From the moment the first cramp hits it feels like someone has just shoved a huge hand up her vagina into her uterus and is now ripping out all of her insides with the force of a hundred men. The pain is so debilitating she can’t help but let out an anguished scream in spite of all her efforts to contain it.
He rushes into the room where she is lying down when he hears her scream. On his face is a look of fear mixed with disgust, anger and something else she can’t quite place at first. She would so desperately like to believe that it is love but the look is nothing like the looks she used to see on his face when he pulled her face to his before gently and deeply kissing her or when he’d watch her as she danced in the middle of the room at a party with her girlfriends, swaying her ample hips from side to side to the rhythm of the R’n’B music blurring from the speakers, with all the abandon of a young student with a bright future as a chef ahead of her.
No, this look is nothing like those looks she had so enjoyed over the last eleven months that they had been dating. This look was purposefully distant and too painful to bear.
She is certain it is the look of hatred.
Whether it is hatred for her or for himself or for both of them and what they shared she can’t be sure, but she is certain that it is hatred on his face, right before he replaces that bitter cocktail of emotion with the more perfunctory one of concern.
He quickly walks over to the single bed where she is sleeping and asks her what’s wrong as he kneels beside it in a hushed voice. She opens her mouth to tell him that she is in pain but instead of words another scream comes out and he all but puts his hand over her mouth in a desperate attempt to drown the sound.
“Shhh, Takwana is home already and he will hear you from his room. You can’t keep screaming like that,” he says as he throws quick glances over his shoulder towards the ajar white door with a brown patch of exposed wood with two holes where a handle used to be. She studies the door for a brief moment. She looks at the magic marker graffiti that is a mixture of profanities, declarations of love, veneration of pop culture icons and even a bible verse or two. Each scribble, a kind of fingerprint of the various students that have lived in this flat over the years. She shifts her focus to the huge Notorious B.I.G. poster secured using chewing gum; at which point another wave of excruciating pain washes over her. Her whole body is trembling from the pain shooting through it and she is gripped with terror when suddenly blood starts gushing out of her vagina. The young doctor – can she really call him that; doctor; he was still just a student after all – had warned her that she’d get a “heavy period” and that is why she had put on the heavy maternity sanitary pads he’d recommended she buy before they left his apartment.
She lies there on his bed, crying, bleeding and writhing in pain. She tries desperately to focus her attention on the smell of sleep emanating from his bed linen that probably hadn’t been changed in weeks even though it’s making her feel nauseous because in that moment the nausea is better than the pain.
Anything is better than the pain.
But nothing’s doing.
She battles desperately against the pain as her mind drifts back to the day this whole nightmare began. The day she told him she was pregnant.
She sits with tears in her eyes as she watches Tatenda’s shoulders slump as he buries his face in his hands on the bed next to her. She tells herself that she will not cry as she hears him repeat the words “shit! What am I going to do?” over and over again. She thinks to herself how strange it is that he is saying “I”. After all, he’s not the one who’s pregnant. She is. Why does he seem more worried about himself than about her or better yet, them, as a unit? Last she checked they were in a relationship. They loved each other. Didn’t they? She looks down at the home pregnancy test in her hands and the two red strips that indicate that she is pregnant look back at her as if they were a pair of eyes, two vertical slits, starring accusingly back at her. Her hands shake as she struggles to keep the tears from bursting through the wall she has just had to erect in an attempt to preserve what little dignity she has left that is quickly slipping through her fingers. “I can’t have a baby right now,” she thinks to herself.
She starts and the pregnancy test drops to the threadbare brown wall-to-wall carpet on the floor of her dorm room as he suddenly jumps off the bed, throws his hands in the air briefly before letting them fall to rest atop his head where he starts racking his neatly cropped, brushed down pitch black hair with his fingers. He turns to her and says, “Well these things aren’t always accurate right? Maybe it’s a false positive?” He says that last part more as a question than a statement of fact and his eyes implore her to confirm this. She is surprised at the sudden anger she feels as she looks at this man, because that is what he is after all, a 23-year-old man, looking so afraid and pitiful. “How dare he?” she thinks to herself before she answers his question with “it’s the third test I have taken the last 48hrs. Either they are all false positives or I am really pregnant and we need to start looking at making plans…”
“Making plans?! What are you talking about?” he interrupts her. “I only have one plan and that is to complete my engineering degree and go and join my older brother in the UK, do my masters and get a job there in his field. That is my plan and it does not involve having a baby. My parents will murder me!” he screams.
“What did you just say?” she asks him in a menacingly calm and deliberate voice despite the fact that her whole body is shaking now and her ears are ringing.
He sees the anger in her glaring watery eyes and decides to change tact. He realises that he has to approach this delicately and strategically if he is going to manipulate her into terminating this pregnancy. She is a bright young woman and very strong willed but she does have a weakness and that weakness is him. He begins to pace in the small room that she suddenly realises is overcrowded, what with the single bed she is sitting on, the small desk next to the bed covered in text books, stationary and a reading light in front of the window; a small torn leather office chair; a small bookshelf covered in books only just over a metre high and an antique two door brown wardrobe that stands against the wall facing the window and desk. A pink dressing gown hangs on a hook behind the door along with a small black sling purse with a colourful embroidered and beaded pattern on it as well as a brown leather Prada handbag he’d got her for her birthday courtesy of his sister-in-law in Sussex. Jewellery, cosmetics, combs and toiletries lie rather haphazardly on top of the book shelf along with two scented red and orange candles, an incense stick holder propping up a half burnt stick of incense and a small statue of Buddha which she purchased from a little trinket shop in Eastgate mall called Bijoux. There’s also a silver photo frame with a photograph of the two of them that was taken at Lake Chivero at a braai with friends the previous year, just a couple of months after they’d started dating.
He walks over to the bookshelf and picks up the photograph and studies the happy young faces smiling back him. They are so obviously ecstatic just to be in each other’s arms. “How did they wind up here?” he thinks to himself as he puts down the picture frame and turns to her saying “I am sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I guess I am just freaking out. Sorry.”
“She has a bright future ahead of her. Surely she can’t be seriously thinking about keeping this baby,” he thinks to himself as his mind starts working a hundred kilometres an hour to come up with a strategy to convince her that would be foolish and would most certainly destroy their lives and the love they share. He knows that he doesn’t truly love her. She’s not the woman for him. She’s really just a distraction until he meets someone who is more wife material. Someone a lot less opinionated and ambitious. Someone from a middle class family like his own, not from a working class family from Mabvuku. A woman who knows her place.
A woman like Cynthia, his other girlfriend in England.
Doreen “Ray” Gaura