I am awake but she doesn’t know this; I can feel her eyes as they roam my supine body, seeking a reason.
She has always been the reasonable one of us both. Even for something as unreasonable as falling in love, Ayesha found a way to be reasonable. I gave her the butterflies, she said; that was her reason for falling in love the first time she set eyes on me. It took me a while to get up to speed but once I did, I fell for her even harder than she had done for me. I fell for her and had no reason. Her reason was the butterflies. My reason didn’t exist.
The butterflies are gone now. I can tell that much even though my eyes are shut tight against the approaching dawn. They have been gone for a while.
They no longer dance in her belly when I smile.
They lost their wings too, so there is no more fluttering when I kiss her.
She no longer bends over, weak with fear that she might lose me when we fight.
When we make love these days, her eyes wide open. There is no more reason to close her eyes; there are no more butterflies waiting behind the curtain of her lashes.
She started watching me sleep a few weeks ago.
‘What are you searching for?’ I have asked on the many occasions I have woken up to find her perusing my face like it is a book with chapters no one told her to expect.
‘Nothing,’ she would whisper as she kissed me.
‘Everything,’ her heart would beat against mine.
I miss the butterflies. They made her so giddy, so young… Now that they are gone, will she stop being the woman I fell in love with, the woman who fell in love with me? Will the music stop? Has the magic run out of tricks?
I open my eyes slowly so she can think I am just awakening.
‘Good morning,’ she says.
‘Good morning,’ I murmur as I pull her body into mine.
We stay that way, content even without the butterflies, until life barges in to remind us it isn’t done yet. Life is a three year old with hair done up in ribbons and wearing pajamas with a butterfly print.
‘Skooool!’ She yells as she jumps on the bed eliciting groans from us both
‘It is Saturday Mariam; people sleep in on Saturdays and don’t go to skoool,’ I tell her.
‘Skoooool,’ she argues, wagging her finger at me, the perfect image of the woman lying quietly beside me, watching us with a smile on her face.
I throw up my hands in defeat and gather the little one in my arms, hoisting her above my head and letting her laughter scatter like thousands of butterflies suddenly set free from their cocoons.
Maybe it was a transference; maybe as Ayesha nurtured our Mariam in her womb for nine months, maybe it was that she gave away part of her, the part that was butterflies to our child.
Yesterday, Ayesha handed me pregnancy test results that were positive and while my heart pumped with joy, my mind filled with dread as I wondered what part of the woman I love I would have to give up to this unborn child.
As I listen to Mariam and her mother laugh, mirror images of perfect love, I close my eyes and silently say a selfish prayer to the fourth person in the room.
‘Let it be my turn. Let it be me you take from. Let it be me you look like. Let it be me who is a little less while you are a little more. Let it be me you choose.’
When I open my eyes, the sunlight is streaming in through the windows and has joined in the play. This is how I know that Ayesha will never get her butterflies back, that we will be having a son and I am next in line to lose a part of me.
I reach for my wife then, holding tightly to her while our child sings incomplete Nursery Rhymes, and I whisper in her ears ‘You are everything, you are everything, you are everything…’ until she starts to believe it. Until she knows the stretch marks will never scar her beauty, her sagging breasts will always be enough, her swollen feet will always have its own special path into my heart. Until she knows she has no reason to watch me sleep, no reason to fear that I would wake up and stop loving her.
No reason at all.
Song of day: The Script – Man on the Wire