The way my mother received Susan’s parents and welcomed them into our home made me realize that she had believed me when I told her nothing was going on between Susan and me. I could see the guilt on my mother’s face as she led the two into the house.
I don’t think I would have survived such a meeting with just the unrepentant Chizu by my side. My wife was still acting like a brat and a part of me couldn’t help but wonder if she was enjoying… perhaps a little too much the idea that I might be cheating on her.
I have heard of women that have caught their spouses red handed in bed with other women but just so they can live with themselves, they resolved to believe that what they had witnessed was simply a bad dream…something that never actually happened.
Or they would rather believe that their husband tripped and landed inside the other woman. Anything else was better than facing the reality of betrayal.
But not my wife.
Chizu would have given anything to believe her illusions as facts and I soon begun to feel like doing the things she was accusing me of doing just to spite her and show her what it really means to have a cheating husband.
“We apologize for dropping by announced,” Malambo’s father spoke first.
“This is the first time I am seeing the family of the mistress visit the home of the married man,” Chizu said. Despite pinching her in the back to shut her up, she went on, “Usually, it’s the wife that visits the mistress first but what the heck, there’s always a first time for everything.”
“Please forgive my daughter in-law,” my mother rushed to restore her family’s honour. “She is bipolar so she tends to overreact and act without thinking…most of the time.”
That in itself was an insult to those people with that actually suffered from that condition. My heart reached out to them.
“Mum!” Chizu protested her defamation of character.
Malambo’s parents were just quiet watching with interest as we embarrassed ourselves.
“As I was saying,” Malambo’s father continued. “This is my wife Tina, and I am Enock, parents to Malambo Mubiana and Susan Mulenga.”
The three of us sent him puzzled expressions.
“Susan is the biological daughter of my sister in-law, Tina’s younger sister but we raised her as our own since she was twelve.”
I was giving Chizu the did you hear that look and she just rolled her eyes like she usually did when feeling guilty but trying not to show it.
“There is something I need to know,” Tina finally spoke. While her husband looked a little receptive, Tina was bleeding anger through her eyes. Given a chance, she would have laid my wife on a table, cut her chest in the middle and yanked her heart out so she could feed it to her cat at home.
The woman made me sit at the edge of the sofa.
“What did you see my daughter doing with your husband that made you treat her the way you did?” She asked Chizu.
“I mean, for you to decide that it’s okay to treat a fellow human like that, a woman for that matter,” Tina went on. “Labels like husband snatcher stick with a woman for the rest of her life. It doesn’t matter whether she is innocent or not, people have no time to collect facts. They only care about headlines.”
Tina’s voice was menacingly calm, sending chills down my spine and making the hairs at the back of my head stand.
“So tell me,” she said. “What was the thing that my daughter did that made you think she deserved to be hurt, humiliated, and scarred for life in such a manner?”
For the first time since the whole Susan fiasco started, I felt Chizu shake in fear beside me. I had wanted so badly for her to reach a point when she would realise just what she had done and it appeared she was on her way there.
We all sat quietly and waited for Chizu to speak.
Her lips were quivering and her hands were shaking, but she still said nothing.
Tina was like the Chizu Vaccine or antidote, she had managed to do what my mother and I had failed to do in years; put Chizu on mute.
I wanted to harvest the woman’s spirit and bottle it up for future use, just sprinkle it in the air whenever Chizu opened her mouth.
My wife realized the hard way that there is a huge difference between thinking something in your head then convincing yourself of it and saying it out loud for others to hear.
As everyone waited in silence, my mind went back to that fateful evening where it had all started.
“I don’t see you anywhere,” I was on the phone standing outside the restaurant just a few blocks from home, searching the area for a tall, dark and slim-figured twenty-five year old lady dressed in a yellow dress.
“I am inside, inside the restaurant,” the cheerful girl replied. I turned towards the entrance of the restaurant and I saw her excitedly waving at me from inside. I cut the line and went inside.
“Hi,” I reached out my hand and we shook hands. “Am James, your brother’s workmate.”
