I should have listened to my friend Shila when she told me that when your mother-in-law is too good to you there is usually something wrong with the son. When she rushes in to hold both of your hands and call you her daughter. When your face is stuck on the TV screen and she doesn’t start a small war because you’re not in the kitchen. When she’s okay with your low cut attire and foreign culture, there is usually something amiss. It’s unspoken, you won’t see it immediately but it’s there and sometimes you get to learn about it later when you’re neck deep inside the rabbit hole.
In his a-la-mode suit and lively brown eyes, you couldn’t have known the man Jeremy really was on our wedding day. You would have thought he was a man who had worked his way up and who life had rewarded with success and security. He looked like a well-adjusted male who was just now increasing his good fortune by marrying a beautiful woman. In everyone’s eyes I was the lucky one. It felt like a prolonged insult as his tired aunties gave their flatulent speech and placed a kiondoo on my head as if we didn’t have supermarkets with trolleys. You would have thought I was the lucky one as they placed a mwiko on my hand and showed me how I would be tasting the salt. But I wasn’t the lucky one, Jeremy was. He would have the privilege of living with an uptown girl, a gregarious go-getter.
After we were settled in a few things became clear. Jeremy was not his own man as he had appeared, he lived out of hand outs from his parents. To make him look good they had opened a mom and pop hardware for him where he spent most of his day. After clocking out of my job I would pass by and find him crestfallen, sinking in his chair, the color drained from him like an ice cube in the sun. All the same, I was okay with it. His parents were loaded after all but there was a problem, Jeremy was a man with an ego, a big ego for that matter and he would parade around his parents as if everything was okay and our lifestyle ended up being sustained by that hardware of his. That hardware that made sure we had tea with the slightest hint of milk and meat twice a week.
This frustrated me and I would regularly meet with Shila in an uppity restaurant where I would air my frustrations and sink my receptionist salary. Shila was a riddle. She wasn’t employed but somehow she managed to live a luxurious lifestyle. She drove, she flew out for holidays and when I asked, she told me she was incredibly blessed. She would often tell me that I was a pretty girl and a pretty girl like me didn’t need to hang around broke guys and all I needed to do was ask and I would be blessed too.
After our drink ups I would get home, my head swimming from all the wine and find my so called husband mangy on the couch with his cashier book crunching numbers, pennies if you asked me. I had long stopped begging him to ask his parents for support and I had resorted to shouting at him instead. “You’re a good for nothing man who can’t even give me the lifestyle I deserve.” I would bark. He had long grown tired of our arguments and he would pick his books and calculator and lock himself in the bedroom and that agitated me even more.
If you asked me the type of man I wanted before I got married. I would have told you someone nice but not too nice that I got away with murder. Someone who was firm, someone who made me feel safe and secure. A second father, a much nicer father. I still wanted all those things just not with Jeremy. If you asked Jeremy what he wanted in a wife. He probably would have told you that he wanted someone patient. Someone who was not carried away by what others were doing. Someone who saw the vision even when it was not immediate. Someone who called him every now and again and asked him what he wanted for dinner. Well, I have never been patient, I don’t have time to live in the future when I can live in the now. And as for dinner, meat twice a week is not worth the call.
I found myself telling Shila that I was ready to be blessed—it was a long time coming. She introduced me to a couple of men, men with sharp profiles. Men with a lot of confidence, the kind of confidence that springs from a swelling bank account and being surrounded by beautiful women. Every other weekend I dressed to the nines and found myself in the company of these men. They called us escorts but to me it felt like freedom.
I told Jeremy I had gotten promoted after I came home with my brand new car and that gave me an excuse to miss weekends in the name of business trips. That was before the nausea, muscle pains and the vomiting started. Just after Jeremy told me he had landed a huge deal to supply a Chinese construction site with hardware. I had been to the hospital but I didn’t have the guts to give him the news. I told him it was a common cold and it would clear with time until I heard him in the bathroom heaving and vomiting. For some reason that woke me up and I buried my face in my palms and regretted what I had done.
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I like to think of myself as a reader who writes, a Pan-African who thinks with the tips of his fingers, but when I’m not molesting the keyboard I’m usually destroying yogurt (not Frusion) or staring into the vastness of space.