth every moment of his troubles. I was young though, I loved him, but I craved excitement. And when you are young, seeing the man you love once every month is not enough. I craved warmth, attention and the good things in life. Enter your biological father, he was everything your dad was not. Rough, ‘monied’ and the physical manifestation of a bad boy. I liked the excitement he brought into my life. So I gave in to him, and we did it. I got pregnant and he left me. He did not even try to figure out a lie to lie to me with. He just did not want me.
When your dad found out, he said nothing to me for a week. It was the longest time of my life. The next time we spoke, I could hear the disappointment in his voice. But even in the midst of it, he forgave me. Fully, willingly and demanded nothing in exchange. He chose to raise you as his. The question of telling you who was your real father he left to me. It was my secret to keep or to tell. And I kept it. It was my burden, my punishment for my sin against him. He chose to love you. Even when you weren’t his to love.
When you were 10 years, he got sick. In all the time that I knew him. He had never been sick. I felt it though. I had a dreadful feeling I could not quite get rid of. They took him to hospital. I visited him daily. He would sit there, in his hospital bed, making me laugh. Almost as if I was the one in need of healing. The last time I saw him, he told me he loved me. Then he died. Almost 10 years to the day when I first met him. He let me make my lie a truth, I had loved him for a decade.
Cj asks me to recount my last moments with him. It comes vividly to me.
I enter the room silently. He sits up weakly, an unnatural state for him. There is a dark tinge in his eyes. A feeling of doom is in the room with me. Unwilling to leave. I ignore it. He asks me to come onto his bed. I thought he was up to his usual tricks to get me into the sheets. He was not. He asks to lay his head on my lap. His eyes tear up, the pain was becoming unbearable for him. My heart broke. I climbed in and he lays his head on my thighs. My eyes well up, I hide it. No need to get him emotional. He asks if I mind him sleeping there for a bit. I do not. He falls asleep right before me. Beautifully. Watching him sleep gets to me, and somehow I dozed off too. I woke up some minutes later wondering why his head was so heavy suddenly. I shake him up a bit. He does not respond. Instead he smiles, as if he knows as secret I do not. I think that perhaps he is up to his usual games. I call him by his pet name, Njamba. He loved it. I could get him to do anything by using it. “Njamba baby, wake up.” I call him while shaking him, his head drops from my lap. He remains unmoving.
He died in my arms.