The Flag of Covid


Warning: Adult content. Sorta. 

This is a short story about a man who lost everything that a man can imagine losing and then gained something. It’s a short story because it’s ugly to dwell on this particular shortcoming of man. Rude, even, to turn it into a spectacle. To be fascinated by his misfortune like you would be by roadkill. 

It starts in London. 

No, actually, London came later. 

It starts with me, at home, seated at the kitchen scrolling Twitter while thinking that I needed lemons. There was a burning conversation happening in the nook of Twitter where such conversations transpire. A guy with the handle @Ankal256 had responded to someone else’s tweet that had asked: What is the lowest level of being broke you have reached in your life? 

@Ankal256 wrote: Due to Covid lockdowns. I lost my job in 2 months of seating at home…

I felt a sharp stab in my stomach, like someone had punched me with the sharp end of an ostrich’s feather. The cause of this was the usage of the word “seating” often interchanged with “sitting.” Mundane things like that sometimes gall me. But who am I to throw stones when I live in a  glass house of words? So I continued reading…

…my savings got depleted. Couldn’t feed the family. Got an erectile dysfunction…

I sat up straight on my, seat. 

…No matter what madam could do, I could not make the man to stand up. For four months. She started locking me out of the bedroom. 

I’m sure you are invested too at this point, right? You know why? Because you are scandalous. And curious. And wounds fascinate you. I’m all of these. The chap continued on this thread about how he finally got a job and he is still with his wife. I started reading the comments because the story is always in the comments. A lady asked how the hell work is related to erection. Someone asked, you still married to her? A guy called Carlos was not amused, he wrote: he went back providing for an ungrateful woman after getting back on his feet? Textbook simp, someone shouted back. Another person suggested that the logical thing would have been to walk away from that wretched woman. You are providing for an enemy, they wrote. Imagine if it was the woman who couldn’t do it, would you still sleep in the same bed with her? Just asking, someone said. A chap with the handle called @The King, stood on a chair for those at the backroom of Twitter to hear and shouted: I’m not yet married but the moment I’ll do that and the wife shows me some negative energy I’ll leave that fuckin house for her and start over somewhere else. I’m a firm believer in resetting and starting over again. Plus madame hii dunia ni wengi. Just explore bro. And there was mass consensus to that. Yeah, to hell with this woman, man. Choose yourself, king.  

On and on the menfolk came out bearing pitchforks and burning torches, demanding the woman’s head on a pike. Bring her out here! They demanded. Out with the ungrateful wench! And I kept scrolling down this great groundswell of indignation. This rich advice from men who have never been married and men who are married and macho men of Twitter who know exactly what to do in what circumstance. 

I made tea. Then I DM’d the guy.

I said I was interested in that story. He replied, said it had been an emotional few days since he wrote that thread and he never appreciated the impact it had on him reading the comments, rethinking everything and most importantly reflecting on why he stayed or even why that is a good thing for him and his family. Yeah, I can tell you my story, he said. 

He’s Ugandan, so we arranged a Zoom call for the following week because he’s some sort of auditor and gets busy. 

First, his handle is a pseudo-handle. Nobody would be crazy to talk about Erectile Dysfunction using their own handle. It’s a sensitive topic. If you walked up to a man, held up an axe and said, “your arm or your libido” Most men will say, “here, just cut it right here, on top of the elbow. Long sleeve.”

Hell, I’d throw in the finger of my other arm as a tip.

The gentleman isn’t called @Ankal256. He is called Allan. [Not his real name, either] He studied statistics and economics but also has a postgraduate degree in epidemiology and Public Health. Before Covid came upon him, he had a great job working for a financial institution in a glass building on a hill in Kampala. He was everything his mom was proud of; ambitious, hardworking, the kind of boy who makes his bed when he wakes up. He had no problem providing for his young family. He could afford to sit in a bar and drink his Bell and watch football. He paid his black tax on time. He made enough to put away for rainy days. And rainy days were coming. Aren’t they always?

Then London came calling. 

He got a job in the UK; a two-year contract. A great opportunity. So he sat down with his wife and they discussed this new opportunity and what it meant, because that’s what you do; you collaborate and you consult and you dialogue. They spoke at night, when the baby had gone to sleep and it was quiet. The wife nodded over her cup of tea cupped on her lap. “I think it’s a good idea.” So, then, it was decided. The bullet would be bitten. He would go to the UK and make that money and if there was a chance of renewing the contract he would. Then he would send for them and they would settle in Northampton or whatever –ampton people live in in the UK. 

