A Dangerous Belief

The clouds, usually a pristine white had been painted with a frighteningly assertive grey. One prominent one shot through the sky like a rocket heading straight for the moon- except instead of surging further upwards, it loomed over the solar ball whose bright yellow was now gravitating to a fiery orange. The light it gave off gradually dimmed into an abyss beyond the horizon; and soon, the earth was an open, dark space with even darker frames of tall objects. A sudden movement in one of the shadows jolted their hearts to their knees at a high voltage rate. This was the moment of truth…

Kizza had been a happy child, at least for the times she was at school. Home in Nansana had become unberable. If it wasn’t the tedious amount of housework her lazy brothers all left for her, it was Dad- he always staggering into their mud house like a lost elephant every night. Heavy stomps, loud voice like trumpets. Their mother’s cries would follow from the other room and when Arinda’s brothers Kato and Wasswa tried to get into the room, they’d find it locked. So they’d stand outside and keep calling out to both mum and dad but their cries fell on deaf ears. When Kizza came to the door to join her brothers, she’d be sent back to bed. “Go back to sleep, these are adult things,” Wasswa always said- to which Kato would nod towards her in approval as if to say, “haven’t you heard? What then are you still doing there.”

Ssekito’s drinking had began 2 years ago; the telecommunications company which he’d served for 8 years as an askari had laid him off without as much as a warning. Rumor had it that management was being taken over and the new bosses had shipped in their own work force. At first he’d thought it was gossip. Young people these days like to gossip about just anything without doing much work. These millenials are always making up things, he’d thought. Until one Monday morning when he’d come to work, two mean looking light skinned men in uniform had stood at his work station. One with a baton pointed at him had shouted, “go back!” The other one had said to him almost sympathetically, “check email.”

Then he’d remembered the young lady, Kirabo the receptionist. Kirabo had always insisted he get an email address and get onto the work mail group, but Ssekito was an old man who had neither the time nor the interest in electronic messaging. For as long as his UGX 400,000 salary was deposited in his Centenary bank account every end of the month, he had no business joining the work email group. Now as he walked down the stairs outside the building unable to comprehend what was happening, he wished he had listened to Kirabo.

Ssekito was devastated. Mrs. Ssekito had watched him go into a depression and eventually take up all day drinking at a local bar. She’d comforted him and said that it was okay, that everything would fall into place, that he should not be drinking and that her Nakasero market stall would still support them. But Ssekito felt that she did not understand. How could he let his wife support him? What did that say about him as a man? The other men at the bar who made fun of him were right, he’d thought. They often said, gwe toyogela wafuuka mukazi- they were right, he thought. A husband who could not provide for his family did not deserve to be called a man. Ssekito loved his wife, but he still rained slaps on her whenever he got drunk. Kizza had once overheard him telling his sister, Aunt Naki who’d visited to talk to him, that when mum spoke to comfort him, it sounded like she was mocking him. That same night, he’d still go ahead and beat mum.

Now as Kizza and her brothers escaped from home at nightfall with their belongings during the peak season of Kifeesi activity, she wondered why dad’s friends had mocked him. Why was it such a bad thing for a woman to provide for her family alone especially if her husband had hit a snag? Who had cultivated such a dangerous belief- that it was aborminable for the woman to provide- that it was somehow humiliating for family to take care of family? Isn’t that why man and woman came together to be one and support each other? Why had dad still felt worse even after mum had encouraged him to stay positive? Why had he expressed all his anger towards the one person who still believed in and encouraged him? Why did mum have to die from a deep cut on the head? Why had dad bought that panga anyway?