Short Story: Why don’t you say the words?

Friday August 22 2014

When I smile most times it’s the memories about housebound afternoons, when we decide to stay in, fridge full, in shorts and T-shirts, to watch TV series all weekend. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

When you asked me, “Why are you looking at me like that?” I laughed but did not answer. I know that annoys you. When I don’t answer. I mean to but the words won’t come the way I want them to, right there and then. So I laugh and busy my hands with something on the table. Or walk away.

At the bar, at Stone’s Pub, you were concerned, “Do I have meat in my beard?” Quickly, you pulled out your white handkerchief, pursed your lips and wiped. There was nothing to wipe and your best friend Kevin Mbolio’s girlfriend told you so.

In the ladies, at the washstand, Kevin’s girlfriend Tracey Keitesi wanted to know, “Do you love him? Or are you just playing him? I know he is fun but he loves you. He has told Kevin you are the one for him.”

I had a toothpick in my mouth at that moment and could not reply so that irritated her. But I do not mind too much. I don’t think Tracey likes me nor do I care much for her. I know Kevin is with her because they have been together so long he is afraid to start over. Then there are the children to worry about, if he decided to leave her.

We are better than Kevin and Tracey. Though we have not been together as long. I know you the way I will know our children one day because I have rocked you to sleep, sobbing on my chest, Sunday nights after visits to Butabika Hospital to see your mum.

Many of your friends believe she is dead because that is what you told them in school but you could tell me, finally, she is not. She is in a hospital, in the mental patients ward. She left home when you were 12 years old and she is never coming back.


Sometimes you are afraid, “What if I become mad like her?”

I tell you that is not possible. We have talked about having children and if I thought you could become insane one day, I would not have children with you. You are happy but doubtful. But I will have your babies. We are almost ready. I know this about you. I know more.

I know Kevin is your oldest friend, will be the godfather of our first child, but that you will never forgive him for making you cheat in the exams that got you into the university.

Qualifying for the law degree course at the university on government sponsorship. You still wonder if you would have qualified without those leaked answers, 15 years since you started your own practice.

But I know you don’t know how much I love you because I never say the words. You want me to say the words but I think I already have. I do every day. I can’t help myself. You are with me everywhere. I no longer start in surprise when in a staff meeting, someone asks me, “What are you smiling about?” I let them rib me, they know about you.

But I never tell them that it’s not about what they think, the night and tangled sheets. Most times it’s about housebound afternoons, when we decide to stay in, fridge full, in shorts and T-shirts, to watch TV series all weekend.

My head in your lap, the hair on your belly tickling my ear. 24 is done, do we dare The Wire rerun? When I get up from the carpet to make our fruit supper, you want to come with me though you will only be in the way in the kitchen.

I turn to look wherever I am whenever I hear anyone calling, “Ralph!” to see if it is you. My heart between beats. Like down a morning street, when I see a blue Adidas jacket, I have to follow to see it is not you. Working to stop myself from ripping that blue jacket off the shoulders of that man on that street who wears it frumpily, without your grace.

I did not think I would one day be inside a Jit Jewellers shop on Kampala road, talking fonts with an old Indian man, for cufflinks I wanted to get you. Listening to his Bombay start-up stories because I wanted him to carve the letters while I was there. They could only be perfect if I assisted.

You asking afterwards, the suit I got you, if I could afford this extravagance when my advertising company Icon was struggling to retain staff with shrinking client budgets. Yet not needing me to tell you more than once, “Just wear it.”  Looking at yourself in our long bedroom room, adjusting your black tie pin, grinning, “I’m going to win with style.”

Then turning on me, crushing me in your rugger’s hug, “My Ruth! Ruth! Ruth! How do you always know?”

Me, alarmed, “Don’t crease it. Take off your suit first.”

You stopping, a smile on your lips, “Why don’t you?”

I do.

My brothers and my sisters like you but you say the day my mother called you, preparing for Easter lunch, rattling off the beers you were supposed to get was your happiest.

We had already done the meet the parents’ lunches but you never expected her to expect you back in the house I grew up in. Holiday drinks at my parents are your forte now.

I’m waiting for us to get home today evening. I have something to tell you. I have had three months to think about it, feel my way to the words. I’m pregnant.