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Closing chapters

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

There used to be the boys of the town. The guys. With a swag. If you are from my epoch, it is not that far nor is it near, then you know them: sagging pants, bandanas atop the forehead, heavy chains hanging from the necks. They did not have tattoos because, here, that stuff was – and perhaps is still – mistrusted.

In discos, they had all the ladies. Or just most. And, they walked rapping to that 50 Cent anthem while nobody with a birthday was in sight. Sometimes, they also lifted weights – not this proper ‘gyming’ we do these days – but just makeshifts of gym equipment.

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Most of them, today, are the ex-lovers of your loves.

In those days, when going out with these was trendy, she chose the road not taken.

He was like me of those days, I think. With a different outlook to life, attending Church every Sunday, attending the Wednesday prayers, going to school and actually attending classes. And, listening to Reggae – except he did not listen to that Reggae. He listened to gospel music: Sweeny Chimkango, Allan Ngumuya, Ndirande Kachere CCAP Choir and Agatha Moses.

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You could pass, and dismiss him, if you were into fads and meaningless gestures. If you were her, however, you would gravitate towards him.

Maybe, it was her own insecurities. She admits that, like all of us, in Secondary School she was not one whom you could look at twice. Her head, big and shaven, was a mock imposition on her body – or skeleton if one has to fear hellfire and resort to honesty.

This, she does not say, but I think she was one of those we called improper fractions while conveniently ignoring our own defects that make us not participate in #TBTs or participate by culling photos from only three years – or weeks – ago.

In him, therefore, she found company. And, a home.

“I actually chased after him and, for a better part, he was not interested in me,” she confesses.

She started with those sly chats. The greetings. Then, asking him to pick her up on his way to Church. School notes? Not really, they were classes apart. Also, even if smart in some way, Church was superior to School. After all, do you ever need education on your deathbed, is it not the comforting hand of religion that you hold on to; and, for the other life, have you ever heard of people with PhDs staying in a hell that has WiFi or aircons just because of their education?

The smart girl that she was, she used his same strength to weaken him: Church.

She started going to Church frequently, attending those fellowship prayers and eventually everything fell into place. Place being them ending up as husband and wife, after that Church wedding.

I should say: she did not just take up Church to belong. She was also a Christian in her own right. With little zeal, yes, but still convinced that praying over a pandemic had more potency than trusting on Science. With him, however, her faith was not just restored. It was energised. Do you know your Bible, that book of Corinthians, the first one, Chapter 7, Verse 16? It happened for them.

“It was not hard really to share a life,” another confession. Of course, after seven years of dating in a Christian way there certainly is little that would make marriage hard that one has to rush pleading before the Courts for annulment as if it is some shady election.

He was a husband like one curated from a religious book. Firm, but ‘loving’. A provider too. With self-respect. One who, before sleeping, led his family into prayer lest the devil creeps in through the night and cause one of them – especially her, the ‘weaker vessel’ – into sin.

Scandals? None. Not that he hid them. He just did not have them. While other women complained of the neighbour’s child looking like theirs, none resembled hers. While they came knocking asking for a soft loan because their husband had used money on beer and women, she lacked not.

I should not even tell this in the past tense and give a foreboding sense of a divorce or, worse, death. Because, they are still together. And, he has changed little. If anything, he has become very prayerful.

He had a health scare about two years ago and from there, his outlook to life changed.

Death, he said, is nearer than our shadows. One can never be prepared enough. His preparation however, unlike your politicians, is not to build treasures here where their children and the ten generations to come can feast on. It is depositing in heaven.

“He has no time for the family.”

And, she has realised that it has been like that for a long time now. He has hardly had time for the family. He has only had time for the afterlife. Love? That thing of random text messages in the middle of the day pampering your smile, she does not know it.

“Many people do not know it as well,” I tell her, “everyone actually does not know it” – that last part is said tongue in cheek.

“You know what I mean. It is as if we are just co-parents who are there for each other. A bigger friendship if I can call it that. We are not really a couple. He is not here, his life is not here, his outlook is not here.”

I say: at least, he is not focusing on destructive things.

She is at pains to comment, because, you cannot say Church is destructive with a clean conscience; also, she knows that here is a man who, if not destroyed himself, has destroyed her.

“This is not what I imagined when growing up,” she complains.

“Maybe that is the problem. Imaginations. Move on from them.”

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