Jeez, why do things have to turn out this way?

You see, young men have no problems visiting all the popular drinking joints in town, then whistle-stopping at all their girlfriends and leaving behind beautiful smiles of satisfaction before finally proceeding home to physically remind their wives why marriage can be such bliss. Mind you, they fume whenever their attempts at playing husband result into instant headaches. Boy, they hate headaches that once in a while plague matrimonial chambers.  

On the other hand if you’re a man of a certain age, the years of insatiable virility are just dim memories. Now your wife struggles to coax you to let her play with the crown jewels. More often than not such attempts are met by protest. After all, you firmly remind her, wasn’t it just five days ago that she was moaning your name in ecstacy? Doesn’t she realise that short of hiring a crane to raise the flag even to half mast, a man needs a lengthy recuperation period? It isn’t as if you’re starving her on purpose in order to revenge all the fake headaches that used to attack her at inconvenient moments. Sheesh, where is a woman’s headache when a man needs one.

Like it or not, the biological clock ticks from the day you’re born.  One day you wake up and, to your horror, you discover that your vision is blurry. But after a visit to an optician you get even more shocked because now you can see you’ve been ambushed by strands of grey hair, and the mop on you head has considerably thinned. You now can see that nature has sculpted some wrinkles onto your face.

Sigh…you realise that the memory loss that frequently ambushes you is giving you not so subtle hints that senility will soon be banging at your front door. It dawns on you that you’ve developed an inexplicable intolerance for loud music even as your hearing has waned. You realise that every little thing is enough to set you off moaning, whining, grumbling and ranting. And as your wife has learnt, getting certain body parts to function has become a chore that you don’t really look forward to. Certainly not on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. The deterioration will march on, unrelenting, till the day you breath for the last time. Hence, my surprise at the endurance being shown by the two front-runners in Malawi’s presidential race.  Given their age, I don’t know how they manage to wake up every day at first light, assuming they sleep at all, and take to the road for campaign stops until dusk forces them home.

How do they do it?

Mind you, the majority of our roads aren’t tarred. They are dusty bumpy affairs. And even those that are tarred are so potholed they bother and exhaust even athletes in their prime, let alone octogenarians that are currently masquerading as our best candidates for president.

Is this punishing Malawi’s Next Leader road show really necessary? I’m not so sure. One thing I do know, however, is that it won’t influence who my friends will vote for.  Their minds are already made up, who to vote for already etched in stone, and nothing will shift them from their entrenched positions. Malawians tend to have very fixed opinions. Remember the man in Ntchisi, appreciating the fact that the incumbent president had given the district its first tarmac road remarked, “Koma Bingu’yu ndi wa bwino kwambiri…kutipatasa mseu wa tala. Ndiye nanji akatenga boma a Baba Tembo.”

So rather than futilely try to change my friends’ minds, I just listen as they extol the virtues of their preferred candidates and trumpet the evils of the rivals.

Yes, my friends agree on lots of things. I suppose that’s why they became friends in the first place. But when it comes to who to vote for, they are in no agreement at all. They are split into two camps with two thirds of them preferring one grumpy old man and the rest the other. In their sphere, the other candidates might as well not be on the ballot. My preferences also lie with one of the two grumpies. However, unlike my friends, I’m literally planning to vote for a candidate who doesn’t have a water droplet’s chance in hell of winning.

I can understand your shock but I can assure you I haven’t lost my marbles. At least I’m not yet certified. You see, it so happens that in the three presidential elections that I’ve participated in (as a voter, of course), the candidate that I’ve cast my precious vote for has, fairly or not, ended up not getting the keys to statehouse. And don’t they say we should learn from our past experience?

I’m by no means a superstitious person. In fact, I don’t even believe in witchcraft and my presence in amen corners is very rare since it’s only occasioned by a wedding or a death of someone close.  Yet, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that my vote is a poisoned chalice. I can’t help but feel that whoever I vote for will have the gates of statehouse firmly closed to him. It’s the last chance salon for these two, after all.

Having said this, you think I’ll vote for my old man’s rival, right? After all, I would be helping my candidate by jinxing his rival. However, while I see the logic in that line of thinking, I’ve other what ifs playing on my mind. What if this time round I managed to be on the winning side? How would I live with myself knowing I had voted into office someone I didn’t much like? I don’t want to tempt fate. That’s why I’ve conceived the ingenious solution of casting my vote for someone whose likelihood of losing is a hundred percent.  I’ll thus have no post election guilt should my preferred old man, God forbid, end up being floored by his rival.

So I’ll vote for either Stanley Masauli or Loveness Gondwe. And being a liberal soul who firmly believes in the equality of races, tribes and genders, I’ve no qualms whose presidential fantasies I help to shatter. But who between them? OK, in the interest of fairness let me just toss a coin. If it’s heads, my vote will go to Stanley. Otherwise, Loveness, I’m yours.

So here goes.

Oops! I’m really sorry, Loveness. It turned out tails so I’ll have to tick the box against your name. I was as fair as I could. In any case, if I were you, I would realise that I’ve been done a big big favour. Now that you know I’ll vote for you, you can immediately stop wasting any more of your resources and time on fruitless campaign schedules and just wait for the inevitable announcement that you didn’t win.

Wait, wait... I’ve just had a brainwave.  My vote for Loveness will also serve as a barometer of fairness in this year’s election. If my voting centre doesn’t report any vote for Loveness, not even one, the election wouldn’t have been free and fair, would it? Where would my vote have gone?

By the way, in a poll involving the majority of my friends, Bingu is ahead with 66 percent of the vote. No, there is no margin of error in this poll. And no, I’ve no intention of extrapolating these results onto the national stage. The sample size is too small. I’m discerning in the choice of my friends, you know.

But that doesn't mean I don't know who's going to win. I'm just not telling.

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    Children, too, can have profound thoughts
    The Three Little Hills (Phiris)