I have always told my wife Mai VaMaidei that she must not invite her friends to the house. It's not like I don't like people or her friends, but my humble abode could only take so much.
Besides, most of her friends were notorious gossipers. And now as I entered the house, first to meet my eyes was Mai Phiri, then Mai VaAnesu who had a market stall next to my wife. Mai VaAdam and Sisi Josephine were also there. Up to this day I still wonder why she was still being called Sisi Josephine. They were as thick as thieves. Sisi Josephine was known for being a good market trader. Her life was in the streets where she sold all types of vegetables. Her husband, we called him Brother Tarps for Tapera, always complained that he could hardly remember the wife he married. She would rise up early in the morning, go to the market and come dead beat late in the night.
Their children learnt to cook for themselves from an early age. Hawking in the streets had its challenges but a lot of children in the ghetto were sent to school from these earnings. For instance, Adam, the first born of Mai Va Adam was a successful medical doctor whose upbringing was thanks to the money earned from selling covo, red tomatoes and cabbages for instance. And a very big number of successful people had similar backgrounds.
And now coming back to my story, I found my wife and her friends crowded in the living room. Remember, this room was also the kitchen. At one time it was also the bedroom before I negotiated for an extra room from my landlord, Mr Tigere.
My landlord was not an easy person to get along with. There was no love lost between us. Our relationship, especially towards the end of each month was like that of a cat and a mouse. And like the mouse I always capitulated in the end.
I had a mind to think that Mr Tigere enjoyed this hide and seek game. If not for that he could have evicted me many moons before. As a bored retired pensioner, he derived great pleasure from chasing me around and inevitably this gave him a great sense of pretended importance.
My wife was alarmed as she had not been expecting me until well into the evening. I ploughed past the startled women and went straight for the bedroom.
“Greetings,” I said as I went past them.
There was a chorus as they all said: “How are you?”
I thought this was their usual meeting at the end of each week whereby they took weekly turns giving one member of the group US$20 at a time. In simple parlance they called it “round”.
At times they would buy groceries every month and this would be shared among the members sometimes after six months or even during the last month of the year. I had no problem with this as this played a major role in our lives and for many other families as well. And the fact that they were having this meeting in our house, it meant that this was my wife’s turn. I was also thinking that on this day I might easily get money to buy one or two beers. The women were very thrifty and for now I can't say much for the men.
As I settled on the bed, I could hear their every single word.
“Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, what is your husband going to do for you?” That was Mai VaAnesu speaking.
Oh oh, I was alarmed and sure enough, tomorrow was February 14, Valentine’s Day. Like many typical African men, I had completely forgotten about the day. This reminded me of the saying that you can take a donkey to the river, but you can’t force it to drink the water. The typical African man would drive the latest flashy car and wear fancy labels, but when it came to Valentine’s Day, the same man would find all sorts of lame excuses about this being a western culture and so on.
I did not like this suggestion at all from Mai VaAnesu. She was putting wrong ideas into my wife’s mind. It was as if Baba VaAnesu was doing anything for her on Valentine’s Day.
I knew Baba VaAnesu very well. He was not the kind of guy to buy flowers for his wife as he hardly remembered her birthday at all. Then suddenly a brilliant idea “hit” my mind. I was going to show these women and at the same time give them something to talk about for days to come.
I suddenly opened the bedroom door and said to my wife, Mai VaMaidei.
“Can you make arrangements with your mother to take our children for tomorrow,” I said.
“Why should I do that?” she said.
“Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I will be taking you out for a treat,” I said calmly.
The other women were by now all looking at me, their mouths gaping. As for my wife, she was not sure at first.
“Are you serious about this?”
I nodded and then she hugged me, something she had never done for a long time in front of other people.
All the while I was wildly thinking where would I get the money at such short notice to carry through my promise? One thing for sure, her friends were green with envy.
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