This was Feb, 2020. 

He resigned in March. 

He was excited. His parents were happy for him. The wife was hopeful that this could be the silver bullet that they needed to start a different life. His last day at work was 30th March. They threw him a small party. They toasted with paper cups and hugged him and wished him well. He put all his shit in a small box and for the last time he rode the lifts out of his old life. 

The TV was already carrying this news about this virus, this flu from China. He thought it was something foreign, something that didn’t affect people like him. He paid it little heed. It would all go away. But then Covid came to Africa and there was panic and masks and borders hastily being closed and suddenly Uganda was locked down. Oh it will pass and I will travel, he thought hopefully. But then it didn’t pass. People started dying. The news got gloomier and gloomier. Weeks turned into months and he started eating into his savings to sustain the family. Before long his savings ran out and suddenly he was avoiding the landlord. The wife took over the responsibilities of keeping the family afloat. 

“I was stressed out of my mind. I felt helpless. I was jobless and broke. I had a child and a wife who I couldn’t support. And at some point my wife took over the responsibilities of the home, paying the rent and buying food for the house. It gutted me. I was ashamed.”

The first time it happened he rolled off her and said “It’s never happened before.” Indeed it had never happened before. He couldn’t explain how suddenly he had grown soft, like a slowly deflating tube. She lay on her back, sheet pulled to her chin and he heard her say, “it’s okay. We will try again.” The next day he didn’t grow soft, he simply couldn’t get a rise. He tried, but it was like shooting pool with a rope. She lay on her back, sheet pulled up to her chin. She was quiet this time. The kind of stony silence that is so loud, it’s deafening. 

“Is it me?” She asked. Grey light radiated through the curtain. He lay next to her feeling sorry for himself and for her for feeling like it was her fault. He says it wasn’t her, of course. “So what is it?” She demanded. He said he didn’t know. She asked how he could not know. He desperately wanted to explain to her that he wanted to, he really did, but his appendage seemed  to think differently. It was lifeless, a liability, a stool with two-legs. 

The next day he lingered in the living room for a bit, afraid to go to bed. Afraid that he would face his failures again. That his body would fail him. His heart raced. He took deep breaths to calm himself. To buy time, he double-checked the doors to make sure they were locked, checked the windows. When he entered the bedroom she was wearing something skimpy, something red and lacy and she was lying on her side with smoky eyes like a temptress. Her look was the look of sin. He felt panic and trepidation rise in him. He felt the pressure mount. “Let me brush my teeth and come own you,” he told her and she said, well don’t take too long. He did. He stood staring at himself in the mirror and willed himself. In bed nothing happened. She tried and tried but it was like resuscitating a mannequin. “I was crushed. My worst nightmare has unfolded; I was incapable of satisfying my wife.” 

She took it hard. She no longer pretended to be disappointed. In fact, she was accusatory. Her questions sliced into him like shrapnel; you don’t find me attractive anymore? Is it another woman? He told her he was stressed. That he had a lot on his mind. She barely looked at him. She said not a word and he could feel a wall come up between them. He had  read somewhere that some women prefer the intimacy of cuddling over sex, so he reached out to cuddle her but when he touched her it felt like touching the handle of a wheelbarrow. He could feel her coldness through her warm skin. “Are you mad at me?” He asked. She said she was fine. ‘Goodnight’, she said before rolling over, facing away. It was like a slap across his face. He was left to stew in this silence.  He could hear her thoughts. He could hear her anger and frustration. They hummed from her. “Then she started crying. That was the hardest bit.” He said. He didn’t know what to do. He felt helpless and hopeless. The next morning she woke up early and she avoided looking at him. She never initiated sex again. 

“A few days later, I stayed up late watching TV as I tended to during that time and when I finally decided to go to bed I found the bedroom door locked from the inside.” He didn’t knock. He spent the night on the sofa that night. The next day she told him that he was “no longer welcome in the bedroom.”

“By this time I was sinking into depression or had already sunk in it because, not only was I not able to provide for my family, I couldn’t also meet her conjugal rights. I felt ashamed and weak and hopeless.” He said. “I’d wake up in the morning and leave the house because we weren’t talking anymore, apart from stuff to do with our daughter. The house became small and unfriendly and a constant reminder that I was not man enough.” He felt like an outsider. Someone who was lodging there, a couch-surfer. 

