*Donna Kapira is a graduate of College of Medicine, a constituent college of the University Malawi. She was born at St. Johns Hospital in the city of Mzuzu in Malawi on 16 October 1996.She has been an avid reader of any captivating story ever since she learnt how to read. She loves science but also believes there is a writing streak in her. When she is not studying, she loves to read and write or listen to good music. She also loves meeting and making new friends
She sat on her bed listening to the ceiling filtered but yet still furious sound of raindrops on the rooftop. She allowed her body, soul and mind to enjoy the quiet tranquility of being in a dry, room with a well-made bed of fresh smelling beddings when the outside was muddy and wet. Where she didn’t have to go out to the wet ground with all kinds of creeping creatures that come out of hibernation during rains. She forgot about all the little unseen creatures that had been nibbling at her mind the past two weeks, turning her gaze to things she never thought she would stare at with questionable interest. Like the bottle of termik in that Chipiku store last week. Or the 10 tablets of bufen that her nurse friend, Aggie, had given to her for her menstrual cramps that she’d held in her palms and looked at for longer than she should have. In that moment she felt that she could have many peaceful moments if only she gave herself the permission.
The lines between the life she’d envisioned as a little girl and where she was now, were still blurry and her grip on them kept loosening as the seconds ticked by. Complete university by 22, get married at 24, have the cutest babies by 25 then go for a master’s degree in one of the coldest countries far away from home that would have her wearing boots and those warm clothes that people only see in the pictures on Instagram. The world was busy moving in all the positive directions and it’s like they had left her in a desolate place where she didn’t have track of what time it was or what she was supposed to do. The feeling was there, deep in her womb, a kangaroo that was kicking to be birthed, tired of being confined. It was there in her mouth, the tastelessness in every food she ate that left crumbs of food in the corners of her mouth that her tongue had to pull out, releasing a strange foul smell from deep in her throat. Even her beddings sometimes felt like they had developed sharp spikes that pierced every part of her body that came into contact with them.
She looked at the stack of papers for the math’s’ tests she’d administered for the end of term examinations earlier that December. She only had four days to mark and submit them before the year ended. We do not employ people anyhow, we have to observe you for three months and see how good you are. We are an excellent school and that’s what we expect in all our teachers. During those three months all we give you is 50000 kwacha for your basic necessities, the head teacher’s words from the interview rang in her eyes again.
She was going to prove to him that she could do it the excellent way. Already her journey seemed difficult because there was that student who was repeating his form four and questioned everything she taught. Then there were the big women in the class that always came in late and flaunted their fallen breasts at her as they walked to their seats, looking at her with eyes that said, little girl what do you think you can tell us? She’d never repeated so many motivational quotes more than she did during the first few weeks of teaching that class. She was just grateful that she had a job which she would use whenever her parents asked how work was going. She wasn’t ready to tell them that she’d run away from her first job, which was what had brought her to Lilongwe in the first place. She wanted to break the news in person when she visited. Only aunt Linda and her family knew of it. She knew her father would tell her to just come back home and stop suffering. But didn’t they say that without challenges one never matures? She was determined to ride through the pains of job finding and finding happiness in the process.
Everything good is on the other side of good grades, her secondary school French teacher had told them. So, work hard they did, but it turned out that they hadn’t been given the complete script of the movie.
Now you will be sending your little brother some pocket money, tipumuleko, her mother had chirped happily when her former roommate back at Mzuzu University had confirmed that indeed the school which her boyfriend’s dad owned in Lilongwe was looking for a math teacher. At first she hadn’t believed. She’d been on the sweaty journey of job searching since she’d completed her bachelor’s degree like all of them. She had literally sent emails to the director or head teacher of almost every school in Blantyre. Some had called her to meet them, some never responded at all. Then there were those that responded with the famous we will let you know when opportunity arises and good luck line. Like telling her off in a polite way. She’d given up and waited for the government to release the names of the successful interns.