She was smiling. “I’m Susan,” she said. “I got so tired moving around in circles that I had to come inside and order a beverage.” She was fanning herself with her hand as she spoke.
“I am so sorry for making you come all the way,” she said. “I swear I am the worst when it comes to directions.” There was something about her tone of voice and her facial expressions that made her sound funny instead of apologetic as she intended.
I couldn’t help laughing.
“If you tell me to turn left, I have to stop and check the hand I use for eating nshima and that’s when I will know.” She continued. She was clearly a chatterbox.
“And once I know which one is my left or right, I will start worrying about whether it is my left or right I have to turn or the one for the person giving the directions. I don’t know how others do it…or,” she paused and drew her face closer to whisper, “could it be that am dumb?”
She was genuinely looking at me with her big brown eyes and expecting me to give her an answer and that made me laugh even more. She had a certain innocence about her despite her age that I had not seen in a very long time. I had not realized it then, but looking back, she had made me feel at ease without even trying.
I had been having a really bad day that day and I was a little taken aback by how easily I found myself laughing in her presence. Any other person, those words wouldn’t have sounded as funny as they did coming from her.
I was laughing so hard that I must have spooked her because she stopped talking, stood back and started watching me, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
That was the picture my wife found when she spotted us as she was passing by.
Sitting there in that meeting and hearing Tina’s question, I re-examined Susan’s actions and words and found nothing suggestive about them. If anything, she had done enough in that short period of time to turn off any potential interest in me when she looked at me and asked if she was dumb.
I don’t know how many men out there find dumb women attractive…maybe they are for one time use but never for repeated use. They can suck the soul out of your blood cells. I was married to an intelligent woman that enjoyed acting dumb…I was too dumb’ed out to handle the real deal.
I had been too busy laughing to think about anything else in those five minutes with her. I just did not have enough time to entertain other thoughts that might have crossed my wife’s mind when she saw us together.
There was absolutely nothing wrong that went on between my short exchange with Susan. If anything, everything that was wrong was all external to us; time, location, and Chizu’s crazy mind.
Put those three together and you have a nuclear bomb.
“She said she saw them smiling,” my mother supplied on behalf of Chizu.
I was soaked in embarrassment.
“Smiling?” Tina laughed, well, more like scoffed. “You saw your husband smiling with another woman and went crazy like that? What are you going to do when you find him hugging someone? You do know hugging is also a form of greeting don’t you?”
The sincerity with which she asked that question broke my heart. I think Tina was convinced my wife was a delinquent. And who could blame her.
“How I handle issues in my home is none of your business,” Chizu retorted.
“You see,” Tina said. “That’s where you are wrong. If you thought that your husband was cheating and you confronted him about in the privacy of your home, then that’s your business. But if you go beating other people’s daughters hoping to enforce change in your husband, then that’s society’s problem.
“Unfortunately, this time it was my daughter you attacked so that’s my problem. That poor girl you humiliated is such a kind child that even when you attacked and humiliated her like that, she did not come to me, her father or her brother to complain.”
She paused for a while to compose herself. Her voice was shaking and her eyes were teary.
“She kept it all to herself,” Tina swallowed. “…because she did not want to worry us.” When she could no longer hold back the tears, her husband handed her a napkin.
“Susan couldn’t talk to her brother because she feared he might lose his job if he confronted your husband about it.” Tina continued after composing herself. “Because she is that kind of person, all those things she kept to herself finally eat her up and she did the only thing she thought would give her a peace of mind.”
By now Mrs Mubiana was crying, her frail body rocking so hard her husband had to keep his arm around her the whole time to help calm her down.
“You have to understand,” Mr Mubiana took over from his wife. “Susan is a very fragile girl. She has been through a lot in her life. She had come back home for less than twenty-four hours when that incident happened.
“Everything happened so fast and it was all unexpected. For a girl that thought she had left her past behind, being abused and attacked like that brought back all those memories that had almost ended her life twelve years ago.”
