Stuff of legends


By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

He left because he was abusive. And, that does not happen every day.

Those who have lived with abusers will tell you: abusers do not just leave, at least not on your terms. They beg, plead, fight – while promising change. If that fails, they threaten. And double on the abuse.


When they see you, the abused, finally unbuckling from the seat of their torment, their torment begins. They struggle to survive it.

But, he says, he left. On a cold morning. With nothing. Just the clothes on his back.

It was not as if he had much, anyway. He had been a desk in the home. Left in some corner. Seen, but never minded much. Contributing little. Maybe a back on which a quick document could be signed on.


Then, came the abuse.

At first, it was in nothing. Over nothing. No word was said over anything.

When she came back from work that day, dumped her bags in the bedroom, she dumped herself there as well,

There was a routine: she left her bags in the bedroom after work (sometimes he would follow to help her with them) and then she would end up in the sitting room where she would watch television as he adjusted into the roles of a house partner. Then, they would discuss the day. And laugh. And love – when they could.

This day, however, that routine was not followed. She disappeared into the bedroom and remained there. He thought little of it as he prepared supper.

Yet, when supper was ready and there hardly was any sign of her, he got bothered. He followed her in the bedroom. She was in bed, all ready for sleep. That routine discussion of the inanities of the day discarded with skilled carelessness.

“I asked her if she was sick, she said: ‘no’.”

When he asked what the problem was then, she also said another one negative: nothing.

“Bad day at work?” he tried to push the conversation.

“No,” she killed it again.

He left her there, went back to the sitting room, had a meal and watched television until the stations kept repeating themselves. When he joined her in bed, he realised that she was not sleeping. When he tried to stir a conversation, she acted asleep. Even dead. No response.

That day marked the beginning of that non-verbal non-anything abuse. Just some silence. A dearth of conversation.

She returned from work mostly full, went straight to the bedroom and acted asleep. In the days she chose to sit on the sitting room, it was not for conversation with him. It was for showing that she could as well be busy, smile and laugh on the phone.

In the first days, he tried to make conversation. Then, he stopped too.

It was at that gesture that the abuse wore a new face. It became verbal.

“She always talked down on me. Each time she came back, she had an unkind word for me. We would be watching television, some man could appear on it, she would make some comment just to annoy me…”

He is dark, like chocolate, and with a basketball height. She would make comments that aimed to show that dark people or tall men are no longer in fashion. Like the Toyota Corolla 16 valve.

“And she never said it like one says a joke. She said it with intent – to hurt and offend…”

The other day, when she said something like that. He hit back. Subtly.

She is not slim. Is not all that shapely. She is a subject of memes. He picked up one, used it as a DP on his WhatsApp – replacing her photo he had there despite all that turbulence.

She saw it, in minutes, and texted:

“Is that meant for me?”

He saw her text but did not respond. Instead, he added more memes as status posts in his WhatsApp. And, she kept seeing them.

Then, she thundered. Directly this time. Called him names.

The volcano that had been dormant for far too long in him erupted too. He fired back. Called her names. Worse than her.

She threw the phone. It hit him.

There was a fight. A silent measured one because they did not want the neighbours to hear.

Those who say abuse is bad do not much liken it to a drug. But, in more ways than one it is a drug, he submits. Because, from that day, it became some sort of a norm – the fighting.

“And, there was no guilt anymore I felt after it,” he says.

It was that, the lack of guilt, which made him leave.

“I said: this is not me. I have been turned into a monster. I should do something.”

And, when she came that night seeming all geared for a fight, she found no willing partner. When she threw a shade, it ended in a cesspool of a fleeting sweeping storm that just tossed it off the face and memory of the earth.

He did not sleep that night. He kept mulling on his decision. And, when he left that early morning without even a farewell, it was not as if he was convinced of his decision. It was just a trial. An attempt.

He walked while thinking that at some point he would stop, turn back, go home and announce that he was for peace. He had had a walk that had completely given him a different perspective.

But, he walked on. Ended up at an old friend’s home. Those friends who do not ask a lot of questions.

He has not served her with any divorce papers, yet. She has reached out, but he has shied away from committing.

“The thing about abuse, man,” he says, “is that it changes you. You become the abuser, even worse than them, when you let it flourish for too long.”

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