Like every graduate she’d applied for the government internship program. She knew without doubt that she was going to be among the successful ones who’d be getting 80000 a month. It wasn’t much but she knew it was better than getting nothing. She was knocked off her socks therefore when the list came out but no one from their class made it. Two weeks later, she read on her class’ WhatsApp group that some boys from her class had been picked for the internship program during some second selection. Through WhatsApp gossip she heard that the two had belonged to the ruling party’s college youth wing. She had never involved herself in anything political in college, often referring to such issues as bullshit. You will find a job through God that fights our battles, let them enjoy but what they have is not forever, her father assured her after she broke the news to him. Her mother had been disappointed, she could read it on her face but she said nothing.
It was sweet news to the ears when she was asked to send in her CV and a day later got a call from the school’s director that yes she could come start work as schools started that September. She wasted no time getting on the next night compost bus. She had arrived two weeks earlier and managed to attend all the teachers’ pre-school meetings. Aunt Linda, the last born in her father’s family, lived two minutes away from the school with her husband. He was a doctor that also run a car hiring business. She had married into money. Their house had an extra room that was spacious and beautiful with a beautiful wardrobe, nice king-sized bed and an in-built shower and toilet just like she had in college. She’d been lucky that they had a maid who did everything for them and all she had to do was take a bathe and go to work. It was heavenly.
She was ready for work after two months of searching for a job. Before she signed the contract, George had asked her to meet him at Cross Roads hotel. Aunt Linda warned her that most bosses wanted to sleep with girls before employing them. She laughed at the ridiculousness of her thoughts and assured her that he was her former mesho’s boyfriend.
She loathed eating in public places with anyone. Even Timothy. It had been one the of the major issues of contention earlier on in their relationship. He thought she’d been ashamed to be seen in public with him. Eating for her was supposed to be a private thing where she could lick the soup from her fingers, chew food without being conscious of how lips twisted and make those swallowing sounds without extra eyes on her. Hotels and restaurants didn’t cater for that privacy. She’d swallowed all her reservations and dressed in a short black dress that she knew made her look presentable. He arrived at the place earlier than she did and stood when he saw her approach the place where Malawian women and men stood by the entrance with forced smiles that appeared to cause their facial muscles pain and said, welcome or good day.
She’d never gotten a chance to meet Mary’s boyfriend during the one year that they had been meshos and was taken back by how well built he was. He surely was doing lots of work in the gym and he had one of those smiles that oozed sexual appeal and confidence.
She felt a thrill of excitement when the first words that came out of his mouth were about how beautiful her dress was. She was sure she blushed but thanked God that her thick shade of black managed to conceal the embarrassment. They’d talked less about her experience and more about her lifestyle. Did she know she was black but beautiful with a very smooth skin? It was as if he thought being black for her was a disease whose only medicine was knowledge about how beautiful.
Did she drink? When did she last have sex? She was sure her brow had permanently been raised throughout the conversation. She kept pulling her short dress beyond her knees and the poor cloth didn’t know it was supposed to help her so it kept falling back into its place. When announced to her that she’d gotten the job, she waved her hands in the air in a dramatic dance move, a thing that made him laugh and he looked at her with a bittersweet smile on his face.
Later that night she got a text from him, goodnight it simply said, accompanied with love emojis. She responded with a simple goodnight and no emoji. She’d signed the contract on the day she arrived at the school for the first teachers’ meeting. It had been love at first sight. You could tell the school had been built on what had been a rocky hill from the residual stones that were scattered all over the compound. It had a quiet and academic like appeal to it, far removed from the busy and noisy city that was Lilongwe. It was the ideal place for learning and studying. It was one of the few private secondary schools that was completely fenced with enough classroom blocks and a big spacious staff room with a TV. Then there was that other thing she always looked at each time she went to a new place. The toilets. The seats were clean and spotless with immaculately tiled floors and walls. They were well scented too, a thing that was common in the toilets in the hotels, houses in area 47, area 6, area 12 and aunt Linda’s house. Unclean toilets made her buttocks itch like microscopic organisms were crawling on them each time she sat on them. When she didn’t like the way the toilets looked wherever she went, she’d gotten into the habit of carrying lots of toilet paper which she spread on the seat and it somehow calmed the crawling creatures. The toilets at Chisambi school were heavenly.
George threw a comment on each selfie she posted on WhatsApp. The comments that made her mouth go wide open in surprise, that she didn’t dare keep and made her feel that she was somewhat committing sin by simply reading them.
