My name is Kulia Beatrice. I am enjoying my second marriage so much I can’t begin to tell you, but I will still try. I first met this delicious man many years ago while I was married to my first husband with whom I had 4 children. My best friend, Bwowa Susan had met “nice young man” who was going to marry her and she asked me to be her best maid. As her “elder sister” I immediately agreed.
One Sunday afternoon after we had been to church Susan came by our house accompanied by her young man. Tall, dark and bespectacled, Ssentongo Timothy was employed at one of the foreign owned banks in the City. He spoke in accents of one who had gone to the best schools in the land, the likes of King’s College, Buddo where only the very rich could afford to take their sons. I felt a stab of jealousy for my younger friend, marrying an obviously much wealthier man, and so well brought-up. My children seemed to like him a lot too.
The wedding was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The groom and his best man were dressed in brilliant white double-breasted jackets, black bow-ties, with trousers in a pale blue. The other groomsmen had suits in a lighter shade of the same blue. The maids’ clothes had been brought in from the UK by one of the groom’s sisters; a light grey, with what Susan told me was a sailor’s neckline. Neither of us had ever seen a sailor in real life and we thought it was all very high-flown. Even the invitation cards were the first I had ever seen that were not sent in an envelope, but folded in on themselves.
They first built a 3-room wooden house, which elicited a slight stab of envy in me. We lived in a rented 2-bedroom house without hope of our own house, no matter how small. When they started putting up a stone house only 3 years into their marriage, I could not help but start nagging my husband about building us a house. In my heart of hearts however, I knew it would hardly come to be, what with his irregular income from driving a taxi between the city and the southern town of Masaka 160 km away and my own meagre teacher’s salary.
Tim had a way of looking at me whenever we met that made me weak in the knees. I would chide myself afterwards that he was my best friend’s husband and I was moreover a married woman. The next time we visited them, or they us, it would happen again. He would seem to fondle my large breasts with his eyes and when his eyes met mine electricity would spark. I found myself always sitting across from him and the most unusual desire overtake me to part my legs just a bit for him to see more of my thighs. I could never understand what he was doing to me to give me such thoughts or desires. All night I would lie in my bed trying to chase those memories from my head, yet at the same time enjoying them and the frisson of fear should my husband beside me ever think I was indulging in fantasies about another man.
By this time Susan already had a reputation in the staff room due to the speed at which she had had 3 children, separated by a year from each other. Every time we saw her belly bulging again, the more outspoken of the teachers would start teasing her about her bedroom affairs. What I knew but would never share with our colleagues was that she and her husband had a wonderful sex life, something I myself had never enjoyed. She would add fuel to the fire by telling me how he enjoyed to “talk dirty” during sex; this would give me feelings of being unfulfilled because no matter how hard I tried to imagine what he told her in bed, I could never find anything that would not disgust me if my husband said it to me while he was having his way with me. In fact that was what it had always felt like-he was slaking his own thirst upon my body with no thought whatsoever for my feelings.
So when suddenly we discovered that they were having difficulties at home I thought she was being ungrateful for all the gifts she had received in her marriage. Married into such an aristocratic family, a husband who gave her satisfaction in bed, lovely children, a house all their own. I tried to tell her this but she angrily pushed my argument aside, and I felt she would have preferred no one to find out about her marital situation. A few years later, I was to find out that she had moved out citing what to me sounded trivial grounds. She said her husband did not give her enough money and was being unfaithful to her with other women, but none of us could nail her down to specifics. I tried to find out from her where she had gotten such information only to get a reply reminding me that we were women and we had the gift of intuition that made us sensitive to such things as when our husbands went astray. She would not let anyone in on her secrets; leaving many to think there might be more than we were being told.
Six or seven years after she had flown her marital nest, with our friendship now suffering some strain, she dropped a hint that her husband had moved to court with a divorce appeal. She clammed up, however, when I sought more information, though in the ensuing months she would seem morose and thoughtful yet with a darkening of her brows. Having been her friend and colleague I knew this meant she was unhappy about something she did not want to talk about even with me. We were never to hear anything more from her about the divorce, which left me with the suspicion that he had been given the divorce against her wishes. Why she would fight the divorce was something else which puzzled me. She was obviously unhappy with him, she had packed out of his house, and she had some quite ugly stories about him. Yet she seemed to want to remain married to him!
Of course all this meant that I did not see Tim any more. I was astounded to find I was wondering how I could lay my hands on his telephone number, or sometimes longing to see him even if only from a distance. That tall, lean figure he cut still stayed with me in my mind. You can therefore imagine my joy when my second son came home with the news that he had met and talked with Tata Kato (that being the name of Susan’s elder son; Tata means “father of” in our local language). They had even exchanged phone numbers because he had wanted to introduce our son to a business opportunity. I encouraged him to follow it up, telling him that our friend was a man of integrity so whatever he was talking about was sure to be genuine. In truth I was hoping all this would allow me to meet him under the guise of wanting to understand what he was getting my son into (my husband had passed away quite suddenly the previous year after a very short illness). As indeed it happened. In a great hurry I found the money Tim told us was needed to start up this venture. In the following weeks my son and he were in constant touch, with him occasionally coming home to continue in the training sessions. He was like a father to my Mutesa and I found his eyes had never lost that magnetic quality I remembered that affected me so deeply.
One day I heard them talking about a big meeting of their company that was coming up; I asked if I might be allowed to attend. Both welcomed me enthusiastically as a “guest”. It was to be my first time to enter the Kampala Sheraton. I was awed by all the magnificence I saw. The manicured lawns sloping away towards Buganda Road and the Speke Hotel, the fountain spraying white water high into the afternoon sky, the thick carpets in the lobby and even a certain aroma that communicated “rich” to my senses all transported me to another world. We walked into a large room called the Ballroom whose lighting fixtures seemed to spew the light in many different directions at once. The carpet seemed to swallow my shoes entire and the seats upholstered in a matching fabric felt so soft and welcoming. I gradually felt more and more attracted to this company which could afford to bring an event to such a venue. At the front there was a platform decorated with a splash of goldish fabric and the company’s products displayed amongst its folds. Two large screens flanked the platform. As after speaker came to the podium and told of the benefits of the health products and of the opportunity created by this company to allow people everywhere to make lots of money and dreams come true, I was truly captivated. I pleaded with Tim to find a way in which I could enter this opportunity as well, middle-aged woman though I was. He gave me a sort of mysterious smile, telling me politely to wait a while. At the end on the whole fabulous event I was almost desperate for Tim to tell me whether my idea was workable. He only fished out a form and asked me to fill in some basic details and then looked me deep in the eye and congratulated me on “possibly the best decision” of my life. As soon as I found an amount like that I had produced for Mutesa I was also in. I could hardly believe what he was saying.
That was six months ago. Tim has taught us all we needed to build a huge network that has now spread its tentacles throughout the whole region, including such far-away places as Kenya and Rwanda. Many of those people involved are yet unknown to us directly but since we knew people who knew and talked to them we can boast of a multinational network. But another benefit is that Tim and I have shared in lots of events and even travelled all over our country. Our friendship moved from mentor to close friend almost without our notice. I cannot at this moment tell you how or when it moved to love. Now my heart is full to bursting with love and admiration for this dear friend who has shown me how to break free of the bondage of a meagre teacher’s pay, and my son how to be self-dependent without ever having to become anyone’s employee. We had previously only lived in Kampala’s humbler suburbs, but we are now on the way to buying a home in Nakasero. The future can only get brighter.