I was in the middle of a meeting with a lady named Susan Mulenga when I saw my wife Chizu burst through the doors of the restaurant, charging straight at us like a wounded buffalo.
I had seen that look so many times before and over the years it had become my wife’s natural signature face. When she was not yelling or fuming, I got nervous, wondering what was wrong or when things would crush…but when she was yelling, fuming, throwing things about, and doing gymnastics with her hands and mouth, I knew I was right at home.
Unfortunately, I was not at home that particular evening when Chizu unleashed her inner demons. This time we had an audience.
That’s the sound of the slap that filled the restaurant where we were, my mouth open wide, starring in horror at my wife who had just assaulted the innocent twenty five year old lady I had been having a brief meeting with.
That single slap was like the final blow to a very cracked wall.
And everything came tumbling down.
I knew very well why my wife had acted that way. I understood the pain in her eyes and I knew the exact temperature of the tears streaking down her cheeks…because I have spent the last four years drying them.
There was only one thing any normal man in my position would have done; quickly explain to his wife that she had misunderstood the situation.
“This lady here is Malambo’s sister, you know Malambo right honey? He’s my workmate. He left for Kabwe this morning and he forgot to leave me these documents that I need for tomorrows board meeting. He left them with his sister to give to me and that’s why we are here. She got lost searching for our address so I asked her to wait for me here at the restaurant since it’s close to home.”
That’s what I should have said to Chizu. That was the simple explanation of what was happening. The whole truth…nothing but the truth.
I would have even taken off my clothes and started swinging naked from the chandelier whilst saying those words and she still wouldn’t have believed me.
Like a helpless man, my lips stayed sealed.
We had reached a point in our marriage where the simple truth was just not enough to give us the peace we so desperately needed. There was absolutely no trust. For her to believe me, I needed to tell her something so extraordinary and way out of this world.
I would have looked her in the eye and told her; “This is the great great great granddaughter to Mahatma Ghandi. She came all the way from India and is trying to set up an NGO here in Zambia and she’s asking for my expertise to help her get started,
“The reason we are sitting here in this restaurant so close to home is because we are waiting for Florence Nightingale’s step brother to join us so we can all come home together. The two of them want to partner up in this organization so I thought you might get excited if I surprised you with such great visitors for dinner.”
I would have said that and she would have believed me.
But my lips were still tied. In my head I was thinking…how did I get to this point? How did we end up here?
How did this woman whose confidence had weakened me at my knees turn out to be such an insecure woman?
The answers came to me right away;
I had caused this to happen.
No, we had both caused this to happen.
Together, we had sown a seed and forgot about it, thinking it would die in the ground as long as we ignored its existence. We had planted fresh seeds of our choice and watered the ground with the best nutrients we could find on the market…but when the fruits emerged, so did those of that forgotten seed.
In this battle of two, an innocent woman stood humiliated, her cheek glowing from the effects of my unstable marriage.
Had I not forgotten for a moment where I was coming from, I would not have suggested that she wait for me at that restaurant. Because of my misjudgement, I dragged an innocent woman into a situation she never imagined she would ever find herself in.
No matter the depth of my regrets, nothing would make up for the pain that that woman would come to suffer as a result of a careless decision I had made five years ago.
Like a helpless man, I just stood there, sandwiched between two crying women; one from her own imagined pain, and the other from the undeserved humiliation she had just been subjected to.
How did I get here?
* * *
I once heard someone say that how a relationship pans out is determined by the foundation on which it was built.
“Bollocks,” I had said in response.
I strongly believed that as long as one did their best to make their relationship work, it didn’t matter how or where they started. I had to believe that. I needed to believe that.
But I was dead wrong.
My wife Chizu and I met while we were both dating other people. At that time, I had been dating a girl named Gloria for over nine years. She and I were childhood sweethearts, started dating when we were teenagers.
It was in the summer of 2002 when my then girlfriend Gloria introduced me to a friend she had made at college. Within a very short period of time, the two girls had become closer than sisters, constantly together and sharing almost everything they had; from clothes to shoes to books…and eventually me.
The first time it happened was by accident, none of us had planned it. I had travelled from Lusaka to the Copperbelt to surprise Gloria at the small apartment she and Chizu were staying, it was just a few minutes away from their college campus. Unfortunately, because Gloria had not calculated for my visit, she had made plans to spend the weekend at home at her parents because her mother was not feeling well.