I wanted to ask about what they kept referring to;
She has been through a lot, they kept repeating that phrase. I also picked up that she must have suffered abuse before and that it was not the first time she had made an attempt at her life.
I was reeled in and my curiosity grew the more they talked. But I could not bring myself to ask because they had not come to us to talk about Susan’s past; they simply needed us to realize just how much damage we had caused.
“What are you people going to do to give my daughter back what she’s lost?” Tina suddenly asked us.
My mother immediately came to our rescue. She humbled herself in a way I would have never imagined and if I was not present at that particular time and someone else told the story to me, I would probably have not believed them.
She got down on her knees before the Mubiana’s, bowed her head low and begged for their forgiveness.
That day I heard my mother say words I couldn’t believe where coming out of her mouth even when only her lips were moving in the room.
“It is my fault for not teaching my daughter in-law properly…I should have taught my children well.”
I couldn’t just sit back and watch while my mother took all the blame so I grabbed Chizu by the hand and together we joined my mother on the floor.
I could see that the couple was taken aback by my mother’s sincere apology and it helped soften them up a bit.
“It is not us you need to apologize to,” Tina said to us. “I need this woman,” she was pointing at Chizu. “I need her to kneel before my daughter and beg her for forgiveness.
“You will stay on your knees before my daughter until such a time she decides to forgive you. You will also go back to your bosses and tell them what you did and make sure that they hire her back.
“If that fails, you will have to pay my daughter the equivalent of the salary she was to be paid when she got confirmed at your workplace and you will only stop until she finds another job.
“You will also release a video and make sure it goes as viral as the others did and you will explain to the public that you accused an innocent girl and you will show that you are sorry and regretful. And most importantly, you will not try to negotiate with Susan the terms I have set for you.
“I know my daughter, she has such a forgiving heart but I am her mother and it is my duty to protect my child and ensure nothing like this ever happens again. If you do not comply with any of these things I’ve stated, I will drag this thing to court and take you both for everything you’ve got. Do I make myself clear?”
I knew it; I seriously needed to bottle that woman’s spirit.
Even her own husband was shocked by the conditions she had set for us but he did not dare oppose her or do anything else that might antagonize her.
“We will do it,” my mother announced, still on her knees. Both Chizu and I gave her a look.
“There are consequences for everything we do in life,” my mother said. “Perhaps next time you will think twice before acting or reacting.” She was looking at my wife when she uttered those words.
The Mubiana’s got up, said their final piece and left.
I helped my mother up from the floor and left Chizu there. She deserved the punishment, I just hated that I was equally accountable for her mistakes.
That night I couldn’t sleep, like a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders I kept turning and tossing. However, much to my amazement, I couldn’t help noticing how my better half was soundly sleeping beside me. Her body was sprawled all over the bed like a giant octopus.
How could she sleep so easily and so soundly after everything that had happened?
I had two things keeping me awake; the image of my mother down on her knees, crying and begging for forgiveness for something she was not responsible for, and the image of Susan’s lifeless body in Malambo’s arms.
After the visitors left, my mother had not said anything to either of us. She had gone straight to the guest bedroom and locked herself inside. I stood outside the door for close to five minutes and I heard her desperately try to stifle her sobs.
The guilt I was feeling over these two women eat at me and continued to keep me awake for the coming days. Back when I was a kid and my mother would toil alone from 6 to 6 at the market while my father was away furthering his studies, I would brag to her about how I would take care of her and how she would never have to suffer as long as I was alive.
I broke that promise that morning.
Because of my mistakes and because of some stupid decisions I had made in the past, I brought tears to my mother’s eyes and I forced her to set aside her pride and dignity in front of strangers.
Seeing how Chizu appeared unfazed by everything that was happening despite being the root cause of it all made me grow even more resentful towards her. She refused to approach Susan and beg her for forgiveness and she refused to release a video discrediting the previous versions that had ruined her reputation.
Chizu’s excuse was that she had done enough getting Susan her job back, the job that Susan ended up rejecting because she did not want to work in the same environment as her abuser.
