BY GELAB PIAK
‘I SHOULD HAVE DONE IT A LONG TIME AGO’, Nigel thought, ‘now it’s too late’. As they drove down the unwinding road, Nigel thought about what he should have done a long time ago. But now it all seemed too late, Renny was already five months pregnant.
It was one Sunday at the end of November and Renny and Nigel were driving down Highway 61, through the mountains and along the coastline. And as usual the views were always breath taking. As he watched Renny puff at her cigarette, he pondered upon what he should have done to her and how he should have done it.
‘But would it make her happy? Just like I am? I think?’ Then he imagined himself being as quick as a leopard pouncing on its victim. He imagined the leopard lying belly-flat on the ground, waiting and jumping on her with its powerful paws and its claws simultaneously clamping her down, while its teeth tore through her ribs.
“You know. I’ve been thinking”, Renny’s words were loud and clear, and they came thundering through breaking into his thoughts. “About the wedding”, she said, “Should we invite everyone we know? I mean, apart from my family, there’re a lot of other people I call family”.
She knew how Nigel sometimes responded negatively to her; she knew how mad sometimes he’d get. So to cover-up her waiting, she lit a cigarette and took a long puff at it, kept the smoke in there for a while, then blew it out and watched as it went out through the window. Then her eyes fixed themselves on the sea that came into view.
The little while took longer than ten minutes, but she did not realise because her eyes were fixed on the blue sea and her thoughts carried away while she was staring at the glittering sea that glittered like diamonds, as they turned and came around the corner.
“I don’t know,” he replied, “it’s up to you. Just invite all of them, you know.” His eyes were fixed on the road as they sped around the last corner. Once they were past that, they would embark on a one hour drive along one of PNG’s most beautiful coastlines, before they actually came into view of the Dream City, a low lying mega metropolitan city built at the plains from the base of the mountains to the sea.
The mountains gave a slow, flat decent, one you wouldn’t realise at all. As you descend you would be presented with two views; one of the sea beside you, and the other of city before you, one glittering during the night, and the other during the day.
“Hey, you know what? Last night when I went to turn off the lights”, she said turning to Nigel, as her face too lit up with excitement and it seemed as if her face was glowing. “What?” Nigel replied uninterestedly. “The baby kicked!” she exclaimed, and laughed, “For God’s sake Nigel, the baby kicked”, she added while laughing with hysteria. “So…” Nigel said, and bit his lower lip. It seemed he was too occupied to pay her even the littlest attention.
“Hey, I also heard that”, she paused, and then started again, “I also heard that Peter is going to buy himself a new car, a Hilux or something”, she said softly; then took a deep pull at her cigarette. It tasted different and she realised it had burnt a few inches into the butt. She threw it out immediately and pushed the smoke out of her lungs, as if it were poisonous.
“A L200, it’s a Mitsubishi”, Nigel corrected her. “Yeah, one of those”, Renny said, and added, “and you know, I don’t think he’s gonna come for the wedding, his wife is such a leech, she follows him everywhere. And he hates that.”
“It’s a pity”, he whispered to himself”. “What?” Renny asked. She didn’t hear him right. “Nothing”, he lied, and quickly pasted a smile to conceal it.
‘Nigel wasn’t actually like this,’ Renny thought to herself. ‘He was fun-filled, laughed a lot and had an excellent sense of humour. But ever since I told him I was pregnant’, she thought, ‘he stopped talking much and was never his usual way. Yet we both are happy about the wedding plans….’
Her eyes were glued on the whitish-blue waves that softly rolled themselves on the sand like playful puppies. She was wondering what it would be like; to marry someone, and to have a family, which was something she had always wanted. How hard must it be to devote and commit yourself to someone, and to share your entire life with him? she thought. Nevertheless, she would soon be a mother and begin a tiring but glorious career of motherhood.
She stared at the sea and as she stared, she came to think of the sea as a friend, a great reservoir of peace and mind cleansing. Where one who is in trouble could anchor away all her troubles. Yet just then the sea reminded her; not all that glitters is gold. What if Nigel was just a reflection from a drying pool in the desert! she thought.
As the car sped along the long, straight, stretching road along the coastline, the breeze from the sea strengthened and could be felt in the moving car. She studied Nigel’s face for a long while. ‘Oh life; where does time take us,’ She said to herself under her breath and sighed. She then turned and sheltered from the breeze to light a cigarette. Nigel looked at her. The look on his face was unsettling. As she lit, she thought, All these wedding-planning stuff must really be putting him under stress.
You shouldn’t smoke,” he spoke suddenly; his voice came as clear as silence, yet, ironically, it was breaking the silence between them. “It’s bad for the baby,” he added. “Yeah, I know, you’re right, I’m addicted, Nigel”, she replied, trying to be modest in her defence and not get him mad.
She knew Nigel was very short tempered and when he gets angry he is like a raging tornado. Once he had almost flattened her fingers with a hammer. “Can you just give up? Just say ‘enough is enough’ and stop. Come on, do it for the baby”, he kept on pursuing her.
Without realising, Renny’s own temper took over, as she bluntly and blindly told him, “You know, I’m not going to give up smoking for you or anyone else. I mean, you’re not going to tell me to stop right.” Then she added, “It’s not as easy as quitting a job, you know.”
At the strike of these words, in an instant, his feet stamped on the brakes, the car came to an abrupt halt and the splashing of the waves grew even louder and livelier. “You never, say that to me, you never say that to me,” he screamed at her, and then punched her in the right eye. “If you can’t stop then get out of my car,” he screamed at her again. His eyes were as red as a bull’s. His breathing was heavy and fast paced and it seemed like steam coming out of his nostrils, and his face was so terrifying that it had somehow turned so ugly, while he kept screaming at the top of his voice, “Get out, get out, get out.”