Every day he’d leave the house and roam the streets of Kampala – now deserted because of Covid – the whole day. He wondered how things escalated so quickly; one minute you are packed for the UK, next you are unpacked, jobless, your marriage on the rocks and a libido in the dumps. “Leaving the house made me not think, it sort of distanced me from my problems. I’d come back in the evening and she’d serve me food silently and then go to the bedroom. I’d stay up watching TV. The distance between us grew wider and wider with each passing day and I sank deeper and deeper in depression.”

Did you talk to someone?

“I couldn’t. What would I say? That I can’t satisfy my wife? That I sleep on the couch everyday? I carried great shame. Besides I know what people would tell me; Leave that marriage. Leave and go where? Back home? I would be the guy who left his family and moved back home.”

He had been sending hundreds of job applications and finally landed a job. It wasn’t the job, but a job. “I was very happy. Finally I would reclaim my manhood. Everything will go back to normal.”

So he became the man he was; paying rent and basically taking care of shit at home. The wife started coming around but his libido stood away cynically, arms crossed. By this time he had started reading about ED. “I read about men who had the same problem but who found alternative ways to satisfy their women. Toys.”

He joined Facebook groups under pseudonyms and learnt about the sex toys. There was a contact in one of the groups of a guy called Ranzioni who sold those toys in Kabalagala. He DMd him and explained to him what the problem was. He said, “don’t worry mukwano, I will sort you out. Your wife will love you again.” He bought one from him “but the challenge I had was how to introduce it to my wife.”  By this time, the curfew had already been lifted, he had been allowed back in the bedroom. 

He hid it away for a few days while devising a way to bring it up. (Sic). Which he did gently and in phases.  “At first she was repulsed by the thing, she asked, what is that? She didn’t want anything to do with such things. She is conservative. She felt like a woman of good standing should not use such dirty toys. But slowly she came around. Toys saved my marriage.”

What they did for him was that it took the pressure off him, which allowed him to come around. “My libido came back but not as it was before Covid. I think the shame and insecurity and lack of confidence that I suffered is not something you come off immediately. I still worry before sex, will I fail to get an erection? Will I grow soft? I think it will take time but what is important for me is that our sex life is back on track and you won’t believe how that has changed everything in my home. Things are not as great as I would like them to be but at least my wife is happier and when she is happy the house just feels safe and warm again. I think the secret to a happy home with harmony is a sexually satisfied wife.”

I asked him why he stayed, after being locked out of the bedroom. He said, he doesn’t know. Then he said, “I couldn’t get out. First I have twin boys from a woman I refused to marry. That was a big blow to my family and me.  Now I want this to work. At that point I felt like I would have been a failure so walking away didn’t feel like something to do. I think I did the right thing to stay.”

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  1. Ngai, COVID really raped some of us raw. It didn’t even have the decency to use a lube, or protection. But Biko manze you cannot describe ED like that. Ati …She tried and tried but it was like resuscitating a mannequin… But I feel for Allan. There is nothing as scary for a man than waking up in the morning to find your riffle/ pistol still asleep. Aje sasa! That view is scary! Wueh! Afadhali kulala njaa lakini you are sure that you can perform those horizontal activities without struggle. I am glad that Mukwano can again pay the bills around the house.

  2. You have to be a woman to understand the wife’s reaction. That fear and anxiety that your man no longer finds you attractive, or is having his sexual needs met elsewhere. Phew..! I do not judge the wife at all..

    1. Aiih!! But why lock him out of the bedroom? Kwani hamnanga huruma? I mean, there is no sane man who would go and do horizontal activities out there akijua vizuuuuri he will have no energy left for the rod-owner back at home. Hakuendagi hivyo Kemmi.

  3. Glad he dicovered i was reading this i was like why didnt he try other things like fingering and oral sex or dildos. sometimes the D is not the only way to satisfy a woman.infact most women orgasm from other things other than than the was their chance to explore her body and find alternatives. glad he gave it a shot.