“Why would you insist on forcing your own wife to disgrace herself like that?” Chizu had asked me once after my insistence on her giving Susan a sincere apology.
“That woman sad that she wanted me to get down on my knees and beg?” Chizu was saying. “Why should I do something that humiliating? Did I do anything wrong by trying to protect my marriage?
“If that girl really wanted to kill herself, she should have gone to a place where no one would easily find her and save her. She was just trying to buy pity from everyone just because she was exposed as a husband snatcher.”
At times when my wife sounded like that, I found myself questioning the decision I had made six years ago. I could no longer recognize the devil in my own bed.
Because my wife refused to take full responsibility for her actions against Susan, I felt it was my duty to somehow reach out to her and make amends as best as I could. Unfortunately, Susan refused to have anything to do with either me or my wife.
One Saturday morning I was waiting outside Susan’s home, parked by the side of the road when I spotted her coming through the gate. She had a hood over her head and had headsets in her ears. She must have been playing very loud music because she had not spotted or heard me come out of the vehicle and follow her a decent distance behind.
I don’t know what had gotten into me that day but I found myself following her everywhere she went. It didn’t appear as if she was heading anywhere specific. It was more of a stroll around the neighbourhood.
She stopped twenty minutes later to watch a group of men playing soccer in a wire-fenced football pitch. I saw Susan grip the wires of the fence as she intently watched the game progress. It took a moment for me to realize what was really happening;
Susan was crying.
Even though I could not see her face under the hood with her head hanging low, her convulsing body as she held on to the wire fence was enough for any man that was married to a crying machine for the five years to know what was really going on.
I thought about going over to her but I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to her. She had made it clear she wanted nothing to do withus. I looked around the fence for others watching the game hoping to find a friendly and comforting face so I could ask them to check on her. Unfortunately there were only men around the pitch area, Susan was the only woman.
I resolved to just stay back and watch her at a distance. She finally stopped crying about ten minutes later when she resumed her walk. That day she walked as far as Arcades…or should I say we walked as far as Arcades where Susan bought a ticket for an afternoon movie…to watch alone.
My heart was breaking seeing what that girl was going through. I kept wondering what had happened in her life…apart from the obvious we had done to her to make her feel like she was all alone in the whole world.
That day I ended up watching two movies I had not planned on watching because Susan had gone and bought another ticket for another movie right after the first one had finished.
Watching Susan cry all through those movies made me realize just what sort of person I had become around my wife. With Susan, I found myself crying along with her. I could only imagine the things going on in her head and the realization that I had caused some of that hurt broke my heart even more.
Later I realized I was never like that with Chizu. I had become so accustomed to my wife crying that it no longer had any effect on me. Whenever Chizu went into her crying campaign, I would zone out, thinking about the country’s water and electricity problems and how she could be using her supplies for a worthy cause instead of wasting it on a napkin.
It was then that I realized just how far off our marriage had gone. It seemed after all that the giraffe-necked nincompoop that was now Susan’s ex had been right; there was no more love in my marriage to Susan, what we had between us was two people fulfilling their duties to each other because a certain paper somewhere obliged them to.
When I opened the door to the house, feeling emotionally and physically drained, I found Chizu waiting on the other side, her hands on her waist and her lip ammunition ready to fire.
I closed the door and instead of continuing my journey inside the house, I pressed my back against the door and stood back to take a good look at the woman I had called my wife for the past five years.
“Are you drunk?” I heard her ask, coming in closer to have a good look at my face and probably smell my breath.
I am not a drinking man so I never once came home drunk or smelling of alcohol. I did not need alcohol to get high, Chizu’s lip army and all that air from her mouth blowing at me was enough to knock me out and give me a migraine for hangover.
It took me a while to realize that her yelling was the reason behind the receding of my hairline. All that fire in my face sent the front hairs in my head running for cover. Two more years and I will be as bald as Vin Diesel.
Good thing I already have the complexion to go with it.
