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The other woman

By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

Because, there are two types of bad women. Actually, there are many types. But, for this one, there are two.

There are those who know nothing. Or, perhaps, choose not to use their sense of curiosity to suspect. And fear. And inquire. And, when a man comes knocking on the door of their hearts, they just ask the irrelevant questions, check the fingers, open the door. No serious questions.

These ones, if they asked the important questions, they would know the truth.

Then, there are others. The very bad women—because there is no worse one here. These ones know that a man is married. They, sometimes, even know the wife of such a man. They might even know the children of such a man. Yet, when the man knocks, they open the door of their hearts. They might put up a fight, like they are holy, yet the weakest logic defeats them.

This one is among the very bad. She might even be worse.

Because, she knows the other woman. Not knowing her like saying ‘oh, there goes the woman whose husband comes to warm my bed’—no! She knows her in that way that if she meets her, the wife, in the streets, she would greet her by hand and ask about the home: married life, husband, and kids.

She, the wife, will also respond. And lie. Without any suspicion. Because, these two, grew up together at some point. Yet, they share a man.

She says it was hard to say yes when he came knocking.

“I could not do that with a husband of someone I know. I did not just say yes. It took me time. I nearly thought I would never ever say yes. But…”

The man was persistent. Like a sickness that wants to kill you.

They started with what she thought would be a one-off incident. She needed money.

However, that incident was anything but sexual. It was just a chat. Like of friends. His heart was heavy. She had to help him offload some of the things.

He told her the things in his marriage. Things that must have been buried under the thin smiles of her ‘friend’ who always responded that:

‘Family is great. Husband is awesome. Kids are, well, kids but one cannot complain but just thank God because others’— emphasise on others, make sure you understand why you had to emphasise on that —‘never have such an opportunity’.

But, a married man cannot be friends with a bad woman for too long without the narrative diverting from a platonic friendship to such other things. So, after days, it moved from him just pouring his heart. They started melting into each other.

Then, the roots deepened. She calls those roots, love.

“I just realised that I was beginning to love her. And, it was crazy.”

But, it has not reached that crazy point. For example, she has not come fighting the wife on social media — which is quite trendy these days. Has not — at least, yet—fallen pregnant for him. Has not even pushed him to divorce the wife (even if she, the wife, rubs in the fact that she is married each time they meet in the common social events they end up attending). She still contributes to her own rent payment.

She maintains, however, that she loves him. And, she cannot imagine herself married to another.

At first, she used to see other men behind his back. Now, she just cannot. It feels wrong. It feels like she is cheating.

Some nights, she just sits in her house looking at the phone. Rejecting the temptation to dial his number because she knows that he is having time with his actual wife.

When she meets with him and his family—and it has only happened once — the two act like those people in the Kenny Rogers’ ‘Daytime Friends’ song: shake hands in the light of day.

Chances are, to his wife and family, he has become an irresponsible husband and father: comes home late, sometimes never at all, usually mismanages money, hardly touches the wife, has his temper on the sleeve, and all those other qualities of a bad partner and husband that a lot of Malawian men just inherited from their parents — nothing to do with leading a double life.

To her, however, he is a lover.

“Our souls connected. I feel it. He feels it too.”

“Would you want to be a second wife?”

She says she cannot want that. Then, she thinks, stays quite, shakes the head. Says she cannot want that. Actually, no, she cannot do that. Never.

“Are you looking forward to perhaps him divorcing his wife and then marrying you?”

She, again, says no. Adds that men who come with that gospel are actually dishonest. A wife, a family, is such a huge investment for a man just to walk away from like that especially in this age where courts can strip a man off of everything—including his name—just to give it to his wife if the wife would go crying before them, with small kids.

“Is this a happy life?”

She says it is not, like all other lives. It is just a life. Being lived. Enjoyed. Endured. And, it is full of fear.

“Fearing being busted?”

That, as well as that someday he might just wake up, realise that he has been a wayward man, he wants to change. Wants to be good to the wife. He wants to put an end to everything.

Or—the worst fear now—is that he might just detach without saying anything. Ghost her. While she knows where he is at.

And. Death.

“If he dies today,” she says, without that irrelevant God forbid exclamation. “I will attend his funeral. With no any special farewell honours.”

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