Zulu Brothers story: Qhayiya

The house is quiet, well at least this part of it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what Ntuthuko said, about working his way up and I’m thinking that maybe I could talk to them, Qhawe preferably because he seems nicer. Nqoba is just…I don’t know and Mqhele is not exactly someone I can just bring stuff up to. I’m sure they know people in high places, surely it would take them one phone call to hook me up with a better job.
Well, not exactly psycho-analysing taxi drivers and truck drivers but I’m sure they know someone who works at an institution or wherever else my skills are needed.
“So how does this thing of yours work?”
“I’m not a ghost. I’ve been sitting here this whole time. What’s wrong with you?”
No what’s wrong with him? Is he stalking me?
“What thing?”
He widens his eyes.
Yeah I just snapped at him, that’s why.
I look down at the frozen pack of sausages in my hand.
There’s something unsettling about him, something that makes me feel like I should always watch what I say and how I say it.
I’m still not sure what he was asking though.
“Say I pack my stuff and drive to Saxonwold now, what should be on my mind during that drive?”
“When my wife opens the front door, or when she sees me walking in our bedroom, what’s the first thing I should say to her. What reaction should I expect from her after four weeks?”
I don’t answer him, because I don’t know why he is asking me this and what he expects my answers to be.
“Okay, let me make this simple for you. I’ve beaten her,”
“Yes, I’ve beaten Hlomu on two occasions. I’ve had affairs. I’ve kept secrets from her, including secrets about her own family. I’ve done things, put her in positions she wasn’t supposed to be in. She’s had to make tough choices sometimes, choices a woman should never have to make. And now I’m here,”
I pull a bar stool and make myself comfortable across him, with a glass of juice in front of me.
“Juice?” I ask.
“I’ll have a beer,”
Fair enough, I go to the fridge and get him a beer.
First things first…
“Why did you beat her?”
“That’s irrelevant,” he says.
Nope, I’m not taking that.
“Nothing is irrelevant if you are here, and not at your house,”
He looks away, takes a sip and puts the beer back on the counter.
“The first time…I don’t know, I panicked. She did something and I got angry, and I dealt with it the only way I knew how,”
“And she stayed?”
“She left. But I got her back,”
“And you beat her again?”
“Yes, seven years later,”
She should have known.
“Why the second time?”
“I don’t know, I was angry and she was there,”
Such an honest answer this is, because a man who beats you once will beat you again the next time he feels like beating someone, whether it is two days after of seven years later, as long as you are still there for him to beat, he will beat you.
I don’t want to pester him for the specific reason, I won’t even ask him to think hard about it, because there is no reason enough for a man to put his hands on a woman.
“When did you start cheating?”
He goes to the fridge and gets himself another beer.
“Two years into our marriage,”
“Why did you do it?”
He’s quiet. I wait.
I’ve noticed how he looks away every time I ask the “why”.
“I needed a distraction,”
“It took us five years to have our first child, children, and she desperately wanted one. I was dealing with a lot of things. I was trying to keep her away from a lot of things that were happening, things she didn’t know about then. I was fine with us not having a child, but she wasn’t, so everything was about that. We were going to doctors and stuff and she wasn’t herself anymore…”
I wonder if he ever raised this with her, and I doubt he did.
“So you found peace of mind in another woman?”
“I found fun in another woman,”
Fun? Really?
He looks confused so maybe I should rephrase my question.
“What was fun about the other woman? What did she bring into your life that your wife didn’t?”
I’ll wait. In the meantime, let me get myself a packet of chips and some dip because this might take the whole night.
I push the bowl of chips towards him, he shakes his head. Okay.
“Would it make sense to you if I told you there was never a moment where I didn’t love my wife when I was with that other woman?”
We were taught a lot of things in psychology class, but never about the psyche behind cheating, not in men and not in women.
“Yes I can believe that, but you still need to explain it to me, what was it that you went to her for?”
He does that thing of tightening his jaw and scratching his forehead.
I wait.
“She didn’t want much from me. Yes I gave her money, but not because she had sex with me, because I knew she needed it and I had it. She never asked for it either, I just gave it to her because I know it makes women happy and that’s all I had to give her. I didn’t have to worry about her worries. When I was with her I didn’t have to think about the future and if things were going to stay as they were forever. I had been with Hlomu for three years and I loved her, it scared me sometimes that I could love a woman so much, but I knew her, I knew her touch and her smell and her…”
He sighs.