“I can’t smell any alcohol,” the commander in-chief bellowed, twisting her nostrils in all directions like an animal looking to mate.
I couldn’t blame her for thinking I was drunk. Everything about the way I looked spelt drunk, except for the missing scent.
As I stood there watching my wife examine me while she straightened her oesophagus in readiness for her linguistic army attack, I couldn’t help thinking;
What is this giant creature with wild horns doing in my home?
And the sad truth is, that’s how I felt whenever I looked at my wife. She was no longer than sweet caring woman that had been willing to sacrifice her best friend just to be with me. Of course during the time I was head over heels in-love, I never realised just what a double edged sword the kind of love Chizu gave me was.
I wondered what she saw when she looked at me. I will be the first to admit that I was not a perfect husband. I might have been deluded for a while that me not cheating on her made me an exceptional husband but I later realized a little too late just how lacking I was.
Unfortunately, at that time, it was easier for me to position myself as a victim since I was obviously being accused of something I had not done. And, instead of focusing on my innocence and busking in my victimization, I should have been asking why my own wife would rather believe the worst about me than convince herself otherwise.
I had spent almost the whole day that day looking at a woman that was the total opposite of the creature now standing before me. And it wasn’t that the creature was an intruder, the creature was something I had created with my own hands and now it had turned its back on me and was more than ready to devour me.
I hated myself at that point. I hated the thoughts running through my head and I hated my whole life.
For the thirty minutes that followed, my darling wife Chizu exercised her right to free speech and expression and ended up saving us two months of gym fees. Her adrenaline was running high and her metabolism was busting through the roof from all the yelling.
My silence really irked her to the bone and she had yet to develop a strategy on how to go about this new curve ball I had thrown her.
I was very much aware of how disrespectful my silence in those moments was to her but I reasoned that the amount of disrespect she was feeling in those moments was less than the amount she would feel had I dared to open my mouth.
I only needed her to say thank you to my mother for what she had done for us and apologize for all the hurt she had caused an innocent girl.
But she had done none of that.
That night too I never slept, and the night that followed, and the next…just like that. I would have walked past the set of The Walking Dead and their director would have confused me for a cast member…because that’s how much of a Zombie I had become.
The bitterness I was feeling inside had risen to a record high and there was no stopping the man I had become. Every weekend I found myself following…or stalking Susan, wondering if she was feeling suicidal or not. I ended up paying the gossiping housekeeper to keep checking on her every five minutes whenever she was in her room alone.
Eventually, what had started out as fear grew into pity and then later into something else that I had not seen coming.
“Why do you keep following me?” Was the question Susan asked me once when she caught me hanging around her place.
I had been waiting in my usual spot by the side of the road somewhere close to her home waiting for her to come out when I dozed off and she came knocking on my window.
Suffice to say, I was embarrassed to my toes. I rolled down the rest of the window and gave her a half smile half kill me now look.
“Susan,” was all that my diaphragm could conjure up.
It was the first time I was looking at her at such a close range. The first time I met her I never did much looking because when you are married and meeting the young sister of your friend and colleague, you only care about what comes out of their mouth and not what they look like.
But this time around, I found myself looking…well, others might call it looking…but it was more of an x-ray examination on my part. For the first time in my life I was looking at a woman and imagining what her skeleton must look like. Usually my vision just went passed the layer of clothing and stopped there, but not in Susan’s case.
Susan had lost a noticeable amount of weight from that first time I met her. She was wearing white skinny jeans and an oversized purple sweatshirt that did her tiny frame no justice at all.
“Can we talk?” I asked her.
“I told you,” I could smell the no coming so I quickly jumped in.
“Just five minutes.” I said.
“What if your wife followed you and then she misunderstands again. I don’t want to go through that again. You should leave…and please, stop following me around. I see you everywhere I go these days. What do you want from me?”
I could tell she wasn’t going to go anywhere with me that day so I quickly stepped out of the vehicle and went to her. She backed away from me like I was a virus from Congo.
