They say smart men listen to what their women say. Wise ones listen to what they don’t say because sometimes her behaviour speaks volumes. It can be something as subtle as a fine or something colourful like a delirious burst. Then there are the rest of us, flawed, childlike, distracted by shiny things. Sending the wrong text to the wrong woman. Texts that could make Lucifer’s toes curl and his face brighten in a pink blush. Men who are always apologising for something or another. And our woman eventually see us for who we truly are. Unscrupulous, crooked and they soon leave us to the monsters we’ve created.
I was seated next to a woman in a matatu on Monday. Long face, eye-bags, suggesting lack of sleep reading a book titled ‘Abundance Is the Key to A Fulfilling Marriage.’ She was completely soaked in it, as if it had the forever after glitter we only see in Disney films so I acted like any typical Kenyan and craned my neck for a better view. First thing I saw was this heading in bold, ‘Men Think Women Are Their Property’ before I could read the text below it she turned the page. “Wait, I’m not done.” I almost coughed but then I imagined pepper spray and tasers and fell back. The next page had a bible quote, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ below it an outline of the insecurities men have, ‘Will she run away?’ ‘I’m I making enough?’ The works.
I looked at the woman to see if her demeanour betrayed her persona, or the type of marriage she was in. She looked young. Late twenties which suggested that she’s in a young marriage and they are now just getting out of the honeymoon stage and realising that two don’t actually become one because we are all different. With different likes, dislikes and tastes. I imagine the waves have started rocking the boat. The chap has probably started working late and spending nights in bars and she has started spending more time with her family and friends. The praises she had for him having morphed into criticisms. And her old-fashioned mother gives her the only advice she knows. “Ndoa nikuvumiliana.”
I imagine she has turned the web upside down looking for information that could get them back on track. She has prayed and spoken to her pastor about it, maybe she goes to an uppity church like Consolata Shrine. Churches where the praise and worship team dance to Hip hop music and a congregant suggested the book. Said something like, “I had the same problem and this helped us.” The word “Us” rang in her mind all day because it carried the promise of getting them back to where they were before and now she’s made it her bible because God knows she won’t have a broken marriage, not after that flamboyant wedding whose reception was at Kari.
I look at her again, this time under the pretence that I’m looking out the window. She’s in a green and white polka-dot dress, white flats and a small green handbag. The outfit says she likes to look good. Reads Cosmopolitan and maybe goes through This Is Ess fashion blog or perhaps it’s an overhaul. Perhaps she’s a tomboy and has had to change her entire look because she went through her husband’s phone and saw a few suggestive texts from Maggie Sales and maybe she stalked her Instagram and Maggie Sales is into matching dresses with handbags and God knows she won’t be the woman who bored her husband out of a marriage with baggy jeans and branded T-shirts.
I glance at her aristocratic seating style: legs intertwined, chin up, eyes down. She exudes a blue-blood even in a matatu. Perhaps her car is at the mechanic or they carpool with the husband but she couldn’t stand him today. On her lap there is a blue lunchbox. It says that she has discovered restaurants are an expensive affair and the money can be put to better use or she dislikes eating out. The dripping oil, the excessive salt that often introduces the food. She’s had enough. After all she prefers something made by her own hands, something healthy for both her and her unscrupulous other.
I try to imagine what her husband might look like and for some reason I see myself. Running, hiding. Not wanting to confront something that I know is swallowing us alive. I imagine her telling me we need a counsellor. At first it makes me uncomfortable because I know I have failed that marriage in more ways than one but then it becomes commonplace and gets to the point of being an annoyance, like the buzzing of a mosquito in your ear that you keep swatting away in vain.
I can feel her trust wearing out from all my lies and miscarried promises. She’s always grouchy, sick of the man before him who has fallen short of the man she got married too. I could talk to an older man: my dad, my uncle. Their years have forced them to know better but I decide to listen to my ego and talk to a bottle of alcohol or text a temptation instead. “We’re going through problems.” I dangle that at one of the many women attracted to married men.
Maybe I will wake up someday, the day I get home and find her clothes missing. Smart men listen to what their women say, wise ones listen to what they don’t say, then there are the rest of us.
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