I hadn’t been home in a while but news travels fast. Soon they all knew I had someone in my life. My mother would call and in between salutations ask about her. She wanted to know more than her name. She wanted to know if she knew her parents or where we met or how we met. I was vague ofcourse, not because I was ashamed but because I also didn’t know. Those were things that never crossed my mind. They were nihil ad rem. I concentrated on the larger picture, the love. I could’ve told her, my mother, how she made me feel but – would you tell your mother how a lady fires up your soul and loins and ignites your mind with passion? No. She finally asked for pictures, send them she said. I promised but never did. Deep down I knew her approval would be rescinded. The unknown was better for her, my mum, it might give us – me and my girl, a chance.
We met at a bus stop when it was raining. Neither of us had an umbrella so we kept our distance trying to squeeze under the shelter away from the pouring rain. A bus finally came whirring into life the still silence of the night and as people scrambled in I saw her take a window seat. Inside it was almost full. But everyone else was dry, I was dripping, the seat next to her was open. I figured two wet blokes – that sounded like an opening to a joke – so I sat next to her nonchalant and nimble. I could tell from the creases on her forehead she was mid forties. She had high cheeks and she smiled when she caught me looking at her. The water running down her face seemed to settle for a while on a her flush cheeks before cascading down majestically drop after drop. Her dark eyes had tinges of brown in them. Her hair albeit graying was lush and had a lustre about them. Her hands crossed across her chest in her wet coat, were slightly trembling – must be the cold – I noticed mine tremble as well. I flashed her a quick smile and looked out the window at the pouring rain waiting to get back to my college dorm.
I was a young twenty two year old with a scruffy goatee and had a penchant for white t-shirts. It is in one of these t-shirts that I sat drenched next to this oddly warm woman. I craved for a brew and a sandwich and probably to curl up in bed with a hot water bottle. It was a very weird thing to want, the water bottle, but I wanted it anyway. I wanted it in red. Mid thought she tapped me. It was light but urgent. She asked me what I was looking forward to now that I was wet and cold . It was weird like she was in my thoughts. I stared at her for a while and said a beer.
“Only?” She asked
“Well a sandwich too wouldn’t hurt, a dry warm bed and a hot water bottle. It has to be red” I echoed my thoughts.
She smiled and introduced herself as Martha.
“What do you want Martha?” I asked striking up the conversation
“Well right now not much. But for starters your number. I could make you that sandwich on another rainy day. Plus I have a hot water bottle you know?”.
“Is it red?” I said.
We both laughed.
The rest as they say is history only for us it was our present and future.
You don’t really know society’s true face until you go against its grain. While hanging out at the bar and club was normal for us. Maybe the darkness and inebriated chaps who couldn’t care less made it so. It was the other things that sparked controversy. We would get looks everywhere we went. Coffee seemed normal because from the outside it looked like a business meeting. Things only got icy once we got up and I planted a kiss on her lips. You could almost feel the eyes follow you. You could see the waitress want to drop a tray for effect but the financial strain that would put on her check would refrain her. Their eyes had contempt and judgement. It’s like they wondered in a world where we were both spoilt for choice why we had to go for the spoilt choice.
Regardless, we stuck it out sticking out like sore thumbs. To us, age was nothing but a number. We enjoyed each others company and the diversity the disparity brought. She brought out the best in me a confidence I didn’t know I had. You know that confidence you have when you sit next to a pretty lady and that morning you remembered to brush your teeth and put on your nice cologne? Now picture talking to the lady and asking for her number. Picture her smile , picture her melodious voice belting out the digits and picture a life together. That was what she brought out, something people keep looking for. I had it I wasn’t going to lose it. Over time we grew closer while the world around us drifted further apart. We couldn’t be more distant from other people’s realities. The stares became rare and finally we thought the storm had passed. We could be together and be ourselves.
Back home the news still hadn’t settled. Increasingly I got calls from ex girlfriends. Ones I hadn’t talked to in years. They cared about my wellbeing and heavily hinted at catching cups of coffee. I could see my mother’s invisible hand in all this. She has a way of convincing people. Maybe why I had avoided her all this time – until I was sure of myself of Martha of us. I didn’t want to make my mum sad so I met with some of them – in secret of course. Maybe there was a part of me that wanted to feel normal. It was different with them. Stares were of approval and sometimes envy. Once a waitress walked up and asked us how long we’d known each other. She said she could see a history in us one rich with love and no matter what we should hold on to it. For a stranger to say something like that it must be true. But why did they never see it with Martha? Bias maybe? Maybe they didn’t want to see it and admit we were right. Maybe they were just jealous. They were so preoccupied with being socially correct to appreciate the little things. Martha and I; we weren’t like that. All the dates never went past the second one. I owed it to her, Martha, as much as to myself and the other girls too. Too many times a simple coffee has led on to something more than coffee.
Finally they gave up – my mum and the ex girlfriends. I went home to introduce her – Martha. I didn’t harbor any hopes. I already knew they would never go along with it but I went anyway. I wanted to make them feel involved. I wanted them to see how at ease we were with each other and maybe just maybe win them over – a little. So we went, Martha and I. She didn’t wear the short dresses the others wore hers was a long flowing one – loose – it didn’t flatter her body, even though she had one. She went easy on the make up and wore her hair in a neat bun complete with a band. At home people stared – not subtly – they wanted us to know they stared. They wanted us to know they were looking, not at us but on us as a disgrace. We didn’t mind it one bit or so we told ourselves. I know Martha didn’t mind it but I did. Family meant everything. I took my mother aside and had a talk with her.
“Mum how did you know you loved dad?” I asked.
“I just knew. It was a feeling. I can’t explain it.” She answered albeit apprehensive
“What if I told you I feel the same? For Martha. Don’t you want me to have what you have?”
“I do. I only want the best for you. But not with her. C’mon. You’re young you can get over whatever feeling this is and find it again. With…” her voice went mum
“Say it mum. Who? With who!” I raised my voice
“Someone age appropriate okay! Someone age appropriate.” She started crying.
I’ve never learnt how to watch the woman I love cry. She knew this so she played the card. Again her invisible hand was at it. I comforted her.
“Don’t worry. I’m happy.” I cooed
“Kids? What about them? She doesn’t look like she has long you know.”
“We’ll see a gynaecologist. Science mum. We can freeze her eggs.” I paused “At least those that remain.”
“But… age? Complications? You could get a special child.” She retorted
“Aren’t all children special?” I asked
The conversation ended. She smiled throughout the visit and reluctantly approved or acted like she did. I just didn’t know how to tell them they’d never be kids. How they were no eggs to be frozen. How to tell them that Martha, Martha was once Martin.