She had this fear in her eyes that I had never before seen in a woman whose eyes gazed upon my handsome face.
What had I done to this child?
I stopped moving towards her, my hands raised in the air as if to tell her I was not armed. But she kept backing away onto the street and ended up almost getting hit by a guy on a bicycle that had not calculated for her unexpected presence on the road.
While the bicycle guy went spilling off his ride, I managed to catch Susan before she landed her bottom on the pavement, a good move on my part since there was nothing much to cushion her fall had she fallen to the ground.
She pushed me off the moment she was steady on her feet and quickly went to apologize to the bicycle man reeling in anger. She removed a K100 note from her purse and handed it to him.
He smiled, thanked her and left.
And then she turned to scowl at me. “Give me back my money,” she said.
I was lost. “What money?” I asked.
“The money I gave that guy,” she said. “If not for you, that accident wouldn’t have happened.”
At first I was shocked and then I started laughing. I totally had not seen that coming. She was saying the most absurd thing and yet she pulled it off with such a straight face that I started to doubt all those lesson on angles I had learnt in my Grade 10 class.
“How about we split 50-50?” I suggested. “You could have easily given that guy a 10 grand and he would have left. Did you have to give him a 100?”
“I felt bad for him,” she said. “Did you see how he spilled off the bike?” she was now holding her hands over her mouth trying to stifle her chuckles.
I couldn’t help laughing…she had said spilled… I had thought the exact same thing when it happened, except in vernacular, which sounded worse. Most people fell off their bikes, but that guy had spilt off his bike.
Both of us laughing like that reminded me of that first time we had met. That time too, she had easily made me laugh.
Sensing the awkwardness and knowing exactly what was going to come out of her mouth next, I took out my wallet and removed a K100 note.
“I don’t have change,” she said, not taking the money I was offering to her.
“You can keep the change,” I said. “Get a cab or something, since I delayed you wherever you are going.”
“Any other guy I would have played modest and refused, but,” she took the money from me. “Since it’s you, you owe me waaay more than 50 bucks for everything you put me through.”
I laughed, again. She must have thought I was a new version of fool. I don’t know why I found myself laughing at everything that came out of her mouth.
“Go home to your wife now,” she said. “Don’t worry about me. I won’t try to kill myself again. I have matured a little since the last time you saw me.”
“I hope you won’t…do…it…again,” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word suicide in front of her. “But if you ever feel down again, please, call me. I can be your punching bag. You can hit me as much as you like until you feel better. I can even chip in my wife for good measure if you need an extra round.”
She chuckled and said, “Goodbye Mr Kaunda.”
And she was gone.
* * *
I never went out to see Susan for the two weeks that followed. But just because she was out of sight did not mean she was out of mind. God gracious that girl stayed on my mind and refused to leave.
I have no idea when it happened or how it started but I found myself longing for her to the point where I felt I would not be able to breathe freely if I did not set my eyes on her.
I was like a mad man. I could feel myself losing it as a husband and as a human being. I needed divine intervention…and fortunately enough, it came in the form of my neighbour Mr Chanda.
That man had been inviting Chizu and me to his church from the time we moved into our house and we always found good reasons to turn him down. However, there was something about that particular evening when I met him driving out of his yard as I was coming from my evening run when he reluctantly suggested that we go together.
Expecting me to say no as usual, he had started to say goodbye when I said, “why not?”
“But do you mind waiting for me while I take a quick shower and change?”
Of course he didn’t mind! The man had been waiting for this day for three years.
“Where are you going?” Chizu asked me when I asked her to prepare some clothes for me as I rushed to the bathroom.
“I’m going to church!” I yelled as I turned on the shower.
She popped up through the door, laughing, and not just any kind of laughing…that deep honest laugh from the belly…like the one Kevin Hart does when he’s laughing at his own joke, right before he tells it. That kind of laugh.
I wasn’t about to go into the truth-lie battle with her at that moment. There was no lie equivalent to the expression I am going to church. I didn’t have enough courage to provide a lie that held the word church in it. I wasn’t yet ready for Gehenna.