The first Friday after she began teaching, he texted her again, how was your first week with the students? It was a question she’d been yearning for all that week. It had been a trying first week as she tried to cover most topics from form three with the form four class because they hadn’t finished the syllabus the previous year as well as teach math in the other classes. She hadn’t had time to sit down and just breath properly. She spent the nights solving, coming up with exercises, the weekend tests and marking the learners’ work. And she missed Timothy. It was a dark secret because a month after the breakup she was supposed to be healed or at least on the right track to healing. She’d endured all the let it go lectures, something better will come along. She wondered how people thought they would dictate to someone on how to feel. Like no, now this sadness you have is too concentrated. Dilute it a little bit, let it come to 10%. Or come on now, bring that happiness and joy and feel it today. Sometimes she wished she could tell them to just shut up. People think they always have to say something wise after someone’s breakup or after someone loses their loved ones. Many times a day she found herself stealing moments from her past romance, feeling the familiar sense of deep loss she’d grown accustomed to in the aftermath.
Her heart warmed when she saw the text, pretending for a moment that it had been Timothy on the other side texting. It’s been hectic. I could use a massage, she punched in the letters and sent it, smiling to herself as she sat at the edge of her bed. Come for a sleepover kwathu, I can give you the massage. For a moment she let herself imagine how it would feel to just forget some things and just feel without thinking. She’d have fun with him, that was guaranteed. The liquid taste of sweetness she’d felt the day she first met him was proof of that. She felt it over her breasts and in between her thighs. But with just anyone?
She told him she couldn’t. Why? he’d prompted. Do I need to come up with an essay on why I decide not to do something that I don’t like? She’d replied anger etched in every letter in the text but she somehow softened it with laughing emojis. He’d replied swiftly with another set of those teary laughing emojis. Then come visit me during the day tomorrow, he pressed on. Why do you so much want me to come over to your place? She asked even though the reason had already been made obvious through the veiled subtle interest in the texts he sent her, the looks he gave her behind when she had her back to him and the way his gaze lingered on her lips. Because I want to eat you, he’d answered. She’d looked at the text, thinking of forwarding it to Timothy and when she remembered he wasn’t in her life anymore, wiped it from her chats. During those moments she wished Timothy hadn’t left her. He had always been ready to listen. He’d been a strong tower for her ever since that first year of college as he had provided both emotional and financial support to her. He’d been her second parent. She was sure he could have handled the sexual prey singlehandedly.
She kept it to herself for a few weeks, deleting every message that had her gaping at her phone. She worked hard to avoid bumping into him, making sure she was with company if she was unfortunate enough. She steeled her guts and told Angela, one of the female teachers that she had become fast friends with, mostly because she always brought food and shared it with Luwiza. She found out that it wasn’t news at all. Everyone knew it but it was as if he’d made that index finger to his mouth gesture to say hush. He was well loved among the teachers because he was the kind, always smiling boss’ son who paid them really well. Every month they carried home what all teachers in government secondary schools and most in the private sector only dreamt of. No one wanted to risk that for a long and stressing court case with a long hearing period that would in the end, obviously favor that hulk of a man. They had the money, they pretended nothing else happened even after watching a good number of young female teachers come to the school and leave in the middle of the term after two months, one month and some who couldn’t even make it to two weeks.
So how do you handle it? she asked in a whisper as they sat and ate lunch in the staffroom that had an adjoining door with George’s office. Well, just do what he wants, mostly he never calls again after the first time or the second time. Luwiza gaped at Angela, her heart in her mouth. Of course sometimes he calls me once in a while but he has so many girls, he uhm…she glanced over her shoulders at the open door, Luwiza felt the familiar, sudden urge to visit the toilet…has these strong urges, he is like a beast on a mission. Sometimes his hands will grip your neck while at it, like he wants to kill you, it’s scary but arousing at the same time, she’d whispered, a twinkle in her eyes. Good thing is he pays you every time, it’s never free. It’s either that or leave because he literally owns this school, his parents are old, Angela lifted the slashed piece of potato to her mouth as if they had just had the most normal conversation in the whole world.