Renny didn’t know what to do. She was half blacked out and half unconscious. Suddenly everything had turned dark as if an eclipse had occurred, yet she could still hear his voice. She couldn’t move or do anything. She was so frightened that she couldn’t think of anything to do. She had never seen him this mad before. It was like chaos, she was so confused; she didn’t know what to do, because from being as gentle as a lamb, Nigel was now as angry as a wasp.
He got out of the car and walked over to her side. He opened the door and slapped her on the face. The cigarette she was about to light was still clutched between her lips and it went flying out from her mouth. He held her head, pulling her hair at the same time, whilst shouting into her ear, “When I say ‘get out’, you get out. I am the boss,” then he stood up and added, “Like my old man used to say Renny, ‘you spare the rod, you spoil the child’, and besides, experience is the best teacher.”
Before he had finished, he swung a folded fist and punched her in her face again. A second punch hit her just above the left eye brow. Then there was another, then another, then another again, until it seemed to Renny as if the punches were going to come forever. All she could hear was her own voice calling in vain; ‘Nigel, Nigel, Nigel’. As she felt the impact of the punches, all she saw was darkness swallowing and taking away what little sight her vision had left. It was as if ‘daylight’ had been stolen away from her. The last thing she felt was Nigel grabbing her.
Her seat belt wasn’t fastened so he pulled her out of the car, and with the momentum, threw her into a concrete flood drain along the side of the road. As she fell her head hit the wall of the drain and she lay still and motionless. There was blood coming from cuts on her face, her nose and at the back of her head. Without thinking Nigel rushed to her side and lifted her head up. She was unconscious. Her head had hit the concrete with so much force that the blood had immediately spread all over it. He quickly got her into his arms and carried her to the car, and hurryingly put her across the back seats.
He got in and drove off with great urgency and at a very high speed. Intriguing thoughts that didn’t exist in his mind had now evolved and were as sharp as a needle. ‘What can I do? What can I do?’ he kept thinking, ‘Is she dead?’ “Oh God”, he cursed under his breath. Then; ‘Why did I?’ he thought. “I’m sorry Renny”, he said to her, even though he knew she couldn’t hear him. Then another provoking thought came; ‘But wasn’t that what you wanted?’
Before he knew it, he was already at the hospital. He hurriedly opened the door of the car, picked Renny up and carried her in his arms through the hospital doors, kicking them open as he entered. There was a nurse at the reception who ran over to him, “I need a doctor. I need a doctor”, he cried to her. Another nurse soon appeared from the Emergency Wards with a wheeled bed, and they laid Renny on to it. “What happened?” The second nurse asked. “I don’t know. I …” Nigel was short of words, or didn’t want to tell them. His voice was shaky, and it faded when he tried to tell them that it was he who hit her and put her in that condition.
Renny was bleeding all over her face and the back of her head was wet with blood. She lay unconscious and motionless; it was hard to tell if she was alive.
“No, you can’t come”, a third nurse who had arrived on the scene stopped Nigel when he tried to follow as they wheeled her away to the emergency ward.
That night Nigel stood by her side till morning. The doctor said that she was in an indefinite coma. There was no telling if she would make it out. He sat at her bedside, battling with his thoughts all night, and when morning had come, he left her and went downstairs. He came out of the hospital premises, which had a beautiful lawn and a landscaped garden, which he hadn’t noticed because he had driven in at night, and walked down the street to a store which was further down.
When Renny woke up, the sun’s golden rays were spraying through the window like a rainbow in all sorts of colours. That was because the sun was shining against a light drizzle. The sun’s light however was warming her with love, and as she lay there, she had not a single clue as to where she was or what had happened. But when she tried to turn, she felt sharp pains in her head, and found out they were from cuts as she felt with her hand and found that her hair had been removed and replaced with a bandage around her head.
Slowly she started remembering as the flashes of images crept back into her mind, one by one. She felt her face, and there were stitch marks there. There were five; one on her forehead, another just above the eyebrow, and three below her eyes, one on the left and two on the right. Then she felt that there was something wrong. She had a strange feeling that something was so wrong. ‘What’s wrong,’ she thought. ‘Was there something wrong?’ she kept thinking, ‘I must be missing something.’
“Oh God, my baby, oh my God”, she cried, weeping bitterly by herself. “No it can’t be,” she said again under her breath. Just then a nurse walked in, “Good morning,” she said to Renny, “I think you should lie down and…relax.”
“You know, I never thought you’d make it out”, she said again.
“Where am I?” Renny asked, “I mean I know I’m in a hospital, but where? Which one?” she added.
“You’re at Saint Monica’s”, the nurse replied softly, then came over and while comforting her slowly said, “You were in a coma; you were out for two weeks and three days. I’m your nurse. Look, you’re gonna be okay. We know what happened.”
Then Renny sat up painfully; “what about my baby”, she asked the nurse. “I’m sorry, you’ve lost it,” she replied.
It seemed these words were even sharper than the sharpest sword, as she felt them slice through her chest and into her heart, and for a moment she almost felt her heart stopping. Her head dropped, despite the protesting pain from it, into her hands, and for some while she sat and wept unashamedly. ‘Nigel’ she suddenly thought. “Where’s my fiancé?” she asked. “Well, replied the nurse, “the cops arrested him, suspecting him of beating you up like this, and he also confessed”.
“Oh,” she replied, “well then, can I have breakfast? I’m starving. Haven’t eaten in two weeks, how many days again?” She joked.