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I know one

Mankhokwe Namusanya

I would rather not talk about his eyebrows. Although they were the defining feature of his face. Some sort of a map. Someone would say, in talking about him, ‘that boy with eyebrows’.

They were bushy and tightly knit like an illegal settlement. They went into a dangerous curve, like sketched by a mocking cartoonist.

And, his stature was of an older person. His shoulders, the way they fell in the sides; his back, the way it was broad and valleyed into the waist. Or, he was actually older. The company he kept was not one he should have had been keeping. Because, long before we knew how to smile just from the corner of the mouth when you see a woman you like, he had had two failed relationships already.

He was into his third.

Of the failed, the second one was the most chaotic. They broke up while there was a pregnancy. It was the pregnancy that had them break up. She, the girl, said it was him that had made her pregnant. He said it could not be possible. That the time between the encounter and the age of the pregnancy was illogical. The only thing that was not under contention was that there had been an encounter – unprotected – at a time when we were still processing the fact that children were not really bought from the hospital.

He got away from that scene with little scratches. His aunt had threatened that he would throw him out if it ended up being that he was the father. She was to never to.

When the child was born, however, there was a quiet agreement that although she was a girl, she had taken much of the looks from a man – him. The eyebrows. The family of the girl, however, did not bother with him. They simply knelt down in prayer and thanked the Lord for the child and asked Him to give them the resources to raise her into a fine young woman – most likely, unlike her mother.

The boy became a pariah somehow. Girls who knew of the story avoided him. Until he met one, in school. A private school that was trying its best, but failing with a distinction, to model around relevant and actual private schools of that time.

This one, the girl, there was a lot that was said about how she came to end up with him. One version said she was new to the area, therefore unaware of the past mischief of the boy. Another version said it was because the boy had used roots on her.

Roots, that was another area that people believed the boy was good in. They said that from his time of moving to the village, not being thrown out by his aunt even after the child was born, eventually ending up with this girl then it was all because of roots.

The girl, it was said, was too good to be with him. If it was today and I had been asked to comment, I would quickly have thought of the beauty and the beast cliché.

It seemed even himself was not sure that he had ended up with her. Because, the conversations that we used to have suddenly became about her.

He would meet her and come back telling us about their day. Mindless that most of the things he would come telling us were really not things that we were conversant with. Like that about the kiss. What was a kiss, anyway, to us? And that about the other things they did when the School was quiet. They were things we enjoyed – yes, some guilty pleasure – listening to but in the night, I would personally stay awake wondering what each of his vivid descriptions meant.

And, another time when he had finished detailing, I stayed behind after the other friends had gone. I probed more. He laughed but told more. The details. Now, I think, much of it was made up. It sounds too good – or, perhaps, stupid – to be true.

Nevertheless, from that time, he always told me more than what he told the rest of the group.

It is no wonder then that it was me he decided to confide in when a few days went by without him coming back with his usual stories.

I would have loved to detail his look that day, but that is a tool for lazy narrators. I remember he asked me to walk him to the market. It was just beginning to get dark – and it got dark quicker those days. Instead of the usual route to the market, we took the one through maize fields.

“She’s left me,” his voice was not breaking, or maybe it was – I do not remember.

“Left, to where?”

“I do not know.”

“What happened?”

He said the words. I cannot print them all. But, the brief of it: they met at some place of a bachelor friend. He wanted her. She said she was not yet ready. He overpowered her. He forced her. He got what he wanted. She left, in tears, saying she could not believe it, that she trusted him, she loved him. She regretted. She should have listened to what people said.

“Since then,” he summed up. “I have never seen her again. School, she no longer is coming. I have tried to ask from her friends, no success. I went to her home as a friend from School, I just spent my time watching that house. I could not go there. I saw no sign of her, anyway.”

I had a lot of questions, too confused a mind. I did not ask.

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