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A few good men

By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

Consider a house. And a storm.

The rains hitting. The winds sweeping. And you are in. With a loved one. Windows sealed. Doors locked. Just melting into each other’s arms. While muttering small inaudible prayers that the storm should pass as quickly as it can.

They told her, actually them, that marriage is like that: a house in a storm. And, for it to stand is because the two people in it choose to be in each other’s arms other than opening the windows or forcing the door open.

And, she always thought he would be the senseless one. That he would be the one forcing those doors and windows open regardless of the knowledge of the storm outside. Because, you know men – and their (in)ability to think properly.

So, she kept watching his steps. Watched too closely that she ended up with a jobless husband.

It is a long story, of him losing his job, but she had him lose it. Because, you cannot go to your partner’s office, rant and fight with everyone there just because you think your partner is messing around with one of the workers there and expect the company to keep him.

So, he was fired a month after that incident. Forcing both of them to go on the job market with him doing less of the search.

He was willing to just be a house-husband – if it meant having peace in the home.

It was on the job hunting trail that they met, again, after a long time. In their younger days, they had been together. Then, he had moved away. His parents had gotten a job in South Africa.

They had reconnected on Facebook, years later, but it had not been any meaningful. It was just to be on each other’s friends list without necessarily being friends. They would like each other’s posts, once in a while, but they had never gone beyond sharing mere pleasantries in the inbox.

That day, they met in person. It was him who remembered her. Sitting at the reception. Waiting to be interviewed. They struck up a conversation and agreed to meet over lunch.

At lunch, it was a great catch-up. They skipped the details of all those long boring years that happened after they had parted. They moved to the then. He was married. Yes, she knew it, she saw it on Facebook and even appended a ‘congratulations’ to the photos. He was running a company he owned with his wife. Oh, she was looking for a job, could they employ her? Laughter, then:

“No. We are going through a difficult time right now and we have stopped all hiring. Wife would be suspicious if I were to bring in a new employee, especially a female one. But, I can see what to do…”

It was in his seeing what to do that she realised she was developing feelings for him – or, you can say, she realised she could open the windows of that house regardless of the storm beating outside.

Because, whenever she needed help, he mostly came through. Like an angel.

There was a time she needed some money for rent. She complained to him. Just as a friend would complain to a friend. He asked for her account number. In the morning, there was money – double the rent money.

She could not thank him enough. She texted a ‘thank you’ message but, even then, she felt that it was not enough. Thus, when he suggested a lunch, she gladly accepted. And, she went there thinking he was to get his proper ‘thank you’. That, finally, she would get a blesser.

And, there he was, not showing any interest in her – at a public place. Just talking this and that, this and that, which was detached from anything that would lead them into a temptation she so desired.

In the end, she told him there was a job somewhere which he could give to her husband. Could she encourage him to apply once it got advertised?

“Why only my husband, we have similar papers, can’t I apply for it?”

“I know the people, they need a man even if they will just put the job advert out there.”

She did not believe that. She thought it was because he had feelings for her and did not want her to be seen by another manager, especially now that she had hinted that she was ready to open the windows of her marriage when met by money. She put it to him, in that lustful teasing fashion.

He said no. and, bluntly:

“I do not have such feelings for you. I remember our friendship, the love we had, I respect that. It was great. Another step, at this age, with our situations? No, I am not for that. I will help you, as an old friend, expecting nothing.”

She does not know what actually broke her heart between the words or the sincerity with which he told them – or, even, the disrespect to her feelings. But, her heart was smashed. First, into large broken particles that could not be easily put back together to give a whole then, as the reality started to sink in, into smithereens.

She was not used to being turned down.

For him, either out of altruism or just to mock her, he acted as if that incident was forgotten. Like it was nothing. He did not throw her out, like a bubble-gum stick that had lost its potency. He still checked, and checks, on her. He sends opportunities her way, even after her husband refused to take up that one.

She has yet to pick up her bruised ego, so she still leaves the windows of her marriage open. Keeps waiting for him, the storm, to rattle it.

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