There’s magic in being 21, for a girl. Life is one big party. Nothing is out of place.
Make-up or not to makeup, that’s the question. The phone is always ringing. The DM is overflowing.
The boyfriend likes to chill and stream a movie. Some bit of FIFA. No problem, it’s perfect for the out of town drive – with the boyfriend.
After a week, bedsitter omelettes and coffee gets a little bland. A girl deserves a bit of sunshine. Hopefully, with someone not overly spooked by the price of cappuccino – all foam and stale milk.
Except, it’s hard anchoring a fairy tale ending to a fleeting dream.
For Clara, two red lines brought it all crashing down.
She sits silently on the toilet bowl. She’s sitting forward, elbows on her knees. One hand supports her chin, the other holds – at eye level – a tiny nightmare. It’s a pregnancy test kit. She’s just peed on it. It’s taking forever – kwani how long does it take to show results?
She’s followed the instructions to the letter: uncap, place the absorbent section under the urine stream for 7-10 seconds. She’s had to stem that flow to last that long.
The bathroom reeks of detergent and air freshener. Lavender, she’s always loved lavender. It’s tiny, brightly tiled. The door has a row of hooks on the inside – holds a frilly parade of red and pink panties.
Like a lily among thorns, stands a checked boxer in this frilly parade. Slightly faded.
It belongs to her campus boyfriend. He’s a minimalist. He only owns a pair. She had tossed out his old ones, bought him a pair. He’s in the other boxer, sprawled cross-legged on the carpet, in front of the TV. He’s gripping his beloved joystick, taking on Messi, bare knuckles.
Clara tries to hold the kit as horizontal as possible. The leaflet insists. A line appears. She feels her heart’s tempo pick up.
“C, are you ok?” Her boyfriend calls out. He hasn’t paused his game. He’d always call her C. It made her happy.
“Am coming, C – toa game. Afadhali movie…” Clara says. She calls him C – he’s Collins.
Clara and Collins have been together for six months. He’s a 3rd-year student, Economics.
She’s in her 2nd year – Film and Theatre studies. They’d met at an audition at Kenya National Theatre for a travelling gig that featured high school set books.
They’d both got the call up for the roles. They didn’t turn up. They’d found each other. They had hanged out together a few times at a noisy sports bar, near campus.
One day, Collins had arrived at her bedsitter with his 42″ TV and his gaming console. He told her his roommate had exiled him – campus speak for personal space with the opposite gender. He never left.
Clara squints at the testing kit. Is that a second line? Oh, no! But, it is! She’s pregnant!
A ribbon of sweat streaks down from her armpit. She suddenly feels hot. She feels nausea, a shot of burning bile at the pit of her stomach. She can hardly breathe.
The tiny bathroom starts to spin – and her heart is pounding – like it’s almost ripping out of her rib cage. She wants to scream, but not a sound escapes. Clara’s throat is dry.
She sees darkness, dizzy.
She’d started feeling awful, sudden mood swings. A burst of appetite, eating everything in sight. Clara would stay up late watching movies and documentaries, but lately, she’d fall asleep midway.
She had even cancelled a meet the previous weekend.
Collins pauses his game. That’s a first. An apocalypse has a higher probability.
“C, are you okay? Clara….” he calls.
She shakes up from her reverie. She lurches up and clutches the test kit with her front teeth. She pulls up her cotton sweatpants. It’s actually his. He liked it when she used his sweatpants.
She walks into the living room. The bed took up most of the room.
There was a coffee table at the corner, the kitchen – with a gas stand. Collins is sitting askew – one half facing the toilet door, the other facing the screen. He’s still holding his joystick.
She walks straight to him and throws it at his crotch. He grabs the little plastic nightmare – and scowls.
“C, are you testing for HIV alone?” Collins asks.
He feigns. He desperately wants this to be an HIV/Aids testing kit.
“Collins, we are pregnant…” Clara says and slumps her body long into a pile of clothes on the bed. The weekend’s laundry hasn’t been folded. She’s exhausted. She drifts into a deep sleep.
Clara wakes up, a tad disoriented. She can’t tell the time. After a while, it comes back.
There’s no TV on the wall.
There’s no boyfriend in faded, checked boxers battling Messi on the TV (there’s no TV, remember).
She needs to pee.
There’s no checked boxer hanging on the bathroom door.