I finally had to move out of the accommodation I had been in for almost 5 years. The problem was that I had nowhere to go. My landlord probably wanting to charge more on the house concocted some cock-and-bull story about his having sold the house. Gradually, the place became deserted and lonely. He sent away the security guard, neighbours moved out, until there were only a few -3 actually- of us left. When it began to seem a security risk to be home at night, I had to pack my things and store in a friend’s place, and move out to stay in a hotel. I had no money for rent and had only just began a new job. To say I was worried was an understatement. It was what I thought the loneliest time of my life. Little did I know that that was just the beginning.
Staying in that hotel was quite relaxing and weird for me, at the same time. At that time, I had sold my car so I had to call taxis, to get something to eat, to go buy something, to get to work. It was annoying but not burdensome. The hotel was centrally located and taxis were abundant. (I don’t know why I am going on about the non-specifics of this issue when there are more important things to talk about. I guess it is still incredible to me.) Anyway, one day I went to eat in a place I normally would not eat and I ran into an ex. (Now to call him an ex would not be putting it the way it should be. We had this on-and-off relationship for 6, maybe 7, years. It was the way we started it from the beginning and it would continue that way over time. Every time we spoke to, or ran into each other it was like we never separated. Looking back, I would say it was just animal magnetism- pure sex- then it looked like I really liked him and he could not make up his mind or was afraid to commit.) So, prior to this time I had not seen him in a few months and I did not really care, or so I thought. He was with his friends, we had lunch together and then he kissed me full on the lips and left.
(Steve Jobs in a speech he gave at Berkeley(?) university said in life we had to connect the dots or trust that the dots would connect by themselves. I am trying hard to connect those many dots in my very disorganized life at that time, so my speech is a bit disjointed.)
Several significant events occurred in rapid succession during the next 2-3 weeks. R Kelly would come to Nigeria for his first-ever concert and I would get VIP tickets to the command performance. On the day of the concert, in trying to get fuel from a closed filling station, my friend and I would lie that I was pregnant, and that I needed to get to the hospital. A week later, I would actually be pregnant. (But it wasn’t R Kelly’s baby, just so you know. LOL. ) I would find out that my ex boyfriend, who I ran into at the restaurant, had actually been married the week before! I would send him stinker, he would come looking for me in my hotel room to explain how he was not married, we would spend two days together in that room, during which time I would be groaning with severe lower back ache. Finally, I would find out that the hotel costs were too high for me to continue with on a long-term basis and I would move out of my hotel room to squat ‘temporarily’ in a friend’s house.
Everything changed when I discovered I was pregnant. I confirmed using a home pregnancy kit that a colleague bought. By then it was already over 3weeks gone. Even at one week I suspected I was pregnant. Some things you just know in you. Funny enough, I had no fear or trepidation about it. I was quite excited. When I confirmed it through the test, however, then I began to be afraid. Afraid of what the guy would say and think – it would seem to him like I was doing this deliberately to snare him and keep him from that girl he would marry. Afraid of what my friend, in whose house I was living would say. Afraid of what my mum, my parents would feel. (At 32 they could no longer beat me but there would be that disappointment that no child was ready to face.)
I told him, eventually. Tried to get him to see me but he didn’t see why, so I told him on the phone. He went quiet for a while, asked if I did not take the morning after pill I asked him to buy for me, then gathered himself together and said since he was a willing participant in the act he would have to be a part of the solution. For him, there was only one solution : a termination of the pregnancy. For me, that was not an option. Over the course of a few phone calls and text messages he tried to bully me into an abortion. The fact that he did not even think it necessary to see me, to check on how I was, made me stronger in my resolve. More so, when he asked me what I wanted to do about it and I said nothing his ‘but I just got married’ , ‘what are you trying to do to me ‘ shocker did not help matters. When he finally got round to a face-to-face meeting, a few weeks after I had broken the news to him, he had lost the bass in his voice. He tried to give me all the reasons why this was not a good option for him: his wife was also pregnant, another girl had fallen pregnant for him, he had a child outside wedlock, this child would impede my chances with another man down the line, he knew what a child who grew up without his/her father was like. Then he went into the threats, how he would ensure a DNA test was done, what would I do if he walked away, etc. After a while I just walked out on him. It’s ironical that it was the same place we had lunch a few months earlier, with his friends, that I would see him for the last time. We had a few telephone conversations around then with him still trying to convince me, but my answer was final. I would not put myself through another abortion. To be honest, I have had 3 in this lifetime. That is too much for someone my age. The last one nearly claimed my life and that was when I drew the line.
