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A man must pay

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BY Mankhokwe Namusanya:

He should have had been married by now. If all factors had been constant, he would have celebrated his third wedding anniversary a month ago. Maybe with a kid – or two.

Because she married three years ago. But that was years after they had realised that they were incompatible, and they had let each of them go. Except, for her, like most women, she found the compatible person in less than a year after they had parted.

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Then, they had gone on to marry. A wedding he did not attend because he was out of town – not out of malice.

They parted like friends. He asked what sort of family she wanted; she said with light in her eyes that finally he was asking the right questions. However, when she told him, he realised that she was not what he wanted. Her idea of family was miles away from his.

When she did the expected and asked him back the sort of family he imagined, he did not even bother pretending politeness. He just said it was different.

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She tried to press the buttons, but he would not say more. About a week, he shot the shot: “It seems we are not compatible.”

She did not look up in surprise then ask when he discovered that; was it just after he had seen her in her full womanly glory for all the years? She just nodded. That dangerous sign.

He went on justifying his decision. There was no interruption. Shock was only expressed, and even then it was mild, when he concluded.

“Was that the only conclusion to the situation?”

A man in the wrong is often one with so many words. He is battling his conscience. He went back to narrating, presenting the other possible alternatives and their challenges.

She grew impatient: “It means there were other alternatives, but you chose the most extreme.”

“It is not the most extreme. It is the most practical.” He played on semantics, like men always do when they are cornered and realise that their veneer is slowly unfurling.

“I see,” she was already done at that stage. As she went through his things to take what belonged to her, it was obvious that she had accepted his decision a long time before. Without being told.

She was gone, in days – alright! She was physically gone the same day, but no relationship ends the day it ends. It ends before, as in one party already accepting its end before announcing or executing the end action.

She did not tell him that she had moved on. But, he noticed that she had.

When the wedding card reached him, there was just that lump in the throat. It is not jealous. It is not anger. It is not pain. It is just a lump carrying dreams and imaginations of what would have been and was now being taken over by another person.

Once instructed that he had to attend to some business out of town that same weekend she was getting married, he took up that opportunity with glee. And, on the day, he texted his best wishes and asked for her account number so he could do the perekani without attracting attention to himself. She gave it. He honoured his promise.

That was it. Or, it should have been it. But, somehow, he met Zine and thought she was the compatible one. It was fine, the first days. A love that spoke his language and understood his language. It was fire. Even if it was not fulfilling. And, their fallout came from the last feeling.

It was random. And, normal. A question: was there anything about her that put him off even if he loved her?

There was a lot, he said – not because there really was a lot, but lovers always have a lot they find off on their partners. She focused on the unimportant, bottom page, two words: a lot.

“If I am that worse then why are you with me?”

Everything that was said in between is all left to speculation. He said things; she said things but, in the end, she told him that she was glad this had come to light sooner. And, yes, it was true that he was cursed.

“Cursed? Me?” because he is one of those who believe that people, other than your mother, can curse you and all your things will start going south, he asked with a genuine concern – and fear.

She let him in on the neighbourhood gossip. People said that he was cursed. That the tears of his ex – that one who got married – were standing between him and finding a good partner. At his age, they said, he was not married nor in a stable relationship as women came and left without anyone showing a sign they would stay for long.

Zine packed her things that same day. She had done the damage or, if you are like him, she had done her part. Because, he believes in some powers in the universe. And God. He is superstitious.

It is that superstition that is having us tell this story. Because, he has been wondering if it could be true that he is cursed.

“Do you think you are cursed?”

He shrugs, pretends to think about something, then say he does not know.

“However,” he is quick to add. “The signs are there. Man, my relationships fail over the flimsiest of reasons. And, it is not as if I am such a bad partner, yet somehow I just can’t, man. Maybe I am really cursed. And paying.”

“For what? Breaking off a relationship? A thing that happens daily in the world?”

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