Something has woken me up and I lie there, trying to figure out what it could be. Some rodent, or just the house settling on its foundations in the cool midnight air?
I wish I could see or hear better, but the enormous mosquito net swathing the bed rules that out. I briefly consider raising the netting to fetch my glasses on the bedside cupboard but that would definitely wake him up. These days, my smallest movements make him lunge awake in a blind panic, his car keys in one hand and the “emergency kit” we packed 3 months ago in the other. The last time I woke him that way he was halfway to the garage before he was fully aware. I do not know which scares me more, the prospect of labour, or the fact that when it comes he’ll drive me to the hospital half asleep.
Him. Even in sleep, the feel of my skin calms him. His big hand is draped over the glossy brown moon that my stomach has become. He came to bed after I did, and somehow managed to spoon with me without my knowing. This has become our nightly ritual. As my due date approaches, my body seems to emit more heat, and the net traps all of it. He insisted on the net because he’s afraid I’ll get malaria. I insisted on having the air-conditioning on all night because I cannot abide heat. We both compromised, I guess.
I can hear it by the window. A moth! Between my drowsiness and the warmth of his hands on my body, I decide to let it go for now and just lie here until I go back to sleep.
My thoughts turn to the day before, and the massive argument we had. It seemed so trivial at the time, yet quickly escalated from a small spat to a cyclone off blame, tears and acidic insults. I had been pestering him to book a table for dinner out and he kept forgetting to do it, and my exhausted, pregnant mind interpreted that to mean that he didn’t listen to anything I said. I lashed out at him, and he responded with a biting comment of his own. He has always given as good as he gets; it’s one of the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place. I called him a rude name, he ignored me, which made me angrier and I said a ruder word. Then he got angry and the fun really began. I threw something at him and that’s when the baby kicked. Hard.
Gasping, I sat down, clutching my distended stomach like a hot balloon. He had stormed out of the house a few seconds before, my words propelling him down the hallway and into his car like a verbal torpedo. I bore the kick, the pain that meant that perhaps my son- inside me- and my husband, driving away from me, were of one mind on the subject of eating out. I bore it and I seethed in silence and solitude as the day wound down to evening, and evening to night. Eventually I went to bed alone, after hours of fruitlessly sending text messages that he didn’t reply to. I lay there wondering about all the stupid girlhood illusions I had had about love, about how my life was going to magically be perfect once I found someone to call my own. Love is not flowers, or sonnets or romance. Love is the arguing, the spite, the pain of being taken for granted and ignored.
It was cold and strange that night. I hadn’t been away from him for more than a few hours since we got married, and had come to rely on the sounds and smell of him to fall asleep at night. I made do with hugging his pillow and crying myself to sleep, like an errant child. He didn’t come home the next day and maintained his silence, not picking my calls or responding to my text messages and emails. I was half mad with worry by dusk that evening, when I received this cryptic message “Stop worrying, I will c u soon”. I cleaned up, cooked his favourite dinner and had a hot shower. But he didn’t show up. I cried myself to sleep for the second night in a row, wishing I could see him and ask his forgiveness, and fell asleep, exhausted from the tears I’d shed and my gravid state. My last waking thought was that I would be happy when the baby came, even if it only meant my moods would return to normal.
And that’s how I find myself lying here, listening to a moth and silently thanking Whoever is up there for his hand on my stomach. Because it’s his way of showing that I’m forgiven, albeit silently. But now the heaviness in my lower belly can no longer be withstood. I get up, gently removing his hand as I slowly waddle to the bathroom. As I settle down on the toilet, I hear a vibrating sound and realize that he has once again forgotten his phone on the sink. Smiling to myself, I flush and wash my hands. As I pick up the phone, I unlock it and view the message he just received. My breath catches in my throat.
“Table for two, express seating reserved for Tuesday, August 10th. Kindly inform us 48 hours ahead of time, should you wish to modify or cancel this reservation”.
It is enough to make me start crying all over again. I am overcome with emotion. As I get back into bed, I plant a kiss on his mouth, and he is instantly awake.
“Babes? What’s wrong? Has it started?”He asks groggily, swinging one leg to the floor.
I say nothing because there is nothing to say at this point. I just shake my head and hug him, hard, weeping as I struggle to wrap my arms around him. He seems to understand because he just hugs me back and gently turns me back on my side, my back nestled against his front, his hand back on my stomach where it belongs. In a few minutes, my little family goes back to sleep, Daddy, Mommy, and Baby-to-be, and all is well with the world.
Because, you see, sometimes love is simply a dinner reservation for two.