Short Story: This is not my life but Bernard doesn’t know

Friday July 17 2015

After the dinner, we rode down Ben Kiwanuka on one Bajaj boda boda to the Old Taxi Park. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH

This is not the life I thought I would be living. This should not be my life. I have refused to accept this life. Bernard does not understand this. He is always asking me, “Why are you so angry?”

On Friday, he made me miss my Fitclique Afrique gym evening because, “I have a surprise for you.” I don’t know why I thought he was going to tell me, “Honey, I bought the C-Class Kompresser.” I blame myself for that. The W 203 Kompresser will never leave his Dell screensaver.

I told myself, as I waited for 5pm so I could leave the office, that perhaps one of his big deals had finally come together; that his one influential friend who, “We used to sleep on the same bunk bed in our dormitory. I was up, he was down,” had finally given Bernard’s company a building contract.

He has been over at our home in Kyebando enough to know we could do with more money. But I was being a fool. I know Bernard and I know that friend with whom they slept in the same bunk bed in Kings College Buddo through six years. That friend, Cyrus Kiggundu, works in the Ministry of Works and he is the permanent secretary’s assistant.

I have never told Bernard that when we were in the thick of our wedding preparations, Cyrus — then the chairman of the committee — on more than one occasion grabbed my butt and tried to pull me against himself.

I chose not to say anything because, drunk at a bar one day in Ntinda, hollering their rugby field songs, Cyrus’s wife Eunice and I watching them, they had ribbed each other, “Do you know our relationship is older than how long we have known our women?”


There is another reason why I have never told Bernard. Three weeks to our wedding at All Saints Cathedral in Kampala, I had to borrow the equivalent of half of our wedding budget from Cyrus. There would have been no wedding without Cyrus’s money.

Bernard was not going to get the money though he kept saying he would. Bernard believed me when I told him, “The money is from the office basket. Everybody contributed what they could.”

That Friday evening surprise was a dinner at Piato’s on Lumumba Avenue. He was already two Club beers happy in his wait, on first name basis with the chef. I did what I always do when we go out. I took his wallet away from him before I ordered our meals.

There was no golden bow-tied car key gift on the table. There was no Kompresser waiting for us in the Piato parking yard to drive home in after the dinner.

Bernard wanted to know, “Don’t you think it is time you stopped taking the birth control pills, honey? There will never be a perfect time to have a baby.”

I tried to listen to him but all I could hear was his mother, “We’ve been together three years. Married for two. We need to start a family. You have a good job, I have a good job. We both have medical insurance. People with less do it all the time.”

I used to tell him, “I’m not people.” But he has never learned that.

After the dinner, we rode down Ben Kiwanuka on one Bajaj boda boda to the Old Taxi Park. The taxis to Kyebando must be the oldest in the park. I had on my white jeans and made us wait until it was the turn of a taxi with vinyl upholstery to load passengers.

I don’t use these taxis during the week. Maude Asio drops me home. We became friends after I started going to Fitclique Afrique. Many people say Maude is a lesbian but I don’t think she is. I have known her for three months and I think she is just off men for a while.

People think she is a lesbian because she crops her hair short, refuses to use hair extensions. She can figure out most times what’s wrong with her Subaru Forrester and fix it herself.  I like the way she drives. We are talking about starting a tour company together. Maude says that is where the money is in Uganda. That is between us for now.

We live in Bernard’s mother’s compound in the servants’ quarters. We live in a two-room house, one of 10 in a row. The other tenants walk round the left side of the main house, duck heads through a low gate, to enter our walled off section. We have to go through the main house.

Bernard’s mother will not let supper be served in the main house until we are at the table. Bernard’s mother also likes to keep me company as I wash our week’s laundry on Saturday morning.

When we were moving here, Bernard had said, “We will be here for two months then you can live anywhere you want. I’ll be able to afford it.” We have been living here for a year.