And that was how Chizu and I were left alone in that small apartment. We bought beers, got drunk and as they say, the rest is history.
However, nothing about that night between Chizu and I stayed history. We both regretted our actions the moment the deed was done and we promised to keep it a secret from Gloria. I did not want to lose my girlfriend simply because I had lost my senses for a few minutes and Chizu too did not want to lose her best friend in such a manner.
And so, we moved on as if nothing ever happened.
“I think I have fallen in-love with you.” Is what Chizu told me when she popped up out of the blue at my level at the University of Zambia three months later.
Her visit was unexpected and her confession knocked me out of my senses immediately. The truth was that despite not contacting her since our unfortunate encounter, I never forgot about that night. Every single day it kept replaying in my head and every dame time I was with Gloria, I kept getting reminded of that night.
Chizu was the second woman I had been intimate with, the first being Gloria. Chizu was the first woman I had gone wild with and so there was that special something about having done something that daring…that special feeling that kept gnawing at me, tempting me to do it again…to feel like that again despite the price I would have to pay if…no, when I got caught.
I never wanted to admit it out loud then but the thoughts were there in my mind; how more beautiful, fun and outgoing Chizu was compared to Gloria my girlfriend. Because Gloria and I had dated for such a long time, we had become too familiar with each other.
There was nothing fun or surprising we did together it was all routine. She had become my fiancée by default and naturally, I had never before imagined anyone else being my wife in future…and I was okay with it.
But that was until Chizu came along.
There was something about Chizu’s wildness that made me feel challenged. I wanted to grab hold of her and tame her in my arms…like I had done that night. I wanted to experience something else other than Gloria. I wanted excitement and Chizu was all that.
So seeing her on my door that evening looking so drop dead gorgeous brought to life all those feelings and thoughts I had been harbouring. Of course the fact that other monks…male students on my block kept hollering at her made me want to hold her even more.
Without thinking, I grabbed her into the room and for the first time in the four years I had been at university, I realised just how small those beds were.
One week later, Chizu had dumped her boyfriend of six months for me. I had become her exclusive boyfriend and because of that, she expected exclusivity from me too. But I had never promised her that. I never once told her that I would leave Gloria for her.
Thing is, no matter how obsessed I was about Chizu, I still loved Gloria and I still only saw Gloria as my wife. I had only a few months remaining at Uni and I was gonna marry her. I was going to keep the promise I had made to her four years ago.
But Chizu was determined in her endeavour to make me hers only. And when she suddenly left me one day, without so much as a goodbye, I was left broken. Her decision to leave my life like that forced me to reconsider my feelings towards Gloria.
And thus, every time I spent with Gloria, I kept comparing the two girls and somehow, Gloria always seemed to fall short.
On the day before my graduation, Gloria had come to the small room I was renting in Northmead and I broke the news to her. I told her that I was in-love with someone else.
“I know,” is what she told me in response.
“You know?” I asked her.
She said yes. “I know it’s Chizu.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“I have known it ever since that night the two of you were alone and I was with my mother. You had dialled my number by accident and I heard everything that was happening.”
Still, I didn’t know what to say.
She seemed to be asking and then answering the questions that were playing in my head.
“I have known you all my life James,” She was saying, fighting back the tears. “I knew what was going on but I didn’t want to be the one to leave. I thought about two possibilities; that you might get over it and come back to me, or that you might leave me. I knew I didn’t want to leave you…like a fool, I kept hoping.”
“Gloria,” I started to say. I wanted to explain to her that Chizu was not to blame for anything…that I was the one who was wrong and that I was sorry.
“It’s fine,” she said, blinking back the tears as she got up from the bed. “You don’t need to say anything. I understand.”
She then reached down from under the bed and removed a nicely wrapped box. “Your graduation present,” she said as she handed the box to me.
“I got my first pay from my part time job at the bookshop. I thought that might come handy since you are starting work on Monday.”
I was feeling way too embarrassed to open to unwrap the gift so I asked, “What’s this?”
“Some shirts and trousers for work.” She replied.
“I can’t take these Gloria,” I told her, pushing the box towards her.
I wasn’t sure if she was just being her usual kind self or if her intentions where to mentally torture me. if the latter was the case, then she had succeeded.
“You are no longer getting BC so you need these clothes for now. I didn’t have enough money to buy a lot so I asked my mother to chip in.” BC is what we called the money we received from the government as students through sponsorship.
