Written by Caroline Ayugi

(Did you miss Part I of this Diary? Read it here)

Four years after Dickens and I broke up, he came seeking for my hand in friendship, again.

“Since you are done with studies, we should give our relationship another shot,” he said.

I said yes.

My job contract in Lira had ended and being back in Gulu meant we could be close again.

He was still convinced though, that I had intentionally terminated our first child. On two occasions, he wondered aloud how old our child would be if I had not aborted.

I didn’t do it.

That truth was the only thing that stopped Dick’s words from splitting my head open with anger.

*****

One night, Dick and I were watching the 9pm news on NTV when he received a phone call that would change our lives forever.

 I was resting my head on his chest so I could pick what the female voice on the other end of the line was saying.

 “Are you sleeping?”

“Yes.”

 “Why are you in bed early? Are you sick?”

 “Is 9pm early? Do you have a timetable for my bedtime?”

I wondered what the lady had done to earn such harsh retorts to what I considered genuine concern.

That phone call marked the birth of my suspicion that there could be “the other woman” in Dick's life. His rudeness however meant that he was not interested in her, or so I thought.

*****

A month after the suspicious phone call, Dick received a text message. His phone was right on the table where I was solving a Sudoku puzzle. Before he could take the phone, I had enough time to see that the message was from Agnes.

“Who is Agnes?”

Before he could respond, I saw a flash of guilt on his face.

“Which Agnes?” he pretended, picking up the phone immediately, to probably delete any “evidence” of her existence.

“The one who just sent you a message.”

“That was one of Airtel’s promotional messages,” he murmured, avoiding eye contact.

Ah! So apart from lying, Dick was also accusing me of being dim-sighted.

I stormed out of his house.

Days later, he called and claimed that Agnes is a woman he was seeing when we broke up. She has been complaining why he no longer ‘attends’ to her needs like he used to, he added.

“There is nothing serious. She is bad mannered.”

I believed him. Dick always told me about his whereabouts and was there whenever I needed him. Besides, I had the key to his house.

*****

Two years after rekindling our relationship, Dick started complaining why it had taken me “so long” to conceive.

“Are you really fertile?” he blurted out one evening.

Our first sexual encounter had resulted into a pregnancy, albeit the miscarriage that followed. I didn’t understand where that question was coming from. I chose not to answer him.

I visited a gynecologist instead. He examined me and found that one of my fallopian tubes was blocked. I gritted my teeth, fought back tears without success as the doctor used a shampoo-like liquid to unclog my tubes. I conceived a month after that medical procedure.

Dick was thrilled. The care and concern he showed for the pregnancy and I, was out of this world, but it was short-lived.

Two months later, I miscarried again.

The speculations and accusations resumed.

“You must have had many abortions while at university,” he said one day.

“…”

“That’s why your womb can’t carry a pregnancy to term,” he continued.

Dick’s cousin reportedly had several abortions while at university and had four miscarriages thereafter. Although she was married and had children, her “sins” still hung on her head. Dick carried the same “sins” and heaped them on my head.

He urged me to confess so that my ‘sins’ could be corrected before it was too late.

“I didn’t have any abortions at university. I have never had an abortion,” I offered.

That should have settled matters, but Dick came up with another theory.

Apparently in his clan, a woman only miscarries after she has had sex with a man who isn’t responsible for her pregnancy. 

I was speechless, but I conceived again, three months later.

*****

One night, suspicion got the better of me and I look through Dick’s phone messages while he slept. 

“I tested and it is positive,” read a message from Agnes.

Is it a disease or a pregnancy? I wondered at the message which was sent a week after I told Dick I was pregnant. I soon confirmed, from new messages in his phone, that Agnes, the ‘bad mannered girl’ was also carrying Dick’s child.

I wondered whether he slept with the two of us on the same day. If he did then he must have had her during day because Dick sleeps in “our” house every night. We enjoy all holidays and festivities together. Whenever he returned from a trip, the bus tickets were there as “evidence” of his travels.

I read messages from Agnes accusing, blaming and cursing Dick for abandoning her. That made me feel wanted. It made me conclude that this was just a fling. I could not confront Dick though, because I didn’t want to bare my snoopiness.

I was the main woman and that is all that mattered.

*****

Dick got a job in Kampala. I was happy that our financial situation would improve. But I also knew I would be lonely. He was not planning to take me to Kampala with him.

“Life in the city is too expensive, and I need to settle on the job first,” he said. It made sense, and since he would be coming home as often as he could, I took it easy. 

Soon, his mother heard about “the other woman” and demanded to meet her. She loved Agnes instantly, and that meant another headache for me.

Dick’s family started accusing me of witchcraft, and blaming me all sorts of misfortune in the family, including Agnes’ sicknesses during pregnancy. I didn’t mind much because Dick stood by my side through it all.

On the last day of my antenatal visit, the gynecologist said I was in latent labor. I was thrilled. To me, that meant I would be the mother of Dick’s first born.

That had been my daily prayer.

End

Part III of this series will be posted next Tuesday, 4 July 2017.

 

 

Written by Caroline Ayugi

“You can’t marry him,” Mum said. “We live so close by.”

She had listened silently as I went on and on about my new next-door boyfriend.

“You are literally brother and sister,” she added.

But the heart loves whoever it chooses to love; plus, there is no formula for love anyway...

The conversation met an early death, just like my excitement, when I looked at Mum’s face and realised she wasn’t impressed with my revelation. 

