Although he was poor, Pascal was a responsible and devoted husband and father. He managed to buy enough food and clothes for his family with the little money he earned, and when he wanted to drink liquor, he would send his son Kameme to buy some, along with some juice for himself. He never considered becoming a polygamist or being reckless in any way. Makurata, his wife, had always been respectful to him. She was content with her loving family. Pascal was a well-respected and generous man in the community. One time, he gave a starving family some of the money he’d earned from selling his tomatoes. Whenever there were community development activities, he was there to assist. He never showed signs of selfishness, and no one could expect that he would change if he had more money.
It was August, and Pascal’s tomato gardens were full of ripe tomatoes. He harvested them and brought them to the market. As tomatoes were in short supply that season, he made a lot of money from his tomatoes—more than he usually made.
With the money, he demolished his thatched roof house and built a decent house with iron sheeting. He bought a motorcycle, which he would only ride to pubs. He found himself a second wife, Nadeje, and two girlfriends on the side. He became known as one of the big bosses in the community. He would buy lots of beer for his friends and girlfriends, and they all praised him: “Yes, big boss.”
Makurata, to whom Pascal was not officially married, was often home alone. He rarely remembered to go there and perform his duties as a man. Although his financial situation had improved, it had disturbed the peace in his first family. Before, Pascal would buy his family the groceries and necessities he could afford, but ever since he had sold his tomatoes and made lots of money, their situation had gotten worse. He did not see his wife for months, and his children had to beg for food from the neighbors, as if they were fatherless. It would have been a good time for Pascal to buy his wife and children clothes, but he was indifferent to their needs.
As time went on, Pascal became malicious, especially to Makurata, because his second wife was constantly fighting with her over his attention. Makurata was offended by her husband’s misconduct and decided to divorce him, but her friends and neighbors advised her not to. They told her not to stress over the situation; she should leave it in the hands of the Almighty. They added, “If you want to know a man’s character, just give him a lot of money and you will learn the kind of person he is. Take your husband. He was an exemplary husband in our community; when there was a dispute between a husband and wife in the community, people would refer to Pascal’s model character. But after making more money than he needed, he revealed his true colors.”
The days went by, and as Pascal had no other source of income than farming tomatoes, and as he was spending money as if he had won the lottery, the money ran dry. Most of his friends stopped seeing him, and his girlfriends started calling him “country dog,” “imbecile,” and “worthless man,” instead of “big boss.” Fortunately, his second wife was not pregnant, otherwise she would have not only taken the motorcycle but the new house, where his first wife lived.
Regretfully and shamefully, Pascal returned home to the mother of his children without his motorcycle, and without even a penny in his pocket. “My wife,” he said, ashamed. “What brings you here?” Makurata asked. He said, “Let’s forget about the past and move on with our lives!”
“Now that your money has finished you find your way home!” Makurata angrily roared. “Ah! Go back to your bitches! I don’t want you here!” She stood by the door, pointing him outside. Pascal went into the bedroom to rest for a while, but Makurata told him that she would never sleep in the same bed with him again. She suspected that he might be infected with HIV because he’d had sex with so many women since he left. She did not trust him. Kabibi, one of Pascal’s children, found her father in the bedroom and hugged him. She missed him very much, but the other children only glanced at their father because he had been cold-hearted to them.
Pascal and Makurata began living together in the house as a divorced couple. Whenever Pascal was sexually frustrated, he begged Makurata for forgiveness. But she always told him to go and sleep with his bitches. It was over, as far as she was concerned. She told him the same thing every time: “I am not willing to be infected with HIV. I have small children who need my support to live. I will not turn them into orphans. Please! Leave me alone!”
Pascal and his family became thinner because they were malnourished. They would have continued to starve, were it not that Makurata began to work in people’s gardens. They paid her. She took the initiative and moved out with her children and rented a small house far from Pascal.
Pascal became a vagabond in the village. He had a house, but he could not spend the night in it. He slept at his single friends’ places in the ghetto. He mooched off them, and ate and drank beer to forget his problems.
When tomato season came around again, Pascal dedicated all of his time and strength to planting and cultivating tomatoes in his large, fertile field. God blessed him: there was so much rain that season that he harvested as many tomatoes as the year before. His financial problems were solved. Then he called upon the village elders. He explained everything to them and begged them to help bring back his family. They told him, “Arrange everything according to our traditions, and we will go ask for forgiveness on your behalf.” Pascal bought a goat, several cases of beer, and a bag of cassava flour for the elders to take with them.
When the appointed time arrived, the elders took the goods and went to ask Pascal’s family to return. There was a big celebration at Pascal’s home when he learned that Makurata had agreed to come back to him. But she told the elders she would only do so on one condition: “I will live with my husband again only if he does a blood test for HIV because I don’t believe he is healthy after sleeping with all those other women.” Pascal did as she said, and he was found to be HIV negative. Makurata and the children went to live with him again. Pascal came up with a strategy that would prevent him from being an irresponsible husband again: he gave all the money he earned from his business to his wife for her to save it.
4 September, 2023