See the lights


By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

On a fuzzy evening, with showers dropping like tears from the eyes of God each time a politician fulfils their promise, your husband will come home brooding.

His look will shake you because you will be in a mood for cuddling. You will want to change your attitude too, just to show him that nobody is supposed to come home sulking. But you will remember the sermon on your wedding day and act the ‘good wife’.


At the dining table, he will be mentally absent. His food will hardly be touched. Anger will build deep within you, impatience, a need for answers. But you will evoke the advice from the bridal shower: talk issues in the bedroom.

Also, you will be having much faith in that information from online, on spicing your love life – under the sheets. You will think that, when you employ those techniques, then whatever is on his mind will take leave.

After supper, unusual of him, he will go straight to bed. When you join him there, and ask him to ease off his burden on you, he will say there is nothing burdening him.


You will know it is a lie.

The communication snob that he is, you will have to extract the information out of him. Akin to mining gold from the sands of Lilongwe.

And your success will come from nagging.

You will nag him because he will fail to rise to the occasion.

“What is it, have you made your MG2 pregnant?”

That accusation will send him reeling. And half-mad. He will shout this and that, foam, before ,eventually, going to his bag. He will get you a letter.

It will be brief, when you open it, and straight to the point. Like how his text messages have almost always been. Except this letter will be signed. And carry bad news.

He has lost his job. No reason is given. It is just an instruction, a communication. His services are no longer needed.

At that, you will also feel defeated.

“What do we do now?”

“I don’t know, but maybe just sleep.”

Then, he will roll over. But you will know from his shallow breathing that he is not sleeping. You will be the first one to actually go off into sleep.

After that night, your marriage will take a sad turn. His temper will be irrational. His movements will become a secret.

One day, before you leave for work, you will ask him to pick up the child after school.


You will be shocked. Because a father needs no reason to pick up his child from school, but also because, more than once, he has had to fight you so that he could go and get the child. Why now?

You will, however, not mouth your thoughts but you will just sputter: “I have a meeting around that time.”

He will not hear that. He will hear that you are calling him a worthless loafer whose calling on earth is to pick random children whose parents are afraid of getting attached to them.

So he will pick up the child, drop him home and go off. Never to return. Until morning.

And, in appearing around 4am, he will be reeking of beer. He will be a man you have never seen ever since that day you started officially dating – eight years before.

Having never ever known how to talk to a drunk husband, you will go off on him. He will reciprocate in equal, and far much more, measure. For the first time since getting married, you will have a full blown fight. Of raising voices. Pushing. And shoving. Waking neighbour up. Hearing the name of ‘Police’ being mentioned.

In the morning, you will leave for work without asking anything of him. Without talking to him. Unknown to you, he will head straight to your parents behind you. You will hear from your mother that it was her who first learnt that he was leaving you. For disrespect.

“So he did not tell you that he was leaving the marriage?” I ask.

“No, he told it to my mother. And he told her by text. He met with both my parents, told them that I had started disrespecting him since he lost his job and my mother proffered to talk to me. They left at that. Only for him to text minutes later that she should not bother talking to me, he was no longer interested in a marriage defined by money.”

“Do you think he was right, now looking at it in prospect?”

“I don’t know. But I think he wasn’t, but I would understand why he saw things like that. I was the sole breadwinner, there was no way life could be as it had always been. Adjustments had to be made.”

“What then would you say people should consider before marrying?”

“I can only talk to the young woman with a career, consider how that would impact on your partner. It’s not only when they lose their job; what if you get a better job than them. I don’t know, maybe they should discuss that. Or maybe they should just observe how he acts when they get something better than him. I he supportive? Does he seem competitive? Does he belittle their achievements? That is a red light.”

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