We will have a beautiful church wedding. We will celebrate, look at the people as they look at us and think how lucky we are. We will get two chubby babies, and we will name them after our parents. I will want to name them after you and me so that they can continue the story of our life but you are traditionally rooted so you will gently brush that idea off. We will not have ‘Jr’ embedded in their names. You will work in a bank; we will have good money coming in. You will have a managerial position and going up the career ladder because you are hardworking. Me, I will quit work and stay at home to raise our kids.
We will live a comfortable life. We will live in uptown Nairobi and even though we will not live in the leafy suburbs of the rich you and I know it will only be a matter of time before we join the club. We will go to church every Sunday. After church we will pack our two kids in the car and go out; somewhere classy, cool and quiet. We will watch them play, you will join them and beg me to play as well but I will decline. I will lay back in the chair and watch you; my family.
My mind will keep travelling back and forth between two lives. I will be here and I will be there; wishing, thinking, wondering…then it will be dark soon and we will go home.
I will head straight to the kitchen, to make dinner. I will call out for you to help but your mind will already have switched to work mode and you will be on your computer or on your phone; I will be alone in the kitchen with the kids, throwing words here and there but mainly having a good time.
Every so often I will make you lemon pancakes for breakfast, red velvet cake for an after work/school snack, skillet lasagna for dinner. Okay, I will always cook a variety from Mexican, to Italian, to Greek, to Thai. Ours will be the house that your friends will always visit because there will always be something exotic cooking and we will always have room for more. I will be the wife who takes the kitchen as her new job and I will work magic in there. I will be the mother whose kids carry such delectable food for lunch that their classmates envy them. Once in a while I will make them chocolate marshmallow crunch cookies and send them to school with little smiles all over their faces.
Every Christmas we will, as expected, head upcountry; first to yours and then to mine. We will spend a few days talking, catching up with people over endless cups of tea. We will watch our relatives watch us with pride all over them, or maybe not. We might as such walk with a little spring thinking we are lucky, complete; and as we go back home we will look at each other and think, ‘Happiness is after all possible.’
We will spring into the New Year. You into your job, you will be eyeing that promotion so you will be working a little harder. The kids will move to the next class in school. Me, I will go back to the kitchen and I will look towards East; towards making everything from Japanese to Chinese for you.
As the days turn into weeks and into months, the spring will fade. I will still be in the kitchen but this time I will not know what to make. I will have made everything; okay, except Mongolian. I will stop baking for the kids’ classes. I will buy bread from the kiosk across the street and yes, we will eat rice Sunday to Sunday.
You, you will start taking longer to get home from work. Me, I will start retreating into myself. This time I will be doing Russian and Caribbean and no, I am not talking food, but books. I will go back to reading. I will stare more into space. You and the kids will have to call me twice or thrice to get my attention because I will be here but my mind will be elsewhere.
I will hug myself tighter at night. I will stretch my hand to your side of the bed looking for your hand but instead I will catch cold air – emptiness. You will stay up longer on the couch, on TV, on your phone, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp. I will be in bed wondering ‘What’s up?’ I will recoil into myself, close my eyes and travel to my other life. You will move further into yourself, me into myself. We will both be moving; just not towards each other.
As you move further you will bump into Malia. Malia with a quick smile that lingers a bit too long, a deep red skirt that goes a bit higher than the knee, Malia the coworker from Finance with an easy name on the tongue that is also easy to save on your phone so you will take her number.
Soon you will get a small message from her asking if you want to grab coffee after work. You will read everything there is in that message and everything there isn’t in that message. You will hesitate. (Un)fortunately that particular day you will have had a long day at work, and you’ll be very thirsty and hungry. And since you no longer find homemade cakes or cookies after work at home you will quickly send her a short message. ‘Yes.’
A week later your phone will buzz with an incoming message: ‘I know a certain nice place for an early dinner, are you hungry?’ This time you will quickly reply, ‘Yes, I am starving!’ Soon you will be having Seafood Risotto with Seared Scallops for dinner. Only, it will not be made by me and you won’t be sitting on the carpet by the chimney with the kids and I enjoying it, but with Malia from Finance. And no, there will not be any accounts there from work that you two have to balance before the end of the day, just an account of how the fire between you two is spreading by the minute.
During dinner, your phone will buzz: ‘Dinner in the microwave, I am turning in now.’ You will look at the message and for a second you will see my face searching for you…then you will look up and there will be a face across the table smiling at you with that ‘smile’. You will slide the phone into your pocket and ask the waiter for a bottle of wine. You will order white, since red will remind you of another face and you can’t bring yourself to share a red with another no matter how red the light in her eyes lights up when she tilts her head and looks at you.
You will come home the hour before dawn. I will hear you come in; your presence will engulf me before you even get in the house. I will close my eyes, pretending to be asleep. I will watch you with my eyes closed. I will see you come to me, sit beside me and look at me. I will see your face from above move down towards me and I will keep still, very still, waiting. Waiting for you to kiss my dry lips and whisper “I love you,” as usual. Then I will feel your moist lips on my forehead but no words will come from the mouth above me. Just the distinctive smell of wine. I will pinch myself under the covers to prevent the tears from flowing.
Ten minutes later I will watch you sleep. I will trace my fingers on your lips, caress every part of your face with my trembling fingers but you will not feel a thing. I will remember our days of old, I will smile the smiles we smiled then, I will call them to the present, and I will urge them back…
Then I will travel to my other life. I will see myself; a senior project manager with an international firm, living out of a suitcase to attend high level meetings coordinating major projects in Australia, Tokyo, and Hungary. I will wish for that life that could have been. It might not be too late to go get that life.
A soft presence without will bring me back and I will feel soft tiny hands squeezing me into a tight hug from behind. I will slowly turn and hug our eldest closer to me. I will hear her voice; innocent, pure, untainted, whispering “Momma, I love you.”
I will try to stifle tears but I won’t succeed. I will let them flow freely and when she asks me what is wrong I will whisper back, “Momma is crying because she misses lemon pancakes.” She will give me a blank look but immediately hug me to herself, this time tighter. And I will know.
That morning I will make you and the children lemon pancakes for breakfast.