Why do you choose to stay? Why? Tell me. Are you scared of what people will say? That you jump from one husband to another – that you have no shame. Tell me. How do you keep this heavy secret in your fragile heart and live everyday like nothing is ever wrong, feigning happiness and brandishing fake smiles? For how long have you kept it to yourself, pretending?
Do you think you deserve this? Or is it fear that has made you settle for this? Do you think you’re too old for any other man? Would you have tolerated or accepted this if your husband to-be hadn’t died a night before your wedding? Do you believe the priest and his nay-sayings? That the gods are against you – that evil lurks around your head – that you carry bad luck around you like a hunting bag.
Do you believe him? Is this not the same man that predicted my father’s death seven years ago? My father is still hale and hearty and you know it. Tell me you don’t believe that evil man with one eye. Tell me you don’t believe you carry bad luck because your mother died during childbirth and your father fell off the palm tree upon hearing the news of your birth? Tell me you do not think you’re an Ogbanje as people chose to call you.
You remember Dammy, right – the girl from our secondary school. She’s a teacher now. I saw her today and she asked of you. I couldn’t tell her what had befallen you. She wanted to know your house but I refused. You know the way your house stinks of fermented urine. I don’t want to embarrass you.
She said I should extend my greetings to you. She teaches at St. Andrews school. She said we could come visit her in her house. Her husband built a big mansion and she stays alone. She has a room to herself. She doesn’t share her kitchen and toilet like we do in our face-me-I-slap-you apartment. Her husband is a Lagosian.
Do you remember how we dreamed of getting married to a Lagosian? And how we flocked Baba Tawa’s burial ceremony because we heard the guests were coming from Lagos. You remember how we dressed in our mother’s slim fitted tie-and-dye attire and stole my mother’s moju to give flirty looks to the guests. Or what we thought was flirty, only to serve guests who looked at us and called us good children before handing us twenty naira notes. Do you think those guest fell for our charms and pretended because we were kids?
You know you’re beautiful, right? The way my father calls you sunflower and the tenderness of your skin. You know my husband likes you and I hate you for that. The way he smiles whenever you’re around and the attention he gives you in pretence of pity, is glaring enough. You know I envy you a lot too. The way you make your soup without maggi cubes, yet it tastes so delicious like my grandmothers’. My husband does not look that cheerful, except you’re around.
This is crazy, you know. I can’t wrap my head around it. Why do you choose this path – this path that led you here – this shameful path?
Have you lost your mind? How long do you think you can spread your wet mattress every day, lying against your kids whenever neighbours ask? You know those kids have their own guardian soul right? And you know what they say about guardian soul, don’t you? That it is ones guardian soul is one’s demigod – and that it is ones guardian soul that fights for one against evil and defends one against all oppressions.
Do you also realize that they’ll grow up one day and realize the truth and cover their face in shame? Or do you want them to continue claiming responsibility and being looked down upon like filth. I’m sure you don’t want that for your kids but why do keep doing this to them. Tell me.
Why can’t you leave? Or is it love that is intoxicating you like alcohol? Don’t tell me you love that man. No. You can’t love him. You mustn’t. How can you? Can’t you see he’s hypnotizing you? I mean. He’s poor. He’s not educated. He doesn’t work. He’s shameless too. You do all the work and provide for the family.
Tell me why you have chosen this path. Do you know what I would have done if I were in your shoes? If I had what you had? I’ll raise my shoulder high and the whole village would look up to me. I wouldn’t walk on bare ground and my entourage would be longer than the king’s own.
Look at you. You have a University degree for crying out loud. Only you in this village have that. You deserve the best of life. But what can you do – poor thing? You still need a boy – so you can partake in the community women meeting and be called a woman too.
Tell me. Why do you feel indebted to him? Is it because our people forbade anyone who had lost a husband in such unnatural manner, to behold another man? Do you feel hurt? Do you wish you had someone to talk to? Are you mad at me – for being inconsiderate and demanding?
You know your smile wouldn’t give a clue of what you endure. And the scars on your back, was he the one?
Did you stop taking salt because of him? Did they blame you for his condition? Why have you allowed it gotten to this?
Why? Tell me. Don’t keep quiet and stare at me.
Talk to me please.