Whatever evil spirit told me to go to High Court that Friday evening must have been sent by someone who does not see for me well. I could have just stayed at home and chilled with my sister and her family, but something convinced me that I should instead go out with a friend. There is no point mentioning the name of this friend because – like many people I used to know – she is no longer around. Last I heard, she had managed to go to Saudia to work for a rich Arab family.
But anyway, there we were in High Court, the club that happens in Bungoma, when a waiter walked up to me and said someone had sent me a drink. When I asked who it was, he pointed at the someone. He was seated across the room from me. That night, I accepted because it is bad manners not to. It is not like I had come to High Court with a lot of money. Now, I should have just swallowed my saliva instead.
The drink was brought and immediately after, the person who sent it followed. He was tall, with eyes that reflected the small light in the club. He was not a boy, but he was also not a man yet. His face was still trying to decide whether it wanted to grow a beard or stay as smooth as a baby’s bottom. He stood over me and asked if he could sit. I told him I did not own the chairs in High Court, so he took the liberty and started pleading his case.
Our romance did not take long to germinate after that night. When I fell for him, I didn’t even want him to catch me. I just wanted to fall. And soon, I was always at his place with my small clothes on the floor and him on top of me, huffing. But only on my safe days. I knew how to count the week when I could let him inside me, because number one, he did not like using condoms because it reduced sweetness, and number two, I knew that if I relied on him ejecting himself before pouring he wouldn’t, even though he kept beating his Luhya chest about how he could ati control himself.
That was something January and February there.
Then in March that nasty homa came. I remember because we had heard news that people in Nairobi were buying all the tissue paper from the supermarket, but nobody had told us how tissue paper was going to help with Corona. Even those government people had not yet started telling us to stop visiting each other, or going to the market anyhow. I guess that is how I ended up at Bukende Market sometime in March watching people perform a play on a stage. They were the family planning people. Talking about how we should go to Bungoma District Hospital to get injected with something, then we could not get pregnant.
All this time Boyfriend had been bothering me about going to his house more often. I did not want to because we both knew what he wanted. He wasn’t inviting me to go admire his Ampex speakers or small TV that sat on top of a wooden desk. If I went when the time was not right, I would catch pregnancy, but then here were these people saying that there is a way we could have sex and I do not get pregnant. I waited for them to finish so that they could stretch this explanation for me.
I walked up to one of the actors, a man. I did not want to deal with the women because you know how us women have too much khuemema. The man said his name was Robert. He was as brief as men tend to be at everything. Wrote something for me on a piece of paper and told me to take it to Bungoma District.
“How much?” I asked because if it needed money, I would rather just leave it.
“It is free,” Robert said.
“And when I go I just give this paper to the nurse?”
“Yes. Hivo tu.”
The next day I was at Bungoma District with Robert’s note in my hand. I gave it to the nurse and told her, “Those people for Stage Media said I come give you this and you will give me an injection.” And true to Robert’s word, that is all they needed. No money, not a single cent. I did not even spend more than thirty minutes. What he did not mention – he probably forgot – was the size of that needle. I had been injected before, but this needle’s mouth was not the normal size. After the injection, I could feel something on my left arm, like a small stone, but the nurse told me not to play around with it. That in time, I will even forget that it is there.
As I left, they told me to come back after three months. I asked for Robert’s note because me I do not know what that thing they put for me is called. I would need it after those three months.
For what felt like forever, when I was not scrubbing dishes at the hotel where I work, I was in Boyfriend’s room. It helped that schools had been closed now because of that flu in Nairobi, and so he did not have to go back to university. He did not need to pull out, and I did not have to worry about his seed taking root in me. I had been injected. We could now just enjoy anyhow. And for those three months, I would steal time to go see him. He ploughed me like a field of corn, and I rode him like a stolen bicycle.
Problems started after those three months ended and I went back to Bungoma District. Now when I gave them Robert’s note, the nurse said that that injection was over. She said the one for three months had run out, but there was another for three years. I told her, “Listen, madam, me I cannot take that one because I do not know it. Robert wa Stage Media said I get this one,” I said, waving my small note at her. She looked at me with those eyes that tired government officials look at you with and sighed. “Then I cannot help you.”
