2. Chembe: The Story Teller

The only way to a naive womans’ heart is through her ears, on a silver tongue, straight to her heart.

I met him on Saturday morning. Every Saturday since I was about eight I took up the responsibility of sweeping up the front yard in the morning. Every Saturday morning, 6: 30 back bent over, with a reed broom in my hands.Even after mum was gone I kept it up, in fact I used those mornings to be alone in my thoughts. Perhaps cry a little, and reminiscence on what life was like with her. So one Saturday early morning as I was sweeping up the front yard, looking like I had just come from world war three in my dreams, the dust covering my face, my pants torn in places and a t shirt that drowned my little chest. I looked up and there was no one up the street but this boy walking down the road towards my house.

Our house was right at the corner of the curve of the street, so I could see him coming, I made nothing of it and continued with my chores and my lamentations. He came down the road and walked past my house and went a short distance up the road and he came back down. He hesitated for a little while and then he walked up to me, and this is how I met Chembe, the story teller or as I like to call him, the silver tongue. He was tall and handsome and he had a little stubble around his chin made him look cute, he had such big round eyes that looked directly at me and made me feel conscious, Suffice to say at the time I refused to acknowledge his receding hairline and his crooked teeth, turns out that my brain used to filter all of that out when I was infatuated with him. At the time I failed to see that he was going bald faster than lightning. He was wearing a red Micheal Jordan twenty three jersey that just made him seem cooler, can you imagine that, I was taken by a damn knock off Micheal Jordan Basketball jersey. When he spoke, his English was perfect, I don’t know why it mattered it just did to me and every other person my age. If he didn’t speak right I wouldn’t have looked at him twice. Growing up if your English wasn’t perfect when you spoke, you were the butt of the joke usually and people would laugh at you. Because of our inferiority complex as Zambians, it’s still the case. Thinking about it now it’s pretty stupid to laugh at someone over some language that was not native to them, it literally came on a boat and was dunked on us. So yes the fact that he could speak right mattered to me.

He walked up to me and said hello, and he just went for it, slick and brave just how I liked it. He told me I was pretty and that he had seen me a couple of times go past his house but he had never gotten the chance to talk to me, so he figured he should come and say hi. Now this is where my brain short circuited, imagine a girl who never felt pretty enough, always felt too dark and a little heavy being told she was pretty by a tall, dark and handsome stranger, and like that was not bad enough she had been reading all these love fairy tales, and charming always came in this manner. I was ecstatic, way over the moon. I was in a t-shirt, torn pants and dust all over me and the man thought I was pretty. He went on and said how he thought I was awesome and asked if we could hang out later. I was in love with the man and ready to defy my father, but to preserve the poor lads life and perhaps my own, I told him my dad would never allow it. If my father found out, he would kill him and hunt me for sport.

So he asked if I had a cell phone perhaps we could chat there? And sure enough my sisters and I had gotten a cell right around the time mum started her farming where she would spend days away, so the phone was so we could constantly talk to her while she was out of town. She was so telepathic she always knew when you were up to no good. And when she returned she would take it back and lock it up. So only because of that we had a cellphone that we shared among the four of us, even after her passing. So I gave him that line and that’s how that started. We would talk for hours on end on the phone, My sisters hated it because I always kept it to myself and they too had interest out there they needed to keep in touch with, so it was always a battle. If I could get out of the house I would go and meet him for a walk down the street and everyone knew we were together. I remember walking with my head just a little higher and shoulders straight because in my mind, I had the coolest boyfriend on the street. I mean he did officially ask and I said yes. If he hadn’t asked the question, it wasn’t real and it meant nothing, that was the rule. I am thirty one now and I still believe that.  I was sixteen years old, and for me that was enough. I always said to myself he was more mature than the other boys in the area I was sixteen he was nineteen, which I later found out was a lie and he was actually twenty three, as far as I was concerned I had a better deal than all the childish boys the other girls got. Plus he was from out of town and that made him more intriguing. Of course it was a competition of who had the better boyfriend in the compound. It was just like having the better hair, backpack or shoes.