Gloria had now unwrapped the box and I could see about four shirts and four pairs of trousers in there. Seeing those things reminded me of expensive Black Orchid Tom Ford bottle of perfume Chizu had given me the previous night as my graduation present. I had been so excited to receive that perfume because it was my very first designer perfume and I couldn’t wait to put it on and smell like a million bucks even though I was the son of a poor marketer.
Unconsciously, there I was comparing the two women again. Because Gloria was ever acting like a wife, I found her extremely boring. While she worried about my general well-being, such as cooking, clothing, safety and the like, Chizu was all about making me feel good and I loved that about her.
Chizu had a doctorate in giving a man pleasure. She could do gymnastics in the air whilst kissing me and she could twist and turn her waist and body to degrees that would befuddle even the father of mathematics himself. She made me feel extremely alive while Gloria made me feel like an old man. I know that I should have been grateful for her kind gestures because truth be told, I needed those things Gloria was offering me while I simply craved and wanted the things Chizu gave me.
However, to my then twenty-four old self, the perfume tramped everything else and Chizu danced about in my head as if she was the haemoglobin to my red blood cells. I could no longer see Gloria. To me, Gloria had become the epitome of all things I didn’t need in my life at that point in time.
I suddenly started feeling like I was missing out on so much having been stuck to the same woman from the moment I had discovered the word ‘come’ could be spelt in another way to mean something else.
My brain was on hibernation and my loins where on fire. Gloria’s Jesus had nothing on me.
I wanted to explore, I wanted excitement, I wanted to feel alive.
And so that morning before my graduation day, I watched Gloria walk out of my life and did not bother to stop her. Yes, a huge part of me was hurt seeing her so heart broken and knowing I was responsible for that but another huge part of me couldn’t wait to announce my sudden freedom to Chizu.
Gloria had remained Gloria to the very end of our relationship. She had put my needs before her first and she left without a fight believing it was something she ought to do for the person she loves.
One year later, Chizu and I were married.
* * *
When I stood in that restaurant watching my wife lose herself, I remembered the words that Gloria had said to us when she paid us a surprise visit at our engagement party.
I had not seen her in over a year and we had completely lost touch. It was the same case with Chizu.
“You?” Chizu looked like she was ready to blow fire from her eyes the way she was looking at Gloria.
Everyone in the room knew who Gloria was because they were all mutual friends of us three.
The room had gone dead quite the moment Gloria appeared on the door and started walking towards us.
I was the most surprised because I knew her not to be a confrontational kind of person. She was a quite girl that would have rather eaten a burnt meal than tell the waiter to prepare her a fresh one.
But there she was at our engagement party, dressed in a black and white lose-fitting maxi-dress and looking painfully calm.
“What do you want here Gloria?” Chizu angrily quizzed her former best friend.
“Relax Chizu,” Gloria said. “I didn’t come here to cause a scene. You both know am incapable of that.”
“What do you want Gloria?” I asked, looking around to check if by some luck we had grown invisible and no one in the room could see us.
No such luck.
“I heard about your engagement,” Gloria said. “Of course I felt bad, hurt. For a moment I regretted not having been truthful about my feelings to the both of you…and then I realized, what could be more perfect than now, on your engagement?”
“Can we go outside and talk?” I tried to grab her but she pushed my hand away.
“I’ll be done soon,” Gloria said. “I just wanted to tell the both of you that you hurt me real bad. I have spent the past year crying over it, wondering how the two people I trusted the most in the world could break my heart in such a cruel manner.
“But I’m done crying now. I stood out there for close to an hour wondering whether to come in here or not. I told myself that if I can find the strength to face you two for the last time, then I would find the strength to heal, to move on…and here I am.”
“Well, you’ve succeeded, so can you leave now?” Chizu said. “You are embarrassing yourself.”
Gloria looked around and then back at us. Smiling, she said. “Between you and me, who do you think has done something to be embarrassed about?” She asked Chizu.
“Are you just going to let her stand here and do this?” Chizu asked me, holding me completely responsible for the presence of my ex-girlfriend at our engagement party.
“Before I leave,” Gloria said. “I need the two of you to always remember something; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember that as you celebrate the beginning of the rest of your lives together.”
And she was gone.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. She had said.
I had heard a lot of people use the word karma in regards to my relationship with Chizu but ah ah, not Gloria my geeky ex-girlfriend. She just had to go Newton on us.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the words of a character from my Grade Eleven Physics Text Book having such a profound and direct impact on my life.
