Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The victim of a circumstance

The minute the two pink lines revealed themselves on the thin strip all I could do was review the events that led up to this day, this moment, this test.

Several weeks ago the school term began and all our students were back. Up to this day they have come every day, all except one. For weeks I had been asking where she was.  “She’s sick.” As another week came and went I asked again. “She’s sick.” Another week came, knowing that anytime a student has been out for more than a week the other students tell us they are married or pregnant, I lightheartedly asked if she had run off to get married. The response this time hit me like a heavy wave crashing down. “No, but she’s conceived.”


As the day went on all I could think was how badly I needed to get to her. To see her. To talk to her.

The following day I walked into the dark classroom that I used to call my own where my supervisor sat with her own students. I approached her, as I always do when we need to discuss something serious.

“I want to talk about C.”

Her face made a small and subtle change. It became solemn.

“Yes, it’s as if she’s ill. Her sickness has continued, but I’ve been calling her mother.”

“I heard she’s pregnant.”

Not knowing how I heard this information, or that the information had reached so many people already, she told me she had not confirmed the rumors. Being a mother herself she had noticed enough changes in C that she was suspicious and spoke to her mother. She told the mother to bring the girl to Sega and have her tested and report back. It’s been over 3 weeks and we hadn’t heard a single thing from her mother.

Today I scarfed my lunch down wondering what the afternoon would bring. As I saw my supervisor walk across my yard I grabbed my bag, slid into my sandals and locked the door behind me. We walked to the road in almost total silence and flagged the first matatu that came our way.

My supervisor was constantly giving specific directions in mother tongue to the driver until finally the vehicle stopped and we alighted. We walked to the first home we came across and asked where we could find C. We were already on her family compound we just had to walk out further and turn to the left. As we approached the next house we asked again. “Yes, she lives that way. She’s here, she was just carrying water.”

We entered her compound and were greeted by the woman we refer to as her mother but is actually, as I came to learn, just a guardian to C. I did a scan around the area. I did not see the familiar face of my student. We were told she was making a second trip for water and so we sat under the tree on her compound and waited. The longer we sat, more people surrounded us, two of which were children not younger than 10 or 12.

“Why aren’t these children in school?” I wanted my supervisor to ask and then interpret for me what the woman had answered.

“This one has started late and is only in class 2, so he doesn’t go back in the afternoon.”

I sat silent. The boy, from the looks of him, had no reason to have started school so late.

And then she came. My eyes opened wide, scanning her body trying to determine if she was, in fact, with child. She came up to me and as I gave her a sideways hug I could see below 2 layers of thick baggy sweaters she had gained several pounds.

We asked her to bathe and put on her uniform.

Again we sat. Waiting.

Under the shade of the tree, I thought to myself “maybe it’s just the sweaters that are making her look that way.”

But, as she returned in the uniform I’ve seen her wear day in and day out at school for 2 years there was no mistaking the way the fabric stretched across her distended belly. I was thankful to be outside, wearing sunglasses as the tears welled up in my eyes.

As we boarded another vehicle with C in tow and walked all the way to the dispensary, time moved in slow motion and I gave her as many reassuring smiles as I could muster.

We entered the somewhat dark building and while I sat next to a girl who had no idea she was pregnant I looked outside and noticed the dark ominous clouds. My supervisor disappeared into the back of the dispensary and returned with an empty pill bottle. Handing the bottle to C we explained what she needed to do and she walked away from us towards the latrines outside. She returned with the pill bottle in hand and we were immediately taken back into an office with a hospital bed in it.

The nurse wiggled her fingers into latex gloves and tore open a small packet containing a narrow strip of thin paper. She showed me the wrapper and as she opened the pill bottle and the smell of urine wafted quickly through the room she explained, “one strip means not pregnant, two means pregnant.”

Again, we waited. The room turned dark and the rain came down heavily outside.

She removed the small strip from the urine sample and laid it onto the empty packet.

“Two red strips.”

She laid it in front of me as if it were my own or as if I didn’t believe her. I didn’t believe her. I was staring down at the two pink lines myself and I still couldn’t believe her.

C laid on the hospital bed and waited as the nurse palpated on her stomach. She again turned to my supervisor. For a minute or so they spoke in mother tongue. The nurse then sat back down at her desk, looked me in the eye and said, “4 or 5 months.”

At 24 years old I have a solid 9 more years of life under my belt and stand approximately a foot taller than her. Today I felt like a small child. I wanted to tell her what I knew, tell her what would happen. I couldn’t tell her because I don’t know. The girl that has sat in my class every day for 2 years is now in a situation that would devastate me to my very core and all I can do is smile at her reassuringly.

Together the 3 of us walked back out to the road. I felt dazed, as if I were in a dream. We waved goodbye to her as she boarded a vehicle home. Turning back towards Sega it was just the 2 of us now left to discuss what we would do, what would happen to this girl who lives with a woman who didn’t even care enough to have the girl under her protection, her supervision tested when she was obviously well into her pregnancy.

Trudging through the mud puddles and wet grass to get to our homes my supervisor said to me, “she’s the victim of a circumstance.”