Fiction

Jill Okpalugo-Nwajiaku – The Circle of Broken Women

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The Circle of Broken Women

It is remarkable how now and then some of the most personal moments we experience are shared with complete strangers in the most unlikely of places.

I had been scheduled for one of my seemingly endless prenatal visits at the hospital on a rainy Monday morning, my day off from work.

“This is my fourth pregnancy,” I told the lean woman beside me more from boredom than from familiarity. “Three boys and the foetus.”

She closed her magazine and stared at me wide-eyed.

“You’re an expert then?”

A genuine laughter watered my eye. “On children? You never become that. But I wish I had slept in today. I feel good when I sleep in on Mondays. It makes me feel rich and important. I’m Kosi.” I said extending my arm to her.

“I’m Jessica she replied with a smile”

I sneaked Jessica a look. “How many kids do you have?”

“First pregnancy.” She rubbed her belly, then her nose. “I have a bunch of tests to run. Something may be wrong with the baby.”

“Alone? Where is your man?” I sat up straight and watched her

A grin skipped across her face but her wavering voice gave away her hurt. “He left.” She avoided my eyes. “We could never work things out.” She bit her lips. “We used to drink and smoke a lot. When we discovered the baby had health issues, I decided to quit – for the sake of the baby.” She said turning pleading eyes towards me. I could only imagine the pain she was going through. “He would not make a sacrifice for our baby!”

Someone gasped from across the room. I didn’t know someone else was listening in on our conversation until now. The woman who sat on the opposite side of us swung her arms nervously. Looking at her, I wonder if she suffered from mood swings, and how bad they got.

“Jeanette.” She introduced herself as she stood up with legs wide apart. Then she raised her hand.

Such poise is singular in a pregnant woman, I thought to myself. I said to her, “You need not stand.” I fixed my look on Jeanette. Her short green gown was good for the office. Since she came in, she was so moved to give us her story that we had to restrain her countless times by turning our backs to her at some point and slightly raising our voices.

“I sacrificed my career to have our baby. Still he left us in the seventh month.  I’m a pharmacist by the way.” she was close to tears. She continued with her story. I loved my job. But with the baby on the way I had to go part time” “I was the pharmacy manager, a look of triumph glowed in her eyes like stars. Now I work only as needed.

Jessica walked over to Jeanette handing her a small box of tissues. Outside rain spattered on the windows. We watched Jeanette battle unseen demons as she sniffled, I said, “Some men have gone to great lengths to frustrate women. A few females have done the same. Generations of families have endured varied mistreatments, but let us speak positively about our pains, our brokenness so we can heal.”

So once again, we came together, the three of us. We sat side by side, as we spoke about our brokenness.

“I am Kosi.” I raised my voice gently. “This baby must be a girl.” It felt good to speak with so much poise. To play god for a few seconds.

There was a sustained applause.

“I am Jessica.” For a while, her mind wandered. Then pride slowly filled her face. “Whatever is wrong with my baby, I would love him forever.”

“I am Jeanette.” She paused, exhaled and continued, “Before now, I saw things differently. Finally, I see the light. It’s never too late for new beginnings.”

I noted that through everything we said that morning had found a bridge to our minds. We formed a circle and we cried.

Though our tears, our cries the loud and the soundless, had sounded like a dirge “I’ll hold you all by your promise to stay positive,” I said as the nurse came in and called my name. “If we break our agreement today, we were nothing but a circle of broken women.”

Jill Okpalugo-Nwajiaku

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