Today, your wife would kiss you at the doorway, a firm press of her lips against yours, lingering and unsure, and then her tongue sliding into your mouth, not the usual breezy kisses hurriedly planted on your cheek often. She would lead you into the sitting room and tell you she had made something special for you herself. Would you like the Onugbu soup or Oha or Jollof rice? When you say, still unsure what exactly she was up to, that you didn’t want to have anything, she would pause to stare at you briefly, and then she would ask in a small, defeated voice, ‘Would you like to have a bath straightaway then?’
She would watch you closely while you undressed to use the bathroom. There was something about her stare that unnerved you. When she asked you if it was okay to join you in the bathroom, you would say, a bit too quickly, avoiding her curious stare, that today had been particularly uneventful and you’d rather be alone in the bathroom. She would touch your arm gently and kiss your cheek. Take it easy baby, she would say as you shut the door tentatively against her.
These days, you avoided her. Ever since the doctor, a pleasant gentleman who seemed too young and too handsome to be a doctor, had held out an envelope to you and had told you in measured, solemn tones that this was not the end of the world, that you could still live a healthy life and enjoy a lovely marriage, you had begun to spend less and less time with your wife, conjuring imaginary business trips so you could lodge yourself in a hotel in GRA and drink yourself to stupor, bringing up tales of being too tired or sick or not really in the mood when she reached out for your flaccid penis beneath the sheets. And she was sweet, this wife of yours. She would caress your cheek and call you her poor baby. You work too hard sweetheart, she would say before she rolled over to ponder over one more night of disappointment, of implausible excuses that a child would doubt seriously. She was too much of a believer, this woman. Her optimism had always unnerved, even irritated you. But now, with your status hanging over you like a scepter, you were grateful for this optimism that surrounded her, this lack of questioning on her part.
You would sit on the bed and watch her comb her hair in front of her dresser, swinging this way and that to get rid of the water in her hair. You would look at her legs, the smooth fairness that you ached to run your tongue over. But then, how could you possibly explain to your wife why you needed to use a condom in having sex when she was on pills and you had never needed an additional contraceptive in the past?
Babe, you would say, finally, barely louder than a murmur. But she would hear you and she would turn and walk up to you, smiling in that seductive way of hers that made your heart skip, already slipping the white towel off her body.
Babe, wait. You would say, fighting the urge to break down. So ignorant was she, so blithely unaware.
Is something wrong, sweetheart? She would say, standing directly in front of you now, cupping your chin in her palms.
No.., you would begin. I mean.. yes. I went to see the doctor yesterday, you would say slowly, staring at the tiled floor below you because you could not bear to hold her gaze, the bewildered confusion in her hazel eyes. ‘There’s something I have to tell you.
I know she would say and for moments, the air in the room would float above you, too far from your reach. You would sit there, numb and unmoving while she slipped a pack of condom out from the drawer and dangle it before you. I got them yesterday, she would say, finally slipping the towel off her body.
Later, after you came into the condom, you would prop yourself up on one elbow to watch her calm face, and you would ask her how she knew.
I saw the results of the test in your shirt pocket. She would say. Let’s not talk about it now, sweetheart. It’s better to have this discussion in the morning. Let the day break.
Your relief would creep up slowly, gradually taking up the space of unbelief. You would look at her eyes and see your weakness in them. You would think of those times you came home late to find her asleep on the sofa in the sitting room while waiting for you. You would think of her persistent silence, her clam looks when you rambled about late meetings and traffic. You would think of how undeserving you were of her goodness. You would think of the future, try to imagine what it would feel like now that she knew your status.
You would reach out to her as though to hug and kiss her at the same time, but you would bring her palms to your face instead and you would weep your gratitude into them.