There was that sour taste of fear, panic on her tongue. Maybe it made sense why Angela was the only unmarried female teacher at the school. He had probably scared every other girl away. Of course she wasn’t scared of his urges because when it came to it Timothy topped the field. She didn’t think George would introduce her to any world stranger than those Timothy had taken her to even with monstrous looks that made Timothy’s hands look like a toddler’s. She’d been to them all, even the ones that had her staring at the wall long after the act, wondering how she’d escaped the near death experience disguised as lovemaking. But having it with anyone? What happened to the art of falling in love with the person first? Did Mary know of all these things that her man was doing? She decided she would leave it as it was.
She packed her books during the last week of October and let everyone know she had found another job which had been true only that the job was voluntary. She’d volunteered at a school called Grace of God private secondary school in the same area 24. It didn’t have structures as beautiful as Chisambi’s but they were okay and the teachers and the director had morals. Sometimes she missed the good toilets at Chisambi. She never heard from him again since the day she left. Mary was still talking to her even though she hadn’t talked to her about anything so she thought he hadn’t said anything to her. Would he break the news and implicate her one day?
The pants she’d bought earlier on in town today lingered on the rusty nail that hang off the newly painted white wall. She shook her head and released a chuckle as she thought of how she’d gotten it earlier today. She loved Lilongwe city for the ease with which she could get pants or a sweater with its matching skirt or any other lower part clothing from the kaunjika sellers that swim the city of Lilongwe like an army of coordinated ants. Auntie, Akaka ka 1500 basitu. She shook her head to imply she wasn’t interested. He must have gotten the message that she didn’t have enough money. Pali zingati? the boy ran after her with one of his dark, rough hands clutching his sagging pants tightly and another dangling the piece of cloth in her face. She’d increased her pace, brushing shoulders with many other people as she tried to get away from him as much as possible.
The young man pursued her like a little boy in love. It made her laugh why he hadn’t run after any other people. The mistake she’d made was stare at the pants for longer than 15 seconds when she passed by him. If she had acted like she wasn’t interested, he’d be chasing other ladies by now. She let herself look again. It was a nice color. She liked it. But the last thing she wanted was waste the 20000 she had for this month’s groceries. She told herself to stick to her budget. The boy didn’t give up. It’s like he read her unsure mind and was working on weakening the little determination she had. She laughed on the inside, turned to the pursuer and clamped her mouth shut, not wanting to conceal her smile of defeat.
The boy caught up with her and asked her how much she had with her. A stench hit her nostrils and she wasn’t sure whether it was just a breeze of wind from the famous Lilongwe river or it was from the armpits of the boy combined with that from his mouth. For a moment she looked away pretending to cough as she tried to breathe in cleaner air. She was tempted to tell him she only had 500 kwachas in her pocket, both to try her chances of getting such a pair of jeans at such a giveaway price and to tell him off but somehow she knew that this one was not going to be easily pushed away. She saw triumph in his eyes when he knew he had won. She quickly fished out 1500 from her purse and handed it to him quickly before she changed her mind. She got the jeans from him and packed them in her bag. When she looked up, he was holding another pair in his hands, a pair she didn’t know he had and hadn’t seen him get from someone else. She laughed and shook her head so rapidly that she felt a breeze of dull pain speed through her. She wanted to drive home the point that she wasn’t buying another pair. In such kinds of situations, you would find yourself with 10 pants and all your money gone.
She missed Blantyre, she admitted to herself. She missed her bed and the nsima that only tasted better from her mother’s old pots. Any other pots produced something that looked like nsima but couldn’t quite reach the taste she had grown accustomed to. She missed the sound of the door opening when her mother came to wake her up every day at dawn. You can still come home to us anytime, you are still our daughter and don’t hesitate to call us when you need anything, her father had texted. She felt her eyes mist and she wiped them away and looked up at the roof of the house. Was it possible to just go home and just say she didn’t want to grow up anymore. She had lost weight; she could see that. The skin around her cheeks had gone into her skull creating troughs that could not even be passed off as dimples, her hips were barely visible and it’s like her breasts had shrank as well. Was it wrong to admit that at 24 she was still her mother’s daughter or maybe that was the scapegoat. Her brain had deceived itself from facing the issues that had been gnawing at her guts, that kept her yawning at night as she stared at the holes in the ceiling of her roof, watching rats do a chase in and out of the hole.