  4. Walking away did not feel like a viable option to him and so he chose to stay. A bold move. All (read most) men are an authority on matters sexuality; it is near impossible to look at a woman in the eye if you fail to satisfy her sexual desires and worse, if you fail to try.
    I had a friend, nay, a classmate in campus who struggled with ED. He could hardly get an erection and when he did (often thanks to the ‘blue pill’), another demon of ‘ejaculatory dysfunction’ (let’s call it that) would attack. Boy did these EDs take a toll on him. He became desperate, then depressed and he finally got into drugs in an attempt to escape his ‘misfortunes’.

    Biko, do you at least chuckle at some sentences you write?

  5. The things we men go through.. only God knows. Unlike women who meet at the salons, call their girlfriends and share their issues.
    I have also had similar instances, and you can’t share with a friend so as not so be a “lesser” man. We have based our manhood on providence so much that when situation changes, then we have a problem. Which should not be the case. This is something we were not taught growing up on adulting and fatherhood.
    Hence women outlive men. We suffer depression, anxiety, panic attacks on our own.. all which affect the bedroom affairs.

    1. Relationships are just mysterious. Then upate there’s a dude who’s a bedroom ninja but fucked up emotionally, and the wife hence home is filled with anxiety.

  6. Could we maybe not demonize the woman a bit. This might have been something new to her. She probably never heard of ED, or that it is tress induced and the only practical explanation for him not performing is that he is no longer interested in her or is seeing somebody else.
    Neither of them knew how to handle the situation.
    It matters however, that both chose to stay and work things out.

  7. Mukwano,
    The biggest lesson here is that a man is only worth his paycheck.
    Money is the root of all discord in marriage.

    All men must have a hustle.

  8. “The wife started coming back but his libido stood back cynically, arms crossed” Hahaa.

    Glad that Mukwano and his tools of trade are up and running.

  9. “The cause of this was the usage of the word “seating” often interchanged with “sitting.” Mundane things like that sometimes gall me. But who am I to throw stones when I live in a  glass house of words?”

    Kumbe Biko is just as upset as us grammar Nazis are when we meet typos.

    Thank God that all is well. I cannot imagine this hapless scenario but I feel him and I feel his wife. One cannot possibly be broke and have erectile dysfunction. Those are two struggles. One has to choose one struggle. ONE!

    Keyboard warriors are just that. On ground things are different. A single unmarried man who is trying his best to approach girls is in no place to tell a married guy (who has found his life partner, met her parents, paid dowry, had a baby, established a home together) to walk away just because he’s being locked out of his bedroom.
    When we’re going through life, it helps to be kind and humane knowing that things can change in the blink of an eye, and people just have to learn to adjust without burning the whole house down.

  10. Really felt for Allan, I wonder if they ever sat down to discuss that episode in their life..because it will surely haunt them and I don’t know if they really trust each other as before..wish them all the best.

  11. I have encountered a divorced man who confided in me that the reason he is divorced is because he did not want another child and his ex-wife wanted another one. They only had one child.
    One nice thing led to another nice thing between this man and I. But when the time came for kulimana this man could not rise to the occasion, no matter what I tried. When he finally did (months later) he was able to fuck me for less than 30 seconds. I guess the real reason he is divorced is because he cant have sex and cant have children.

    I gave up on him because he blamed my age for not being able to rise. I was 29, he was 43 and he said I am too young for him. Also because he never sought medical attention for his problem. And because if it was me who was unable to fuck I am pretty sure he wouldn’t have stayed. And finally because I did not come to this life to suffer.

    I chose me. Unapologetically.

  12. As someone who has had to make major decisions post-COVID, I can confidently say that as humans, we can’t please everyone. Allan, we thank God your marriage survived and you can now provide for your family. Please know that your decision to stay is for you only. People who have not walked in your shoes shouldn’t be quick to judge and attack you for the decision you made. You are not a lesser man for choosing to fight for your marriage. In my books, you are a hero for opening up about your struggles. Many men with similar issues have died unhappy and depressed because they didn’t find a safe space to express their fears and struggles. I pray that God keeps you healthy and safe and may the Lord restore everything you have lost.

  13. I understand that you are as good as your gun. If your gun is soft like a deflating tube, then curfews for the bedroom will be extended indefinitely.

    Each morning we pray earnestly for the riffle to stand like soldiers in a parade, when the president is inspecting the guard of honour.

    We further pray when duty calls, it should stand like a sentry keeping vigil. Masculinity isn’t a walk in the park.

    The gun ought to give brazen assurance by standing 3 times a day. Before you wake up, at noon and lastly evening.

