By Amandla Karungi
She rolled her sheer black thigh length stockings up her legs and wobbled to the full-length mirror tilted across the wall next to their bed. The shirt she was wearing went down to her knees and covered the lacy frill on top of the stockings. Lifting her hands to her waist, she struck a pose, Hollywood style. There were light green patches of avocado stains along the bottom of the shirt and the hand that had put them there was sleeping beautifully now.
“These shoes are killing me,” she said to herself. I need to stop talking to myself. There was a gnawing pain in her back. “Ya! Bad idea!” she said out loud again as she quickly took off the shoes and stockings. Pulling up the grey jeggings she had been wearing, she slippered her way to the kitchen. They used to call it rottiserrie chicken. It was a low maintenance cook. It did not need a lot of attention or spicing.
The blue fluorescent light of the kitchen glared and the curtains by the kitchen window exhaled. A match stick slash against the grainy surface of the match box and a black knob turned anti-clockwise ignited a purple blue flame. Her mind was half-conscious that there was no defrosted chicken in the fridge, but she looked for it anyway. And there it sat, lying low, fat and frozen in the freezer. She pulled it out and carried it to the counter to do, in a few minutes what it was supposed to in hours.
It was always hard to reconfigure her mind when baby was asleep. It was as if all plans revolved around him and then, when he fell asleep, she lost her compass. She lit a scented candle in the quiet evening shade and leaned towards it to catch its scent. A fruity wood-ish one, almost like an apricot. As she walked out the door to light one more candle in the kitchen, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, forehead creased in thought and lips tightly held together, worried. The candle’s flame rode up to the end of the stick in a mini fire and burned her fingers in place of the stubborn wick that was almost completely immersed in wax. And then it calmed down to a soft yellow glow in the short round glass container. She turned the gas off. The chicken needed more time. Guilt tapped her shoulder and asked her how she could have forgotten to defrost the very thing she had known she wanted to cook.
How long had little guy been sleeping? It was too late in the day to allow him to have a long nap. She lifted her hand above his bedroom door knob and then changed her mind. TV… YouTube… No, I need to read more books.“What book to read… What book to read…,” she murmured as she touched and tilted book by book backward in the shelf. Mothering the Mother -The Goop podcast. The Identity shift: Who am I? Love in the time of Corona. Can I change my mind on how much to pay the nanny if my baby is no longer two months old? How to navigate the nanny-boss-parent relationship. Superwoman is still woman: Take off the cape.
An “I’m awake mummy, come get me out right now” cry interrupted her. Little guy was awake and the compass shifted again. And now, he was out banging saucepans and screaming if he did not get the dish washing liquid he wanted to drink. She was locking cupboards and pushing glasses out of the way. He threw his bottle of milk and it poured white streaks on the floor. He cried for the raw chicken as she was placing it in the oven. And then he laughed, that most harmonious bell of a laugh as she run after him all over the house and finally put him in his bath basin. He was Dexter and this was his lab. He bounced up and down in the water, tasted it and operated the drainage cover.
She had a moment’s break so she went to the wardrobe shelf and picked up her phone. There was a WhatsApp message. She was typing… No. I will deal with this later. Typing… No. She shook her head and checked Twitter instead, scrolling like a somnambulist through news bulletins. Turning her face across the room to the bathroom door, she caught little guy dragging his basin full of water and tipping it over in one move. It flowed onto the floor in a determined rush to reach every corner of the room. She swooped in and hastily grabbed the basin from his hands. In his most recent form of expression, he jogged on the spot while screaming as if it was the painting of Edvard Munch. Something was burning. Little baby was screaming. The kitchen was smoking and everything smelled like burnt chicken. And yet, part of the chicken was still raw. She opened the front door and blew out the candles, defeated.
“Hi, Why is the door open?”
He was home, looking at the house, the naked screaming baby, the smoke and the fixated look she was giving him. Baby was now trying to run outside. He needed to be outdoors this minute.
“Hi. Hi. Hi.” he said, bundling her stiffness into a hug. “I’m so exhausted. How was your day?”
He had not known that it was “date night.” She had not known either, until she decided that it should be, earlier that afternoon. But she made a resolution that superwoman was sure to change in a few days when a burst of energy came through. I’m not cooking on date night again.