A MOTHER’S AGONY.
Geneviève, a twenty-five year old young gal was sitting in the transit bus on the Montclair, NJ, Manhattan line; her last stop was Nyack, NY to join her Haitian husband and her first-born boy. This well-sought-after trip was turning into a painful ride. She was crying incessantly and the tears were streaming with a constant flow, a very salty taste, the sensation of her innards exuding the effluvium of all her emotional upheaval. In fact she felt she was wallowing at the lowest point of her existence, like wine, coffee dregs or a dust mote. She had a rosary in her hands that she was fingering nonstop in an attempt to cleanse her soul, clear her foggy mind, open the way to a bright light and leaving darkness behind. A darkness she was not proud of and that was part of her recent life, had stained her and she wanted to atone, repent by reciting the prayer of contrition and proclaim mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
In the middle of a tragedy of two husbands who loved her to the hilt, once more she fell victim of her stunning natural beauty, her salvation as well as her torment. The last ten months were definitely the worst of her life. She was swaying between a rock and a hard place. Anguished, terrified, she became an insomniac, having many sleepless nights, not knowing what to do with the baby she was carrying in her womb. She had to choose between her two husbands, in other words, break one of the two’s heart.
This dreary, gray, sunless day, a snow doted on by thick flakes bringing traffic to a crawl aggravated her cocoon of despair, her dismal state of mind. Grief and panic were her only traveling companions. To go forward, she had no other choice but to delve into her past. She then began to review the last five years of her life. This trip down memory lane was emotionally charged with the intensity of a bonfire, and reliving the trajectory of her highs of joy and the lows of of sorrow so searing, virulent and sharp. The lows outnumbered the highs . The last decision she took was the most existential of her life and without any doubt the most painful. Far from the liberation from a sentence, for the time being she was in the throes of an indescribable, undesirable, impossible if not permanent position of veering from the frying pan into the fire.
Gifted with with a well chiseled body, of an oval face mimicking that of an angel, brown eyes, snub nose, narrow lips, a composite doubling as a vista of an affable mien full of mirth. Better known as Ginou gwo dada, by her fans for her shapely rump, this damsel that made heads turn was constantly attracting courtship. She married her first and only sweetheart from grade school, Gérard. She did so at the tender age of twenty and she was pregnant. The white dress worn for this ceremony, the honeymoon right after, and the baby’s birth five months later were some important milestones, unforgettable heights. Such reminiscences still expand the chest’s bellows, warm the heart’s cockles. This adorable baby boy had her face and his dad’s body, a hulk. Three months after the childbirth, she received a scholarship offer for the USA. The eight months of wedded life with Gérard still remained a period of simple bliss and happiness. These sacred memories had a therapeutic influence as well as shielded her emotionally like a talisman during her crisis modes. The trip to America was bittersweet. That was a unique opportunity for professional development with an onerous admission price, splitting from her family. She lived on campus and exchanged letters with Gérard all the time to blunt her solitude and lessen her chagrin. However after the first semester, the school closed its doors due to an investigation by the feds that discovered a widespread administrative fraud. The unaccredited technical school recruited foreign students and counted them as nationals to obtain federal funds.
That was her first major disappointment in life. That day was just as gray as this one with the difference it was then a mixture of rain and thunderstorm. It was a long lasting drizzle, unlike tropical downpours, strong, short lasting, replaced by sunshine to calm frayed nerves. That persistent drizzle was bewildering. Snow and rain amounted to the same emotional drab effect. Here she was without money, in a cold country, running the risk of losing her student visa if she was not attending school. She took a job as a waitress. Soon thereafter, the manager, Gaétan, twenty years her senior, with a paunch, bald, avuncular, gregarious, fell in love with her. He was Canadian-born and had a liking for Black women. He had acquired US citizenship. He knew an administrator at Montclair State in Montclair, NJ. She applied for admission and along the way, she took a calculus exam and did so well that made the decision easier. Two years later and full of debt, she agreed to marry her Canadian suitor so she could obtain residency in the US.
It was supposed to be a practical business arrangement for her survival. Nonetheless she didn’t have the financial means to pay him and even if she did, he wouldn’t accept the money. Gaétan was simply in love and kept on insisting on living under the same roof since they were spouses. He was kind and spoiled her with attention and gifts. She relented grudgingly because she didn’t love him. She had the backing of Gérard. The explicit understanding was the absence of physical contact. Once under the same roof, he wanted spousal benefits, either by begging as a man madly in love or by veiled threat as taken by full-blown jealousy. To make matters worse, he was a man with a strong libido but impotent as he suffered from premature ejaculation.