So si me I left? How was I supposed to take the one for three years when I did not know how that one will react to my body? I liked the three months one because it tied my womb for a short time tu, but now this one for three years…what if it got spoiled and then tied my womb forever? Then I will become a barren woman? An omukumba? Aaaaai, tawe. I said me I was going to wait for the injection that Robert told me to get. If anything, this other one could just continue serving me until then. After all, when I felt my left arm, I could still feel the small stone.
As long as it had not dissolved into my blood, I told myself, I could not get pregnant.
Oh, I forgot to tell you something. This injection can change the routine of your flow. So when my periods stopped coming, I said to myself it was this stone in my arm. When I started vomiting in the morning like a pregnant woman, I wondered why my stomach was refusing to let food stay inside. And when my stomach grew a little big and I started to forget things and I was getting tired all the time, I swore to God that someone in Bukende Market had given me Corona.
But when I finally stopped lying to myself, I peed on a stick and when I looked at it after five minutes, two lines stared back at me with hard eyes.
Other than me, only two people knew. First was Boyfriend. “But si you got that injection?”
“Seems like its strength finished.”
“How? Kwani is it a car battery?” He asked.
Then he remembered his age. That he was too young to get a child. He was only 25 and was still in university. He could not marry me, much less raise a child. I wanted to tell him I was also too young. That I was 22, with no parents. Just my elder sister who raised me after the Bungoma-Eldoret road took my father, and a bout of TB took my mother. But what would be the point? Who would that help? When a man has decided he is too young to become a father, there is nothing you can do.
“You have to remove it,” he ordered. I agreed. And that is how I told the second person. Another friend who knew Bungoma like it was their homestead. She said this was a small problem, that there is an Auntie on those sides of Ranje who helps girls with these things. Just one afternoon and five hundred bob only, and my stomach would be as flat as a tarmac.
We went to see Auntie that Saturday, but she refused and said that her price had climbed to one thousand. I told her I only had five hundred that Boyfriend had given me. “Please Auntie, just help me, I do not have any other place to go,” I begged, and she saw mercy and reduced the price to seven hundred. That friend – I do not want to say her name because I do not want people to spit on her at Bukende – added for me two hundred and then left. She said I would be fine if I just followed Auntie’s instructions.
Auntie told me to remove my clothes until I was very naked. Even my small clothes, she said I remove. Then I lay on the bed. The room was dark, windows closed, and the only light that came in was from the tear of the curtain. Enough for me to see some green sticks she was holding when she walked up to me to say ‘OK, let’s begin when the day is still young. Open up,” before disappearing between my thighs.
If I had known what she was going to do with those sticks, I would not have spread my legs so quickly. One by one she shoved them deep inside me. The pain….oh my God…is a pain I do not think was meant to be endured by a human being. I endured the first one, but when the second stick went in, I began to scream. She was literally stirring my stomach with those green sticks. And she did not even give me Panadol like they do in the hospital to help with the pain.
“Stay still!” she shouted, and I wanted to tell her, “You stay still! Has anyone ever tried to cook your stomach like ugali?” She just kept pushing and pushing and I kept screaming and screaming until my voice tasted like sand.
When she was done, she told me I could leave, and that “if you see blood coming out, know that it is coming out.” I walked home with my legs pointing away from each other.
The blood she had mentioned started coming out that night, around 2am in the morning. I did not want to wake up my sister with too much movement in the house, so I waited until morning when she and her husband had both left for work, then I went to the toilet. Soon as I squatted like this, something fell out. It felt like a long thick rope, but some of it was left hanging, so even me I pulled the rest of it out. I just wanted to help the baby leave quickly so that I could go back to my life.
Lakini when I did that, blood started flowing like River Yala in June. All around me, it was red. I left the toilet to go to the house, but my legs couldn’t move. I had to drag them, and behind me, I left a trail of blood to the house. I do not know where the neighbours found me or how long it took for my sister to get there after she was called. The last thing I remember was looking up to the sky. The sun was dancing in the corner, and the sky was bluer than anything blue I have ever seen.
