The tap is leaking. I know this is not the first words I should say to you. ‘The tap is leaking’ is not a conversation opener anywhere. I wouldn’t say it to a dashing young man at the downtown bar on Osborne Street. Don’t get me wrong. You can say it to a stranger with a seductive smile if you invite him home for a one-night stand, but it would mean something else if you did—something naughty, something suggestive.
If you let that stranger take you out on another date, then another, then another, until his one spare t-shirt in your wardrobe becomes two, and then three and suddenly you have to vacate half of your wardrobe and vanity desk for their belongings, and you have to watch quietly as they fill your home with their cologne, their preferences, then the tap is leaking is no longer suggestive. It is something you throw in between dinner conversation to fix the silence because you are past the getting-to-know them stage and now, you have less to talk about.
‘The tap is leaking’ is what you say to your friends if one day you find yourself in a 5-star hotel room, trying and failing to fight back the tears threatening to ruin your bridal makeup. They would tell you to smile of course, tell you your groom is waiting at the beautiful Cathedral down the road. You will explain your tears away as wedding jitters. You’ll remember all the good years you’ve spent with the man and shut the tap leaking from your eyes. You will walk down that hotel stairs, into the waiting car, into your groom arms at the Cathedral, pushing away the nagging questions.
If you make it past honeymoon, ‘the tap is leaking’ becomes something you think of during sex because you are bored. So you let your mind go to the things that need to be fixed in the house, and hope that the mundanity of your thoughts drowns his moans.
By the end of your second year, ‘the tap is leaking’ becomes something you say as you rush out to work because you expect him to fix the tap before you return. It is a routine, a boring phrase that is now your life.
But I am sitting here now, afraid for my future, afraid for yours and yet this is all I can say to you: the tap is leaking.
I know it’s been leaking for days. I have noticed it every morning as I rushed into our tiny, bluish bathroom to brush my teeth and apply my makeup. The repetitious toin… toin… toin sound vexing me as I hold my breath for as long as possible. The smell of the lavender body wash Pemi uses makes me nauseous now, so I limit my time in the shower.
“The tap is leaking.” I have wanted to say this to him on many mornings as I rushed out of the bathroom to take in some air to rid my throat of the lavender and bile clogging it up. But instead, I’d take the fresh air, grab my bag and rush out to meet my carpool gang, a group of crazy women whose hands never leave the car horn from the moment they enter my street.
But I always hesitate by the bedroom door, just for a few minutes. The sight of Pemi, wrapped in a duvet, one toe peeping, always pushes me to the edge. I hate him for this, you know, the time and peace he gets as a remote worker. The longer sleep he gets in the morning, the lazy bath he takes, as if time has nowhere to go, his oblivion to how Lagos traffic shortens life span and makes you a permanently angry person. Everything smells like rose to Pemi because he has no need to go out every day and face the horror of the city. He has never had to come out of his car to physically combat an angry man in a road rage. He never has to show up to the office looking dishevelled because the roads were blocked by trailers and he’s had to transport himself on okada. His life is simple. He smells his coffee in the morning before guzzling it down and he has spare energy to argue with strangers on Twitter.
Today is different though. Today I am saying it to him and to you. “The tap is leaking,” I am shouting, although I don’t need to, he can hear me clearly from the bathroom door where he is stationed.
“Forget about the tap, love,” he yells back. “Concentrate on what you are in there for.”
Why are we yelling? It’s a small apartment; we can hear each other well without raising our voices.
He is pacing now – Pemi. Can you hear him nervously strolling up and down our tiny corridor? We could have rented a bigger apartment last year; a bigger walk-in-closet was how the real estate agent tried to sell it to me, but I know better. It means nosy relatives who show up with an overnight bag and never leave. A bigger apartment means we now own something together. There will be no throwing him out one day if I ever get the courage to. There will be no pretending that this isn’t the usual marriage. That he has moved in with me and not the other way round. That we are young and free and we could leave and heal. A bigger apartment will mean a bigger commitment. It will mean empty rooms begging for children to fill it. A bigger apartment will mean unending days of fighting when the children come and they get in the way of everything. Or when they don’t come and their absence gets in the way of everything. There is no winning with a bigger apartment. Yes, I know it’s crazy that I think of the end before I think of beginnings.
But it seems you are here anyways, you didn’t listen to my reasoning. You didn’t care about my plans; you are here.
I know, I can feel you, even if my body has refused to release urine on the stick that I am holding weirdly steady under me. Even if the sound of the tap dripping is frustrating the hell out of me. Even if my hands are itching to strangle Pemi for pacing outside the door. I think I should have killed him earlier, you know. I should have wrapped my hands around his neck the day he told me the condom broke. How is a condom breaking when you have the pace of a snail? Or was it the day I couldn’t find my contraceptive pills in my overnight bag to Labadi resort even though I remember packing them before the trip. Perhaps I should have said something when he convinced me to not refill my lost pills. Instead, I agreed with him like I always do.
Of course, my love, move in with me.
Of course, my love, let’s get married.
Of course, my love, let’s start trying for babies.
What the hell am I doing? Don’t answer that. I should have dropped this man a long time ago, but I am still holding on because he loves me, and he cleans the house, and he fixes the tap. Do you know how difficult it is to find a man who genuinely loves you and does house chores in Lagos? One out of every hundred when you are young, zero chances when you are tilting towards forty and spend most of your day in an office or a godless Apapa traffic? Everyone in this city is crazy. And no, I am not exaggerating. Trying to find a good man here is like trying to find one good penny in a bag full of bad ones. The crazy-ass men turn up everywhere, their starched kaftan and well-groomed beard blinding you. You can go through hundreds of them and only the bad ones will keep dropping, non-stop, like the sound of a leaking tap. So I compromised and kept him. But that’s it. That’s all the compromise I can make. I am sorry.
You coming into our lives is going to be a tap leaking forever; the unceasing sounds of you crying, you pooing, you running temperature, begging for our attention, my attention. My life is about to be a never-ending sound of a leaking tap. Clean, care, clean…my career down the drain like the water escaping from the tap, slowly at first, because Pemi would promise to do most of the job. But it never works that way. You would come, the sound of your presence taking over my being, my everything.
The tap is leaking. No, not that tap, the one in my body, the warm urine splashes on my thumb before it hits the stick. I am repositioning my hand so that most of the urine falls on the stick.
I am watching the tap because I don’t want to watch the second line appear on the stick. But I know, I can feel your presence already… the second red line gradually forming, growing as thick as my fear.
“Love, how is it?” I can hear the anxiety in Pemi voice.
“It’s negative,” I say, as I throw the stick into the bin and quickly bag it.
“I am sorry, baby. We’ll keep trying,” he says.
“I am sorry too,” I say.
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