Whenever a boy spoke to me I always thought it meant I was beautiful, in my mind that is what it amounted to and growing up I didn’t get a lot of those. It made me think I wasn’t pretty enough. I suppose if I heard it more often it wouldn’t have mattered as much. My father was great, but his concern was never pretty, it was always strong. He always told me and the girls we were tough, and we could do anything. I believed him and I never ran from a fight, physical or intellectual, with a boy or a girl. This was my mothers approach too, she wanted phenomenal women for children, not some floozies who were conceited and who’s brains stretched as far as the makeup on their faces, like I mentioned before, she would have had to die first before that happened. Had they told me the same thing about how I looked, I would have believed them too. I wanted to be told I was pretty, I wanted to feel pretty and this then became my Achilles heel. I later found out the boys found me a little intimidating and sooner rather than later I became a conquest of who had the balls to speak to Nsama first. I had the perfect stink-meaner face that my father taught me, and I naturally got from my mother the perfect resting bitch face as some may call it. Turns out Chembe had heard I was a tough nut to crack and he decided to be the one that showed everyone he could conquer the mountain, And he had found my Achilles heel, the fact that I was insecure about my looks. Only my head was so far into the sand I barely recognised him for what he was was, a little boy on a mission to prove to the world he was a man. And so the dating continued, me in my delusion and and him in his conquest,he would tell me all these stories of how he was a medical Doctor and how he came from a wealthy family. Imagine that, I believed a nineteen year old was a medical doctor, how stupid did I have to be. That’s how the joke started, everyone didn’t believe him but me.

People in the compound knew he stretched the truth quite a bit, I just thought they were jealous. To be honest he stretched it quite a lot. Being nineteen, which later turned out be twenty three, which I see now was an oversight on my part was no show of maturity. He wanted to be a hot shot with lots of money, a great career and influence and that’s what he sold. When you sell a lie long enough, you, yourself start to believe it. He told me he was a medical doctor, believe or not I believed him, and I think he believed himself too, not only was I deluded he was deluded too. Everyone else saw him for what he was, and laughed really hard at the fact that I bought into it. I was no longer the girl with the cool boyfriend, I was the girl with no common sense. My mother must have been turning in her grave at my foolishness. They all couldn’t believe how stupid I could be. I still can’t believe how stupid I was . First of all no way a nineteen year old went through medical school. He should have started when he was twelve. My sisters tried to tell me and I would get so angry, angry is an understatement, livid is more like it.

But life has a way of bringing things to light, and humiliating you all at the same time. He came from my fathers home town Chingola, so one holiday when I visited my grandparents, I told him I was in Chingola, he avoided me like the plague and kept on jumping from story to story about how he couldn’t see me. So being the child that I was my cousin and I eventually looked for his house and we found it. The options were to walk in and just cause a scene, basically set the place on fire or to give the man fair warning. I remember us debating how we would get there, with our little five kwachas to catch the bus, we felt like heros, for all the girls out there, or rogue assassins on whatever planet. She had found out more information about him, seeing that she lived in Chingola as well, Information that just wasn’t adding up or in my case should have added up but I refused to see it. She had gone on to find out that in actual fact he was twenty three and a clinical officer at rural clinic somewhere in the outskirts, with nothing more than a diploma, which is not wrong, but the man sold me a degree. Not that there was anything wrong with his job but he obviously was insecure about it and felt the need to embellish himself. That is the understatement of the year, he bedazzled himself. It turned out that he had a baby mama and a two-year-old child, The same child he once told me was his baby brother right in Chingola and another in Solwezi I didn’t know about. The man was dishing out his seed as if it was for charity. So being young and naïve I decided to pool my courage and go drop in by his house unannounced. I was ready, went in guns blazing I really expected him to be ashamed, that I had found out his true nature. I wanted to humiliate him for selling me pipe dreams. About us, about him, about everything, I felt like a fool. But in true douche bag behavior, when I got there he offered me a sit, I took it. Holding my rage in, His then Baby mama came into the living room and sat next to me. She was beautiful, Long dark hair, beautiful bright skin, spoke so eloquently. I felt like a fool, Paraded before the masses. He just sat there, with the look of arrogance on his face, he had me beat and he knew it. He threw in my face the one thing he knew I could never stand up to, a girl prettier than me. He didn’t explain anything to me, he sat there and chatted away like nothing happened, so did the girl. So I decided to leave humiliated,Tail in between my legs, I just felt awful. I went home and just balled my eyes out. Wailed like a child, I was hurt.

So the twenty three year old boy took this one, the seventeen year old woman lived to fight another day. He had won this one, even when he was wrong he had won this one. So I walked away, it was never to be spoken of again. I had embarrassed myself, my sisters could not stop saying we told you so, good riddance they always said.  Looking back at it now, good riddance for sure. He is the only frog I haven’t seen or met years after our incident. He did try to call a few times, I never picked up I was afraid my ears would deceive me again. This was my first encounter of dating, left me banged up and torn inside. I wish I could say I had learned my lesson, but this experience only made me want to meet another person and make sure they love me just the way I thought I deserved. I was going to be pretty enough, skinny enough, just the right amount of perfect. That is how I ran into frog number two.

3. Jacob: The Fragile One.

You must know, If a man is inadequate in himself, there is nothing you can do to make him feel whole. That is his own journey.



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