Angela At 42

 

She wakes up at 5.00 am, hurries through the workout routine, her body is well toned, takes a quick bath and soon Angela is sitting on the high stool in the kitchen next to the marble counter top. She eats in silence, munching on her bowl of fruit salad, it seems tasteless.

Her mind wanders off into space, the never ending emptiness that periods have been bringing, and a reminder of how fast 28 days turn into 42 years, still single, her heart seems to be hurting more than her cramps.

On these days, she seems to miss her mother more, her tender love, that smile and tact that drove all the pains away. A framed picture on a shelf by a Masai curving on a shelf in a corner seems to summon her mother’s ghost, a reflection of all she wishes not to be, ironically, her mother’s big brown eyes seem to paint a picture of a happy woman, seeming to promise a better life, Angela presses her lips tighter as an avowal of who she is as a woman.

Angela hurriedly puts on her white Marc Jacobs heels, a good shoe always brings the best in her, especially when matched with a grey animal top with a bow detail in the front, a black pencil skirt and a the glow of an African woman, She looks amazing, the iconic social piece of a strong African woman.  She takes a hurried look in the mirror, her expensive make up and human hair seems to be paying off, hiding the white hair falling off and the etching wrinkle under the eyes. What should have been an affirmation of experience and a firm line of character is now carefully concealed so as not to let others know of the impending rite of passage.

The clock turns 6.30am, she shoots out the door into her Toyota harrier and soon joins the snaking of Nairobi city traffic, it is rush hour and the cars seem not to be moving, she sees this as a perfect opportunity to day dream. It is a chance to escape her present, back to her past, when everything seemed within an arm’s length.

She came from a middle income family, her father was a secondary school teacher and her mother was a stay home mum, she however once had a job at the Nakuru municipal offices, but her father convinced her to quit and take care of the children, it seemed to make sense, “for the children” she thought, she was a mother and family came first.

Living on a single salary soon proved hard and Angela’s father spiraled to the bottom of a bottle like a kamikaze pilot with a misguided mindset of being a man. He would come home late, spewing all manner of insults, dragging hell and all its fury behind him, she tried to hide the scars, a scarf here and a kitenge there and she was good to go. In all this she still loved him, the devil had a tight grip on her, and she had no way of supporting her child and herself. It was the curse of the African woman.

It took four years of broken teeth, busted lips and black eyes for her to decide enough is enough; he was going to kill her if she didn’t. She picked up the pieces and left with nothing on her back but a paper bag of clothes, 2000 shillings, a crying child and a load of broken dreams and scars. Years of commitment had yielded the ultimate prize, suffering, yet she somehow made it.

Angela made it through school by the small saving her mother made of potato, tomato and “skuma wiki” sales. She vowed not to be her mother, never to show weakness to a man. She chose to stare down life with the boldness and resolve of a man. She developed a financial backbone with a muscle of success as a push through life, she inspired many.

A child in the back of a car in front of hers jolted her from her stupor, he was waving and smiling playfully as his mother tried to sit him down, calmness enveloped her for a moment, yet in the calmness lay forbidden grief, one the society heard none of, it was her fault…. She chose her lifestyle…

The early morning traffic jam along Kenyatta Avenue soon eases into Nairobi streets and Angela foots the gas pedal to compensate for lost time and soon she is on the reserved parking outside her event planning offices.

The office seems empty, most employees are not yet in, she feels a slight stroke of anger…” how can they be this late … they always seems to have a reason … my son was sick …I had a school emergency… it was her visiting day… I had to get him ready for school” it made Angela feels sick, it reminded her of what she doesn’t have. She hurries to her office and closes the door behind her. She settles into her seat and runs her finger through the previous day’s work on the desk, she however feels like doing nothing, she has no motivation, and her inner glow is gone. Of late she seems less and less in control.

This was not how she pictured her forty’s, she thought she’d enjoy   the respect of ageing, the flexibility of being childless and the endless opportunity for growth. This however felt like silent torture, she had constant mood swings, insomnia and kept forgetting where she placed her keys, she was fighting through depression.

The truth is that she felt empty, a soldier without purpose, all the money and education seemed powerless against the longing for motherhood, she yearned for a child, something to clean, someone to feed, someone to hold and to be held, a husband to share the success with. Nothing had prepared her for this, her life was shaky, she had no one to talk to, all her friend had families and all they talked about was children and they all seemed eager for her to hold their children, eager to tell of how fast they are learning to walk. Her periods had become very irregular, perhaps ushering in the inevitable, Menopause, her life seemed to be telling the cliché of a “career woman”.

All of a sudden, her mother’s prison seemed to have been her redemption, it was Angela’s enigma of trying not to be her mother not knowing she already was her.

Her big brown eyes however seemed to have inherited her mother’s resolve of going through life with a positive attitude, enduring life with courage and hope. In her crisis you could see the strong African woman destined to find her place in womanhood.

-Antony Mwangi

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