I didn’t offer any further explanation. I didn’t get on my knees to plead. I just told myself one thing: There’s no letting Dickens go…

*****

I had completed my degree at Makerere University the previous year, and also closed the chapter of my relationship with John.

John was your typical party animal and a loyal lover of liquor.  He would spend his salary within a week on the easy life, or on friends who never reciprocated his generosity. I gave him my tuition a few times when he was too broke to manage. He paid it all back before I could get booted out of the exam room.

And that was the other side of John. He kept his word and offered help without expecting anything in return. He smiled. He laughed. Always.  Even when he slept in the bar sometimes, I never feared he would let his zipper loose.

I never heard him say, l love you, but he showed it so openly, so frequently my friends wished they could walk in my love shoes.

As time went on, I started imagining a future with John. His affection and good looks made the butterflies in my stomach flap their wings, but his poor spending habits made me foresee a future of financial malnutrition. I didn’t want to shoulder the financial burden of our would-be family alone.

I left.

He cried.

*****

The tick-tock tick-tock of a clock woke me up with a start one day.

It wasn’t my usual alarm clock by the bedside table, buzzing for the nth time so I could get up and go for work. It was my biological clock.

The villagers in Palenga had started fueling the rumour mill about which man I was seeing, scanning my belly for any sign of child, or my face for any changes. The bold ones threw the questions in my face: When are you bringing muko home? Others hid their comments behind proverbs: Our daughter, water doesn’t flow backwards ba…   

I can’t say I was coerced into Dickens’ arms. Maybe a little. But after a year of breaking up with John, I felt I was ready for a relationship. The thought of a family and children was still distant in my mind, but a relationship was a good start.   

*****

As a teenager, I avoided boys like plague. Walking by a group of boys was my most dreaded moment. I would count my steps and pray all the time not to trip. While my girlfriends were getting high on hormones, giggling and wiggling at the sight of the opposite sex, I went the opposite direction.

One had to be really loud or outstanding for me to notice them. Dickens was not. It was until eight years after moving from Gulu Town to Palenga that I noticed he was our neighbor, but even then, I didn’t think he was my lover-in-waiting.

Our first date was at Frontiers, a quiet hangout place on the Kampala-Gulu highway. Under one of the umbrella trees that dot the gardens, we sipped on cool bottles of Coke and Fanta while telling each other about our family history. 

The conversation didn’t last long though. We spent the better part of the afternoon looking at vehicles swishing by, and then we retreated to our phones. We pressed this button and that, reread random messages and counted the number of people in our Contacts list.

As time inched towards 5pm, we rose up to leave. But hardly had we left the gardens than rain started pouring. We ran back to the nearby fuel station to take shelter and watched as the rain poured and tried in vain to shut out the rays of the sun.

Then his hands found mine. Currents flew from his to mine, and from mine to his.

“The leopard is giving birth,” he said, commenting on the sun-rain battle.

A few years later, that statement would take a different meaning.

*****

Six months after our first date, I got a one-month internship placement in The Netherlands.  I was thrilled. I don’t remember if Dickens was as excited as I was. But he told me to buy for him a phone. I didn’t take it seriously. First, my per diem was not fat enough to afford a swanky phone that he wanted. Secondly, the tone he used was commanding and I found myself wondering if that was really the sound new-found love.

I called him a few times I was abroad, and each time I regretted why I did. His words became fewer, and his tone reeked of disinterest and even ego. I did not give it much thought.

A month later, I was happy to be back home to a normal meal of dek ngor and kwon kal millet bread. See, dek ngor is fine and gentle on the palate.  When laced with moo yaa shea butter, you can almost touch its tastiness. Dek ngo is nothing compared to the raw flowers, leaves, shrimps, and other strange dishes I endured while outside countries.

I was happier to be back home to my love.  That evening, we went for an evening out at The Resort, a cool tranquil place by Layibi Swamp.

“Your skin is smoother. Were you drinking lizard soup?” was his only comment for the evening.  

Thereafter, we retreated to our Nokia 1100 to play snake. Cheew! Cheew! cheew! kling! Cheew! Cheew! kling!

Then hand in hand, we started the stroll home.

“So where is the phone I asked you to buy for me?” he blurted, once we had reached his house.

Phones are expensive in The Netherlands. We can buy one from Gulu town, I explained.

“I don’t want the fake phones sold in Uganda. Besides, I had already told my brothers that you were bringing for me a phone from abroad.”

That marked the end of our mostly-non-verbal conversation that evening, but also earned me days of silent treatment. 

*****

The Acholi say sex can mend shaky relationships – especially those that are a result of minor disagreements.

So the next time Dickens and I met, we had sex. I don’t recall anything earth-shattering about the experience. I only remember that it resulted into something I was not ready for.

I needed to go back to school. I needed to “study” Dickens more to know what kind of man I was dealing with. Plus, both of us were not financially stable to start a family and we had not really discussed anything about marriage or our future as a couple.

But here I was, pregnant after one sexual encounter. Dickens was thrilled.

A month later, I started experiencing spotting. We went to the hospital where Dickens worked as an administrator. The doctor said I must have attempted to terminate the pregnancy. He bought the explanation. The quarrels and interrogations started.

I miscarried.

The quarrels and interrogated persisted.

I tried in vain to explain that I didn’t abort the pregnancy.

When I got a job offer in Lira District, it was good riddance to the relationship, and an opportunity for me to enroll at university. 

*****

(Part II of the series comes out on 27th June 2017)

 

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