His name was Meshach and with a name like that, you could understand why he was socially awkward. He limited his talking to just a handful of people, which was probably why I would not have guessed that he was a possessive lover. On the other hand it was probably why I felt special when he began to let me in. We worked in the same office and there was nothing romantic about how we met.
I was a girl in my mtumba suit eager to start her first corporate job. He was the quiet guy in the office who was the female supervisor’s favourite. I am your typical Chatty Cathy; I will talk to anyone and anything that cares to listen. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter much if the other person has much to say, I can monologue for minutes before realizing it.
The girls in the office thought he was cute but they could hardly get a word from him. We probably wouldn’t even know his name were it not for his work badge and the boss’ praises during meetings. Six months into the job on a rainy evening he held the lift for me.
We were leaving work and it was raining. Both of us were headed to the CBD so we waited for a matatu together. 30 minutes into the wait, we decided it was not worth it so we called for a cab. Stuck in traffic for over an hour in the taxi, we had to talk. Or rather I started talking. To my surprise, he had a lot to say about many things. I felt like I had gotten the password to a locked room. We exchanged numbers and that’s where it all began.
The office had strict rules prohibiting co-workers from dating. In hindsight, there is a reason why such clauses exist in employment contracts. We, however, didn’t care much about the rules. We were young and what could have been more exciting than forbidden love. The thrill of keeping it from our friends too made it so exciting at the beginning. Mesh, as I now called him was very clear on keeping it discrete. We were so discrete that even out of office friends were not to know about us.
The last 30 minutes of work in the office would be spent strategizing who would leave first so as not to arouse suspicion. We would only mingle in the office if there was a third party involved. We shared meals with colleagues and work wives and hubbies would crop up. However, we could never be that to each other in case we were discovered, but therein lay the first problem.
Mesh would stir up drama about my friendliness with other male co-workers.
“Why were you wearing that short skirt in the office today? Who are you seducing?”
“I have worn this skirt since my first week in that office, why is it a problem now?”
He would then come up with a reason that I had been over-friendly with a male colleague. Somehow we would make up. By now he would spend at my place for a couple of days during the week because he still lived at home. One evening he walked in with this look on his face. I already knew it was the ‘I’m about to start trouble face’.
“Who were you talking to on the phone?”
“It’s the chipo guy; I don’t feel like cooking today so I ordered chips and chicken.”
“You laugh that much with the chipo guy? Ama you want to cheat on me with him?”
I still recall how livid I was. I was busy trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner and he was accusing me of intending to cheat. The ringing in my head stopped me from hearing anything he said after that. I asked him to leave my house. This just added to the drama, apparently now I did not respect him because I was in my house. On the bright side, he started chipping in on the utilities. He was there for most of the week anyway.
I am sociable and he was reserved. I had many friends who would want to stop by my place. Over time I had come up with so many excuses that my friends just stopped looking for me. He would go through my phone and always find “issues” with my conversations. So after getting tired of deleting messages to avoid problems, I just reduced my interactions with many people. I was still in denial that I was dating a possessive lover.
Everything was going well now, we were at a good place and nobody in the office knew about despite being together for a couple of months. We were outdoing ourselves in this discretion game.
It was a rainy and cold night and I was in the house enjoying dinner as I watched a comedy when he called.
“Who’s in the house with you?”
“Open the door.”
I obliged. He claimed my misty windows indicated that someone else had been in the house with me. I was in shock. How did he even come up with these conclusions? So he proceeded to ask for my phone. I had just bought a new phone. He tried unlocking it but couldn’t because it required my fingerprint to unlock.
“You had to buy a phone that has this technology so that I can’t unlock it on my own?”
I had moved heaven and earth, denied myself every pleasure that I could just to get this phone. He hadn’t crossed my mind while purchasing it. I could not understand how my new phone was about him. I had not even recovered from the window mist accusation. All this while I could not even talk to anybody about it because we were still a big secret. My friends just assumed that the reason I was withdrawn was due to work demands. We had crazy schedules, most of my time off was spent resting and catching up on sleep.
Mesh, was the closest person to me besides family at this point. We were in bad terms for about two weeks after that incident. It was very awkward at work because we had to act normal. Then as we reconciled I got sick. I was admitted to hospital for five days. The whole time he couldn’t come because he couldn’t risk us getting exposed either to our colleagues or my friends and family. However, he made sure to ask who had come to visit me and why some came repeatedly.
There I was facing health difficulties but I still had to deal with possessive and insecure traits. As I left the hospital I knew something had to change. I was going to give ultimatums on exposing this secret and possessiveness. That would be later because I had to focus on healing. I was glad to have left the hospital and my female friend helped me home. He came later in the evening after she had left. He came with a bunch of roses. Then before I could even put the flowers in a vase he started his usual questions.
“Why does it smell of male cologne? Didn’t you say Doris brought you home?”
With that question, my mind was made up. I gave him a look and then packed all his things in a bag. These were questions I would no longer answer. After asking him for his set of keys, I ended it. He thought I was just overreacting because that’s what women do. He still felt justified to have asked all the questions that he had two months later when he texted just to confirm that I was still serious about breaking up.
Now I every time I watch a movie with a possessive lover I think of Meshach. I see the isolation from friends and family which makes it easy to rationalize the possessiveness and jealousy. Weeks later I still can’t talk about it with people because of the burden of shame that I still feel. It started as a thrilling secret affair but it ended in profound lessons.
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