After our wedding, Chizu and I lived for each other. Even though we never said it out loud, we both knew at the back of our heads that people around us expected our marriage to fail because it was built on the foundation of a lie.
Thus, to prove everyone wrong, we did everything in our power to be the perfect portrait of couple genuinely in-love and enjoying a happy marriage. And we weren’t just picture perfect, we were truly happy…at least for a year.
It was in our second year of marriage when things started changing. I had gotten a promotion at work and Chizu had to stop working because we were expecting our first child. At first I attributed the sudden changes in our marriage to my wife’s hormones. And then it became motherhood, and then just plain parenthood. There was always a valid reason on standby to explain why things seemed to be spiralling out of control for us.
Silently, we both kept replaying Newton’s Third Law of Motion from Gloria’s mouth;
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
And still, we didn’t want to admit it to ourselves and to each other that the problems we were having could be because we had done something in the past that was catching up to us.
Chizu and I had planted seeds of Okra and expected to harvest tomatoes.
Gloria Ndashe and Isaac Newton had other ideas in mind.
“Who are you talking to on the phone?” Had become an opening line for conversations between my wife and I.
“I heard a girl’s voice in the background, where are you?” This always seemed to happen whenever I was at work and I had the misfortune of talking to my wife on the phone.
With every single call to my office, the female voices in her head seemed to grow louder and louder.
And then it became;
Why are you home late?
Who were you with?
I can smell a girl’s cheap perfume on you?
How can you do this to me?
And then the tears would come pouring.
I could see her heart breaking, torn into minute pieces. I had done that to her, she was convinced beyond reasonable doubt.
But I can swear before Jehovah, Buddha, Allah, Zeus, Sangoma’s from all over Africa and even kneel before my ancestors and tell them that I never cheated on my wife. Not even once.
I did not even have the luxury to flirt with other women because I feared I might lose my wife to a serious case of Dementia if she ever heard about it.
But in Chizu’s head, she had already found me guilty and sentenced me.
And how could I blame her?
“You left a girl you dated all your life just to be with me so how do you expect me to trust that you will remain faithful to me?” Chizu always repeated this question whenever we had fights.
“I am a nobody who appeared out of nowhere but I was still able to steal you from the woman you had loved for eight years!” She would scream. “I don’t trust you James, I don’t. I will cut off your balls if you ever cheat on me.”
And thus, for four good years I spent my nights sleeping facing down on the bed, my nether areas safely tucked inside away from potential threats. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have dreamt that I woke up one day and found myself a woman. I just thank God that I already have a son because any more of sleeping like that and all my swimmers would be rendered paralysed for life.
“You were cheating on me when you were with another girl,” she would say on other days. “Ine I left my boyfriend the moment I realised I was in-love with you but you couldn’t leave Gloria.”
My wife had already sentenced me for a crime I had not committed and I spent my life living like a convicted man. There were many times when I felt like doing the crime to fit the sentence but because I felt somewhat responsible for her behaviour, I remained faithful and continued serving my sentence in silence.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Gloria had warned.
She was right. I was living proof. Chizu and I were living proof.
Chizu’s repeated statements eventually made me realize one thing; that there would never be trust between us because of how we had started.
We were both so busy trying to shield our marriage from people that were hoping we would fail that we forgot to shield it from our own weaknesses…our past. And slowly, the mistrust grew and the problems grew larger than a Kardashian’s bottom.
When my wife came at Susan like that that fateful evening, it was not something surprising to me. I always knew that it was only a matter of time before she completely snapped. Unfortunately, she had picked the wrong target to take out her frustrations on.
I had only met the girl for just about five minutes and apart from the fact that she was a colleague’s sister, I knew nothing about her.
In Chizu’s head, she had finally caught me in the act and I bet she wasn’t sure whether to start celebrating or to start stoning me. By all means I would have welcomed her attack but unfortunately, it was not me she meant to punish.
It was Susan.
“What do you think you are doing?” I had grabbed Chizu’s hands and was desperately trying to stop her from hitting Susan again since she looked about ready to strike again.
“Let me go you lying cheating bastard!” She was saying, writhing in my arms and waving hers at Susan.
“I am very sorry Susan,” I told the unfortunate twenty-five year old whose facial expression could kill Mr Bean’s career.
“Please leave now,” I told the girl whilst holding on to my wife. Did I mention that at this point we had become a live streaming telenovela? Everyone in the restaurant was glued.
Susan picked up her handbag and was about to leave when my dear wife screamed, “where the hell do you think you are going?”
