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On men’s behalf

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By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

We meet a broken woman. The shell is perfect: curvaceous body, a dark complexion, small round eyes and a lively person – able to hold a conversation.

It is the soul – or the heart – that is the problem.

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“Love? No!” she says. “Marriage? A big no! Just live life.”

The last trimester, a woman who has ever been pregnant to full term will tell you, is the hardest. Yet, it was the time she found out he was cheating. With multiple partners.

It was a neighbour who served her the bad news. She was away from the matrimonial home. It was her first pregnancy. She wanted to be close to her mother. You know, mothers have experience.

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One sad morning, a WhatsApp text from a neighbour:

“Neighbour, how are you? You came without announcing.”

“No, I am still at my mother’s house. Now looking like a fat pumpkin…” – a smiling emoji.

“So who is the woman I have been seeing?”

Then, she felt her heart sinking. Her baby shifted, maybe to make way for the sinking heart.

She said she did not feel like she was about to go into labour but, for a man, that is so hard to understand.

She does not tell how that conversation with the neighbour ended. She tells later of her plan to catch him red-handed. Get inadmissible evidence. Nail him.

It was far much early in the morning when she set off. It was also early in the morning when she arrived at her matrimonial home. He was not even awake. She, the other woman, was also not awake. Or maybe they were having a go at it. Nobody knows.

But when she knocked, moments passed before there was even a response in the house. She knocked for perhaps 10 times before he responded:

“Hold. I am coming.”

He was buttoning his shirt, rubbing his eyes, when he came to open the door. His trousers (pyjamas are so middle-class) were not buttoned or zipped.

“What happened when your eyes collided?”

She laughs, says I have used the right word – collided. She says his eyes popped out. You could see sleep leaving them in a haste. Like the sleep had been teargassed.

“Would you say he looked as if he had seen a ghost?”

“A ghost? No, that is so cliché. It was like he had seen his mother naked. His father sodomised. It was a horrible look. An ugly sight,” she says another additional description which is just inappropriate. I pretend to not have heard it.

She did not walk straight to the bedroom although she knew there was another woman there. She sat on a sofa that overlooked the bedroom door. He did not sit with her, massaging her bulging tummy like all good potential fathers do. Instead, he wanted to send her on an errand.

“I told him I was too tired while pointing to my pregnancy. I just wanted a rest. After all, I had had a morning travel of over 110 kilometres in an uncomfortable minibus.”

He tried to start a conversation but the thoughts colliding all over his mind could not let him mount a coherent statement even. He was distracted.

“I asked him if he was fine because he was perspiring now. He said he was. And when I told him I now wanted to sleep in the bedroom, that is when the trouble began.”

He wanted to restrain her. At first, with words. Later, with his arms.

“So you can imagine. A pregnant me and him fighting…”

“Fighting?” I ask before telling her it really must be hard to fight a pregnant woman. Like even holding her, in any other way than romantic, must be hard. You must be afraid how that would impact on the child she is carrying.

She says that he fought with her. Fought with. Because, she was also mad and energised. You know that cliché, hell hath no fury than a scorned woman? Yes, she was scorned. Furious. And powerful. That she really managed to overpower him.

In the bedroom, on her matrimonial bed, was her best friend. A confidante. A bff.

“Had you ever talked about your sex life with this best friend, like say something about him or his…you know?”

“I am not stupid. I do not discuss that with my friends. Not even with myself. That is private.”

She says from there, she went to visit another friend. I want to laugh, to say if it was me I would not trust any friend anymore, I would not go to another friend. But I do not say it. I am sad. And sorry.

The other friend tells her more: there are three other women she knows and others she hears of.

From there, the marriage collapses. He says he does not want her again. He does not even think the child is his.

She pleads but it is in vain. Marriage counsellors, after much trying as well, give up. They tell her to man up, accept it and move on. The good Lord will see her through.

“And, you know what is worse, I had a miscarriage because of that. That marriage was a war zone. The moment his fortunes changed, he became a rabid beast.”

She tells a lot of things she endured in her marriage. A lot that cannot be assuaged by words of apology. I find some energy to say I am sorry. On my own behalf as a man. And all the other men out there. But, it does not register that she has forgiven us.

“Men? No, not with me.”

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