By Mankhokwe Namusanya:
When you have to die, I pray that it not be violent – the fact that most deaths these days are violent standing.
I pray that you get the chance to hold hands with loved ones for the last time. That you are accorded privacy. And, in privacy, you speak to your sworn enemies. Or, maybe, to your fond lovers. And bid farewell.
I pray that you close all the doors this life will have let you open. Because, it is the case that you have opened doors. Some wide. Others just enough that you can squeeze in. However, you have opened doors. They might need to be closed. A violent death leaves you with no such luxury.
Or, any death that leaves you with no such opportunity is violent.
She went in a violent death. A quick and fast one. Like her life.
If there is a thing we still shudder to discuss, at least among those of us well mannered, is the misdeeds of the dead. However, when alcohol is flowing and inhibition is suffering a violent attack, even the best of the well mannered get loose. So, this story roots from that.
A gentleman, in this phase of my life, is one who tells it. Between soft sips, then letting the tongue out and sweep on the lips, and long journeys through memory lane.
“If there was one thing I ever said I would never have to do was date a married woman. Man, that is just another level. Because, even if you sink, you have to have limits. Even in sin, one needs a limit. That was my limit. A married person? No.”
He was unmarried. Not single. Just unmarried. And, still searching. Yet when he saw a lady that got his attention, it was to the fingers he went to first. A ring on that finger? Turn around, abort mission, too many fish in the sea.
“But some are just for decoration?” I interrupt.
He acknowledges. He is not that ancient. He knows the culture of bling and ornaments that our generation appears to be high on.
“But, man, if you are a woman and you have a ring on your finger then, obviously, no business. Whether it is decoration, a mere scare, or an act of faith…I do not care. It just is that. I have no business with you…”
That is because, he hates violence. And with a build up of an average man who has forgotten himself to the joys and perils of this life, he is not one to get out undeformed from a hailstorm of blows. Or even survive an assassination attempt.
To avoid all that drama, he chooses not to entangle with married women. Or just women with rings on their finger.
But there was one…
She did not ooze that aura of a married woman. If anything, she came as one demanding – or even pleading – to be married. Not in that ‘take me to the altar’ way; rather, in that ‘hold my hand and sweep me into the nothingness of time’ way.
The ring on her finger, modest and quiet, almost came off as a decoration. As an ornament she was just used to wearing that taking it off would mean a part of her succumbing with it. In a way, one would even think that it was some sort of a sacred pact she had made with a dead parent, maybe a mother.
Except, it was real and live. Her husband, now of two years, had put it there.
He was new when they had met. A fresh-from-college graduate and some officer with half a decade of experience. She was not to be his supervisor. She was, however, to be the one who was to provide him with training, mostly on the norms and practices around the office.
It was from those innocent meetings that their affection blossomed.
“I do not remember how everything started, man. I do not remember who even started everything. All I remember was that someday we were pouring out our hearts to each other, writing long text messages full of kind and loving words. And I was really feeling her.”
Fearing a scandal that would lead to both losing their jobs, it was a relationship that was kept under wraps.
In the secrecy of the night, or even day, they would slip away from colleagues and find forbidden pleasure in each other. A few times, of course, they had come close to being caught but her creativity had always saved them. She was one who could coin a story at any short notice.
They were safe, in every practical sense; so, when she announced that she was expectant, it was obvious that he was not responsible. Yet, from that incident, something snapped.
“I do not know, man. Maybe I had gotten carried away. Maybe I was young, and stupid. But that news broke me. A lot of things went through my mind. I felt betrayed.
“This woman, my woman, had gotten pregnant by another man. That thought man, that realisation, made me lose my mind. I said a lot of nasty things. My anger spilled over. I pushed her away.”
It is not that he had any plans with her. He was young, over six years her junior. Yet her falling pregnant to her husband shocked him. And made him mad.
“I cut her out, man, from that moment. I broke up with her. She tried to reach out to me, man, but I was just not available. Each week, she texted me on the progress of the pregnancy. Like I even cared…”
Even that day she went into labour – where she was to never come back from – she texted him too. He did not respond.