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It’s better experienced

By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

There was a mistrust that her mum had. It made her hugely uncomfortable.

It was not distrust, actually; it was paranoia. You could not walk behind her, she would stop and ask that you be at par — or ahead. Laughing? You could not do that while with her unless the joke came from her. If, as siblings, you saw something on television she did not see and burst out laughing, you would have an explaining to do thereafter.

“That distrust,” she still calls it distrust, “was reserved for the children.”

For the wider community, she was impressionable. And reliable. One whom you could run to and sell a story that you had just met Jesus, riding a giant rat in town, and had asked for some money. In minutes, if she had, you would have it.

Because, also, she was Christian. That strong Christian who, in times like these of Covid-19, would forward those WhatsApp messages that corona is an invention of the devil thus the attack on religious meetings.

“Why would she distrust you, was there something wrong that you did – or kept doing?”

The answer to that is not straightforward. It is not just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Because, no child never wrongs their parent. Also, no child ever wrongs their parent. A parent is some sort of a latrine, when you come to think of it — or at least is expected to be — where one can dump whatever they can, and it should be welcomed with amazing grace.

She is a last born. And, like most last borns, she got judged and appreciated basing on the fate of those before her.

And, her siblings – both boys – had been everything but angels.

There would be calls in the middle of the night on the mother’s phone, from an unknown number, which would end up with her travelling in the dead of the night to a lawyer or a police station.

Or, there would be a young woman, scared and confused yet pretending to hide all that, who would knock on the door on a Sunday morning. She would announce that she was moving in because her father had chased her away from home after returning home late.

“And how does that concern me?” the bewildered mother would ask.

“I was late because I was with your son,” the girl — with a sense of entitlement — would respond.

“My son, which one?”

She would mention the oldest. The one who was in School 400 kilometres away. The one who would only be in the city for two months.

Bemused, the mother would dismiss her until confronted with evidence: the son had been in town for more than a fortnight. School? He had been expelled. It was over a month now.

That, somehow, unnerved her.

But, like most children, they eventually grew up. And outgrew everything. They started manning up, being honest, assuming responsibility. Except, the mother did not trust that appearance. She always appeared as if she expected them — and now, the last born — to pull some surprise.

“What sort of surprise?” I ask.

“I do not know, but there was a sense that all the maturity we presented was a façade.”

And, that seems to be a thing for people who learn the hard way. They do not believe that people are not like God. They change. For the worse, also for the better. If it is parents, they fail to believe that their child can change.

It is as if someday, while convinced that the child has changed, the child will come with a bombshell. An announcement: ‘I do not think we should be keeping secrets. I want to confess something. The time I was being that difficult child, I got parented by another family. I have a new set of parents outside of family. Paternity tests, everything, we did, and it turned out that this is my family. I know this is unsettling. I will understand if you want to disown me. I just wanted to be honest.’

And, that would shatter their world. Therefore, they refuse to take chances.

Her mother kept living such a life — of paranoia, rushing to indictments, and never giving them the chance to prove themselves.

And, she grew in it.

“I accepted; I would always be mistrusted.”

When she decided to enter that dating world, the mistrust grew. She could not get a flu, the mother would suggest a full everything test at the hospital.

“I knew she always thought I was pregnant, she never said it. But, I knew. That was what she expected.”

Falling pregnant she never did until she moved out of her mother’s home and got married.

“Did the child make you understand your mum?”

“No, and yes. Because, my child is still young. But, there’s always that feeling for when she eventually grows.”

“Did you understand her, your mother, or you just got a habit off of her?”

She stays still and thinks. Again, a yes and no situation presents itself. Then, she says that the story is not her mother. It is her husband.

“I just cannot trust him.”

“Is it something he did?”

She does not come straight. He did something, yes, but not anything to warrant a lifetime of mistrust.

“And, it is not just mistrust that I have. It is actually paranoia” – that word, she uses it now. On herself.

“It is as if I just cannot expect him to do the right thing.”

“Has this just come now or it has been through the relationship?”

She says it had been. But, somehow, she had always overcome it. However, now, it has become huge. This feeling that perhaps someday he will come and ruin everything.

The two relationships before him were also ruined by that, that same feeling.

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