When she starts coming home late, her breath reeking of alcohol, he says nothing. He has said all he can say, done all he can do, begged until his voice has gone sour and now he crosses his legs on the couch and watches as his wife of six years staggers to the bedroom singing drunkenly.
When they got married, the “baby let’s make a baby” conversation never happened. Does it ever, or do you just say your “I do’s” knowing that the sheets are going to be in so much trouble later as the two of you work together to put a member of the next generation into that womb?
They walk with a sprint in their steps on their way to work and their best friends ask them, “Why are you so happy?” They dance around singing, “We are making babies! We are making babies!”
Year one. No conception.
Year two. No conception.
A cloud of gloom begins swooping down on the marriage as relatives subtly ask, “Enhe, you have bought another set of plates, huh? Wait till the little ones come along and start breaking them. That’s when you realise the importance of plastic.”
A little later, subtlety flies away as they ask, “When am I going to be a grandmother?”
The couple makes the trip to the clinic. They sit in front of the doctor who has a file in hand and who will be telling them what the test results are. They hold hands nervously and flash (not so) encouraging half smiles at each other. Inside, they feel cold.
The doctor informs him that everything is fine with him. He almost breathes a sigh of relief but holds it in just in time because if it isn’t him, it is her. The doctor confirms. She cannot get pregnant at the moment due to uterine scarring…
She breaks down right there. She was holding it in and the moment the doctor says, “…the reason why you are not getting pregnant is because…” she gives a dry heave, says “Oh God” and starts crying. She doesn’t listen to the part where the doctor says that it is treatable and there is a chance that she can get pregnant in future.
Home isn’t home for either of them anymore. If he comes home a half hour later than he used to, she throws tantrums. “You didn’t want to come home to a barren wife, right?”
She is convinced he is on his way out the door. He tells her time and again, “I won’t leave. We will figure this out. Together.” But nothing can convince her that he can and will stay with a woman who cannot get pregnant.
He makes the appointments for her to see the doctor but she is adamant. Saying that if he is in such a hurry to leave, he should just leave.
At first there are passionate fights. Plates, cups, pots and hearts get broken. Then those fights are replaced by a grave-like silence as they swoop past each other in the house like ghosts and sleep on their respective cold sides of the matrimonial bed.
She starts coming home smelling like a brewery. Her job suddenly demands more time of her. He waits. Maybe one day, she will come around.
One day he comes home earlier than usual and finds her packing. There are suitcases at the door and a car waiting outside. He doesn’t ask any questions. He takes off his jacket and places it on the armchair. He collapses on the couch, takes a deep breath and watches as she wheels suitcases out the door.
“How long ago was this?” I ask as I drive him from Ongata Rongai to Kiambu, my longest trip this month.
“Eight months ago.”
“And now you are going to her home to try and convince her to come home with you?” I ask, or rather state, just for confirmation.
“Yyyyyep!” It is the kind of “yes” I say when I know that what I am doing sounds very stupid. He is either the stupidest or the bravest man alive today. There is a very thin line between bravery and stupidity. If she comes home with him, it will be bravery. If she doesn’t, it will be stupidity.
“Do you think she will come home with you?”
“I don’t know,” he says calmly. I wouldn’t be so calm if I were him. “But if I don’t try, I will regret it. I know I will.”