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More like a farmer

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

They did not meet in a time of lockdowns that he had to wonder if they were compatible.

There was no moment he saw her smile, the edges of her mouth folding into a vapid depression, and had to think: ‘That smile! God, that smile! 21 days, with it? No. I cannot.’ Then, said to her:

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“Babe, you are beautiful and such a lovely person, but I am just the problem.”

No! He just took her as she came: kind, generous and with a laughter that would fill all these empty streets of the world.

And, there was no fanfare and pomp when they married. It was a gentleman’s understanding.

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But, to be honest, I think that it was because she was already pregnant. It was also a short time to mobilise resources and then have a big ceremony.

So, the parents and uncles from both sides met one Saturday and by the end of the meeting, the two were married.

It was daunting, at first, and – trust me – it always is daunting.

Then, as days went by, they started adjusting into newer routines that started becoming familiar. Demands that progressed into polite kind love requests. And, just life. Of a man, and a pregnant wife.

They looked forward to the child.

“I budgeted for it,” he said. He is old school, so he did not do that scan to know the gender. He wanted it to be a surprise. He is one of those men who genuinely like surprises.

She went into labour while he was away, at work.

His mother-in-law just called him from the hospital and asked him to rush there. He knew it must have been the wife, there had been one too many cramps lately.

Whereas some men are welcomed with ‘congratulations, you have a baby boy or girl’ or that ‘she is still in labour and we are waiting, must be a few minutes from now’, it was a downcast face that he was welcomed with. The wait, that long one, was in vain.

He likened it to farming, for a new farmer.

“You plan for a harvest. And a life after the harvest,” he said.

If it is a cash crop, I would think you imagine the new bicycle – or car – you will ever get after selling the harvest. Or, perhaps, a new wife. Or just an additional side-chick, you know? Those pleasures you only heard in Lawrence Mbenjere songs.

“And, really, your life centres around protecting that harvest. You try not to make a mistake,” he said.

For others, maybe just the experienced farmers, when such a misfortune hits, they collapse, then recover and quickly think of the next planting season. For them, it appeared that the tragedy was somehow too huge to bear.

“It was as if there just came a disconnect.”

When she was discharged, she asked that she be allowed to go and stay with her mother for a few days. He agreed.

After knocking off, he would go visiting her.

“But, it just felt hard. There was a lot I wanted to say, but I could not say it there.”

“A lot, like what?”

“Emotions. I wanted to process that, the loss. My parents were far away, I could not just run to them and cry. The tears would even dry along the way.”

“You felt bad because she went to her parents?”

He answered like all men would. No man, unless a close friend who shows you where they buried a random guy they suspected of stalking their wife, would tell you that they are envious of their wife because she has access to her parents. The guy code, here, is to deny and deny like some political spin-doctor who hopes that their denial would eventually overturn the actual truth they are denying.

They can lean into you, and start whispering, and have you feeling as if you just struck that right nerve. That, finally, a man was coming apart to tell the truth. Only for them to remind you that they are talking about their wife, and her parents, they could not be envious of them. Did you think that lowly of them?

So, he said he was not envious. He just wished that she was a little considerate and create an opportunity to have them, as a couple, talk.

“Because, we both lost. I might not have carried it in me physically but mentally I did.”

They eventually got to talk. She was not to stay long at her parents. She had to go back to her own house.

“But, it was not about the child that we talked. It was just about everything.”

She came and wanted to make sure that things were back on track. The child? She appeared to have wanted to just forget that episode, as if it was the Christian God’s seventh day.

They would sit down as a couple and talked about everything but that incident.

“A number of times I wanted to broach it, but I just did not know how to broach it. I did not want to come off as insensitive or anything. I just wanted to be the supportive partner.”

They fell back into the routines while a wound gaped in him. They tried for another. They were lucky. It happened.

He was a farmer, tending to the crops while being haunted by fear and anxiety.

“She is taking it well, too well is the word…”

I wanted to say: ‘those are two words’ but his story was huge to just be interrupted by idle mockery disguised as humour.

For him, he kept waking up in the middle of the night, checked on her and such things. Until the day she said she needed to go back to her parents because the anxiety was unhealthy.

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