A safe place


By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

She knows she will get to him. He thinks he will survive this as well. There have been many close shaves with what he would most likely think is the worst mistake one can ever make. There have also been plentiful – if not just always – survivals.

He likes to talk about his family. His wife. The two children.


In his office, on the desk, are two photos in carefully selected frames. Those frames might even be custom-made. The first is of him and her: On their wedding day. Huge smiles the size of the entire world on their faces. His is the hugest. Hers is thin and reserved. An encouragement to people like her – let us call her Cecilia – who can read a lot from a little.

The other photo, obviously recent, is of the wife and the two children.

The photos are a statement. He likes to expound on that at every slight instance. As in, you would walk in his office to ask for some signature on some cheque, then he will ask you to take a seat while he peruses through that leaf. Somehow from that leaf he might get reminded about something about his wife.


“You should have come earlier, isn’t this money needed urgently?”

And, before you respond, he would fire:

“You know one thing that I have learnt since I got married to my lovely wife,” he would emphasise on lovely, making sure that it does not ring with the same callousness and casualness of every other word. “I have learnt that things need to be prioritised. My wife is well organised, and meticulous. Our two kids,” then he would be searching for a pen-leaving the one on his desk, “all count on her. But, who would not?”

By the time he gets to signing that leaf, one would have been told about the dynamics of his family. Sometimes, even their love story. If you make the mistake of being active in that conversation, then God save you, you will hear about how it was difficult to conceive their first child and every other new detail he would remember.

With her, Cecilia, he played the same trick. But Cecilia is not one to be deterred. Not one to be fenced off. She saw from a far a vulnerable man. She knew she would get him. He still thinks he will not succumb. Because, on the list of the most important virtues for a man, fidelity ranks highly than any you might decide to inject onto that list.

The first time they met, and it was all professional, he talked about his family. Wife, mostly. She was there to sell him some business idea. The company trusts him to handle that. She fell for him that very day. You can call it infatuation.

As he talked about his wife, pointing at her in the two photos, there was something about that which got her on the innermost vulnerabilities she had. If she would be religious, she would equate that experience to the one you get when under the control of some religious power – the one that hypnotises you that you get to roll on the ground. But it was in an office setting, you cannot do much in that context.

“Did you like him because he is married, that you have some obsession or what they would call a knack for married men?”

“No, I liked him just like that. His ring was not even visible that time,” because he likes to speak with his hands open. “Then it happened that he was married.”

“And that is where you should have pressed the breaks, no?”

“Sometimes, a woman cannot help it.”

She could not help it. She got his contacts. Promised that they would stay in touch on WhatsApp and set a few meetings because, for all practical purposes, her business proposal was one that he had leapt it. It was good, even if it was to come from the worst enemy.

“His WhatsApp was also full of her. On the display picture, it was her. Statuses? The children. And, man, the children are just but an extension of her, you know?”

I feign to know even if I am disagreeable to the assertion.

They have been texting, now they have been moving to more mundane things. Nothing related to that business contract. A few times, he has sent her Bible verses —another give away, she says.

“He has fallen too and is using every ammunition in his custody to fend off the feelings. But feelings are not that simple.”

She is playing along. When he sends a Bible text, she responds with enthusiasm. If it is a political discussion he initiates, she rises to the occasion too. Stirring the waters deliberately before eventually capitulating so she can just massage his ego.

The other time he presented a situation of a friend of his, having problems with his wife. He said he wanted a female opinion on the issue. She knew it was his own story. His own troubles. But he would not wash the dirty linen in public. She helped him with fixing things.

“Because it is not as if I want to pull them apart. At least not yet,” the last sentence is said tongue-in-cheek, but this world has always had a joker up its sleeve. It is not as straightforward as one would think. “I just want to give him a safe space because that man is obviously not happy. He presents a façade to the world. Shows us a mask. I want to see his actual face.”

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