The first one came out mangled, like a diseased yam tendril twisted in circles. Eyes drooping in a state of permanent slumber. Arms, short like stunted stems. Saliva dripping from the corners of her mouth. Incoherent words sipping through her teeth.
You had named her after your mother. A child with so many dreams clamped within her fist. Dreams thrown from a mountain top, crashing down into hopelessness the moment the doctor proclaimed her autistic.
The hardest thing to do is to love a child you hate while the world sits as spectators.
Standing by the clothing line, spreading washed clothes, you watch her shaky steps hopping behind her siblings across the front porch. Mucus dripping down her nostrils. She wipes it with the back of her palm and cleans it on her yellow dress. The dress slips off her left shoulder and hangs on her arm exposing her dirty blue singlet.
You can hear the disjointed echoes of her laughter. You loathe the way she calls you – Maami.
And that you have to wipe her 12 year old behind when she excretes on herself again and again.
She has been in primary two for six years. And with every new exam she fails yet again. She remains smallish while her younger siblings tower over her.
They love her nevertheless, you can see it. Even though she disgraces them time and time again. Slips and falls on the table, crashing into little Kevin’s birthday cake. Splashing a glass of orange juice on Gloria’s white gown and ruining her graduation.
Still, their love for her never dies. Like a candle that never dims.
This kind of love, is what you’ve been praying for. To look upon your child and see a human instead of a curse. To stand by her bedside every night and not wrestle against the urge to strangle her.
“Children, dinner is set.” You shout.
You watch as they run past the living room to the dining table. Agnes dangling along. Their boisterous laughter bouncing off the walls of the house.
You are setting the plates. The long glass table is lined with ceramic bowls of white rice, stew and vegetables. A tray of apples and sliced cucumber sits on the left.
You watch as the children scoop food into their plates, their clatters echo in the room. You watch Agnes struggling to scoop a spoon of stew on her plate, it spills. The hot red sauce rolls down the table and spills on your favorite white rug on the floor. You reach for a napkin and wipe the stain till it becomes a fading pink stain.
You arise, a smile plastered on your face, you take the spoon from Agnes’s hand and begin to scoop food onto her plate.
You have indeed perfected this act of pretentious love.