The sense of loss I felt, was like a blow to my face, it left me reeling.
As I slowly came to, I found I was laid on my side on the back seat of our car, with my legs tucked away under my husband’s leather jacket.
He was keeping vigil through the review mirror and when I rubbed my eyes, he whipped his head round briefly before training eyes back on the dense 5pm traffic along Chiremba Road.
“Are you ok Mai Naki!” he agitatedly inquired, as he briefly caught my eye in the review mirror,” I am trying to get us to Doctor Maredza, err, just relax…”
“Tsk, ah hey!” he was gripping the life out of the steering wheel and playing dodge with the wily commuter taxi drivers ,who easily out manoeuvred him as they blatantly flouted traffic laws overriding the more conservative private vehicle drivers with their fine-tuned horrific road antics.
I cupped my forehead with my surprisingly warm hand, my heart felt so cold. The soothing contact was a pleasant respite, I breathed deeply. What was I going to do now?
My mobile had shrieked startlingly as I left work at my clerical job with the Medicine’s Authority. Baba Nakisai would already be parked outside the entrance to the premises and I was constantly in a rush to exit, to avoid annoying him by making him wait. The ring had galvanised me into a trot in my work heels to reach the car so I could free my arms of the handbag and plastic bags containing purchased household provisions. Baba Naki reached across the passenger seat to open the car door for me as I approached.
“Good day Ba Nakisai,” I smiled my thanks and leaned down to place my bags at the foot of my seat beside him, scrambling to be seated and belted in and ready for take-off .
“Good day,” he drawled in his inanimate manner, sitting back languidly,” Did you stay well with work?’
“Yes I stayed well, if you stayed well too?”
“Yaaaa we stayed well,’ he confirmed smacking his lips as we reversed onto the tarmac.
The phone had gone silent by then and we were soon part of the bumper to bumper commotion across the Avenues, heading towards the southern suburbs. I retrieved the phone from the untidy depths of my handbag to check who the caller had been and my heart sank. I knew that number, even when I had not saved it, in a silent bid I believe, to wish it into non-existence; that was one number I would not find easy to forget. The digits jumped up at me and my stomach clenched with dread. I swallowed and put the now irksome contraption awkwardly away.
I sensed my husband throwing me a silent surveying glance. I was feeling the beginnings of panic and loss of the sense of reasoning setting in.
He did not know because I had not asked him about it. I did not know how. I did not want to.
The young woman had called me a few more times to begin a conversation which I would cut off and put the phone on silent mode. She had first called about a month before. I was at home.
“Hello,” a soft voice had tinkled attractively into my ear, “who is speaking?’ I was asked. “Who do you need to speak with?” I retorted impatiently.
“With Mai Chikumba.’
‘It is her speaking, who is this?” I reigned in my irritation, she sounded quite young, and some of these young girls had still a lot to learn about etiquettes.
“My name is Emma,” she announced and her sweet voice rose with a steely edge,” I am pregnant by Winlow.’
I had felt a numbness take over. I was distressed that she had claimed my husband’s first name. “So why have you called me?’ I snapped scornfully,” Am I the owner of the pregnancy?’
“Ah!’ she giggled nastily,” You are expired Amai, Winlow needs younger stock.”
“Tsk!” with that I had cut off the call, helpless.
And on that day I looked up and knew that for sure, I was clueless. Winlow? No, not you Winlow. Not my dear husband. Not the man I showed off to my family about at family gatherings.
‘Girls some of us are married, you hear?’ I would boast playfully to my female relatives much to their derisive merriment. They retorted that I was still so eager because I was married late after many of them were settled and was still untested. But though I declared this in jest, I was confident that my union was a match blessed by my ancestors. I had never had reason to believe my husband might betray me, even when we had some differences. He was a good man.
So who was this stranger? How was I to approach a stranger about the matters of the heart? What hellish depths awaited me on the other side if I dared broach this subject? I must let it die out under its own weight, I would pray for it to.
I forgot to silence the ring when I dumped that phone in my bag so when it rang I could not ignore it. “Hello,” I answered and felt my chest heave, my hands tremble.
“Eh how are you asikana?’ it was the coarse, inelegant voice of an elderly woman.
“How are you Mama?” I responded respectfully, breathing fast.
“So Winlow has failed to be honest with you isn’t it so? He comes here with groceries and calls me his Ambuya, hee Ambuya,Ambuya,”she mimicked scornfully,”meanwhile he cannot tell you that he is finished with you and he wants a woman of child bearing age….”
The breath was knocked out from my chest and I felt light headed, I licked my lips in an endeavour for composure, but I toppled from a high place and dropped into darkness.