Mama I’m Sorry

This had to be a dream. She surely was dreaming because there was no way, in this life or the other, Masai would call her a ‘bitch’ without flinching and slam the door in her face. The loud bang painfully echoed in her head; she squeezed both sides of her head to try and subdue it. She heard giggles. The overly excited voice of the woman Masai was with annoyed her. She lifted her right hand—curled into a fist—ready to bang on the door and lash out at both of them, but James was quick to grab her hand mid-air. She struggled to free herself from his grip but he was too strong for her. When she had calmed down, he loosened his grip and asked what happened and she nearly broke down when she tried to speak.

“You know what? Don’t worry, I will find out myself.”

He gently pulled her back and repeatedly knocked on the door until Masai opened. Masai had a disgusted look at first, but it drastically changed to that of concern when he saw James. It was obvious he hadn’t expected to see anyone else other than Amara. He stared James in the face and James stared right back. When it was obvious neither of them was going to back down from the staring contest, Masai stepped out and shut the door behind him.

Mama I’m Sorry

She remained rooted to the spot. Though she had prayed that Masai is found soon, she was not sure how to react now that her prayer appeared to have been answered. In this unsettling moment, the smile on her face would change into a frown and curve into a smile again, all the while telling herself that Masai was okay. Or was he? She hadn’t asked James where his friend saw Masai and the state he was in but her gut told her he was okay. Ordinary, him being okay would be a good thing, but not if it meant his leaving was intended. That he had decided he wanted nothing to do with her or their baby, and so he was distancing himself from them both. James called again and she hesitated before answering. She hesitated because she was not sure which questions to ask and what answers James would give. A part of her was still holding on to the belief that Masai’s leaving wasn’t deliberate and that something, one which she wouldn’t stomach, might have happened to him. But she was the one who had silently accused James and the two officers of doing nothing to find Masai, so the least she could do was answer her phone.

Mama I’m Sorry

There, in the silence of her room, she stood trembling. She could hear the sound of faint music and the occasional burst of laughter from her neighbor’s house, and she wished she had socialized with her neighbor because she would have then gone and asked if she had seen anything strange. Taking two steps back, she plopped into the bed as if her knees could no longer support her. Where was Masai? How could he do this to her? She was already imagining the worst, that he had deserted her, just like her father did. She buried her head in her hands and tried not to sob but her emotions got the better of her and soon her eyes were drowning in the small pond of tears forming in her hands. When she looked up, she caught a glimpse of herself in the dressing mirror and the terror in her bloodshot eyes frightened her. Or maybe he hadn’t run away. Maybe something bad had happened to him and he needed her help. She sprung to her feet and in a lightening speed, scrolled through her phone to find Achika’s number.

She paced the room, willing Achika to answer her phone, but she didn’t. She had probably left her phone in the car and her tongue was sweet talking whomever she was with. She thought of whom else to call to no avail because she couldn’t think of a single soul, other than Achika, that would answer to her call of despair at such an ungodly hour. Hassan would, but she couldn’t bring herself to dial his number. She was beginning to lose hope when she remembered James, the tall suited guy she met at Joanne’s charity event. It got even better because he had told her he was a security consultant, making him the perfect guy to call in this situation. As his phone rang, she prayed that he would answer, and he did. His deep voice coming through the phone was like a voice of God.

Mama I’m Sorry

He had told her so many times that she made him a happy man, but it wasn’t until now that she saw what he really meant. The smile on his face, wide and sunny, was like the gentle hands of a masseur, caressing and filling her body with Goosebumps. It was a smile of a man who had finally hit his target in life and now was ready to go to sleep and drift off to after life because there was no other thing in the world left for him to achieve. Of a man who no doubt was contented with what he had, and what he had was her. It filled her with joy to know she was capable of putting such a smile on his face. She held his gaze, her heart beating with anticipation, yearning to hear the first words out of his mouth after this enormous revelation—though he had already said what she needed to hear with his facial expression.

“If this is a joke, I will—”

“I am pregnant.”

“You are pregnant.” He said as if by repeating her words, they would turn out to be true.

“I am.”

“Which means we are going to be parents.”

“Normally, that’s how it works.”

“Oh My God!”

Mama I’m Sorry

She almost sprinted out of the bathroom when cold water touched her skin. Her Instant Shower Heater was faulty, again, and she blamed Maasai for it. He was the one who insisted on being an electrical engineer the last time it failed and she was the one who loudly challenged his skills. Holding her breath, she froze under the shower and waited till her body got used to the coldness before continuing with her bath. Later, she put on a short black dress she had neglected for a while and noticed, with alarm, that it held her too tightly she couldn’t breathe. Her breasts and hips threatened to burst out of it and as she glared at the mirror, she feared she had become fat or that she was pregnant. But she ruled out the likelihood of being pregnant because the last time she had sex was three weeks ago and that, she convinced herself, was not enough time for her body to experience changes if at all she was pregnant.

Or was it?

She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at her reflection with narrowed eyes, silently telling herself that there was no way she was pregnant. Achika called to say she was on her way and so she postponed questioning her fertility and ransacked her wardrobe for something to wear, carefully avoiding clothes that had the potential to hold her tightly. But she had no baggy clothes so she settled for a pair of blue jeans and a hand-woven brown sweater. She ran her hand through her braids and held them at the back with a black hair band. She was at the salon the previous day and she had told Nyathiwa that next time she would be dreading her hair.