Her phone chimed and she looked at it. I am sorry, I am going out with Nelson again, I can’t make it again. That’s alright, have all the fun, enjoy the moment while it lasts, she typed back and threw her phone on the bed. She didn’t want to look at the picture that had come with the text. She felt a strange feeling of nostalgia every time she looked at photos of happy couples in love. The equivalence of dipping a fresh wound in soapy water to clean it. It was a wound that refused to heal, being rubbed on constantly, fresh blood dripping from it every day she saw his contact among her phone’s contacts. She’d never mastered the courage to completely erase it from her phone.
So where is our mpongozi? Aunt Linda had asked her one day. They had been talking about a cousin of hers that had just divorced her husband because he had cheated on her. Tapiwa ndi okula mtima, I have known her since she was a little girl. Our husbands cheat on us, we see text messages from their girls but we forgive them. Adake Tumbikani aba, I stopped checking his text messages these days. The messages I have seen there I don’t want to see anymore. But I forgive him, she said in an almost whisper as her eyes kept darting to the door. Luwiza didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t known Tapiwa’s husband personally and they had been married for a short period so she hadn’t gotten a chance to meet him during the few years of their happy marriage. She didn’t have time to recollect her thoughts and throw in a comment because she began interrogating her love life. Her heart twisted as she thought of the best answer to give her. Even she was questioning if the man she had saved in her phone as my love was that or just some mere contact she could use when asked if she had boyfriend or not? Am I dating? Was she?
A hope she hadn’t known existed for the relationship made her open her mouth and she babbled happily about the man she’d been dating for four years. She even went ahead to explain that he was also from Mzimba just like them. Wow you got a Tumbuka, your father will be very happy, she’d said. She could see it in her eyes, the waves of joy and excitement relatives dived into when someone got a potential someone in their life. Let me see his picture, she’d asked. Because of the fights they had been constantly, she’d wiped off all his photos from her gallery. So quickly, she asked her best friend if she still had the cutest photo the two of them had taken during one of their dates.
Her best friend jokingly told her that she wasn’t in a relationship if she didn’t have a photo of her man. She’d been right. When her aunt saw the photo she literally jumped on the spot. She said she could already imagine the beautiful babies the two would have from the way the young man looked. Well if we are to get to that stage at all, I am not even sure if we are getting into the next hour, Luwiza thought silently. He is very handsome, you know how to pick them, she’d complimented. Inside she cringed and her stomach rolled. She knew her guts didn’t agree with her aunt’s comment when she felt something move in her bowels and she rushed to the toilet. It was the way her body handled stress, literally purging it out of her system through the natural way. It was a routine she’d mastered so well in her relationship with Timothy. Every fight they had led her to the toilet seat and the toilet had become a bit of a second home because they had been fighting a lot. Maybe that was partly why she’d lost weight.
She’d constantly been on an edge wondering what mood he’d be in or if he was going to call at all and say hello to her and she felt her heart break every time no text or call came from him. She could tell the love had been lost in the moments where she would text him, have a goodnight my love and send it along with love emojis and he would reply with a resounding, goodnight to you too! There was a silent message in all his replies that sent shivers down her spine and sometimes made her sit on her bed and cry for two minutes. He replied to her texts with an anger or boredom that signified he didn’t want anything to do with her. She would picture him sitting in his house at Chibavi on that soft and cozy brown sofa they both loved so much, typing a response with beads of sweat and wrinkles of anger all over his face. Sometimes she even saw him making faces at her texts each time she sent them. Those moments made her afraid. The romantic man she knew totally gone, replaced by a him she hadn’t gotten to know well enough. She knew not facing the real problem prolonged the inevitable heartache and her days of agony. It seemed none of them had had the courage to confront the issue that loomed over their relationship.
Does he call you at all? her inquisitive aunt probed her. She silently cursed her curiosity. Why wouldn’t she just shut up and not ask questions? She explained all of the problems they had been having.
You just need to do what he had asked you to do for him, men are difficult to understand. Just make sure you make him happy. Adake Tumbi didn’t like trousers when we first got married and told me to stop wearing them. Look...she lifted her ring finger to her gaze... I am still married and I am happy. It doesn’t always have to be about you, you have to stretch yourself or shrink yourself so the two of you can be together, she advised. Luwiza mused that her aunt could write a book on relationships. It seemed she had gathered enough knowledge. Deep down she knew, even the little human inside her would never do what aunt Linda and Timothy wanted of her. He hadn’t given her enough reason.