The decision to share the same bed was one she regretted instantly. That was the opening and entrance into the world of darkness. She couldn’t admit it to Gérard who was also jealous. She insisted on the use of condom, emphasizing schoolwork and inconvenience of pregnancy. Coitus with Gaétan was a mechanical act, of short duration, devoid of any tantric sensuality. Ginou considered this a bitter pill to swallow and even went so far as comparing herself to a prostitute, accelerating her residence in the dark world. She was the only one aware of this. She couldn’t divulge it to anyone else. She was ashamed of her situation. Ironically and adding another layer was the fact that Gaétan was considerate and behaved like an ideal spouse.
He was aware of the first marriage of his wife. He had no issue when he learned that Gérard had come to America two years after their civil act. He acquiesced to help Gérard financially to make a similar arrangement as theirs to take care of his legal status in the country. He didn’t balk at the idea of her going to visit her firstborn a year later after Gérard’s arrival. She had just terminated her studies. The evening before the visit to see her firstborn, during the usual short intercourse, the condom broke while Gaétan ejaculated. A month later, she missed her periods that usually came like clockwork.
Her dilemma kept expanding. She had rediscovered the intoxicating feeling of love making with a sexually fit man when she met her Haitian husband during the visit. The enigma created a mental torture for she didn’t know who the father was. Religious as she was, abortion was not an option for her.This baby would be her second and she would have the same love for him as for the first one with whom she only had a brief bonding. The encounter with her first baby shook her to her inner core so much she decided to stop the charade with the second husband for her mental welfare as well as her dignity. Ginou’s nine months of gestation was akin living in purgatory. During the first trimester, she vomited often and became dehydrated at times. That was a hardship on several levels. During the entire pregnancy, she avoided seeing Gérard for obvious concern and she kept coming up with excuses. She was thinking night and day about her future, not with Gaétan but with Gérard, the only man who controlled her heart and to whom she would gladly plead obedience from here to eternity even as an independent woman.
The baby’s birth, far from tying the gordian knot to strengthen the relationship, devolved into the swan song of their union, a dysphonic song rather than a symphony, a one-way love story, a musical score with an asymmetric cover and , therefore unhealthy. The plot enfolded at the sight of the baby. That the dithering lasted long like the span of January first to December thirty-first, the climax had the quick pace of the short distance of December thirty-first to January one. One month after the birth, she took the final decision to break the relationship. Gaétan was sad and cried. He accepted her decision but demanded that she gave the baby up for adoption. He had a broken heart. Hers was split in two because she couldn’t ask Gérard to accept the baby who was as light-skinned as he was dark-skinned. At the very least, this would be a source of permanent discord and the child would be unhappy, the target of mocking by mean-spirited people of all ages for the difference would be too obvious on one hand. On the other hand, she would have had to explain to Gérard she was sharing Gaétan’s bed, a very explosive truth. Most of all, the idea of giving up her baby to adoption was a strange and alien concept in her culture.
Gérard lived in Nyack, a small village on the east bank of the Hudson River, and he was waiting for her impatiently. Her firstborn wanted nothing more than to cling to his biological mother. This seeming image of pent-up happiness was supposed to replace the morose feeling splayed on her, but the price was enormous. She didn’t have any choice but to leave the second baby. She couldn’t understand why Gaétan took that decision. A separation with the flesh of one’s own flesh is a cruel, barbaric, horrific punishment. Raise a child in an unhealthy social milieu would be a war of attrition, a daily anguish, a physical and mental torture. There was no happy medium between these two cynical choices.
The rosary, the tears, and the swollen eyelids caught the attention of the passenger sitting next to Ginou, an old man with a walking cane, hard of hearing without his hearing aids. He asked no question, since he understood it would be difficult for him to hear and most indiscreet to ask her to speak loudly. He did better, he took her hand and told her with a fatherly air, “ Your pain will pass in due time, for time is the great healer of heart aches.”
She looked at him and tried to smile. Then he pressed her hand more firmly and added, “ We all carry a cross on our back, no one is a saint, there’s no burden too heavy for our shoulders. If we survived slavery, we can accomplish everything. Take courage and be happy.” He got up with the help of his cane and stepped off the bus. She fell into a deep sleep and woke up when the bus driver gently shook her at the terminal. How pleasant was her surprise when Gérard was with her son to greet her.
REYNALD ALTÉMA, MD