I look closely and confirm that indeed it is my friend’s husband hugging and kissing another woman in full view of onlookers. Embarrassed, confused and appalled, I walk away in the opposite direction. I am very upset to discover that my friend’s husband is a cheat with no care at all with who sees him at it.
So in shock and disbelief, I decide to confide in another friend, Tina, and ask her advice on whether I should spill the beans to my friend, Millie, or not. She looks at me in silence and finally says, “Don’t bother, she knows about the other woman.”
This revelation hangs over my head and I keep questioning why my friend is allowing this man to treat her in such a manner. I mean, they vowed to be true to one another and declared that three is a crowd at the altar.
In church. Before God’s eyes!
But as much as I keep saying to myself that she knows and she is cool with it, I can’t just let it go. So over the weekend, when we decide to meet for some drinks and girl talk, I bring the subject up. I say, “I don’t know what I would do if I found out that my husband was cheating on me. I mean I would go crazy and end up in jail for killing somebody!”
Everyone laughs, but nobody really says anything so I press on and ask my friend with the cheating husband what she would do if she found out her husband was unfaithful. She takes a swig of her glass of red wine and sighs.
“He’s cheating on me with Rebecca,” she finally states. “They work in the same office, and before her there was Brenda. I don’t know how they got together but they did for about a year or so.”
“What?!” I yell. “And you are still with him? Are you mad?”
She drinks some more wine.
“Girl, wake up and smell the coffee! Everyone is a cheat nowadays!”
Millie makes reference to Margret, a colleague of mine, who she tells me has been going out with Ricky for over two years. Apparently, she started dating him knowing that he was a married man with two children. Then Millie makes another jibe; this time about another friend, Cindy, who has also been seeing a married man. She even got pregnant for him at the same time as his wife, but she later aborted and the man’s wife gave birth to twins. This wife knows about her and she once beat the crap out of Cindy, but that didn’t stop the affair. And then my brother’s girlfriend, the one my sister-in-law threatened to leave him over… before my mother talked her out of it.
Millie makes the epidemic sound so rampant!
And it doesn’t stop there. As Tina tells me, a fellow teacher at school is cheating on her husband with two men. One of the men is married. And the other, get this (she even pauses for dramatic effect), is a Catholic priest! Just the other day, she was bragging to Tina that the married boyfriend was planning to buy her a car and that the priest always give her money ranging from KR1500 to KR3000 (about USD300 – USD400) for her monthly upkeep.
I sit quietly as the stories flow. Stories of friends, neighbours, old men getting with younger women, old women getting with younger men, pastors fathering kids with church choir members…on and on until my friends realise that I have drifted away in thought.
“Sophie!” Millie shouts to my face. “It’s no longer who is cheating my friend… it’s who isn’t cheating.”
Times have changed, it would seem, and the world at the moment is full of crap. Decency is a thing of the past, just like fidelity is a thing of the long ago past. Just like Zambia’s one party state was given the boot, monogamous marriage has caved too.
“It’s about democracy and multiparty states nowadays,” laughs Tina as she makes this illuminating revelation.
Everyone bursts into furious laughter.
They are still laughing as I excuse myself to go to the ladies’. In the toilet, I stand before the mirror and looked at my reflection. I ask myself how is it that my friends are not offended by the lack of honesty in their marriages. At least if someone tells you they want you to be their wife but to expect a second wife, and maybe even a third in future, that’s being honest.
My problem is when someone professes that you are their one and only, till death do you part but then keeps a few on the side. That’s just wrong and the fact that Zambia is a Christian nation does not help this fact. Maybe I was being naive, maybe I was wired the wrong way… I mean, going by the stories I just heard, it is true that I need to wake up and smell the coffee. And as they say, if you can’t beat them join them… or walk on by. If my friends are okay with the status quo, then who am I to challenge that? After all, it’s not my husband who is cheating.
But then again, I am not a cheat. And this all still troubles me because it goes against my principles. What happened to conscience? How about waking up and smelling a good dose of strong conscience?!
With all these questions in mind, I go back to the table.
“You know what, if you are okay with your men cheating on you then who am I to tell you not to carry on?”
Everyone bursts into more laughter as they reach for their toxic drinks. With time, we move the conversation along and talk about other things, dance, joke and drink some more until it is late and time to go back home to our respective husbands and families.
Millie and I walk side by side to my car and she watches me get in and strap my seatbelt. She says goodnight and just as I am about to drive off, she whispers into my ear.
“By the way my dear friend, your husband is cheating on you with your cousin. Everyone knows, even your mother knows they are too afraid to tell you, given your bad temper they think you will kill them all.”
I watch my friend walk to her car and drive off. My brain starts a conversation with my heart. Calm down, I say to myself, I’m sure she was joking. My husband and my cousin… No! I would have seen it. The drive home is only 30 minutes, but it feels like an hour.
I get home and go straight to bed where my husband is already asleep. Should I confront him? With what evidence? I had no proof. I close my eyes and try to sleep, but visions of my husband with my cousin haunt me. “Everyone knows…including your mother.” My friends words ring in my ears.
Never in a million years did I imagine I would be here too. But here I am. It’s one thing to talk about other people’s infidelities, it’s another thing to discover it’s happening within your own marriage.
Who do I turn to? My mother? My best friend? They have the same opinion on cheating husbands. “As long as you are the wife and he comes back to you every night, nothing else matters.” I know that is what my mother will say. Then she will give me an account of her own experiences.
Is that me?
Can I live with a man who cheats on me with my own cousin?
Then it dawns on me.
I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to…
I decide what’s best for me.
My journey is my own; the path I choose is my own. I refuse to be arm-twisted into turning a blind eye because that’s what is considered the norm under such circumstances. So I will leave my husband. The world may laugh, point fingers at me, or say I am foolish – but it doesn’t matter. Let them ridicule me. I will walk with my head high as a proud African woman in charge of her own life.
Main photograph taken from www.livingromcom.typepad.com