You Shouldn’t Look Like That

You Shouldn’t Look Like That

There is the fact that I know you.

That I’ve known you since four months ago when I met your husband. When I saw the ring on his finger as he smiled and looked me in the eye, then asked if I would allow him to buy me lunch.

It was one of those chance meetings. You know those, where you’re at a forum, one or the other, taking notes, shooting questions to a panel, giving your opinion on the state of affairs, offering suggestions on way forward, nodding and agreeing with sentiments, updating your Twitter feed with the intellectual tidbits that your brain is being fed? Those.

Those moments when such forums come to an end and you’re packing up your stuff eager to rush to the office to respond to a few emails, check how your calendar looks like for tomorrow, squeeze in an hour or two of paperwork before calling it a day? Those.

He walked towards me. Get that. He came to me. I saw him coming and I thought, “Well, this man who was in the panel, the one who introduced himself as Sospeter Okinyi, he’s coming this way. He must be heading to the exit at the back of the room.” With that thought, I moved aside from the pathway as I proceeded to put my tablet and notebook in my bag while giving him room to pass between me and the row of now-disarranged chairs. There was one lady still seated typing into her phone. The rest of the people were all heading out. And he, your husband, was supposed to be walking past me.

He stopped beside me instead. Between me and the row of disarranged chairs, he stood. He’d had both hands in his pocket and a red file tucked under his left arm. He caught my attention with a “Hi,” or a “Hello.” Or was it a “Hey there”? Can’t remember very well, and not that it matters anyway. He took out the right hand and stretched it in front of me. “Sospeter,” he said.

I took it. I took his hand in mine because it is the civil thing to do when someone extends their hand for a handshake. I’m sure you’d do the same if a man stopped in their tracks with a “Hey there,” and gave you their hand to shake.

“Clemence,” I replied.

That is how your husband and I met. I noticed the ring, but he asked me out to lunch anyway. I told him I had to go to the office. He asked to buy me dinner instead. Out of respect for the ring, I said I’d prefer coffee.

We met for coffee with your husband, and that is when I met you. Over a cup of coffee, your husband introduced me to you.

You. Terrible mother of his two adorable boys – poor children! Loveless human being. Cruel woman – putting Jezebel to shame with every passing sunset. Stoic. Sad. Unsmiling. Pathetic. Insecure. Overweight. Not very pleasing to look at. Pitiful. Oh, and poor. He wondered for a split second where you’d be without him.

I met you then through his description of you, and I’ve known you ever since. I even know about that argument you had with his mother. I know how his mother discouraged him from marrying you, but he had no choice since you’d went ahead and gotten yourself pregnant. I know about your inability to keep a house help for more than two months. We wondered the other day if you can even remember their names anymore.

It’s been good between us. We’ve been doing things together. Things that he says you used to do together but wouldn’t be bothered to do anymore. You’ve grown apart, he says, and the things we do with him make him feel alive again, you know?

So, there is that fact: that I know you.

Then there is the other fact: that I don’t really know you.

Your husband spent the weekend at my place. He happened to forget his phone. I’ve never bothered to check his phone because that’s what insecure wives do, you know? Wives like you? Going through his phone then arguing with the poor man for weeks. I don’t do that. And I wouldn’t have gone through his bloody phone had he not forgotten it at my place.

With his phone in my hands, I got to meet you all over again. I met you not through his words this time but through your pictures on his phone.

I saw your face in one of the photos and I don’t recognize you. I know who you are, but I don’t know who you are, who you are. The woman in the photo is beautiful. She is smiling. Whoever took the photo coerced it out of her. And she gave it, coyly, eyes half-closed. You gave him that smile.

Your face is soft. You smile with your eyes. You’re holding your two boys on each side in one photo. You’re all laughing in a video. He’s taking the video. I hear him say, “Look this way, guys.” And the three of you, you and the boys, all turn simultaneously to follow his voice. You’re sitting on top of a ruffled bed and one boy is seated beside you, you have your arm around him, while the other one is hugging you from behind, with his small hands around your neck. You have on a white nightgown with a pink robe that’s open in the front, not an old t-shirt written ‘Sengenge ni ng’ombe’ across the chest. And I notice that your chest is not flat. And your tummy is not flabby. You have a black and white bandana on your head, not a stocking. You wave and mouth, ‘Hi,’ to the camera. And then you smile at him. Your eyes leave the camera to focus somewhere above the camera – to find his eyes, I presume. The boys speak at the same time. The one seated next to you begins to sing some song. They laugh. And so do you. And, so does he. I check the details of the video and it was taken five days ago. Last weekend. We’ve dated for four months and he still has room in his life to make videos of you.

I keep looking at the pictures saved in the photo gallery but I can’t seem to find Jezebel. Where is she? Where is that fat slob with no hint of sex appeal? Where is the insufferable wife? The terrible mother? The unhappy, pitiful, insecure bitch? Where is she, because she’s not in these pictures.

If the woman your husband told me about is the same woman in these photos, then you shouldn’t look like that.

You should look like the wife whose husband is having an affair. The sad, unattractive, insecure woman who has driven her husband to the arms of another woman.

You really shouldn’t look like that.

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