There Is A Broken Heart In My Neighbor’s House
The rains are coming.
I am standing by the window. Looking outside. It is just about to rain (isn’t it always nowadays?) I hear wind. But only for a while. The sound of wind is joined by another sound. Laughter. Now I have wind and laughter. Dark clouds and an empty street is what I see. I see the grass. I see tiny rain drops making contact with the ground. This drizzle is the opening act to the big show. The curtain raiser to the storm ahead.
This takes me back to my childhood. Back to the days when watching the falling rain was one of my favorite hobbies. I would get lost just staring as the raindrops made splashes all over. Doing it now in my adulthood makes me feel like a child again.
The laughter and the wind. The wind and the laughter. They take turns, filling each other’s gaps.
The laughter is coming from my neighbor’s house.
My mind shifts from the looming rain to my neighbor. I had seen the first signs of a pregnancy a few months ago. I had noticed her cheeks first. They had filled out pretty fast. I thought maybe I should invite her to join my early morning jogging regimen in order to nip the impending chubbiness in the bud. Mea Culpa. I was wrong to think that. Mea maxima culpa.
I atoned my thoughts when I saw the bulge. That slight bulge that announces itself to the world and no woman needs to say a thing. I then spotted a few onesies hanging out to dry. For a brief moment I wondered if baby had come already. Then I saw her take her evening walk and confirmed that it was just in preparation. The little one was still taking its time.
She had been full of life, two lives in fact. Inside her, two heartbeats had beat in tandem with each other the day before yesterday. Last week, she had come outside to bask in the sun as she clipped her nails. She was enjoying the sun. I could tell because for a minute there she looked up, and with eyes closed she allowed the sun to kiss her face. The sun did kiss her. The sun loved her.
I was hanging my washing outside and I could not help but watch her for a while. Judging from the bulge, she was around six or seven months pregnant then.
She glowed. Her dress flowed all the way to her ankles to cover her feet. She was beautiful. I gave God a virtual salute: A pregnant woman is indeed a beautiful woman.
But yesterday came and went. Today is different. A new sunrise comes with new tidings.
Take this rain in the middle of the day for example. It doesn’t care. It pours because it owes us no explanations. So what if our roads are pathetic and have no proper drainage? So what if our hair is fresh from the dryer. So what if the clothes we laundered are yet to dry.
She had gone to the hospital yesterday with her husband. She came back with no baby and no pregnancy. Both gone. In a span of one day, both were gone.
She laughs again. I can hear her talking with her husband. These houses we rent! The thin walls in these houses we rent!
It is sequential; she laughs, they talk, she laughs some more. Mostly, she talks. The husband is not saying much. Could the rains be muffling his deep voice?
You will be forgiven for thinking that she is happy. She too wants to believe that she is happy. This is her attempt to show pain the middle finger. With her laughter she tells pain that it has no place in her life. That even if she was pregnant yesterday and she is not today, even if she deserved to hold a baby in her hands to at least have something to show for the six or so months that she was puking inside the toilet bowl, even if it is unfair for the life that was growing inside her to just die, even if the only heartbeat she hears now is the one that she does not care to hear, even if she wishes more than anything to be pregnant again, even if everything she wants at the moment she cannot have…that she is fine. That she is just fine.
With the laughter, she wants us to believe that it was nothing. No big deal. That life can go back on its promise to hand her a living child by giving her a dead one instead, and she can accept it and move on without asking questions because…because she is a sport?
We know otherwise. We know that laughter don’t we? A broken heart lies underneath it. Soon it will demand to be seen. In all its gruesome glory. We will see the blood, the gaping cut, the sore,sore wound. The whole mess of it. It will be seen by us. But mostly it will be seen and felt by her.
That broken heart will demand to be nurtured back to health. It will need some sterilization, cleaning and some dressing. The sooner this is done, the sooner she will go back to living her life.
Her husband is not fooled by her laughter. I see it in the way he absconds work just to be with her. The way he cleans their house. The way he washes her clothes – heck, we did the hanging of clothes together this morning. I have seen how he cooks and tends to her this past day. He is not fooled. He knows that the laughter is simply the first tiny raindrop. The opening act. The curtain raiser. I hope he is armed with a first aid kit, for the storm.
The rain is pouring now. Relentlessly. We wait for it to subside.
There is a broken heart in my neighbor’s house.
This article was first posted on the Storymoja Festival Blog
Illustration by Elsardt Kigen. Elsardt is a talented artist and a senior student of The Arts and Design at The University of Nairobi. He has won several Art Competitions including ‘Experiencing Kenyan Heritage Through Art’ (2013) where he was accorded a visit to the UK. Other competitions won include; Manjano Arts Exhibition – student category (2014); Most Promising Design Student – Inception, UoN, (2013); Best Student Countrywide – KCSE, Art & Design (2010); Giraffe Centre Art Competition (2010); Mbegu Trust Illustration Competition (2010) and Ministry of Water Art competition (2009).