Mpho

Jane always knew that the baby in her womb was a girl. She had no doubt. Of course her husband, Piet, wanted a boy. He was such a typical man, thinking that the whole world must be populated only by boy children. He’s like those kind  of men who constantly complain that women have it easier in life, and yet ask them if they would like to be born as women in their next life, and you will get a resounding no.

Anyway, Jane always knew that the baby in her womb was a girl. She tried as best she could to ignore her husbands stupid cooing on her swollen belly ‘talking’ to his precious boy. And the boy clothes that he bought, which were obviously going to waste because no child of hers, girl child of course, was ever going to wear boys clothes. Even though she was perfectly aware that it makes no difference to a child what she wears, she wanted the satisfaction of watching Piet buy new clothes, and the stupid look on his face when he realises that he was wrong all along.

“I have a name for her.” she told Piet a week before she was to give birth.

“A name for who?” Said Piet

“Our daughter.”

“You mean our son.”

“Stop being silly. Anyway, I think we should call her Mpho. She will be a gift to us from God.”

In truth, she only felt that Mpho would only be a gift for her. Piet, after all, was just a man.

“I like that name.” said Piet after considering for a moment “It’s a nice name for a boy.”

She only then realised that Mpho was a uni-sexual name, it could be used on both a girl and a boy. But that was an inconsequential coincidence.

“Stop saying that it’s going to be a boy please Piet. Because it’s not.” she was getting annoyed by this whole business.

“Jane, look at your stomach, it’s huge man. I don’t want to say that you are fat, although you are a little bit, what I mean to say is that you have a huge stomach, big, okay. I’m telling you it’s a boy, big and strong like his father.”

“Oh please man, big and strong se foot.”

Piet was a drinking man, always been. In fact she and Jane met at a tavern. The fact that he was now married did not mean that he must now change. Jane could not dare to change him either because this is the man she fell in love with, whether she would want to admit it or not.

And being a drinking man, it happens that on certain nights he has a bit too much to drink, and falls asleep on the sofa, under a heavy spell. And when that happens nothing could wake him except his own full bladder.

He was passed out in such a manner on the night that his wife gave birth. It was only thanks to George, their neighbour, who had the curiosity to check what all the screaming was about, and a car, that Jane managed to get to the hospital.

And when Piet woke up in the middle of the night, he found himself alone and wondered briefly if someone had come into the house and kidnapped his wife, smiling to himself. But this was not the time to ponder such things, so he went back to sleep, promising himself to deal with this strange state of affairs in the freshness of the morning. Not once did it cross his mind that his wife might be giving birth.

Jane felt herself vindicated when she was told she had given birth to a girl child. Her own little gift from God. But she was told immediately after that there was another child. All along she was pregnant with twins. How could she have not known. Surely she should have felt the presence of this other baby. But she had not. Perhaps because she spent her whole pregnancy denying its existence. The second baby was a boy you see. A tiny and fragile looking baby boy, whose underdeveloped lungs did not allow him to cry. At least that’s what she told herself at the time. She would later learn that this child was one of those odd children who never cry. The child looked surprised, as if he was wondering how it was that he should find himself in a room full of such strange faces, of  people who dressed funny and had blood on their hands, and who seemed panicked as they cleaned him up and put him in a small cubicle and attached all kinds of tubes to him. He seemed puzzled as to what all the fuss what about.

George came back in the morning and went back to his neighbours house. The door was unlocked so he let himself in. He found Piet still sleeping. He woke him up with a smack to the head.

George had big hands. He spent most days of his life catching bricks, without gloves. So his hands were hard. Piet felt like he had been hit with a brick to the head.

“Good god man!” said George with a disturbingly booming voice “Your wife is giving birth to your child and you’re here sleeping like an idiot, drooling all over the pillows. Sis man, what is wrong with you?”

Piet looked at George as if he was still in a dream, holding his throbbing head.

“Ahh, what the…you know George, one day I’m going to cut off those mampara baboon hands of yours.” said Piet. “Come, let’s go. My wife gave birth last night and you’re only waking me up now! George, I have long known that you have an eye on my wife. Now I have proof.”

At the hospital, he found Jane lying on a hospital bed, a baby girl fast asleep on her bare chest. Even from a distance he knew that it was a girl.  And he felt slightly embarrassed because he had already bought all those clothes. And he hated wasting money.

“I’m not buying any more clothes, she will have to wear the ones I bought. She is just a child anyway, she won’t mind.” said Piet, even though he knew it was a futile statement. In the end he would give in to what her wife wants. She would make him pay for all those months he had tortured her about the baby being a boy.

“Don’t worry, the clothes you bought won’t go to waste. But you will have to buy new ones for Mpho. You look so cute when you are confused. I doubt you will like this, but there is another baby. A boy, like you wanted. It seems like both of us got what we wanted.”

It was nice having a son he supposed. But Piet did not like that both children should come at once, at the same time. He did not want that! How could he not see it though. His own father was a twin. And these things ran in the family. But who could blame him. Piet had only seen his uncle twice. Once when he was ten years old, in a moment when his world weary uncle came to visit during the December holidays. And the second time was two years later, when his uncle lay inside a coffin. So over the years he had allowed himself to forget that the man even existed.

“So, we have one name.” said Piet “And such an unfortunate name too, for twins. We can’t do Mpho and Mphonyana now can we? In fact I don’t understand how anyone can do that. That’s like saying the one child is a gift, while the other is a smaller gift. Just imagine, wena Jane, how hard it will be for a child knowing that from the moment they were born they were not good enough to be considered a full gift, but just a little gift. It’s really…hey, I got it! We can give them the same name. The girl can be Mpho, and the boy can be Gift, it’s perfect.”

For a long time Piet never failed to remind Jane of this Particular stroke of genius.

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