I would eventually tell my mother who would ask all the requisite questions about the man responsible. I would skirt around the issue until one day when I would tell her he was not in the picture, and why. To her credit, she has not bothered about that anymore, till date. Next step would be registration at a maternity clinic. I would meet my dear doctor who does everything to make my life a lot easier. Tests would be scheduled and I would become a full-fledged pregnant woman.
Back at work, things will go from bad to worse. I will discover that I have many more years to spend taking cabs to work, as my office, which has its head office in South Africa, cannot provide documents and payslips to support my – or anyone else’s – employment in Nigeria. In other words we are all glorified casual labourers. In the same vein, they cannot provide a loan for me to rent a house so I am stuck with squatting for as long as the Lord pleases. Bad month, bad month.
My doctor calls me in for more tests to check my HIV status. The result is POSITIVE. I am to continue fully on the hitherto precautionary ARV drugs. Do I feel bad and wish to die? NO! Were it not for my angel inside me I would never have found out except maybe, through some debilitating illness. I accept my fate.
This is the month I would fall terribly sick and lose 10kg, only to find that I had picked up worms, one way or the other. My doctor would frantically search for medication that is safe in pregnancy, to no avail. My mother would suggest pawpaw seeds, I would google it and try it and be cured for good. This is the same month I will try to get a friend employment in my office, she would be fired after 3 days due to the incompetence of the business development manager, I would still try to get her temporary work and she would attempt to take my job, behind my back due to my illness (it did not happen, though). Despite the illness, I would work like a dog and get into my VP’s good books.
I travel outside the country for work. My friend tells me to do a confirmatory test just to be sure. I do not have the courage to. Another positive verdict will crush me. Otherwise, I have fun and wax stronger on the job. My laptop crashes.
I meet my neighbour for the first time, up-close. I attempt t give him a ride back home when his car breaks down late at night. He declines but in gratitude offers me a drink. I joke that all I need is a small bottle of water as payment. He delivers a carton of still water to my place and invites me for a drink, again. I decline but hitch a ride with him at night and find that he would like to be a little more than neighbours. I promptly avoid him from then. He calls me incessantly.
I meet a gentleman in the bank, a guy I will henceforth refer to as ‘Dolf’, short for Dolphin. We get talking coincidentally and I find he is into IT. I tell him I need a new laptop. He knows someone who can hook me up. We exchange digits. I call first; about the laptop. He calls later, about a date. Our first date is going to church together, with him and two friends. After that he insists I stay with him the whole day, he takes me to his house and makes me lunch. He kisses me every opportunity he gets, even when his friends are there. (I have missed that, but I dread what is to come. I know it beggars belief that I am pregnant especially as I am not showing. I IM my friend and flatmate the whole time, just in case I am with a serial killer or something.) When we are finally alone his kisses become more passionate, he attempts to fondle my breasts. I stop him and tell him we should not be doing this, because I am not supposed to do this. He wants to know if I have a curse on my head or if I am married or I have children? No, I say. Then, what is it? I am 4 months pregnant, I tell him. He is visibly shocked. He pulls away from me and wants to know about it. I tell him everything as soberly as I can. I leave out my HIV status. He hugs me and tells me I will be fine, then asks if it’s okay to kiss me now that he knows. We kiss and begin a deep, non-sexual, but complicated relationship. He picks me up and takes me to work sometimes, picks me up from work at others, calls me regularly to find out where I am, treats me lovingly. He likes me because he thinks I am a nice person. I like him because he is a man with a conscience and he cares for me. Inspite of my baggage. Suddenly, my focus, totally on my baby and our future, with no room for men, shifts gradually, to allow me hope and pray for a little more.
Dolf decides he cannot go on with this relationship, the way it is. He is physically attracted to me and doesn’t want to fall into the temptation of sleeping with me. I am pregnant after all. At the same time he begs that I don’t walk away. He cares so much about me. I totally understand, though it hurts. All that is quite a lot for a young man to handle. And he has done quite well. He thinks we should stop kissing, and caressing. He doesn’t say it but I sense visiting his house and/or sleeping over are out of the question. All the same, I thank God for the opportunity to have met such a wonderful person.
I fall seriously ill again on another business trip, this time within the country. Urinary Tract Infection. The hotel doctor pays me a ‘house call’. Another friendship begins. Can’t they see I am pregnant? LOL. My pregnancy begins to ‘show’ a little now.
My office adds one more thing to my lack of benefits: no maternity leave. In other words, if I chose to go on maternity leave, it will be unpaid so I might as well be going on a long vacation, at my own risk. I rewrite my contract terms for my office. I forget to mention maternity leave.
That’s the story so far.