At first, it was a sweetening of my senses that I didn't quite understand. A feeling in my stomach like I'd had too much lemon meringue pie, even though I was really hungry.
I went home in February. Mfuwe Zambia, still home to me even though I flew that coop long ago. As is always required, I popped in to the market to greet all and sundry, but mostly to pay my respects to Bridget in her little cement blockhouse shop. I stepped into the peering dark and she got up to dole out one of her fearsome hugs. Asked after sister Miranda and baby. Then the stern look. "And when are you having your baby?"
"Um, well..."(its complicated)
"You must pray for me, Bridget."
A long solemn stare.
"Its coming this year."
"What? No. Really?"
"Yes. you must be ready."
"Ok thanks, gee is that the time."
Going home is always good. My cells expand as the Joburg neurosis seeps away. I was ostensibly there to meet with Seka, the drama group that my sister has loved and laboured over for many years. We were planning a new production, a trip to Cape Town for the Out the Box puppetry festival, about which I shall post elsewhere another time.
Of weeing and elephants
We enact our rehearsal rituals under the big open sided structure with a steel-strutted warehouse roof that is waiting to be turned into a theatre. Thick February bush all around.
"Guys, you carry on, I'm just going for a wee behind the tree..."
Me walking in a straight line to said tree with neck turned, looking behind me as I walk.
"Woaha." Big elephant steps out from behind the anthill and said tree. Not going for a wee yet you're not.
But I am weeing a lot. A fact I ignore. I've always joked that I've got a bladder like a thimble. Waking in the night (three, four times?) to the sound of elephants tearing branches and chomping is something I don't get much of in Joburg. Unless I'm still asleep. And its always a pleasure to sit there and stare out the mosquito gauze and try to make out the outline, paler than the sky behind.
Raw egg mayonnaise
I'm hungry. Jeez I'm hungry. Its so much easier to get all kinds of food in Mfuwe these days. The market is well stocked. But lots of ingredients most people take for granted are not available close by. And I have residual childhood anxiety about where the next meal is coming from. I'm in Mom's kitchen trying to throw together some leftovers coz we haven't been to the market. The chicken skeleton from the braai "a couple of days ago", still fleshy in places.
"I know! Let's make chicken mayonnaise sandwiches."
"We don't have mayonnaise"
"Can't we make some? How hard can it be? You've got eggs. And lemons.
I've forgotten the recipe I once knew. Mom searches in the Nyasaland wives recipe book passed down from her mother. I'm charging ahead anyway, beating those eggs with a fork.
"Yolks only? Can't remember, ah what the hell, beat the lot."
When I read in the books later about food to avoid I can't help wondering about our delicious three-day old chicken with raw egg, sunflower oil and lemon juice. Salmonella? Pah!
Stomach like a hyena
In retrospect, once I'm tested and confirmed I realise that, yes, I have had a slight quease in the morning. But nothing like the horror nausea vomit in the nearest dustbin that I've heard some women complain about, my own mother included. Me I still head for the thick dark coffee and chilli sauce on toast for breakfast, no problem.
Or is it? There is a sweetysick tinge to everything, but I have a strong override on unwellness. I'm good at carrying on like its all fine. Only later, I realise. Duh.
Going home means being in Zambia. Which means sundowners, beers, booze. Naturally. Going home means stopping in at Ross Sinclair (who know who you are) which means cocktails. Vodka and lots of stomach-stripping citrus. Oops. (When I read the books later, I'm told there are lots of women who have early trimester piss-ups before they're aware. ANd surely all that vitamin C cancels out the booze? Right? Right.)
What's that smell though?
I can smell everything. I can smell your toes in your socks in your shoes. I can smell the river's rotting feet. I can smell a cigarette across the dambo. I can smell a diesel engine before I can hear it. Don't get me started on the actors.
Oh that's what it is.
When I eventually do the maths, I know I don't need the pee-stick. I know. Its obvious, now. Should have been obvious seven weeks ago but, you know, I lead a busy life.