Mama I’m Sorry

She kicked off her shoes, picked them up and threw them in the corner already playing host to other pairs and, with a pensive sigh, let her weight drop on the couch. Her house looked abandoned. The furniture begged to be dusted. The pile of shoes in that corner needed to be put back on the shoe rack. Utensils, which no longer found their way back into the sink, yearned to be cleaned. Her living room pleaded with the curtains to be drawn so they can have a test of fresh air but, she told herself, postponing the chores for a day wouldn’t kill her. That’s what she had been telling herself ever since Maasai left to take care of business in the village. It was the first time she was alone after her father’s death and she was finding it difficult to continue being the ‘strong woman’ everyone thought she was. Two days after Maasai left, she had gone in his wardrobe to look for something of his to wear, for she was missing him already, when she saw the watch Maasai bought her father, one which he never had the chance to present to him. The watch triggered her father’s memories and she had put it on and lied on the bed facing the ceiling, fighting her tears.

Mama I’m Sorry

She fell asleep for the first time in five days, and the universe conspired to make sure she was well rested by filling her sleep with nice dreams, alienating her from her tragedy. The next morning she woke up to loud murmurs from somewhere in the house, now a normal occurrence. In her village, when death visited your compound, with it came distant relatives, neighbours and strangers who talked like they were in a talking competition, only stopping to look at you with pity and mumble ‘sorry for your loss’ when they saw you. She glanced at the window and the morning sunlight shimmered from behind the bright coloured curtain, begging to be let in. She closed her eyes again, filtered out the murmurs and reminisced about her father, now lying dead in a morgue. How could he die just like that? And why did it have to be on the same day she had hoped to make peace with him? She found it difficult to believe that her mighty father, who walked with a walking stick because his ego was too heavy for him to carry alone, could simply fall in the bathroom, hit his head on the floor and die.

She knew she was being unreasonable but she had not expected that her father’s exit from this world would happen so unceremoniously. She had refused to accept that her father would go out like that until she saw him at the morgue. They had gone there the same evening and though the attendants and security guards turned them away, asking them to come the following day, they stood their ground and Maasai finally managed to persuade one of the attendants, a thin guy with yellow teeth, to let them view the body. The attendant had looked at his two other colleagues with asking eyes and they had shrugged before letting them in. But once inside, Amara refused to open her eyes. Once she saw that it was truly her father lying there, there was no going back. Her belief that this was a mistake would be wiped out. She covered her eyes with her hands till Masai placed his hand over her shoulder and said, “If you are not ready, we can always come back tomorrow.”

Mama I’m Sorry

“I was wrong about you and Masai,” her father said, “No doubt he makes you happy and I am sure he will be a good husband.” Amara could not believe this was her proud father admitting he was wrong. Arms folded, she looked at him with teary eyes. They were standing near the gate, the morning sunlight shining on their faces. She had made peace with the fact that her father was always going to treat Masai with indifference and it was a relief to know he had had a change of heart. She unfolded her arms and embraced her father who wrapped his left arm around her waist and patted her back with his right hand. Amara closed her eyes, lay her head on his shoulder and beamed when her father broke into a song. It was strange to hear him sing because she could not remember ever seeing him hum, leave alone sing. In his arms, she felt like a little girl again. Like his favourite daughter again.

She flashed her eyes open when she heard the sound of water patting the floor. She recognized the elegant curtains running down the bedroom window and the familiar voice of Masai singing in the bathroom. She rubbed her eyes, looked around with fresh keenness and threw her head back on the pillow in exasperation. It was just a dream. But a smile returned to her face when she remembered that though it was only a dream, it was a good one. Since moving to the city, she had never talked to her father and only mentioned him in passing in her conversations with Masai or Achika. She was yet to get over the fact that he slapped and drove her out of his house. Even worse, that he had never bothered to call and apologise. “He is your father, you are the one who is required to take the first step to reconciliation,” Masai had told her not once, but she would have none of it. Now she thought different. She had a yearning to make peace with her father, and the dream couldn’t have come at an appropriate time because she and Masai were travelling to the village.

Mama I’m Sorry

Nyathiwa, her hairdresser, had brown hair under her armpits. But as hideous as it was, Amara did not mind because she was in awe of her skills. She loved how her fingers moved with precision, leaving a trail of beautiful lean braids. Occasionally, she would stop braiding to hold her waist and dramatise her exaggerated gossips, providing a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stuffy salon reeking of human hair, body sweats and hair chemicals. Amara had stared at the two fans standing on the opposite corners of the salon to see if they were on; they were but made no difference. The slim lady seated next to her, holding a copy of Eve Woman Magazine, laughed at something the hairdresser waxing her dreadlocks said. It was a high pitched laughter that pierced through the air and left a ringing sound in Amara’s ears.

She hated that laugh.

“I wonder why these people running the Maendeleo Ya Wanaume group have not come to my neighbour’s rescue. That man is suffering!” Nyathiwa was saying. Her English was flawless, Amara was sure if she asked her, she would say she had a bachelors degree and was only hairdressing for lack of ‘decent’ jobs. “You should see the way his wife insults him. I hear he does all the house chores while she catches up with her friends online.”

Mama I’m Sorry

Masai was smiling. He leant against the wall and asked, “Is now a bad time?” in a lifeless tone. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She had not expected a smiling Masai, was she dreaming? Searching his eyes, she hoped to catch a glimpse of hurt in them but his eyes were blank. She cast her eyes down at first, and then looked him in the face and said with a chuckle, “Don’t be silly, sweetheart, it’s never a bad time.” She had hoped to diffuse the tension that was building up faster than a buttered bullet and when the attempt failed, she stepped forward to hug him but he did not wrap his arms around her like he always did. She could as well have been hugging a tree.