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Dilman Dila - Dreams of a Happy Marriage

Afbeelding door Dilman Dila

Taaka opens the door to find a delivery man has brought him a new wife. She wears a blue gown with the LoveClone logo, and has no luggage. He smiles with trembling lips. She does not smile back. Makewa, his dead wife, smiled a lot. Should he call this one Makewa too?

He steps aside to let her in.

Her gait is slow, hesitant. Makewa had a brisk, bouncy walk. Yet everything else on this clone is Makewa. The face, the big hips, the short hair standing on her head like maize stalks, and, when she mutters a hello, the voice. She is Makewa resurrected.

'Asante,' he tells the delivery man.

'Have a happy new marriage,' the deliver man says, and drives away.

She sits on a sofa. He gives her a glass of mango juice, her favorite. It was not mango season, but he had preserved the fruits for months to give her a welcome-back-home special. She drinks it slow, taking tiny sips as though it is hot tea. Makewa never drunk it like that. She would drain the glass in a long swig and slam it on the table with a chuckle. Silently, he mutters a million thanks to LoveClone. When she died, he had asked them to clone her back to life, but also to re-engineer her DNA and get rid of her temper, her moodiness, and her drug addiction, things that had made their marriage a hell. It is too early to be certain, but these little differences indicate he can start dreaming of growing old in a happy marriage. He sits beside her, and puts a hand on her shoulder. She shrinks away.

'Please,' she whispers. She avoids his eyes, and stares intensely at the glass. 'Don’t touch me.'

His muscles stiffen. Did they get rid of her possessiveness too? He loved that about her, how she would fret whenever she lost sight of him, even for just a couple of hours. They had not met in seven months, since her death, she should be all over him.

'I missed you,' he says.

He moves closer, but she jumps away from the sofa, dropping the glass. It shatters on the floor. She runs to the other side of the coffee table, making it a barrier between them. Now, in her eyes, he sees the blue of ice, where once blossomed the brown of love.

'I know what you did,' she says, in a hoarse whisper.

His chest freezes. He cannot breathe. How did she know? He took care to put her to sleep, so she would have no memory of her own death, or of the suicide note citing the miscarriage. She suffered from migraines, and so got addicted to painkillers. When she got pregnant, doctors warned her against using those drugs. They gave her slow-acting organic remedies that would not harm the baby, but she wanted instant relief, and it caused a miscarriage. Depression set in. She did not allow him to comfort her. She insisted he was better off without her, that some other woman would make him happy. She asked for a divorce, but he could not bear to lose her. Only she could make him happy, if only she had no temper, if only she was not a quarrelsome nag, if only she was not moody, if only she was not addicted to painkillers. LoveClone could help him, but the law forbade cloning or re-engineering the DNA of living people. So he came up with a plan. It worked. Everyone believed she killed herself. But clearly, he had made a mistake. She knew. Was she not properly unconscious when he lifted her onto the rope dangling on the mango tree in their backyard?

He wants to explain why he did it, but the words stick in his throat like half-chewed nyama choma, choking him.

She walks away, not out of the front door, but into a corridor leading to their bedroom. It relights his hope. Maybe she will forgive him, and learn to trust him again. The hope is dim. Makewa would not have exhibited this quiet, almost passive fury. She would have thrown things at him, screamed at him, broken furniture, and he would have swallowed it all, knowing in a few hours, she would be laughing with him again, and loving him.

She returns in a kitenge dress. She could not go out in the LoveClone gown because of religious extremists, who thought scientists had no right to play God and that clones were demons to be killed on sight. She drags a suitcase, one he had bought for their first trip.

'Don’t look for me,' she says, not breaking her stride. 'If you do, I’ll tell the police.'

He does not respond. He cannot respond. Words stick in his throat like hot bones. The suitcase wheels make a sound that remind him of the day he proposed to her, on their first holiday together, on a beach in Mombasa. He cannot remember what the sea sounded like, or the sounds she made as she splashed out of the water, or the feel of the sand on his knees as he showed her the ring. He cannot even remember what her scream of delight sounded like. All that comes to him is the noise the suitcase made as he dragged it to the train station, the night after their engagement, the night after their first ever quarrel. He cannot remember what the fight was about, just the silence that came in its wake, and the sensation that he had made a mistake to ask her to marry him.

Gently, almost soundlessly, she closes the door on her way out. He remains rooted to the sofa, as the thought that he will never see her again sinks into his stomach like a lump of clay.


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