This Woman I Call Landlady; Part II

The sound of the slamming door was the startling revelation of who my actual landlord was; an authoritarian Muslim man with anger management issues, probably a psycho, too. The resonance had also drawn the attention of our immediate neighbors to the unfolding drama, and through my sitting room window; I could see the housemaid to my muzungu neighbor craning her neck from the balcony where she stood with a push broom in hand, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

Back in my house, I was passing between the sitting room where I could have a better view of this new resident terrorizing our neighborhood, and the bedroom where I had a better chance eavesdropping on the orders being issued.

“Fukamira, ngambye fukamira.” I could hear him peremptorily ordering her to kneel down, accusing her of spending all the time and money drinking with men.

“You need to go to that woman’s rescue, otherwise we’re going to spend the rest of the evening writing statements for the police investigating a homicide.” Eva warned.

“Oh yeah? You would rather spend the evening writing statements for a double homicide?” To me this was a domestic fight I wasn’t ready to plunge into. On the other side of the wall, I could sense an irate man whose issues ran deeper than the beer he found behind the latrine. By the time a man causes a scene that big with minimal, or no fucks at all given about the increasing number of neighbors being drawn to the brawl, it’s hard to guess where exactly he would draw the line. The last thing I wanted was for him to think I was one of his wife’s drinking buddies, or even closer.

By now the time frame in which I was supposed to make the rescue call had passed, and the fact that she kept insisting that the alcohol must be for a neighbor suggested that she was still counting on me, but even if I was to go through with the plan, I didn’t have much information to work with. It would be an idiotic move to make a call asking for misplaced beer when you don’t even know how many bottles they are, let alone which brand. I just wasn’t going to do this.

It wasn’t long before my phone started vibrating from the TV stand where it lay charging, it was my landlady calling. I watched it ring for like forty seconds, wondering how to tell her that I am worried about getting myself tangled in this mess. I took a deep breath and picked up the phone.

“You didn’t tell me what type of beer it was and how many bottles.” I feared that he may have ordered her to put the phone on loudspeaker, but I took my chances anyway. I didn’t want her to think I had snaked, but I wanted her to know why I couldn’t help. To put up a show, I assume, she pretended not to have heard what I’d said and asked all the same;

“Did you send anyone for beer today?” I could hear the echoes of her voice bouncing from the direction of her house, and surprisingly; she sounded calmer than I anticipated. She then continued saying “hello, helloooo, hello? Nze simuwurira.” Then she hang up. I knew she had got my message, and in no time she was at my door.

Draped in the same shawl tied with a knot behind her neck running down to her knees, she was smiling smugly when she leaned against the door, like she was shielding off something. She stretched out two fingers while widely moving her lips to pronounce the words ‘Castle Light’, no sound produced though.

What I didn’t know was that the husband was right behind her, and noticing that something sinister may be taking place right before him, he moved his shirtless, and remarkably hairy, paunch to the front. Like his arms, his blue three-quarter jeans revealed leg muscle contours of a hardworking man, and the chipped toenails peeping through the sandals he dragged on his feet testified to a not-so-cushy past.

“Otumiza ku beer?” He asked like he was interrogating his son.

“Good evening ssebo.” I retorted.

“Nze s’ogera luzungu, naye otumiza ku beer wano?” He seemed geared up for a confrontation, and before I could respond, Agatha limped forward.

“I sent the washing lady for two bottles of Castle Light earlier today, I had no idea there was a rule against drinking alcohol here?” She turned to me with a what-the-fuck shrug.

In our eavesdropping, we’d overheard the man say he saw the washing lady fidgeting to hide the beer. Apparently, she had been delivering my landlady’s contrabands like this for a while and the husband seemed to have had no solid evidence until now. He was sure he had her this time, but we defused his bust, or so we thought.

I don’t know if it was the complications of having this argument in English, or he wasn’t prepared to engage another woman who wasn’t his wife, but the man budged and dragged his feet back to his house, saying nothing more than “mukime beer wamwe” as he turned around. We naively thought he bought our shitload of a skit with all its loopholes; because come on, if you sent someone for beer why would they hide it behind the latrine, we were in a rude awakening.

Less than thirty minutes later, we heard an interrogation taking place behind the house. Through an aptly angled reflection of the kitchen window, we saw the man seated on the veranda and the washing lady leaning against the water tank stand. This was an unexpected twist. Because there was no opportunity to bring the delivery lady up to speed on the new developments. In an attempt to save her boss, she also contrived a story of how this was her husband’s beer that she had decided to keep there as she un-hang the clothes she had washed earlier in the day before heading back to her home. To even make it more convincing, she went ahead to demanded for her beer, saying her husband would kill her if she went home without it.

She played right into his hands.

The problem was, Agatha had already picked the beer; and with the biggest smirk you can imagine, we saw the man leading the washing lady to our house to collect the beer, his wife tailing behind them with a face that lamented; these ones are finished!

Read Part I here

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