A Pot Full of Tears by Lauri Kubuitsile
Luck comes and goes like a thief in the night, here one minute, gone the next. Some women want children but can’t have them; others have children but can’t keep them. Some babies are born into loving families; others never sleep in their own mother’s arms, and never know their father’s name.
And in the end, which of them is lucky, and which unlucky? Who can say?
The wind whispers through the walls of the little wooden house, blowing the flame of the smoky lamp from side to side. An old man sits, resting his arms on his legs, looking down at the wooden floor. How long will it be, he thinks. The end must come soon, it must.
Across the room from him sits a woman. She is a stranger and does not belong in this house. Everything about her is different – she looks different, she sounds different, she smells different. She has sat here in this poor little house for seven hours, but still the wind carries her expensive perfume, a smell from another world. She and the old man are different in every way, but she, too, sits on an old wooden chair, looking down at the wooden floor. How long will it be, she thinks. The end must come soon, it must.
Sometimes they hear a cry from the other room. Each time, the old man feels that cry all through his body, a father feeling a child’s pain.
A loud scream brings both the old man and woman stranger to their feet. They wait. Minutes later, an old woman comes through the door, holding a baby in a blanket. The blanket is new, brought by the woman stranger. She now takes the baby from the old woman, but she does not move the blanket to look at the baby’s face. She is not interested in that. She leaves the house without even a goodbye to the old man.
It is months before. Before a baby is taken away in the night from a mother who is a child too young to be a mother. It is months before a father decides that he must lock his daughter in the back room. He must do this because he loves his daughter, and she will never find a good husband if people know her dark secret. It is months before a child with long feet like his father and a curved eyebrow like his mother is taken away in the night… A child who will never see the long feet of his father or the curved eyebrow of his mother.
It is morning, on that day months before, and a young woman, hundreds of miles away, wakes up to find a little blood between her legs. Now her husband’s family will decide that she can never have children. And her husband’s mother will say, once again, that she is no good. She will say that a woman who cannot have children is no use to the family. Tears run down the young woman’s face and she wants to die, because she does not want to give this news to her husband, who was hoping, hoping, hoping.
What can he do? He has fought with his mother again and again, but now he has to agree at last. He has to say, yes, he will take this barren woman back to her family. There is no use for her here. He is the only son of the house, and a wife who cannot have children is no use to him and his family.
The trouble is that he has learnt to like this woman who is his wife. Maybe he has even learnt to love her. He talks to her softly while she cries in his arms. We will do something, he tells her, we will do something.
They travel to a country, which is at war, where the people live with death every day of their lives. And for these people, a baby who is taken away from them is a baby who has escaped from the house of death. This is what the woman tells them – the woman stranger who smells of expensive perfume. Now she is in the place where she belongs, in a cool modern office, with carpets on the floor and soft comfortable chairs. It will cost them money, the woman tells them – a small sum of money for this only son and his barren wife, but a very large sum of money for the old man in his wooden house. But he will not see that money. It is not for him.
Months later, the only son and his barren wife have a small boy; a baby with long feet and a curved eyebrow. They are happy. There is a grandson in the house, and the family name will continue. The boy will eat well every day, he will have the love of a family around him. He will never be hungry, he will never know war, he will never have to live in fear and in pain, without friends, without hope, without love.
Years are gone, and a young married woman with a curved eyebrow cooks rice in a pot over an open flame. She looks at her small daughter, who shakes her fat little feet at the sky. And like a dream that never ends, the woman sees the long feet of a child who will never know where they came from. The tears run slowly down her cheek, falling, lost, in the steaming pot of rice.