The hooting of the horn behind me suddenly brought me back to reality. How silly I was to have been distracted by the little kids playing by the roadside. They were singing “Dance around together, in sunny weather, we tease you, we tease you, we all fall down!” I remembered this particular song because I was always the first to fall down. I giggled for a moment before the joy was cut off by the combi driver who hooted at me. I wished I could get down and tell the kids to remain young because adulthood is a scam. Nothing was as real as it looked. There were sad stories behind every smile these kids saw on their elders’ faces. “When I grow up, I want to get married to a rich man and drive a very nice car.” I wish I could go back and reverse those cursed words that had turned out to be reality.
Imagine the struggles of going through university. The sleepless nights, the dissertation, the discussions and the fear of not making it, only for someone to tell you that you cannot go to work. I had to eat roasted corn for lunch and stay up to two in the morning using a candle because my family could not afford paying for electricity every month. After this struggle, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in my hand, I had hoped to find a partner who would complement me. A resting place after the turmoil I went through in school. However, things turned out to be not what I had dreamt. But what could I do because I loved him? He had come to be my knight in shining armor. At a time when I was struggling financially I had to comply and do what he said because a married woman is respected more than the working class woman in our community. The offer of being a housewife came with a lot of promises. I didn’t know they were empty. I was promised the whole world. I built castles in the air based on those promises. Wouldn’t I have been a better person if I had invested that energy into something else?
As I drove past the clinic where I had once volunteered as a psychologist, I began to understand that one is only respected where they are relevant. I was blindfolded with love. I had hoped that education would give me financial independence. With graduates selling vegetables on the streets due to unemployment, I was reduced to being a trophy wife. Trying to share the struggles of my marriage with friends was a non-starter, they would call it jema newadya because I had everything that I needed. I drove the latest Merc and I lived in a well furnished house in Borrowdale. If they knew that the car I was driving was an apology, they wouldn’t praise the man I stayed with. The makeup I wore when we went out for lunch covered up bruises.
My husband was a two faced man. You would not believe this, because he was nice to everyone. He could be the sweetest gentleman in front of people. A pat on the back when I gave a good contribution during dinners with friends, pulling out a chair for me to sit and a lot of forehead kisses. He would even stand to give me moral support when I stood in church to make announcements as the lay leader. I remember one of the deaconesses envying the way he looked at me and respected me. If only she knew. Whenever he got the chance to say something in front of people, he would not forget to give a special mention to his beloved wife. I don’t know who that was but definitely not me because he didn’t treat me like a beloved wife behind closed doors.
This same man, as soon as we got into the car, would consume all the peace with negativity. He would not stand being questioned about anything. Since we stayed close to the airport, our house used to be a bus stop for my friends and relatives flying into the country. I started giving excuses as to why people should not pass through. “I`m sorry we are away for the weekend,” would be the text I sent to anyone requesting to visit the house.
I remember one day I was beaten black and blue. Guess what I had asked? Why he had not informed me ahead of time that he was coming back home with four of his friends for lunch so that I would need to prepare extra food. I had to salvage leftovers in the refrigerator which somehow made him feel embarrassed. During lunch hours he maintained his cool but as soon as he got back from work all hell broke loose. I was reminded that he was the one who bought everything in our house. It was one blow after another. The following day I had a luncheon with his friends’ wives. I had to put on heavy makeup to conceal the bruises and take paracetamol because the pain was unbearable. As we sat at a table at Cafe Nush, the best restaurant in town, the phone rang. It was him.
“Hi honey, I hope you are having a good time. I miss you so much and hope to see you soon. I love you so much,” he said.
“I love you too.” I say in response. It had just become a routine statement but really meant nothing. Everyone looked at me with a smile on their faces.
“Can we exchange places? I really wish I was you,” said one of the ladies. If only she knew that in our own home the “I love you” words were non-existent.
I could not entertain the thought of returning home and dragging my mother’s name in the mud. She was fighting her own battle and I had to do the same. We were all suffering behind the black tint wishing that one day the stars would fix our problems.
3 April, 2023