By Noel Misanjo (Malawi)
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My mind was gripped by a hotchpotch of anticipation, confusion and anxiety at that moment. As a result, everything was hurried. Although I had a court trial on the following morning and had not yet finalized preparations thereof, I haphazardly packed up my files, picked my handbag and rushed to the car park. I had no time for re-application of make-up, no time to lose.
The phone call, the genesis of all this fuss, had come at 4:51 on that February Monday afternoon. At first I did not want to answer the call. I just gazed at the screen of my handset as the phone rang.
I was not sure whether to answer his call or not, I answered it nonetheless. The few words he spoke turned my emotional base hugger-mugger. I could not do otherwise but start up my car and immediately leave for home. As I changed the gears 1, 2, 3….., my memory shifted back to Megabite Caterers where I had first met him.
That cool Thursday evening the previous two months, he was clad in a 3-piece dark blue suit wherein his tall medium-built stature fitted closely. A detailed look at him revealed his oval flat face. A lining of beard had been fashionably sculpted up around his lean lips, curving upwards to the earlobes. His hair was black and naturally curled. His black pin-pointed shoes matched well enough with the rest of the clothes. He sat squarely facing me, making me feel quite uncomfortable.
Ben, who was the common friend to both of us, was the one doing most of the talking. He was very humorous. We had known each other in college over 12 years ago and had been good friends since then. He was now more of a brother to me. We were now working for the same law firm.
Kondwani was initially one of Ben’s clients. The lawyer-client relationship between them had this time around transformed into a friendship of some sort. I was also getting used to Kondwani. One thing I did not like about him, though, was that he was always quiet. Like on this particular day, he sat just glaring at me, and left all the talking to Ben who seemed to be enjoying it. I, however, saw in Kondwani a deep sense of discipline, care and responsibility.
“Siphiwe”, Ben was fond of mentioning my name whenever talking, “I have said it several times; I don’t intend to get married because I feel in marriage there is too much to worry about”.
“Like what, Ben? You are just a coward” I did not hide my disapproval of any comments that despised marriage.
“Siphiwe, you know it, you women are difficult to tame. You are always nagging, and most of all, marriage eats away one’s freedom. If I were married surely I wouldn’t have been out for dinner with you at this hour.”
Those were Ben’s usual arguments about marriage. I was used to him. I had known he was a male chauvinist even from way back in our college days. He hated marriage. He hated women, except me, perhaps. People said my being friends with him was just an exceptional case. No wonder at 37 he was still a bachelor. Only beer and work kept him busy.
I was unlike Ben. I was desperately sprinting after marriage. At 34 I was still single and there was no man who had shown interest to marry me.
In my secondary school and college days I never had a love affair. I remember that in college some guys had shown interest in me but I embarrassingly turned down their proposals as I felt the time was not ripe yet. I planned to get a boyfriend after obtaining my bachelor’s. Unfortunately, after I came out of college and got a job, only very few showed interest in me. Time passed and I then left for my Master’s overseas. After that it was even worse. The only men that showed interest in me were mostly married clients who, I could clearly tell, just wanted to use me. Honestly, their advances were a painful insult to me. I declined their proposals. Time passed on.
Money, a good house, a good car and a good job, I had it all. But all this was vanity to me. I needed a man. I needed a man to make me feel respectable. I needed a man to augment the emotional side of me. I needed a man to protect me. I needed a serious man to father children for me. Time passed and no man was forthcoming.
I felt pity for men who were being abused by their wives. I felt pity for men whose wives were also wives of other men in workplaces. Only if I had a man, I would love him with all the might of my heart, regardless of my profound educational accomplishments and the numerous gender theories I had studied.
What was most disturbing to me about Kondwani was that he never disclosed his personal affairs even when asked to do so. Ben also, being a person who hated poking his nose in other people’s affairs, never said much about Kondwani’s personal life. Further, I had never heard Kondwani mention a name of any lady in the few times we had so far shared. I had tried to peep onto the screen of his phone several times so that I could see if he had a face of a girl thereon but no such face was there. His phone’s screensaver was a picture of his car, the latest Audi.
Time passed and slowly, somehow, I felt deep down in my heart that I loved him. His good looks and smartness made me like him more and more. I wished he proposed to me; but time passed and no word came from him. I felt defeated.
On the present evening, however, I felt it and believed that my prayer was now being answered. I had first heard and saw my cellphone vibrate against the surface of my office desk. I picked up the phone and gave it a long gaze. The call was from a private number. At first I thought it was an international call from Ben who had gone to the U.K for a lawyers’ conference. Then suddenly I realized it was from Kondwani. My hands began to shake, then I lifted the handset to my left ear.
“Hello…hello!” I answered the call. I could feel lack of confidence in my voice.
“Hi, Siphiwe, how are you, Sweetie?” Ko spoke in a deep soft voice.
My feet trembled when Ko advised that he was coming to see me at my house that evening. He wanted us to talk over a home prepared dinner.
Anxiety gripped me. I could however feel that my heart was full of joy. I felt that my reproach was now on its deathbed. I hit the road home immediately. I could not afford to squander this rare opportunity. I could not do otherwise.
It was 5:30 pm when I reached home at new Naperi. Anabetha was busy preparing supper. I told her to stop. I had to prepare the meal myself. The great guest had to eat food prepared by me.
He showed up at 6:15 pm, looking more handsome than ever before. I enjoyed his presence a great deal. We ate together and at the end of the meal, which he complimented as being exceptionally delicious, the moment came.
“Siphiwe,” he mentioned my name lovingly. I looked into his face. His eyes glimmered with what I interpreted to be love. I ecstatically opened my mouth and answered with a sense of respect and love for him. “Ye-e-es, Ko….”
“You know.....aah…I want to get married……I can no longer manage to live single….”
My heart leapt. I nearly answered him - “I accept”.
“Tell me what would be better....eer…eer…to marry under customary law or under the Marriage Act….”
I nearly answered him - “to me it doesn’t matter….”
“Eeeh…eeeh” Ko went on, “the girl I have found, Grace Phiri….perhaps you know her….insists that it should be under the Marriage Act. I came to seek your professional advice on this issue.”
I stood speechless before him, eyes wide, arms akimbo, mouth agape. Tears rolled down my cheeks. My heart had been broken, my hope shattered. I was back to square one.