I hate hospitals. Always have. Everything about it reeks of despair and apathy. They spun that post-apocalyptic miasma. Machines are always beeping. The air smells like antibiotics and disease. And to top it all off, it’s silent. Once in a while is when you’ll hear a soul leaving the premise, life being whisked away like chaff. But in the same hospital, life is being brought forth. Babies that will change the world, which of course, can go either way. People recovering from fatal illnesses. Miracles.
I was seated next to her mom at the hospital lobby, mine at the furthest end. We were waiting. Waiting like every other person seated there. Waiting for news that could, again, go either way. I’ve always heard hospital lobbies record the highest number of prayers annually as per the Heaven Statistics Board (HSB). (Yes, they have a board. Gabriel is the chair.) Every time a nurse would pass by you would see us look up with utter expectation of some (good) news. Only to be told to wait a bit more. After waiting another hour, the doctor himself comes, says he has some news for Simon. That’s me.
But how the hell did we get here?
As she wept on my shoulder, I still hadn’t taken in what went down. One minute I was a happy 19 year old chap building my IT career, the next, I was being informed I was about to be a teenage father. Such news knock you off balance. The terror and hopelessness is palpable. You think about life and how it’ll go from there. And you question God. A lot. You also realize the devil is grinning upon your life when the first (and only) time you’ve had sex, you knocked her up.
All this time, I had not said anything. Her nerve-wrecking sobs were occasionally heckled by questions I couldn’t answer. What will we do now?, Who do we tell?, Si my life is over?!, Why won’t you talk to me? I wasn’t being rude, I just didn’t have the answers yet. When I finally spoke, I told her we should go home and talk the following. I could see the skeptic look in her wet teary eyes. She thought I was pulling some stunt. Like I would probably go home, pack a few bags and head to Mosoriot where I’d be an avid farmer of yams and courgettes. So I had to reassure her a few times that she would actually see me the following day because I loved her, sindio?
I had the most depressing ride back home. Thinking my next move. Weighing the pros and cons. Cons kept weighing down the pros. A friend of mine, Michael, popped in my mind once in a while. I knew him from back in high school. Right after completing school, he was in my predicament. Stressed out than I was ‘cause his dad was a church minister. Somehow, he got things done and never had the baby. The bump never even shown. So once in a while I would open my phonebook, scroll down to ‘M’, stare down at his name, contemplate, debate, before finally looking away and locking my phone. I did it three times before alighting.
I called her at the wee hours of the morning when the devil hovers to ask check on how she was doing. A lackadaisical attempt to perhaps soften the blow when I told her I’d already spoken to Michael when we met later that day. She was still sobbing so I made the call short and hung up.
Later that day, we’re sited at a restaurant sipping (barely) on some smoothies. Like our mood, the weather is dull and cloudy. The threatening clouds are thick and pregnant with rain. You wouldn’t call it a good day.
Bringing up abortion is not easy. Because like an erection, there’s no subtle way to bring it up. And in as much as we were obviously both thinking it, we couldn’t come to accept it. But one of us had to say it. And it was sure as hell not going to be her.
“Do you think we should keep it?” I started.
“What? The baby?” This, by the way, came out unexpectedly indignant.
“I can’t believe you would ask that!”
“We really have no choice here. You want to go to law school. I want to study Comp Science. Naona itabidi tuflush tu.” Ku’flush’ is terminating the pregnancy.
“Shit! So we murder and forget all about it is what you’re saying.”
“We both know I don’t mean it like that.”
“Mimi I know it’s murder, and I’m not doing it.”
“But I already called Michael.”
“You did what?! Kwani you’re the pregnant one here? I thought about it last night and decided I’m not doing it.”
And that was it. I knew her well enough to know she wouldn’t change her mind. Such demeanor is what I fell in love with. The conversation took a whole different path than I had expected. We were soon talking on how to tell our parents. Another dreaded conversation I was not willing to have. So I lied, told her I would tell them after the bump started showing. She said the same, but unlike me, she did it.
I remember how she called saying she and her mom had been kicked out by the father for carrying and supporting the pregnancy (respectively). (Sadly, we men think alike.) She was crying and cursing the old man because they were really close. It got worse. With six months remaining, her mom, being a housewife, couldn’t afford hospital bills. And from what I heard, her dad would rather buy golf clubs and kits than fund “his most embarrassing project.”
I, on the other hand, had not told my folk. I tried but the words couldn’t come out. Come on, you know those moments. You try uttering those words but some mambo jambo about the new neighbors’ cat pooping in your compound comes out. Plus, I knew what would happen. Best case scenario, I’m beaten by the old man and my child is delivered while I’m in the next ward recuperating. Worst case, my mother says she’s disappointed in me. But I had to tell them now. That was the best chance to foot the bills. They were peeved when I told them. Peeved and dismayed. Old man got so pissed he didn’t say shit to me for almost a month. Mother, although disappointed, supported me. Us. And six months later, I’m at the hospital lobby with my mom, hers and my colossal shame beside them.
Doctor says it’s a boy. Not a bouncing one, just a boy. The women shriek in exultance. I’m dumbfounded. Emotions are mashed up in my head.
The baby looks fine. Far from cute but fine. Abby looks exhausted. Joy creeps up inside me. We name him Jesse. As he lay there in my arms for the first time, I swear to him that I’ll tell him this story when he’s mature enough so he doesn’t make the same mistakes I did.
Special thanks to Linda*, a close buddy, for sharing and allowing me to write her story. Don’t worry, chief, tutalea huyo mtoto sote.