One of the most important women in my life has asked me to write this. How she feels about her man, in her own words. The words are not mine. They are hers, mostly. Only the harmony is mine, and I’ve tried to match it to hers.
“I love him because he is the wall my back rests against. How can I explain this? As long as I know he loves me and he is in this world, I will never feel not safe. He is the one number I have on speed dial. But even if I did not have my mobile phone on me, if the battery was flat and I could not charge because UMEME is loadshedding us again, I know he would find a way to reach me. To find out how I’m. He has always been like that.
Right from when I was begging him not to spend so much money on buying mango juice to call me. Do you remember when all mobile phone airtime was not called airtime but mango? Ha, we have been in love since then. Maybe even a little before that. He bought me my first phone, you know. That is when we discovered that a mobile phone was useless without being ‘juiced’ up with ‘mango.’ Hahaha, there were more discoveries yet to be made. He might ‘juice’ up my phone but I had no way of calling him because he could not then afford to buy himself a mobile phone as well.
How old were we then? Maybe 17, maybe 18 years old? Still in school. He would not tell me how he managed to get me that phone but many years later he told me, “I lived in fear of your phone, eh! Sometimes it came down to either I walk from home to school and buy your mango or I use that money for the taxi and see the most hurt look on your face when you knew that for that week you would not be able to call your sister who was studying in India at the time. Usually I just bought the mango.”
He has not changed. When it comes to acting, in good faith, first, thinking later. When we were nearly blown up sky high, during the Kyadondo bomb blasts of July 11, 2010. He was the one who had dropped me and my girlfriends off because he had a meeting at Sheraton Hotel he said he could not pass up. I don’t know he got through the Police cordon, and the madness of terror around Lugogo by-pass when he heard about the bomb blasts that go on, a year later claiming the lives it has already permanently maimed. 86 lives and counting. We were there, the five of us girls. The row behind us was hit, we were not. Claire found a ripped off man’s palm in her lap. He told me later that I had brain matter sprayed all over the back of my head and the chair I was seated in. And blood, lots of blood.
I don’t want to remember much about that night. I remember the pearl white rosary swinging on his car dashboard, and his face most of the time turned to look at me, as he drove and drove us to hospital, and his mouth moving and how his voice sounded like the soothing lake evening tide coming in. No sense did he make, but I never wanted him to stop talking. Claire and Josephine said that they have no idea how he got us to that Nakasero hospital. How he marshaled five hysterical, screaming women into the reception area and somehow got a doctor to check each of us for injuries. I don’t know.
I smiled, back home, after two days, to remember the doctor asking me if the man who had brought us was a ‘soldier.’ Blood and what he had seen seemed not to have shaken him at all. The short hand explanation he staccato gave was what they needed and found had happened. His insistence that an ear doctor take a look at Kate saved the hearing in her right ear, and now Kate can still teach music. Only he could ignore my thrashing and feverish horror visions to bathe me in the women’s ward bathroom, pulling sticky matter from my braids he refused to let me see, bullying me for wishing to see the mucus of fear Josephine had sneezed into my hair.
He borrowed one of the doctor’s white lab coats to go with the doctor to talk to our parents. My parents had never met him formally before that July 11 night. Dad insisted he must not pay any bride price, after that night. We laugh about it.
I did not understand the effect of the whole experience on him until at his house one afternoon, as we were settling to watch a Barcelona-Real Madrid best of clashes, I dropped the saucer of his cup of lemon tea and he almost ended up in the ceiling of the house, shaking and trembling, like he was having an attack of malaria triple plus.
He considers that the most embarrassing moment of his life. I loved him more for it though he won’t believe it.
Fourteen years of loving this man and he still can say, “I know I have let you down but I will try harder. I don’t want to disappoint you.”
I want to ask him, how can you disappoint me when you still try to come home by 5pm so you can be with the four of us in our home? Even when you have an 8pm meeting in town, you insist on passing at home and seeing us, being with us?
I want to ask him, how can you disappoint me when you listened to all sides, heard the arguments and counter arguments, and let me go for that Masters in Norway? When I did not think you understood, even if I had this job where I was entitled to a company car, housing allowance and medical care for us all, that it was not about the money, a better job, it was about that masters and how much I had wanted it, been talking about it for years?
I want to ask him, how can you disappoint me when my own mother confesses I have a “man’s temper” say things I should not have, then have a hard time taking them back, made all the harder because you never ask me to take them back. You wait it out and our children never know there’s anything wrong, just that “Mummy likes to keep quiet sometimes. She has a lot to think about.”
I wish I could tell you all that. So much more. But I don’t know how to start.”