People change, they change a lot, she’d witnessed that. They didn’t have the Jesus type of unconditional love. They wanted you in a certain way and a simple deflection from that meant the flow of love would be cut off.
It was scary how one could change from being my love and one and only one to a stranger you loathed so much you would say anything to hurt them. Scary how you could transition from staying up all night on the phone, rubbing your feet slowly, kicking your blankets away, standing up, walking around the room and picking at anything within reach even insects as you listened to the sweet lowered husky voice of your lover on the other side of the phone and swallowed away that pool of saliva that symbolized pure, undiluted sweet satisfaction to not talking for hours and days.
You know, now that are like that, aunt Linda waved her hand over her body as if to say the way you dress, men will find it difficult to ask you out. You are supposed to make him feel important to you, don’t demean him. Doing the very thing he asked you not to do him makes him think you don’t respect him. These people are built differently. They need the assurance that you will listen to them, respect them. You need to drop your stubbornness and start respecting him mwana wane, she said with love in her eyes like she was talking to one of the little kids she taught at her nursery school. Love for what she considered a child that had lost the way but didn’t want to admit they were lost. She felt like crying. It’s like she wasn’t understood. No one understood her at all it hurt so much. You will get to 35 with no man and people will start laughing at you. She wanted to ask why it was laughable to be 35 and single but she knew she was going to get that are you serious look? Being 35 and single was not normal. That was common knowledge.
Why do you want to try beer? Atsikana samwa mowa, he’d dismissed seriously. The look on his face took her off guard. I don’t want to go out, I will just buy and take it in my room, I am just curious that’s all, she’d tried to reason with him. Joan brought me some canned drink called Guarana last night, I loved it, she’d said remembering the taste of the drink on her tongue. She was sure her eyes were rolling in her skull. Joan drinks? he’d been surprised. She nodded her head not liking the direction the conversation was going.
I have never liked that girl. Ever since you started hanging out with her you have completely changed. I liked it when Maya was your friend and you two used to go to church. Even your dressing has changed, you use words like fuck, shit, these days. What’s happening to you, Lu. You have changed so much, it’s scaring me. What kind of wife are you going to be? Luwiza stared at him like he’d just sent a heavy thump to her tummy with his boots. She felt her mouth dry up and her heart thudded in her chest. She tried to recollect her thoughts. How long had he wanted to say all these things? But Timothy you cuss too, was all she managed to get out. He used all of the cuss words ever made and sometimes he’d even make up some on his own. Before she came to college, using such words was a taboo in her books. She couldn’t even bring herself to write them down on a paper because they had been too much. After she met Timothy it amazed her how he would freely use them, anywhere. Slowly she’d learnt too. It had begun during the moments in exam rooms when answers to questions would play hide and seek in her brain that she fought to locate them. Or when she woke up around 9 am and found messages on their class’ WhatsApp group that the psychology lecturer had been in class since 8. Or when she couldn’t find clean clothes in her wardrobe on Sunday mornings. During such frustrating times she’d heard herself say, shit or fuck with a loud anger that it even surprised her. This is not about me, it’s about you. I am a man Luwiza, stop comparing me to you. You are in Malawi, so stop lying to yourself that your life is one of those Hollywood stories, he spat at her.
Luwiza stared at him and remembered all the times she’d sympathized with her friends who’d complained that their men barred them from wearing some type of clothing or listening to some sort of music. She stood in that moment and tried to extend that sympathy to herself. Here was her man, who she’d thought was a bit modern than most, betraying the brown patches on his almost obvious white inside. So he wasn’t a ripe coconut after all. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him, her persistent tongue probing his closed mouth open till she heard that famous groan she had come to know so well. Her heart sighed with relief. She poured all her desperation and feelings deep into his throat. That yes, she knew she wasn’t what he needed or wanted but could never bear it seeing him close to any other woman who wasn’t her. They kissed like they would never kiss again, an urgency in both their mouths. Luwiza felt his tears in the wetness between their faces and felt a deep sorrow for him. Was she really hurting him? Did he hate beer on her that much? They both let it slide that day, afraid to attack something that suddenly had become a threat to their relationship.
