Nayla sat on the edge of her bed covered in her blanket as if saving every emission of heat from her body. Her eyes were swollen and her face itchy from the dried tears on her face. She rocked herself back and forth, as a parent would an infant.
From a very tender age, she had been taught to love, to serve, to always put others before her. She was the first born in a family of six children, to a mother who could not walk. Her mom had lost her legs to polio, back then when her community thought the vaccine would make women barren. Nayla had learned how to cook, clean, bath her mother and serve her father ever since she was six. They had the help of course but Nayla’s mother was a traditional woman who believed that a woman’s core duty was to serve her husband and keep the home warm.
She remembered her mother forbade her from playing football with the boys as it was not lady-like. She was forbidden from kickboxing as well, despite the fact she was the best in her school. Instead, she was signed up for ballet and voice lessons. She was happy there despite her initial resistance. She made good friends and made her family proud of her.
Fast forward to college, she graduated with honors as a pediatrician. She met her husband, Desmond, a year after that. They dated for a while before she took him home. An engineer, she remembered how happy her father was then. They had a grand wedding that was deemed for happily ever after, up till today.
It was six years since they were wed. Six years was a long time with no children. Desmond’s mother had summoned them to the village three years before and asked why she had no grandchildren from her only son. They said it was not a priority, and it was not. But for the last two years, they had been trying.
Nayla had taken everything from supplements to herbal concoctions, to eating raw chicken liver for a whole month. There was no sign of a baby. Two months ago, her best friend told her she was with child. She was not married and was worried what her parents would think. Nayla laughed at the irony of life in that situation; here she was, married and ready to fend for a child, and here was her best friend, pregnant and did not want the baby. Why was life so ironic?
So she secretly went to a fertility doctor, you know, to find out if everything was okay. It was, she was perfectly normal. So the next time she slept with her husband, she rushed to the bathroom after and put his sperm in a container, then in a cooler for examination. They said his sperm count was low, which was very normal. He just needed to relax a bit more, and she needed to focus on his diet.
That day, she went to the grocery store and bought spinach, bananas, lots of garlic, oysters, pumpkin seeds and ginseng. They came in highly recommended to increase sperm count. She would save him the pain while fixing the situation. She got home and made him a fabulous meal.
He came home at ten. He was distant, and you could smell the whiskey on his breath. She went towards him to pick his coat and welcome him home, her sense of duty taking charge. He allowed it then he proceeded to have dinner with her. His answers were monosyllables today. Something was wrong, but he did not wish to speak of it yet.
She offered to run him a warm bath, maybe pour him a glass of whiskey, maybe watch his Sci-fi films with him which she hated.
“Dammit Nayla, you suffocate me!” he shouted as he banged the table. “You are a good wife, I’ll give you that,” he hissed, “but the one thing I want from you, you cannot give me.”
Nayla was dumbfounded. In their nine years together, he had never shouted at her.” Des, you’re a bit upset, maybe I can get you-”
“No, no Nayla, you cannot get me the one thing I want,” he said without looking her in the face. “I am getting a second wife Nayla, a man must have a legacy to leave behind.”
She did not hear the other words he said to her. She was frozen in her seat. All she could hear in her head was her mother’s voice saying that a woman’s first duty is to her home and her husband.
She could not tell him, it would break him. Breaking him would mean breaking herself. You see, Nayla loved Desmond with her whole being. His happiness was her joy, his pain her sorrow, his success was her celebration. To tell him the truth now would mean breaking him and in turn, killing herself.
But what to do, what to say, how could she save this situation?
She must have so deep in thought she never heard him get up and leave.
She never felt so alone like she did at that moment. She went to her room, changed and wrapped a blanket around her as she thought of her life, and who she had become.
She gave and gave and gave. From her place of work to her friends, to her husband, she gave her all. But who ever thought of her?Of giving something to her? Her tears ran free as she hoped he would come back to the door and say she was enough for him.