By Mankhokwe Namusanya:
She had an interest in photography. Or, rather, she developed an interest in photography. It was not for herself. It was for him.
It did not happen the way you think it happened. There was no moment he came announcing that he wanted her to learn photography or he would leave. There were no moments he kept fawning over the works of a female photographer that it made her insecure that the only way she felt she would remain relevant was to be a photographer.
She actually started learning photography – actual photography, not mobile phone photography – long before she had met him.
“I just wanted to be there for my man, and eventually my family in the long run,” she says, because there was a time when she had a heartbreak that she declared it was the last one. The next one, she told herself, will end in marriage: we will be a family.
Some people are idealists. Others have an active imagination. She is both. It sometimes makes you question her sanity.
There was a couple she crushed on. On Social media. The man, in that couple, seemed to be madly in love with the woman. The woman, apart from being madly in love with the man too, seemed to be there for him – or his poetry.
Frequently, he would a post a photo of her. He would caption it with fawning words. Comments would abound. Reactions would outnumber comments. It was that cesspool that most dreamed of although they hardly attain it.
There was something about that which stirred her. It made her happy. She would tell herself that she would get herself a man like that – or she would love her man like that. And, she believed, the man would reciprocate. Love is easy when given first.
She met him when she least expected. But, from the text messages they shared in the early days, he seemed to fit the picture. He wrote long texts, like essays, full of glowing remarks. And a kindness you have never seen.
She fell – long and hard.
“It was easy,” she says, because falling for Mr. Right is not that hard. There is a thing that she claims women know by intuition: Mr. Right does not come on a convoy that has doubts for vehicles. He comes riding on assurance, certainty and a calmness that words cannot describe.
This, of course, for a man sounds awkward. And impossible. But, I choose not to probe that.
Some people, or relationships, go through a ceremony of a conversation before going public. They needed not do that. He – to use the phrase – came out just a few days after they stole their first kiss. As expected, it was with an epistle the strength of the ones Paul wrote to the Church of Corinthians. People, surprised as to how the two ended up with each other for they had never seen any signs of them engaging on social media, came fawning and passing congratulations.
She thought it would last. It never did.
“One fight and there he was, shying back into a cocoon. No flamboyant messages afterwards. Even on my birthday, just a simple one sentence that read as snatched from a Kindergarten class,” her voice is feeble.
She confronted him, he sounded like a broken record: said something yet communicated nothing. Changed for days but then resorted back to not ‘being there for her’. And, that means: not being expressive enough about her.
“Because, I like that. It is my love language. One should be expressive enough about me. They should not be hiding in the shadows.”
They moved, or rather limped, on while she still held that grudge against him. He is not here so I do not know what really went on in his mind at that time. However, being a man, I can impose and say that he noticed nothing wrong with it and he thought they were both content until she broke the news to him:
She wanted out. She was, actually, going out – or was already out; she was just considerate and kind that she had to let him know.
“He did not take it gently. He went mad, shouted and screamed.”
But, as usual, that did nothing. She left, even if her heart broke into tiny fragments of unmet expectations.
“Staying there would mean that I was accepting something less. It was not what I wanted in a man.”
“But, you said your heart was in the right place when you met him?” it pays to be a provocateur sometimes.
She laughs, uneasily:
“I think it was not in the right place, rather I made it get into the right place to meet my own expectations. For a starter, I was advanced in years…” she still is.
The second point, she does not say it directly but I gather was that she wanted to play that game you play with your ex before an eventual torpedo: showing off that you can do better than them even in choosing a partner – aka a rebound.
She went on that search, only this time it was not with the expectation that she will meet someone and then her heart will fall into place. Then, in scrolling through Facebook someday she saw a post that was shared by a friend.
There was a smile and a long epistle that accompanied it. In haste, she picked out that it was a birthday message. She read the whole of it, line by line, completely smitten by the words while doing that ‘God, when?’ in her mind.
The shock only lay when she went to check the name of the man.
“It was him, my ex. Doing just what I asked of him to another woman.”
It hurt, and her heart bled.
“He took my dreams, tramped upon them, gave them to another.”