There is this couple I go to church with. A warm and decent couple. Newly married. The guy serves in church. The chick is from Uganda. Her matoke is to die for. Take my word for it.

On the 3rd day of this New Year, early morning, when the city was struggling to shake off the holiday hangie and trot back to work, this couple was losing their baby. A still birth. The chick had been five months pregnant. Bubbling with excitement and anticipation and energy. But it all came to naught. Painfully.

So, yes, this is how this couple started off the New Year. Soaking in a brackish liquid of melancholy. Holding their chins, choking back tears, wondering why them, grappling with ‘what ifs’ and playing out scenarios, their voices shaky.

The guy called me that grey morning at around six, asking me if I knew someone with a car in the hood {they had recently moved to my neck of the woods}. He didn’t sound alarmed. So I erroneously presumed that it was one of those routine prenatal checkup manenos. I lazily combed through my mind, trying to pick out a car owning guy in the hood. Zilch. Then I remembered one, {though I wasn’t sure he would oblige} but he’d driven down to shags for the holidays. So we settled on another guy we go to church with. Really decent chap. Though he stays a good ten minute drive away. {assuming there ain’t no traffic}. I was away myself, somewhere in Juja, so I couldn’t have been of much help. I promised to get back to him later that morning. I didn’t remember to do a ‘spiritual’ parting shot like most church folk do, say quote a scripture or something. He hung up. I pulled back my duvet and relished the warmth of my comfort zone. Little did I know the guy was embroiled in an epic emotional battle. A raging mental anguish. His wife was in excruciating pain. Her speech was incoherent. Her eyes burnt with free flowing tears. They were losing their supposed first born. But I snored on, oblivious to this.

I left Juja at around noon. Came back to my apartment and started doing my shit; clearing up the sink of dishes, observing the laborious weekly ritual of laundry, mopping, dusting… I tucked away a mental note to do a good book or a movie later in the afternoon. {I’d just bought this latest Patterson’s whodunit titled ‘Confessions The Paris Mysteries’, and this blockbuster series ‘The Designated Survivor’. So I was sorted for like a week.}

It took me a whole millennium to finish up the errands.

4 pm.

So I had just planted myself in the couch, a bowl of popcorn an arm away, the first episode of The Designated Survivors just about to unfold, when it hit me that I hadn’t called the guy back. I felt like a wilting coriander. I pounced at my phone and buzzed him…

“Hey, did you get the car?”

{Pause}

“Yeah, but it was a little too late. We’d already lost the baby.”

{Silence}

I slid into some sort of trance. I was lost for words. I felt vegetative. I was tongue tied. My lips became dry in an instant.

I tried to say something, but I stuttered. I didn’t know what to say to a man, a supposed first time dad, who’s just lost his daughter to a miscarriage. A good person who such atrocious things shouldn’t be happening to. I don’t know what to say to a guy who is older, and stronger, and wiser than me.

“Where are you at the minute?” I manage to ask. My voice rather shaky and raspy. There was this sizable lump in my throat.

“I’m just in the house.”

“On my way.”

“Ok.”

I hung up.

I was now feeling horrible. Horrible and sick. I wanted to stab myself. I felt like mine was the height of hypocrisy. Why couldn’t I show such urgency in the morning? Why wait until I’m told the kid died for me to bolt out of my comfort zone. Am I any better than those who never show up in hospitals to visit the sick, or contribute to a medical bill, but take the lead in funeral arrangements in terms of buying the most expensive suit/dress and casket? I realized I am worse. Worse because I’m usually quick to lambast them and act all good.

So I sat there dazed for a minute. My head spinning – hard and fast. I was probably the first person he had called that morning. That should mean something. That should mean how much I mean to him. That should mean just how highly he thinks of me. We call our dearest friends when in distress, no? And I had let him down. I had betrayed his faith in me. I’m not half as good as he thinks. I had spectacularly failed when it mattered the most. Not that I could have changed anything, but I had not taken his distress call seriously. I should have been there for him.

I sauntered to his house, some 300 meters away.

It’s a one bedroom apartment. Neat and simple. One of the few apartments with a functional bookshelf. It is quiet. The silence of death. The air is taut with grief. He is staring at a book in the living room. Alone. The chick is in the bedroom. No one has come to visit them yet. They are grieving alone. Clutching on straws. Probably asking God questions. Tough questions. Trying to make sense of the cruelty of this life and the unfairness of it all. Could they be angry at God? The God who promises life in abundance? They probably had done nothing to deserve this; they probably had done everything to deserve better. They had prayed, and served him in church, and tithed, and had come through for those in need, and planted trees, and adopted a stray cat…

Outside, the world is moving on with such aloofness, like nothing happened. Kids are riding bikes, shouting and laughing, adolescents are seducing each other {some of whom will eventually abort at some point – when coitus interrupters will miserably fail them. What a paradox!}, women at the salon are gossiping about who is sleeping with who in the estate. Men are having a tipple at the local, talking football, and politics, and women. The smart ones are talking about money, or the latest property deals in Isinya, or the incessant struggles of fatherhood.

We shake hands. It’s firm. I hold his right arm while at it. I think against an embrace. I don’t want to be dramatic. I mumble a “sorry, man”. He offers an “it’s alright”. That and a faint smile. I avoid his eyes – because I don’t want to make him feel vulnerable.

Silence.

His face betrays nothing. No emotions.

“So what happened?” It is a whisper, almost. I don’t know where to place my hands, so I fold them across my chest. My legs crossed.

He’s incredibly poised. His palms clasped and dipped between his thighs. His voice is steady… but no eye contact yet.

“She started complaining of sharp surges of pain in the wee hours of the morning. I took her to this nearby hospital {motions with his hand. There’s this hospital in the hood ran by catholic sisters. Pretty elaborate facility}.

After examining her, the doctor referred her to another health facility. But before we knew, it she’d broken water already. She was in such pain…”

Pause.

“…my wife was in such pain. I stood there feeling helpless. Trying to act strong. I was afraid I was losing her. She was in such a bad shape. Really bad shape. Then the baby came out. Dead. A complete baby. She was a girl. I felt this sharp, poignant pain cut through me…”

Long pause.

I want to ask him if he touched her, if he felt like holding her, then I think against it. So I just nod, and urge him on.

“…but I’m glad my wife survived. We thank God in everything, because I believe everything happens for a reason. I know he has better plans for us. It is difficult yes, but we can’t question God.”

I turned his last sentence over in my head. I remembered how much I whine when faced with adversity. How much I question God and wonder how unfair he can get. I remembered how resentful I sometimes could get towards God when I lost my car and my job, and life became a tad rough. Yet, here is a guy who’d lost his daughter, and had come to the brink of losing his wife, still keeping his faith intact. Still maintaining his peace. Still convinced that God is cool. He wasn’t wallowing in a pity party. Heck, he even wanted to serve me tea, which I politely declined.

The wife later joined us. Her face didn’t betray a lot of emotions, though I knew she was broken in the inside. She put on a brave face. Read from the same script as the hubby.

I asked her what the doctors had attributed it to, and she said some blamed it on the journey up country and back, some said it was an infection. But it was now water under the bridge. She was focused on recovery and she showed it. I hoped that she would later lock herself in her room and have a good cry. Cry her heart out. Sob without inhibitions or self-awareness. It is therapeutic.

The guy told me that there was a client he was to meet in town later that evening.

So we left shortly. And as I walked him to catch a mat, my right hand inadvertently on his shoulder, I bluntly asked him, “what are you feeling right this minute? What’s on your mind? And he told me he felt a calmness he couldn’t explain. I kept quiet. I shut my big mouth.candle-dark

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