A woman drinking in a bar was a concept widely frowned upon in Msonobari village. It was considered the height of impunity. Immorality. And basically, loss of direction and vision. If your woman was spotted in a Bar you would be advised (by other women especially) to look for another wife or risk bringing up children who look like your neighbours. So every self-respecting woman steered clear of bars and drinking in general.
But not Madam Anne – the self-appointed and official side chick to my father-in-law. In her defence, though, she did not just drink in any Bar but Msonobari Bar. Drinking in Msonobari Bar symbolized prestige. I have told you before that only the rich warmed chairs in this Bar and downed expensive drinks ever sold in Msonobari and its environs. Men of status came to close deals in this Bar. You would see them seated in twos or threes or fours or…you catch the drift… foreheads touching, discussing whose son should marry whose daughter and the number of cows to be brought dowry. Or why so and so should give out his daughter for free. This, while Papa Wemba, mostly, coughed from the speakers behind the counter, and the heavily endowed waitresses standing alert, or gossiping, or luring men to buy more drinks by dishing out their cleavages every time they served them their drinks.
So everyone cut Madam Anne some slack. At least, she could afford her own drink, even though Steve and I knew how she managed that. We knew that if at all we were going to take her down, it was going to be in that Bar. We met in my office severally, sometimes in Msonobari Bar and planned on how to recapture our challenged positions as the men who run Msonobari.
So one Saturday evening when we decided that time was ripe. We drove to Msonobari Bar just as the sun was handing over the relay stick to the moon. The weak men of Msonobari married to women who eat more than they did and who beat them up, were hurriedly walking home to beat curfew. They held green paper bags because getting home early was not enough to stop their wives from ruffling their feathers…they needed to bring more to the table. and that more was in paper bags.
I pitied them. Cried for them even. Because the only thing that is worse than marrying a wife who beats you up is marrying one who wears mother unions and has a burning bush on her head. Seriously, some weaves are just ugly. Makes you wonder what these women`s hobbies at night are, night-running?
Msonobari Bar was rocking with revelers as expected. It was Saturday. Awesome for us and our plan. Our spot was waiting for us. Yes, Steve and I had become members. So we sat down, flagged down Steve`s favourite waitress with an ass bigger than Vision 2030 and ordered for our usual. This time, Papa Wemba was sick so Alikiba and a few other Tanzanian musicians had taken over the dusty speakers and man Ali was singing his heart out with the ever infectious Dushelele song. Epic.
“Yule aliyepanda, kwenye lile shamba langu, hakuona uchungu kuizunguka nyumba yangu… Kukatanda ukungu, kwa penzi la mathurumu…. Mimi na yule (yule), tulipendana yule..” Steve and I sang along to this awesome song. A song meant for sharp guys like us. A song which obviously doesn`t `entertain` fools. As the song was fading off, Steve took a swipe of his drink and said,
“It`s like she won`t show up today.”
“Are you sure?”
“She is always here on Saturdays so relax,” I said reassuringly though deep down I was worried that Madam Anne would not show up. “This Titus of a man knows that he is to meet us here today, right?”I asked.
“He does and he will show up. The money we are offering him is too tempting for him to refuse.”
We continued drinking. And drinking. And drinking.
A few minutes shy of 10 p.m and our target, Anne, walked in. But she was not alone. Walking beside her was Chief who looked like he had been forced to tag along. They found a table on the other end of the bar but it took them forever to order drinks. We could only imagine why.
“Should we go there now?” Steve asked.
“I need to speak to her alone so you go and borrow Chief from her for a minute. Play nice”
Steve, without asking further questions jumped into action and approached their table. I saw him smiling at them and gesturing and in a few seconds walked away with Chief following him. They went out.
I approached madam Anne and she smiled, an evil smile, when she saw me. I pulled a chair to sit on.
“Good to see you Doc,” she said, obviously being sarcastic.
“Good to see you too.”
“So how may I be of help to you?”
“I do not think you can be of any help to me.” I shrugged. “Just wanted to let you know that after thinking about what you said, I have decided to stand my ground. You leave Chief alone or we expose you.”
She chuckled. Drunk from her bottle before leaning forward, “Its like I did not make myself clear the last time….”
“Actually, you did. That you will tell Delilah`s mother-in-law that I am the father to her kids? You made that point very clear.”
“And I know I have nothing to lose. But you…”I leaned closer to her, “Have everything to lose.”
Just then, Steve stepped inside the bar with a man I immediately identified as Titus behind him. Anne saw them too, and I could see her eyes widen with surprise. shock even. I could see her hair rising and threatening to run from her head. I could see her lips tremble. A sweat stung her eyes and she wiped her face on her blouse. And I enjoyed seeing her like that…I loved it. She wore on her face the same look you would wear were you to wake up one morning and find your late grandpa seated under the tree shade sipping uji from a bowl.
“You look shifty Madam Anne, are you okay?”
“What… what,” she pointed towards Steve and Titus’ direction, “What is he doing here?”
“Who? Steve or your husband?”
“He is not my husband,” she said defensively but calmly, before adding in almost a whisper, “Not anymore.”
“Interesting,” I leaned back, “When did you two separate?”
“Okay. Between my father-in-law, Chief, and that man over there,” I pointed towards Titus who was entertaining himself with my drink, “Who is the father of your last born child?”
“Now, listen to me, Anne. We know that even after separating with that your husband who went on to marry another wife, you two, whether you were trying to rekindle your the flame or out of curiosity, had a thing going on. And we also know that you two had a child together… the same child you claim Chief fathered.”
“Let me finish,” I was buzzing with authority, “Another thing, look around,” she reluctantly looked around the bar, “The who is who of this community are all here and if we were to use your husband to spill the beans here in this bar, because that is what he is here for just in case you were wondering, and word went out that you were rolling with another woman`s husband, no one will want you heading any school that their children attend so they will force you out.”
“They won`t dare.”
“You want to take your chances?”
“So the offer still stands, leave Chief and keep your dignity. We will keep our word and make sure he doesn’t know who the true father of your child is. Or try being a smart ass with me and I assure you, you will know that I am not called the King of this village for nothing. No one threatens me, my dear, it is the other way round!”
By now I could tell she was getting hot under the collar. And I hated to put her in that position but Wars are won by doing things we hate. And yes, she had dared me and Steve, and that was a wroooong move. Steve had managed to dig out her past and now we had all the shit we needed to make her bite the dust, and we were doing just that.
“You have a few seconds to decide, what will it be? Do you still want to play this game?”
She obviously didn’t. She was silent and her silence spoke volumes. It was unfortunate I had to come at her like that but it was fair play?
“You win,” she said in a mumble before standing up from her seat.
“Chief will be waiting outside for you to tell him it’s over,” I stood up too, “And next time, choose your battles well.”
I walked away to join Steve and this mannerless Titus of a man drinking from my bottle, a victory smile perched on my face.
“It’s done,” I said pulling a chair.
Wishing you a happy Easter!