Sighs are a bad and a good sign, bad because you know they come from a frustrated place and good because they almost always are the last step to giving up, to saying: “let me just spill it out”.
“Hlomu is the matriarch of our family. She was from the moment she got us all in one room, all eight of us. We just knew, all of us…”
I nod, because weird as it is that he’d beat up and cheat on a woman whose name he says with such deep admiration, it happens.
“The kids, Nkosana’s boys, they became her number-one priority. In fact the family became her priority and that happened even before we got married. It was all good at first, I loved that she cared about all of us, that she kept us all together and she did what a good wife is expected to do, build and restore the family. But it became a lot, we couldn’t go a day without her talking about the boys, about keeping Ntsika in line and about…she was always fixing things, always worried about everyone…and on top of that there was that baby thing, every day there was a new doctor, a new option that we needed to try and she never asked me if I wanted to, she just made appointments and I had to show up to them with her,”
His beer is finished, I’m getting him another one because I think it’s helping with his flow.
“So you cheated because you felt neglected?”
Why is he looking at me like that?
“She was so caught up in all those things that she didn’t even notice I was coming home later than usual, for a whole two months. I’d get home and there’d be food waiting for me, a smile and her warm arms ready to embrace me. She wanted sex too and I didn’t know whether it was because she wanted me or my sperms to get her pregnant,”
He still hasn’t answered my question.
“Did you feel neglected?”
“I felt like I wasn’t the main thing in her life anymore. But I loved her deeply still…”
Yeah yeah I got that.
“The other woman, Mbali, she worked at the garage where our taxis filled up every night. She was nice, and chatty and funny she kind of reminded me of a time where I could do whatever I wanted to do. A time where things were spontaneous and I didn’t know exactly what I’d find or hear when I got home. The first time we had sex, in my car after I offered her a lift home, she took my left hand, ran her finger on my wedding ring and told me I was too young and too good a fucker to be tied down with a piece of white gold,”
“And the moment I got home and my wife served me that place of food and asked me about my day, I regretted everything I had done, because she didn’t deserve it, her life revolved around me and my family and I could lose anything, anything but her and the life she had given me,”
“But Mbali gave me the idea that she wasn’t there to destroy what I had. She didn’t call, didn’t bother me until I was right in front of her. So I kept going back, and every time I did I felt like I was escaping something, probably reality, I don ‘t know. What I knew for sure was that I was always going to go home after her, and she didn’t mind, she laughed about it, which made things easier,”
Makes sense…
“Two months later Qhawe found out. He asked me one question, whether I was ready to deal with the consequences if Hlomu ever found out. I wasn’t. I’d been with Hlomu for three years and I didn’t know which would be worst for her, me beating her or an affair. She’d already forgiven me for beating her once but the affair thing had never been tested. So I ended things with Mbali,”
“You dumped her?”
“No, I ignored her,”
That’s even worse.
“It was the same weekend we had Hlomu’s father’s unveiling and I watched her cry, two years after her father died and she still cried like she did the day we buried him. It reminded me of where we’d been and what it took for me to get her out of that dark hole, and that every day since she met me, she’d been trying to pull me out of a dark hole too,”
Whew! If this wasn’t my workplace I’d be drinking a beer with him right now.
“So Mbali? That was it? You ignored her and she got the message?
He shakes his head.
That’s the last beer he’s drinking. I saw whisky in the minibar so I might have to go get it.
“She sent me an SMS threatening to tell Hlomu everything so I got our lawyer to give her R300 000 and that was it,”
I’m just sitting here imagining all the things I would do with R300 000, earned by just sleeping with a married man.
“So she blackmailed you?”
“No, I think she was hurt more than anything,”
Nothing like R300 000 to take the hurt away. I commend Mbali, at least she got something out of it.
“So why did you cheat the second time? When your wife was pregnant,”
I do think that’s the worst thing a man can do to a woman. At your most vulnerable time? A time where he should be massaging your feet and being extra nice so your stress levels stay low.
But then again, there’s a reason Satan is a “he” and nobody has ever questioned that because it makes perfect sense.
“Oh you mean Linda?