“Get rid of it. It’s just a fetus.”
That was all Greg’s text said. Rumbi had received it a couple of days back just before Greg had blacklisted her number and cut off all communication with her. Now and then she would grab her phone and re-read the text, and each time the pain felt sharper than ever. There was no “How are you?” nor “I love you”: just a simple instruction that made her stomach churn with both anger and regret. She had known from the start that Greg was not dependable, and she had stuck with him for the money up to a point of recklessness. Now she was carrying his child and she would give anything to turn back the hands of time and stay as far away from him as possible.
Rumbi pulls up the corner of her blanket and covers her head, face down, in her pillow to suppress the tears that spill from her eyes. She cannot get her mind off Taku. Taku had made it very clear that he wanted nothing to do with her or the thing that was growing in her tummy, which was fair enough considering he was not the father. The last time they talked was at the party, when she had told him she was pregnant. In all naivety, she had hoped he would accept her with open arms regardless of everything that had happened since they separated.
“And you are telling me this? Why?” Taku had replied, and she had no answer to that question. She had tried to keep a smile at the party to portray a good picture of her current relationship. Deep down, she hated the gatherings Greg brought her to which always had too many people. She had been used to her intimate meetups with Taku. She missed that.
She had never slept with Taku, and yet she still found it easier to open up to him before informing Greg of her situation. After the night of the party, Taku had moved out of the room he shared with Greg and moved in with a friend. It was probably for the best to avoid any more drama. The tension between the two boys was already insurmountable.
Rumbi rolls over in her bed and the October heat intensifies her distress. She thinks of Taku, but he, too, is no longer talking to her. Amongst these thoughts she worries about how people will react when the pregnancy starts to show. Her mother always boasted of how she makes her proud at church. What will everyone say to her at the women’s fellowship meeting when the news eventually comes out? Her thoughts drift back to Taku. She now realizes that he was indeed a good one, but it is too late. She should have held on to him when she still had the chance. Amid her choked desolation, an idea strikes her mind. If she calls Taku’s best friend, Charles, there is a high chance they will be together. She makes the call without giving it another thought.
“Charles, hi!” She is so relieved when the call is picked up.
“It’s Rumbi,” she says to break the silence that followed
“I know. What do you want?”
“May I please talk to Taku. It’s important.”
There was a long silence before Rumbi hears the voice she was eagerly waiting to hear.
“Please, Charles. I promise I won’t bother you or him again. I just need to talk to him this once.” She can feel the note of desperation in her voice.
Rumbi hears a breath.
“What do you want, Rumbi?” he asks without hiding the annoyance in his voice.
“Taku! Thank God!” She speaks through tears. “I need your help. I need you to help me get rid of the pregnancy.” She said this but was not yet sure of what she wanted. The abortion or to keep the baby. Keeping the baby would mean her dropping out of school and never becoming the lawyer she wanted to be. Pregnancy was against her scholarship rules, meaning she would have to work to pay her school fees as her father was no longer working. The baby really had to go.
“Rumbi, you know I can’t help you with that. Where is your boyfriend? He is the one you should be bothering.”
“Greg wants nothing to do with me. I know I am asking for a lot, but you are the only person who can help me. I am coming to you as a friend and not as your ex-lover. Please help a friend in need.” A tone of hopelessness has invaded Rumbi`s voice as she speaks, and an episode of silence follows.
Rumbi sits on the bed, her legs shaking with anxiety knowing very well that her fate lies in the hands of a guy whose heart she has probably broken. Deep down she knows that Taku still cares for her. “Let me see what I can do,” Taku says.
An hour later as she lies in bed waiting for Taku to call, the guilt suffocates her and it comes with a serving of fear. Her church and the law despise abortion and there is so much that could go wrong. All that, however, seems to be no match for how her parents will react if they find out about the pregnancy. So far she has done a good job hiding it beneath baggy clothes and heavy jerseys, but that cover will not last. She needs a permanent solution to her dilemma. The thought of a little human suckling her breasts doesn’t sit well with her. She is not yet ready for motherhood. When Taku finally calls her to say he is standing at the gate, she leaves her conscience in the room and walks out, ready for the abyss.
They board a combi to town and neither of them speaks to the other. They both have their demons to fight and, silently, they both pray for grace. Rumbi is led through shady corners. How did her ex come to know such places? Had he brought someone before? Did he really know what he was doing? She had no choice but to trust him. They get to a downtown hardware shop where ‘the doctor’ awaits their arrival. Behind the hardware cover is a whole other world: a rough representation of a clinic with a few personnel in scrubs. Most of the infrastructure has deteriorated beyond redemption. Decaying ceiling boards hang from above them and rats squeak from corners. Only desperation for a way out keeps them in that place. Taku has a short, private talk with the doctor until the doctor signals her to follow him.
“If anyone calls, just answer,” Rumbi says, handing her phone to Taku before she is taken into the operating room. She leaves Taku sitting on the bench. She is helped onto the bed by the doctor who gives her a mask to put on. She is told to count to ten. The view around her starts to become blurry. Was she dying? Before she could figure out what was going on, she went to sleep.
Taku constantly checks the door. He taps the ground with his shoe and lifts his hand each minute to check the time. Many things could go wrong. A failed abortion leading to her getting septic or bleeding out on the table. He instantly starts making a silent prayer. Deep down he loves her, however his ego is not yet ready to take her back. He had already envisioned a life with her before Rumbi decided to cut their relationship.
After what feels like a lifetime; he is finally called in. “Unfortunately, there was a complication,” the doctor says. Did she bleed to death on the table? Taku thinks to himself. He thinks about the serious illness conversation guide they were practicing a week before at school. Was it about to come in handy? Was he to follow the guidelines to break the bad news to Rumbi`s parents.
“This was actually an ectopic pregnancy and Rumbi was losing a lot of blood. The best I could do to keep her alive was perform an emergency hysterectomy. I am sorry, but that means she will not be able to have children of her own. Right now, she is fighting for her life and we both have to pray she makes it through, otherwise we could be in trouble,” says the doctor. With Rumbi unconscious, Taku thinks about how they had once picked names for their future children. This fantasy was never going to come into existence. The thought pains him.
Before Taku can answer the doctor, Rumbi’s phone rings. It is Greg. Taku stares blankly at the phone for a few seconds while the ringtone echoes in the room. The doctor leaves to check on Rumbi. Nervously, he picks the call but before he can say a word, Greg bursts out, “Babe, I am sorry. I panicked. I want to be a father, to take care of my child. I love you so much and I want to be there for you and our child!”
Taku’s tongue weighs down on him. He holds on to the phone, but no words can escape from his mouth. Where can he even start?
6 April, 2023