The baby had been crying for 15 minutes now. Mum’s hands clasped her head; her eyes popping out of their sockets. With every minute the crying got louder and pierced through her skull. Her hands had moved from the side of her head to her scalp. She pulled out strands of her hair. Her eyes started tearing. The front door slammed shut. She fell to the ground in despair. She could hear the Kawa’s at it again. She could hear a ‘crack’ then ‘whoop’ sound followed by a blood curdling scream and scratching on the wall. It sounded like a trapped cat trying to get out of the hole it was in. Then she could hear the lazy teenager with his new ‘score’ moaning through the thin walls. From across the corridor she could hear her Rhumba addicted neighbour playing old Lingala mixes with a constant, “Boye! Boye!” phrase; he sang along to in every song.
She couldn’t do it. She felt like she was going mad. She had it! She screamed at the top of her lungs. It was loud and prolonged. She pulled out strands of hair occasionally pawing at her scalp as if looking for left over strands. She screamed so long, by the time her lungs let, her voice was hoarse. All the noise around her stopped. The baby stopped crying. Her neighbours had fallen silent.
Then she heard a gentle knock on the door. She stared at the door from the floor where she had dropped on all fours from the impact of her lungs giving in. Her lips trembled and her eyes went glassy and she started mumbling something to herself. Then her body began to shudder.
The gentle door knock, now slightly louder, sounded as if the person knocking was inquiring if their entry would be welcome. She didn’t hear it. She mumbled even more. Snot and saliva dripped to the floor. She turned and fell butt first on the floor and lay on her back, mumbling, tears gushing out and running to either side of her face down her cheeks.
The door creaked open, and the weight of footsteps could be felt drawing closer to her. A face cast a shadow on hers now drained in tears, snot and drool. She did not see the huge face over hers. Her eyes were still glassy and restless. It was the end of the road. She couldn’t do it anymore.
More feet filled the room, causing a creaky sound on the wooden room floor. What she did not realize was in her mumbling she only uttered one word in variations of surprise, disgust, pity and anger with varying facial expressions corresponding to her tone.
“Baby? Baby! BBbbbbbaaaaby!” The last most hysterically and she rolled to her side and sobbed bitterly. Her body shuddered, her feet now flailing; desperate to detach themselves from the rest of her.
The crowd of neighbours stood there, in disbelief, staring at each other, then her, then back at themselves. They had no clue what to do. She rolled over to her other side and stretched out and yelled again. She was reaching out, as if beckoning for this baby to appear.
There was no baby, there never had been a baby! She yelled one last time, a blood curdling cry.
“My BaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabbbbbbYYYYYYYY!!!” She shuddered and moaned painfully. Her neighbours just stood there frozen, some with pity, some in irritation, others knowingly and empathizing. Some knew only too well what she was experiencing.