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The East African : June 23rd 2014
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE JUNE 21-27,2014 sho≥t sto≥y Illustration: John Nyagah never realises how precious those particular minutes are in one’s life compared with what seems like the other endless minutes that fill up one’s day. One morning, my wife was lying beside me – not yet awake. She slept on her stomach in the past but these past few months, she had to sleep on her side due to the life growing within her. I got up and began my usual morning routine: Bathroom, coffee and starting breakfast. Halfway through making coffee I heard my wife’s voice behind me, breaking the routine. “I think it’s time for you to take me to the hospital.” A tired smile creased her face and wrinkled her cheeks. I had always thought I would be ready for this moment but I suddenly seemed to forget how to do things. In my mad rush, I didn’t realise that I had my shoes on the wrong feet! She giggled at my frustration as I tried to correct my footwear problem while walking and also dragging the suitcase. We arrived at the hospital while the morning sun was sailing towards its zenith. My wife was still calm but I felt I was not fully in control of the situation. I struggled with the seatbelt in my haste to leave the car. A nurse guided my wife to a wheelchair and pushed her to the delivery room. Everything seemed to be going The tough choice I By PATRICK WHANG always thought that hospitals must have the same designer because they all looked the same to me: white interiors, bright tile floors and fluorescent overhead lights that gave it a business-like feel. Now I was in this environment with my wife lying in a hospital bed, struggling for life. I clasped her hand in mine trying to hold her here with me and keep her in this world. The doctor was trying to help with the delivery. Sweat beaded his brow and his eyes were wide and intense as he worked. A nurse stood nearby to assist. Suddenly my wife began to gasp for air. Her eyes rolled back up into her head. I gripped her hand harder. I looked at the doctor and begged him to do something with my eyes. He stared back at me. He shook his head slightly. “The baby is not out yet,” he said. I looked at him and knew that I had to make a decision. The toughest I had ever had to make and one that I would never wish on anyone. My mind suddenly played images of my wife and me together at light speed. I would have to make a choice. I met my wife at the beach sev- eral years ago. We never asked each other out on a date. We just agreed that we should meet and continue our long conversations as we called them then. Our affection grew like slow burning charcoal. Never raging but steady. I think it surprised both of us when we finally realised that we were the missing piece of each other’s lives. A surprise yes, but a very pleasant one — like discovering a precious stone that was buried in your own comfortable yard. Because just like a precious stone, it never fades and can fill your heart with a warm glow when the light catches it just right and showers its brilliance on you. We were married on a warm weekend near the same beach where we first met. I put another precious stone on her hand and promised our lives would be together now and forever. We did not exchange traditional vows but each wrote something to the other that we would say aloud. I can’t recall what I said exactly but I do remember what my wife said to me at the end: “I don’t know where this path of life may lead but I am happy that I am not alone in walking it. I am glad that you are my companion and we will travel together no matter what.” Our lives over the next few years were like what many others experience, I suppose. We had our happy moments and not-so-happy ones. Good years and not-so-good years. We shared our little struggles together while finding our own way. We eventually moved to the city because of my job even though we enjoyed being close to the shore. We would fall ‘‘ asleep to the noises of the city but our dreams were filled with the crashing surf and the cry of the sea birds. Waking in the morning left us with a residue of the sea air in our conscious minds. This routine of life was inter- rupted one day when my wife took my hands into hers and guided them to her belly. I felt nothing but she looked at me with her bright shiny eyes and said: “You’re going to be a daddy.” I remember that moment clearly for it separated what we were as a couple from what our lives were to be as a family. I felt joy as well as slight apprehension at the new responsibility that a child would bring. I don’t remember much about ... the doctor shot me a questioning look. Our baby was not yet into this world. I knew what he was asking: Save our baby first or try to save my wife.” the next few months. It seemed it was a time of trying to shorten my work days as much as possible to gain extra minutes at home to prepare for the baby: Shopping for baby clothes, painting the baby’s room, and reading baby books. It seemed we would never be fully ready and we spent many nights discussing our hopes and, yes, our fears about parenthood. Looking back now, I wish that I had tried to squeeze even more precious minutes from work so I could spend them at home. One well at first. The doctor gave some encouraging words to my wife as she approached the climax of delivering our baby. But before that final moment, my wife stopped breathing. The next few moments were a blur with the nurse moving quickly. In this maelstrom of activity, the doctor looked at me with a questioning look. Our baby was not yet into this world. I knew what he was asking: Save our baby first or try to save my wife. Sweat trickled down my face mixing with my tears. I hesitated but for a moment before deciding. Two years later. I was finally able to go back to the beach. It took me that long to find the courage. The seabirds cried overhead as I took my son’s tiny hand in mine and walked him to the shoreline — the place where I took my wife’s hand into mine for the first time. I could see his reluctance to approach the crashing waves but I comforted him and told him that I would not leave him. He smiled at that as I looked at him through blurry eyes filled with tears. IX Send in your previously unpublished 1,200-word fictional short story to firstname.lastname@example.org ationmedia.com with “Magazine Short Story” as the subject.
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