He waited until she had left,staying a good ten minutes more to be sure,before he could venture outside.The neighbors would be looking on, of course,for the conclusion of the daily morning spectacle.It would be the headline gossip,the juicy titbit of the day.

His ears ringing with shame,he picked up his scattered clothes,hoping at this very instant he could be invisible.He hoped for many things, simple things…love,peace and quiet,and he had given up praying for them.His boxer shorts had been flung outside the gate.His dirty laundry was literally on the street.Feet heavy with embarrassment he managed to amble outside and add them to the heap of clothes in his arms.”I could do your laundry for you,you just pay me with those juicy mangoes in your yard.”she beamed at him,her cute dimples showing.”Seratwa..Uhhm..I am fine..I wash..no thanks,”he managed to stutter.He flung the gate and practically ran into the house.”Alright see you!”she called after him.

He threw the clothes on top of the bed and collapsed on the floor.His chest tight with emotion,he fought with every fiber in his body,to prevent the tears from spilling.If the dam broke,the flood would not stop.And a man doesn’t cry.He would not be reduced to a weeping mess like a little girl.Though he was well aware that outside of these walls,hell even inside,he was viewed as such.He closed his eyes,his head pounding.”Why the hell did I allow myself to be married and dragged down by an imbecile!Out of my way you piece of shit!”,she had bellowed.He opened his eyes and staggered toward the medicine cabinet.No painkillers.He had forgotten to restock..Its not like they worked anyway.They only numbed the pain for a short time,but the pain in his heart was consistent.It masked and overshadowed everything,casting a dark shadow over his life.Seratwa was the only ray of sunshine in his life,the only one kind to him.While others jeered at him and whispered behind his back, she consoled and cared.Of course if the Demon had seen that and demolished him for it.”Go on !run to your little girlfriend!”,she had taunted,after locking him outside in the rain,in his boxers.He had not,and had caught a terrible cold.

Their wedding album lay on the bottom drawer,collecting dust.He opened it and gazed at the happy couple..They certainly were a beautiful couple.He was tall,dark and handsome,with a white pearly smile which made the ladies weak at the knees.She was tall and slender, a natural beauty,the kind who looked stunning even without makeup.Everybody had gushed that their babies would be gorgeous.A doctor marrying a lawyer..A big,happy,successful home.He paged through the album,an avalanche of happy memories.It seemed like a million years ago. The traditional wedding ceremony,patlo,he had been instructed to love his wife,respect her and grow old with her.God knew he had fulfilled his duties.Never seeking comfort in the arms of another woman.He knew that the same could not be said for his wife.

He closed the album,but the memories came flooding back..fast-forward five years and the descent into hell had  started. He had gone back to his uncles,as he had been told to do when they reached a rough patch.Both  families had intervened and reconciled the couple.The reconciliation would not last long.It became a regular thing,until the elders started to mutter.What kind of man failed to keep his house intact?He had stop going to them, and the insults and punches had increased.

“Beat that skinny thing up!”,his friends had said.Physically he was larger than her.The police officer had sneered..”you want to open a case against your wife?She is beating you sir?”,he had asked a little to loudly,drawing everyone’s attention.A month later they were in a magistrate court,the charge?domestic violence.”the accused Mr Mopati Mpofu is found guilty!”Violence against women was a national issue,a crisis,the judge had said.It was disappointing,disheartening to find a man of Mr Mpofu’s caliber charged with such..A doctor for crying out loud!Sentenced to two years in jail,wholly suspended because it was the first time,six strokes on his back,plus two year community service.He had learnt his lesson..do NOT retaliate.And so he received his punches and kicks,frying pans or brooms,whatever was handy.

He stared at his phone,going through his contacts. Colleagues, family,friends..Only one name got his attention..Seratwa. He smiled,she needed to know,no..deserved to know.He dialed her,his heart pumping.Voicemail.”Rati its me..Pati.”he chuckled at using both their nicknames..Satan would not be pleased.”listen I just want you to know that I appreciate your friendship,you are my best friend and I am grateful for your presence in my life.It is a blessing,helped me endure the hell I lived in.Your smile made it bearable.Don’t you ever lose that smile!Someone will be lucky to call you his wife someday..Don’t be like me..if it get toxic,GET OUT!It will only get worse.Take care”,he exhaled slowly,feeling lighter.

The gunshot was deafening  in the quiet suburb.Finally free of the chains bounding him,he melted into the whiteness,evaporating into the mist.Ashes to ashes..dust to dust…




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