Susan stopped, glared at my wife and then at me. “I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you but please, keep me out of it. I am leaving.” And she left.
“Let me go now,” Chizu said.
I loosened by grip on her but did not completely let go. I needed to give Susan enough time to get away.
Unfortunately, my wife knew that as well and so she elbowed me in the stomach and ran after Susan while I tried to nurse my pride and injured intestines.
It took me about thirty seconds to regain my composure and unfortunately, that was more than enough time for Chizu to cause some more damage outside.
I found her grabbing Susan by the hair…. And for the first time in my life I wished a woman would have rather had a weave on instead of her own natural silky long hair.
“Did you think you could run away from me just like that?” Chizu was beating the daylights of Susan and instead of fighting back, Susan only concentrated on protecting herself against the blows.
There was no one trying to pull them apart. Everyone in sight was on the phone taking pictures and videos and I could see my wife making headlines on Mwebantu Media that evening.
Here was a girl’s life about to be ruined over a stupid misunderstanding.
I grabbed Chizu again and pulled her away from Susan. She was still kicking and screaming like a WWE diva, still hungry for a fight.
“Why are you embarrassing yourself like this?” I yelled at her.
“Why is she doing this to me?” Susan asked, bleeding from her lips and forehead. “What have I done to her?”
“I am very sorry Susan,” I tried to apologize to her. “I am very sorry,” I said again. “My wife and I had a fight this morning so I think she mistook you for someone else. Please, forgive me.”
“I don’t even know you how can she do this to me?” Susan asked.
“Do you meet men you don’t know at restaurants and laugh with them like that?” Chizu asked.
“I only met him because my brother asked me to give him those papers.” She was pointing to the envelope in my hands. “I have never met your husband before. I didn’t even know who he was until a few minutes ago.”
“You don’t need to explain anything Susan, I am sorry for all this. Please go to the hospital and get yourself examined. My wife and I will cover the bill, I promise.”
I think Chizu scoffed.
I was silently praying that Susan does not overreact and demand for an apology from my wife. The more we stood there fighting, the longer the video clips for strangers entertainment would be. I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible.
“You should control your wife sir, she’s nuts!” Susan said and left us standing there.
I took Chizu by the arm and walked with her to my car. I wanted to literally drag her there but I didn’t want her to appear disrespected just in case the videos taken went viral. She was still my wife. She was no longer called Chizu Malama, she was now Mrs Kaunda…it’s my name that would be dragged into the mad if anything went wrong.
When we reached home, I couldn’t talk to her. I was too upset to carry on a normal and respectful conversation with her. I went straight into the spare bedroom, locked the door and slept.
I found she had prepared her usual dose of breakfast when I woke up the next morning. She had been working for an HR recruitment firm for the past two years and we always had breakfast together before leaving for work.
That morning, I was in no mood to eat, for two reasons mostly; she was going to continue nagging me, and I would take any chance I got to not eat those things she categorized as food in her head.
My wife was the worst cook in the world so much that any other food I eat that was not prepared by her, even if it was prepared by our four year old son, I would gladly masticate it with impunity.
No amount of salt or chilli could make up for the tastes Chizu conjured up in her expensively furnished kitchen. Three more months and I would be bidding farewell to my taste buds.
I would have paid any amount of money to make my wife cook in the kitchen as well as she cooked in the bedroom. So far, the only thing she seemed to have picked up from the cooking lessons she had been taking for the past two years was identifying the difference between scrambled eggs and poop.
I was happy with that because I was served eggs for breakfast every morning of the year. I was happy to finally be able to identify the things on my plate without mistaking them for something else.
It’s not like Rome was built in a day but still, I had hoped that with time, Chizu would learn how to cook because she was very willing to do so. if it meant serving our marriage, Chizu was willing to try it all. Only six months ago, I could recognize the taste of Macaroni from the mashed cheese something she had made for us for dinner. Baby steps…baby steps.
Two hours later, I was just winding up in that fateful meeting that had required the use of those papers Susan had brought to me when I received a call from Chizu.
“Can you believe what happened this morning when I reached the office?” She asked me.
“What happened?” I willingly took the bait.
“It turns out that Susan girl of yours was hired as an Accountant here.”
Chizu was laughing. “I did not waste time teaching her a lesson and now everyone here knows what a home wrecker she is. You better convince her to quit or God knows what else I will do to her if I have to keep seeing her face here.”
Oh no, not Susan, again!