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Leaving

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

These days, they do not leave. Or, to be more accurate: they leave, without leaving.

It is as if, in some way, they are there, yet, in another way, they are not there. They leave you with hope, promises and expectations. Then, they walk away. With them, they carry the same hope, promises and expectations.

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“It is sort of disempowering,” she says – paraphrased.

There are two statements that are said by pessimists of love. People who, believing that there is good in human relationships in the world, gave their all and then suffered a major heartbreak.

For women, they like to say: the only woman who knows where her man is at an actual time is a widow. They say, the rest should keep quiet. Because, a man would tell you – this moment – that he is at work while he is in some downtown rest house along the Lilongwe M1 Road.

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Men, on the other hand, are not spared. It is said that only a woman knows the actual father of a child.

I ask her if she thinks the second statement is true and she says it is accurate. Like beyond it being true, it is something more powerful.

It is a staggered conversation, so it happens over time. On different platforms. In person. Via texts. Via WhatsApp.

The first time we are texting on WhatsApp, she writes briefly that she is pregnant. I respond with that laughing – or is it smiley? – Emoji. Because, at her age, being pregnant is not such news to be shared with apprehension.

“Who is the father?” I ask after some little pleasantries.

She refers to him as that guy. No name. No description. Just that guy. And, I understand.

“And, when is the wedding?”

She says there is no wedding. They broke up a long time ago. Like, someday she woke up and realised that he was not what she thought he was and she packed up her feminine feelings and walked away. Expecting him to follow, to chase. But, he did not. Instead, he locked up his heart, cleaned the vestiges of her memories and, most likely, went off to another woman.

And, after some months, she called him. To tell him she was pregnant.

“How did he take it?”

“He accepted responsibility.”

This time, we are meeting in person. I am paying attention to her posture, gesticulations and every important detail so I am able to notice that she is not joking.

“But, that is ridiculous. Like you disappear from my life for months and then just show up that you are pregnant for me. Pardon me, but I would struggle to take responsibility.”

She says that, with him, there was no struggle. A part of her had expected some struggle and she had fortified herself with explanations.

“But I met him, told him, and he asked how far in I was and concluded by accepting when I told him the period.”

I shake my head and wonder how such Josephs could still exist in the modern world.

Then, she bursts my bubble.

He accepted responsibility, promised to be there for her, for the child and thereafter disappeared.

“Like literally disappearing, like maybe he has just dropped off from the face of the earth?”

“No, not like that. He is smarter.”

After being told of the pregnancy, he asked about what was expected of him. She told him: be there, show support, show interest in the baby and – maybe – let us forget we even broke up.

“Is that all?” I think he asked.

“Yes. For now, that is it. We will see life as it goes on. Soon, I will have to tell my family and I will need your support.”

I would think he hugged her, then kissed her, and then said:

“That is so easy. I will do it. I am so glad you are back in my life, babe. My world was collapsing without you in it. Now, we can talk of marrying.”

She does not say that happened. She actually does not say what happened afterwards.

She, instead, tells of him starting to play hide-and-seek and acting contrary to anything she asked of him. Where she wanted him to remind about a hospital visit was when he would have his phone off. Where she expected him to text in the middle of the night and wish her and the baby a good night sleep, he instead texted lies and doubts.

“It was everything I was afraid of,” she says.

I want to say I can relate, with him, but I think it would be insensitive.

“You know, it would have been easier had he denied responsibility that time I met him and broke the news to him than give me hope and then snatch it away like that.”

“Maybe he was unsure, maybe he was just happy to have seen you back in his life at that time, maybe this – or that. There are many maybes.”

She shakes her head, says she does not want to think about him anymore. She does not say she is a widow – you know those widows whose husbands are living and leaving like some hobby – but I can sense that her exasperation is of such a widow.

“What do you want from him now?”

“Nothing. Just nothing. Not now. Not ever.”

I want to say that ‘never say never’ cliché but I just let it pass.

The other day, when I turn to my phone, I find a friend complaining:

“Tell the father of my child to stop bothering us, we are doing well without him. We will keep doing well without him. Where was he all this time to appear today?”

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