“Tell me really, where are you going?” She asked.
“Go outside and ask Mr Chanda. He is waiting for me.” I said.
“You are not serious, are you?” She left and went to check outside.
She appeared five minutes later all sobered out of her laugh. “What’s gotten into you?” She asked me as I changed into fresh clothes.
“What do you mean?” I asked a stupid question.
“Since when did you become a holy freak? Are you suddenly missing your ex?”
There we go again.
I never used to be a fan of churches but Gloria always managed to drag me to one every chance she got whenever I was home. I would spend three quarters of the time re-watching my favourite movies in my head while the pastor preached or I would be mentally and actively correcting his grammar every time he said something.
Chizu too had not escaped Gloria’s church dragging claws during the time they friends.
“At this point in my life,” I told Chizu. “I will do just about anything to regain my sanity.”
“What do you mean by that?” She asked.
Of course she couldn’t understand. That was a husband’s code for; I think I am falling in-love with another woman and if I don’t get help now, I am afraid I am going to rot in hell…and I will drag you down there with me because I would have turned you into a murderer.
“See you later,” I kissed her on the forehead and bolted out of the house.
“Aren’t we late?” I asked Mr Chanda as he drove us to church.
“It will be Praise and Worship time by time we get there. Don’t worry, you will have a good time.”
I think he could sense my nervousness. I hadn’t stepped in a church in a very long time. I bet the devil was mad as hell at my sudden betrayal, he wouldn’t have seen it coming. Well, maybe not mad as hell…since hell is…you know….
Unfortunately for me, it seemed the devil was one foot ahead of me because just two minutes of stepping into church, who but Susan appeared centre stage with a mic in hand ready to sing.
I couldn’t move, Lord I couldn’t even breathe. I was sitting there like a statue and I think I heard Mr Chanda ask if I was okay but I didn’t have the strength to respond. My eyes were fixed on Susan.
All my life I was made to believe that the church was a safe haven. I remember when I was a kid and my parents would drag us all to church…. I would sit there and imagine what would happen if Armageddon decided to happen right there and then.
“You are safe as long as you are in here,” my mother would tell me.
From the moment I heard that, I would postpone all my bad behaviour to an hour right before church and I would deep my hand in the bottle of condensed milk or fill up my mouth with Cowbell Milk meant for school only.
Then I would sit in church and feel saved from eternal damnation.
I was a genius even as a kid. I had discovered the perfect antidote for sin.
But not on that evening.
That evening the devil had followed me into church and stuck to me like latex on Beyonce’s behind.
While everyone around me was crying from being moved by the words sang in the most angelic tone I had ever heard, I was crying at the irony of it all.
Why her? Why did it have to be Susan? I kept asking myself.
I was touched by too many things all at once; my past, my present, my faltering convictions, her voice…Susan’s voice…and the words she was singing.
Two weeks later, I went down on my knees before my wife and cried like the fool I had become.
I could see the past threatening to repeat itself and that was a road I had vowed never to travel again.
“Help me,” I told Chizu as I wrapped my arms around her legs. I don’t know when I had gotten on my knees but there I was in our bedroom, on the floor, holding on to my wife and crying like a child.
“What is wrong honey?” I had never seen Chizu look so scared before. She knelt down in front of me and lifted my head up to look at me.
“Did something happen?” She asked me, great fear shooting through her eyes.
“I think I am in-love with someone else.” I told her after a while.
“I don’t know how it happened…I promise, it wasn’t intentional. Help me…I don’t want to feel like this.”
I felt Chizu’s hands leave my body. She stepped away from me and stood looking down at me. I couldn’t look up at her. I was too ashamed.
And then I felt two warm drops of something hit my hands that were now planted on the floor, a drop on each hand.
That day I felt the pain behind my wife’s tears and I listened to nothing else but her sobs the rest of the night.
She neither yelled nor nagged. That night she only cried…and believed every tear and every sound.
I had just been shaken.