Maps of meanings


Reported by Mankhokwe Namusanya:

There was a dysfunctional relationship, even a dead one. You could smell it from 10 days away or – in his case – from two seats away.

If you use the minibus, there are a few things you should not do, even if you do them anyway. You should not share your life with everyone. As in, speaking loudly on the phone talking to your child and telling them what to buy or where to keep the keys. Or, maybe, talk about your previous supervisor. Or the salary there. Or that one you were flirting with that there was a day when everything ended into the unsaid.


The other thing, and this is important, do not check your phone. At least, do not open your WhatsApp or these other social media sites. There are bored people there. People with little – to nothing – to do who are just wondering when they will reach their stage. Those ones, especially the male ones with a face that betrays none of their emotions, have sharp eyes. They can see far. Even tomorrow.

He saw far. Not tomorrow.

“I could see that it was a mad exchange. I am a guy and from the tone of the messages from the other end, he was done. He was going,” he says, with a tone of pride.


This thing about men, some men: They see opportunities in a heartbreak, and they strike. There is a joke that goes around, advising singles who are tired of their status: Go to courts, check out divorce proceedings, find yourselves a wife or husband, thank me later.

For him, the court was the minibus, the divorce proceedings were taking place virtually. When she dropped off, he followed her. For a brief distance, he kept following, wondering how best to strike the conversation and, of course, go for the kill.

Somehow, however, he found the magic. A greeting. A cold response. A small conversation. Half-hearted responses.

“Is everything alright?”


That brief response. Of course, it is only when a heartbreak is confirmed and certified as some bank facilitated financial transaction that one opens up to random strangers. Here, it was yet to be.

Our protagonist, however, was not one to give up quickly. And, he was direct.

“He is not coming back that one. He already found someone else most likely.”

She tried to pretend but the more they engaged into a conversation, the more her façade wore off. The reality was soon bare.

Did she see it coming?

She did not. Because, things were always just like that. It was a routine they kind of collapsed into. Fights. Make up. Another. Healing. Bruising. Healing. Nothing extraordinary.

“But this time he will not come back again.”

“How sure are you? You do not even know him.”

Yes, but there is a reason why I am wearing the sort of pants that I am wearing, I would think he said that, tongue-in-cheek.

Whatever was said there, they swapped numbers. And when someday her number rang, he knew that his prophecy had come to pass.

Now, if we could say something. There are two ways that people heal from a terrible heartbreak. There might be many, actually; however, due to my less exposure to worldly things then, I only know of the two. First, they leave the dating market, find a new hobby (or pet) and keep praying that something horrible happens to their ex. Secondly, and this is what she did, they swap that offending partner with another one.

He became the new man.

Now, by script, people advise against being the new person. They say you are a rebound. Some sort of drug. One that a heartbroken person takes to forget their pain. Unlike the other drugs, however, they fail to become an addict of you. You even fail to be enough for them. They either mix you with other drugs or end up discarding you to go back to their guilty pleasure – the ex.

This, however, does not end in that.

“If anything, I was the one who kept wanting to meet with her ex…”

“Weird man, that is weird. We all hate them, even if we did not know them…”

He went on a mission searching for him. On social media. Through circles of friends. He became a constant project. A shadow. A third wheeler in a relationship even without his own knowledge, let alone of the lady.

“It must have been a job…”

“It was two jobs. The first, and the hard one, was being in a relationship with her. The second was that searching for clues in his life, in his Facebook posts, or Tweets.”

When he went into that relationship with her, they had had that big conversation that you refuse to have with your partner. For them, it was natural. Why had he left?

The answer was the obvious one: He has found another; you know your gender.

The phone conversations however – yes, he had sneaked – had told a different story. It was just a man tired of what you would fashionably call a toxic relationship.

“In the last text, he actually described it as a burden. Imagine, man, a man calling a relationship a burden…”

I say that it is not unusual. He agrees, quickly, albeit on a different meaning of my statement. “Being with her is indeed a burden, man…”

Then, he tells of all the crimes against humanity she has committed in the relationship with no apology or amends.

“You would think it is that biblical situation where angels ended up marrying on earth, except she is the angel and I am the human. And, she is irrational. You cannot have a normal engagement, it will escalate. Man, that guy, how did he survive this? I want the notes, the advice, the guidance.”

“You know he didn’t survive it?

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