The next time they had the beer argument, he’d found the Guarana cans on her desk. When did you get these? His tongue rolled around the word these with unmistakable distaste as he stared at the cans. It had been a statement, not a question. Yes, I saw them on the shelf in Shoprite and picked some, she answered her back to him as she made him a cup of tea. She’d seen him tremble from the harshness of the May weather as he’d entered her room. She felt a sense of sweet anticipation for that night since they had the room to themselves. It was going to be a night of warm cuddles and lots of sex. Her roommate had gone home for the weekend. She hummed Zayn’s there are you are and swayed her hips slowly to the song playing in her head.
Suddenly she felt the air grow tense and she turned and froze at what she saw. Timothy was lying on the bed, his hands over his eyes and she saw the moisture on the sheets on either side of his head. He was crying. What is it? You know when I asked you out a year ago, I didn’t think you would turn out this way? He said looking up at her, pursing his lips like a little boy who couldn’t have his way. What do you mean this way? she asked with the same well-articulated Kamuzu Academy English like his. She’d learnt to speak good English by association. She was now able to pronounce car and girl like he did. She definitely could have a conversation with a British thanks to him. I mean like, he choked on the word and paused to inhale some air, like this wild, he gestured his hand down her body. Like this wild? Wild? Because I drink? Luwiza fired back. She wasn’t going to be the submissive this time around. So you are also wild? She fumed placing her hands on her hips.
There was no way she was going to let him dictate to her how to live her life. He sat up and she summoned all the inner strength she could afford. This isn’t about me Luwiza, it’s about you, you are a girl, he answered like he was tired of explaining the obvious. And so what? She smashed the mug cup she had been holding in her hands, sending the pieces all over the room and turned to face him fully. He breathed deeply staring at the white pieces of the beautiful mug he’d given her on their first valentines. She’d been having questions since that night he had told her she couldn’t drink. She needed answers from him. Answers that would make her believe he had a valid reason for telling beer was bad for girls. Frustration had built within her and now flowed out of her body with the tears of anger that fell down her cheeks furiously. I am wild because I take beer? It’s okay for you to take it but it’s not for me? He stood and looked at her for a second then took a breath as if to calm himself. She saw his hands fist together but was assured he would never hit her. If you can’t see the anything wrong with you taking beer then I shouldn’t even be having this argument, with you of all people. I can’t do this with you, he got the jacket he’d discarded on the chair and left the room.
All the confidence she’d had while shouting back at him deflated when she realized she didn’t know the meaning of I can’t do this with you right now. Did he mean he couldn’t talk with her then? Or that he was done with her. Panic had flowed down her length her like an electric current, sending her body that had felt boneless to the cold tiled floor. Her chest hurt and she refused to consider the scary meaning of I can’t do this with you. That night she’d gone to his house unannounced. The sitting room was tidy and quite like no one had been in it for years. The remote sat in its right place, the TV looked new and shiny as always. He was the clean freak between the two of them. She found him in his room. He was sitting on the floor, his eyes focused on something invisible on the wall opposite. A bottle of Hunters dry sat on the stool beside him and she stared at it, maybe too long and that thirst hit her throat. She reminded herself of the reason she had gone there in the first place. She knelt on the bed and cradled his head to her chest and cried. He didn’t do anything at first, just kept his hands at his sides. No, No, don’t shut me out, she pleaded in her heart, tears falling into his ruffled black afro. She couldn’t lose him. I can’t think of the drunkard you, that’s not the wife I envisioned for myself. In that moment, as an analgesic to the pain she was feeling, she would have said yes to licking the underside of his feet. I won’t take drink anymore. I promise, its expensive anyway, she’d joked.
She saw less and less of Joan. Whenever she popped by their room, Luwiza would act like she was busy and uninterested that it became obvious to her that she was no longer wanted as a friend. Timothy had been become her only best friend and buddy. She kept the promise she’d made to Timothy for a week and broke it the night of her class’ farewell party. One look at the all the beers that were all over the table at the function had her drooling and in her heart she’d shouted, go to hell with your rules Timothy. She got drunk from a combination of beers whose names she couldn’t even remember, partying her limbs into the next day. All of the girls had gone back to sleep before midnight. It had been just her and a few other wild guys, in Timothy’s words. She’d staggered back to her room as the sun rose the next day. She knew there was no way Timothy would hear of it.