  14. So the wife wasn’t getting any sex while they were going through all that..? Or I should just mind my business… ha-ha

  15. I also think that he did the right thing staying with his wife and working things off pole pole.
    After such a big blow, you don’t just get everything right on the same day. Takes time, solving one problem after Another.

    This is such a beautiful intelligent piece put together. ED is growing common in our society right now, things men are afraid to talk about and seek solutions to.

  16. A man is wired to provide, to create and take care of the creation. He is God’s co-creator. Inability to provide deflates a man’s ego, and thus, they cannot rise to the occasion.
    I bet the worst was when the wife initiated the curfews only to lift them when the man could bring something home. Locking the bedroom door for the poor guy is the height of violence that can be metted on any spouse.
    I must point out that this is being selfish.
    That the man chose to stay even after his redemption is even more convulsing. To each their own.
    Anywho, men must chew water, for water has bones.

  17. It’s sad that your wife was so hard on you when you were so helpless and at your most vulnerable moment. You are strong and you did well to stay. May life be kind to you.

  18. Unfortunately, even in a man’s old age whether he is sexually attractive or not no one wants to have an ED. That is the last straw which will break any camel’s (read men) back. What is adding more salt to the already septic wound is that no insurance company covers this condition. So as men let it sink, we are on our own. On a rejoinder what is the opposite of ED on the female folks? Forgive my pun but am just being cheeky.

  19. Well, not many people can withstand sexless marriages. However , the story is one sided. Maybe the man , was once involved in an affair which contributed to the lady behaving the way she did. “You are not touching me as you are having another affair,|”.

    It will be good to hear another side of the story.

    1. Sue, you have the victim, but you are looking for the villain’s story, and hypothetically putting the victim on the wrong. What an absurdity you are introducing! A miscarriage of justice.

  20. …No matter what madam could do, I could not make the man to stand up. For four months. She started locking me out of the bedroom.

    I could not decipher these lines until i read the entire text

  21. And now I can’t tell what saved this union; the sex toys or the money. But we can all agree that man’s providence saved the day. And I don’t have to explain the lesson here for fellow men.

  22. Whatever happened to the ‘support’ bit of marriage? So when dude is going to Lando to provide as he always has (and landing you a good one nightly in the sack) it’s all good; but when Covid gives him the ‘sack,’ his savings are sucked dry (as is his ball sac, due to anxiety) is is exile to the Siberia of the Couch + corresponding Artic-temperature treatment? Highly doubt I’d stay with the ‘Witch,’ post-job (and performance) convalescence, coz clear she’s there literally ONLY for the ‘good times’ (and as the song goes, or not, ‘I’d rather not have bad times with you, Elsie/ and have good times with someone else …’

    1. This Allan dude is so unreal. How can he not see that “happy wife happy life” is not a fact but actually is an ultimatum coined by the manipulative womenfolk?

    2. Quite honestly if you ask me. If he was able to meet her sexual needs, there would be no story. Because they would have figured it out together. I don’t think women get resentful providing for a brief moment as you figure things out.
      However lack of sex brings soo many conversations. Especially since he was jobless and free all day. So many things could be thought. I don’t think the woman reacted well…but I understand where she could come from. Sexual rejection Is not a walk in the park for anybody.

  23. Covid served most marriages a good one, maybe Biko should start a ‘covid stories’ series. Locking him out of the bedroom was the massacre of the situation though

  24. wow…

    pained me when he said, he had to stay in that marriage just because he was afraid of been viewed as a failure

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  26. “The Lord had Hosea marry a prostitute named Gomer. He took her as his wife, but Gomer kept wandering into the arms of other lovers. She was unfaithful. And yet the Lord told Hosea to keep going after her again and again, and bring her back home”
    To Alan sex is important but it’s not everything,I bet that part of history his wife is silently suffering wondering what you may do in a later date.

  27. Am glad he stayed. There’s no perfect marriage,challenges ni mob. Kama sio hiyo ya low libido, ni Kukosa pesa, etc, etc, so it’s good they managed to work things out. Lakini wewe Biko hapo kwa curfew kuwa lifted and trying to resuscitate a mannequin just killed me.

  28. I’m glad he stayed not all problems are solved by walking away.You stay and learn from them.Sad story though, but am glad everything is going well.

  29. This is such a sweet couple with open communication lines and I’m glad they found a compromise. Some men would rather die than admit they have a problem.