I’m winding down at a bar. It’s a Saturday night and I’m seated at a table facing the bar, at which there are couples with their backs to me who I don’t pay much attention to even though I notice a particular one because the gentleman is wearing those snakeskin shoes. Like he’s a manager of a struggling Congolese band. I remember telling one of the gents I’m sitting with, “I think it takes such courage to wear a python.”
Anyway, at some point the man starts rubbing the lady’s back suggestively. She giggles occasionally and places her head on his shoulders. All these are actions that would not raise an eyebrow in an establishment that serves alcohol. If it was at Huduma Centre or even a banking hall, perhaps it would be different. And I wouldn’t notice them were it not for his shoes.
Anyway, at some point she gets up to go to the ladies and I look at her and think, “Holy crow, I know her! She’s an acquaintance's wife!” I watch her with my mouth open (not from self-righteousness, but from shock) as she swings her way between the tables to go to the ladies. She’s in high heels. One of the chaps asks me, “What?” I tell him that I know that lady; she is married to someone I know. He says, “Haki these women have become worse than us.”
I’m wearing a hat. I always wear a hat over the weekend. It’s my version of Sunday best. So when she comes back, swinging past the tables, she looks in my direction and I swear she locks eyes with me but she doesn’t recognise me. It’s the hat. We all stare at her and she probably thinks, “I know I’m beautiful but why are those creepy men staring at me like that?” She just climbs her long chair, next to the snake dealer, and they continue their pre-mating routine.
My shock slowly turns into self-righteousness: How dare she? What is she lacking in her relationship? Of all the men she could be with, she had to disrespect her husband with that snake trader? My goodness, this is atrocious! What a completely loose woman! And with what? A snake-lover with no sense of style? Puh!
And to think tomorrow she will wake up and prepare the children for church and sit there next to her husband, pretending to be a good wife while just yesterday a man with a terrible taste in shoes was rubbing her back and possibly more later?
My God, how infuriating! How despicable! I think to myself. Mind you, this gentleman, my acquaintance, isn’t even someone I know that well. I know him through work and a bit of social, yet I feel so disappointed on his behalf as a man.
WHAT TO DO...
Then I think, hang on, what if he’s a complete ass himself? What if he’s those guys who disappear from the house on Friday and come home on Sunday evening to sleep? What if they are no longer together or they are those couples who live in a house like housemates?
What if they are in an open relationship? What if she is paying back, because a month ago she discovered he has a child with another woman, a child who is as old as their 4-year-old? What if?
And who am I, anyway, to judge her or condemn her? Am I a saint myself? What white smoke came out to ordain me as the high priest of virtue? Can I purport to have always been the epitome of great character at all times? Hardly. Puh. And, anyway, what if he’s none of the above and he’s a stellar husband who provides and is committed and even honours date nights? What if? Can we, all of us seated at that table, cast the first stone at her? Still, we can’t stop judging her because we see her actions as a reflection of our own fears.
Anyway, just before 8:30pm I see them getting up. (I bet she has to go home at a decent time like a decent wife, huh?) She’s adjusting her scarf and gathering her purse as the snake dealer waits for her.
He doesn’t look Congolese. Unfortunately. He looks like any one of us, really, only with curious taste in footwear. [You can tell a lot about a man by what kind of shoes he wears, I now realise.] He’s a gentleman, it seems, because he lets her walk ahead as they leave the bar. She passes right next to my table. She passes so close to me I can smell deceit on her.
“What are you going to do?” one of my friends asks me after they are gone. I say I’m going to do nothing. “You won’t tell him you saw his wife getting cosy in a bar with another man?” I tell him, no, I won’t do any such thing. He isn't my friend.
I don’t know about his marriage and I will mind my own business. His domestic situation – like most domestic situations – must have a lot of moving parts, I’m certain, and what I just witnessed must only be one of the many moving parts. Getting involved in it is like getting in a rabbit hole. “He will find out one day,” I tell them. “Or maybe he won’t. The universe will decide.”