You still drink? He’d sent her a text along with screenshot of a text he’d received from Manzy. Man, you know I still have people I talk to on campus, some dudes from her class. They say she was pretty drunk on the last day of school; you should think twice. Been keeping this from you for a while. I can’t anymore. It was only once, she’d pleaded after she read the text and realized there was no way she could lie.
I feel like you will never listen to me at all. You have no respect for me, I told you I don’t like beer and yet you still go out and do it? I constantly feel like I am the woman in this relationship. Maybe I just need to find someone that’s meant for me. Let’s face it, you and I are two different people that will keep hurting each other if we don’t end things now. Your wildness scares me.
He’d been on a roll and poured out his whole heart. It was like he had been thinking about it for a while. Tears streamed down her face when he confirmed her worst fears. He saw it too. How different they were. She swore she hadn’t taken beer since that night and pleaded with him. Baby it was two months ago, she texted. He’d gone offline and his phone couldn’t be reached. Fear gripped her heart. She refused to consider any other option when it came to their relationship. When two days went by without a word from him, she got onto a bus to Mzuzu so she could talk to him in person and she’d vowed to use her body in the best way she knew how. She told her parents she’d been called for an interview in Mzuzu and they gladly gave her transport both to and fro.
He’d been reluctant. Please make love to me, she whispered in his ears. She saw the conflict in his facial features and she knew victory was looking up. So she looped her arms around his neck and bit him on the side of the neck, blowing gently on it that the hairs stood on its feet. She knew tolerating all of his don’ts had never been part of the solution but she didn’t want to break it off. She was not going to let another woman have him. Things never went back to normal after that night. He’d stopped calling her and barely acknowledged her presence in his life.
I can’t do this anymore with you. The text was still embedded in her mind like an imprint. She still remembered it’s font, the alignment of the letters. It had arrived on her phone at 9:10 am. An alignment of alphabetical words that spelt everything doom. It carried with it memories of the past four years of romance down the drain. Her chest had hurt for days. She often thought of their first night together.
You are the only one in this room that looks different, he’d said and with skill that beat most artists, he’d managed to lure her from the open air party to his car that sat in the car park. He’d come to visit Manzy who’d been the school’s entertainment director at the time. He was famous for spicing up the university’s entertainment events. He’d failed his fourth year examinations because he had thrown himself into entertaining the students. Timothy on the other hand had completed his degree successfully and gotten a job at Mzuzu hotel before he was even out of the university. The two of them had been best friends since the first day of college when they had been allocated the same room on campus and later found out that they were both going to study Tourism and Hotel Management.
Don’t do this do this, it’s not right, her working brain cells had screamed. She willed herself to go back to the party where her fellow first year students threw hands in the hands, shook their bodies of all shapes to the loud music. She’d seen a final year student pass them by with a laptop in her arms. She spared them a sympathetic glance, her eyes lingering at the hands that were locked behind her back. Through her half-opened eyes, she saw the lady glance over her shoulder at them as she entered one of the study buildings. She ignored the look she saw in the girl’s eyes. Throughout secondary school she’d looked forward to this famous freshman party where you could be free and dance and drink. She’d heard of it from her relatives that had walked the corridors of the prestigious universities. She didn’t drink, even though she was dying on the inside as she watched the few girls that gripped bottles of some gold sweet looking drink in their hands. The naïve first year boys watched as their girls were whisked away from the place by final year men into dark rooms and corners where only God knew what was happening.
She ignored the little voice and let the warmth between her legs lead her and she found herself in the arms of Timothy at Mzuzu hotel. Her friends had warned her in the beginning of their relationship that they were headed for destruction because relationships don’t begin from one night stands. She felt smug when months, then years whizzed by. The warnings stopped when they celebrated their 3rd anniversary. Timothy was into the relationship body and soul. He’d even brought up the issue of marriage more than once. Now she was back to square one. He had blocked her on WhatsApp. She lay in bed many nights staring at his number. What would he say if she called him and apologized and promised never to drink again? He wouldn’t believe her. She knew she could never be what he wanted but it didn’t take away the pain of not having someone she could refer to as my husband, of being called a Mrs. Chirwa by her girlfriends.