Everything else after that I did not see, I was told later on by my sister. Even her I cannot tell you her name because I already swelled her head enough with the neighbours. But I will tell you what she said. She said that when she arrived, I had already fainted from losing too much blood and when they rushed me to Bungoma District, the doctor said I should be taken to the theatre immediately otherwise I would be gone. However, while in Ward 4 being prepared to go to the theatre, I died. In fact, by the time she was coming to see me, the nurse had already covered me up with the bedsheet from toe to head.
She said she did not know how to begin crying. She did not know how to accept that I had gone to our father and mother. When the nurse tried to leave she stopped her and asked her to check again because there was no way I was dead. The nurse did not. My heart had stopped beating. But you can understand how many others like my sister she had seen at the hospital over the years.
Thing is, there is nobody else like my sister. While she doesn’t see it, I know that it is her refusal to let me go that brought me back. God sent me back to her. I started moving, she said. She noticed me moving underneath that bedsheet and ran out to the hospital aisle, yelling at the nurses to come back. They took me to the theatre to clean out my womb, and remove Auntie’s green sticks, but then found out something else.
I had been pregnant for four and a half months, not three. And there had been two babies, not one. They were makhwane.
Days later we were leaving the hospital. My thighs were sore from injections they had done while trying to stop the bleeding. But my sister asked me to accept one more injection to the arm. It was the family planning one that I had refused when I had gone back to Bungoma District back in June huko. The one for three years. “You never know. Just in case.” But me I knew I was not going near a man ever again. I agreed because I could not deny her anything after what I had put her through that week.
You will think I am just adding salt to this story, but on that day when we arrived home, do you know what song was playing on Radio Citizen? It is that reggae song that says ….it is a crime, is a crime, abortion is a crime…I remember thinking yaani these radio people were just waiting for me to get to the house like this so that they play this song in my face? The shame swallowed me like a pill.
But it prepared me for what was to come. Because people had seen me bleeding, they must have known what happened. Anyone who used that toilet after me that day knew what I had done, and now there was no other way anybody would see me as something else. When someone mentioned Mammy, everyone would always think about that girl who removed a baby. Nobody would want to be known to know someone like that.
When people started asking questions, the friend who took me to that Auntie in Ranje quickly informed me, “Do not even try to mention me. I was just helping you as a friend, you die your own death.” When Boyfriend heard about what had happened, he disappeared, thinking I would mention him as well. How lowly he thought of me. How was I going to mention him, when I did not even mention the Auntie in Ranje? When my brothers came to demand I take them to her, I knew what they were going to do to her. If they were merciful, they’d put a tyre around her and burn her in the middle of Bukende Market. So I lied and said I forgot the road to her place.
Afterall, si I am the one who took myself there?
Now, use your head. If I could not mention the woman who almost killed me, how could I mention the man I loved? I wouldn’t even dream of it, because I loved him with one heart. Even in this story, I have not said his name. But then he ran away, and that tore my heart to pieces. I thought he was a straightforward man, kumbe he is just as straight as a pawpaw tree.
It is just the other day when I remembered something else that Robert had told me when he gave me that note. He had pointed me to where their offices are and said if I needed help I could go there. I needed someone to talk to. Because I had been wondering many things and confusion had wrinkled my head. Sometimes I felt like my stomach was a tomb, and sometimes I wondered what it would have been like if I had let that baby – those babies – live. But then again how was I going to take care of them when someone else was already taking care of me? Sometimes I wanted to apologize but who was I to ask for forgiveness? To my makhwane? Or to myself? Would I ever be able to forgive myself? These thoughts had whisked my brain up like an egg until it was beginning to feel soft inside.
I walked into Stage Media offices one afternoon, and at the reception, I found a room full of posters of cartoon doctors and girls. It is here that I met a girl who said her name was Mariam. I told her that Robert had sent me here, and she pulled me aside and listened. We spoke for the whole afternoon, under a tree. If she was older than me, it was not by much, but she sounded like she knew what to say. And when we were done, she asked me when I would come back.
“When I get time,” I said.
I still haven’t found time.
[Form Ni Gani is running an online writing contest. To win, submit a story of 1000 words max to Kurepresent@formnigani.com. The winner walks off with KES. 10,000, first runners up KES. 7,000 and second runners up KES. 5,000. Deadline is 23rd December 2020. I will be one of the judges. Looking forward to reading your submissions. For more details, visit the Form Ni Gani website]