Was it because I was not enough for him? Did I do my duties well as a wife? If not, was it one of the marriage curses that had stricken my older sisters? I am the last born of a family of six girls, five of whom are already married. For my older three sisters, their marriages have been a barefooted walk on the desert sand. We have always wondered why we as sisters have found ourselves in difficult marriages. One always had fights with her inlaws, who only saw her as a tick, there to suck out their son`s money; one had been married to a drunkard and womanizer so that each day was a ticking time bomb for her contracting some sexually transmitted infection. My other sister grappled with subfertility and the husband was threatening to have other kids from out of wedlock. Each family gathering we have, there is at least one of us sharing her complaints to our father, who always reiterates that we are welcome back home.
Or could it be something wrong with our husbands?
As I sat down in the library, the most quiet getaway place in the three-story house my husband, Rob, had built for us, I remembered what he once told me about his upbringing. Rob’s parents had divorced when he was five and each went on to start their families. He was left to the care of his grandmother Gogo Stella who was a confluence point for all the offspring in the extended family with no immediate care giver. Along with eight other children, life was a royal rumble, and he had to quickly grow up to survive the environment. The five boys of different ages, of which Rob was the youngest, had to share one bowl of sadza and okra. The slower one ate, the faster he would starve. Some of the meals ended in fights in which Gogo Stella would intervene and beat both the perpetrator and the victim. Rob found himself doing most chores as his older brothers insisted that as a child he had to do more for him to grow strong. If he failed to do so, they would draw a picture of a lady on a wall and ask Rob to make her smile! Well, as much as he tried, wall drawings never responded.
Whilst the other children had their parents constantly visiting and bringing along goodies for them, Rob never had a single visit from his parents. Each Christmas Day, the young boy would bathe, wear his only tattered shirt and a pair of patched up shorts and spend half of the day at the bus stop hoping that Mama or Papa would show up. No one ever came. Probably that’s what a divorce meant. Whatever two people shared ceased to exist the moment they separate. The boy really lacked love.
After the death of Gogo Stella, conflict arose as to who would claim ownership to the estates she and her late husband had owned. Each child’s parents told their child that the other child’s parents were the reason why he or she was not going to receive her inheritance of the estate. This sparked hatred amongst the children. As Rob did not want anything to do with the drama, the then young man left to fend for himself. As someone who longed for love and acceptance, he got into several relationships, and at the end of each, he was left heartbroken. One woman left him for a richer older man who could afford her holidays after Rob had invested so much time in the relationship. Another would eat the little money he hustled to give her with her male friends. He started several businesses for financial sustainability that failed and left a lot of clients in pursuit of their money.
“Can I get the book for you?” were the words that came from behind as I tried to reach for a college library book years earlier. Standing on my toes wasn’t helping my one and half metres tall body reach a copy of Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembgwa. The voice was Rob`s. It sounded so soft and reassuring from the onset. Though I had not yet set my mind on dating, I liked him instantly. The conversation led into an invitation for dinner, something I had not received since I began college. I always knew college guys to be after sex only and then they’d leave you after. My mother had told me that. But one meeting led into another till all he wanted was to be with me each time he was free. I seemed to be his light in the darkness. To me, he appeared to be a soft, kind hearted and loving man. Maybe I just brought out the best in him.
I did notice some red flags here and there, though. At times he would shout at me when he missed any of his important papers thinking that I would have been the one who misplaced them. At one point, he saw me laughing with one of his friends, and he made a big deal out of it which almost resulted in me getting slapped. Rob had to apologize for the rest of the week with gifts and dinners. I just attributed these actions to emotions on a bad day. I forgave him because I loved him. For the little that I had heard about his unfortunate upbringing during our cuddle conversations, I really wanted to be his resting place. I was a psychology student at that time, and he appeared to me as someone masquerading with an undiagnosed bipolar affective disorder. However, I ignored every negativity. He was the love of my life.
One day I found myself sitting on the toilet seat with two lines of a pregnancy test staring back at me. I was taken aback. Whilst I expected it, I didn’t think it would actually happen. I called Rob instantly. “We have to get married before it starts to show!” he said over the phone. I had thought that he would suggest abortion. He had expressed to me that we would marry when our financial situation became stable. My parents had always wanted me to finish school first. What was I going to tell them? I was not ready for the commitment yet. What was my life going to be as Rob’s wife? Curious but unsure of what was to come, I said yes.
5 May, 2023