The first night Mayowa came home drunk, I was disappointed. He reeked of vomit, sweat, a strange perfume that was neither mine nor his, and of latex. I didn’t ask where he’d been or what he’d done. He wouldn’t have answered me- he was too drunk to even take off his socks himself. He would take one off and put it on the other foot, then repeat the process. I unbuttoned his shirt, took off his trousers and his briefs and led him staggering like a dying cow to the showers where we stood until the warm water rinsed the brown muck off his body. I didn’t stop him when he tore my nightgown off and took my nipples in his mouth. After all, he was my husband.
When he woke up the next morning, I brought him a hot cup of black coffee. He sat back with a headache he later told me he could not understand. He could not understand how he got home. The last thing he remembered, he was out with Ali celebrating Ali’s latest promotion at the office. I didn’t doubt the story. Well, there WERE holes in the story- Ali is a Muslim, and celebrating a promotion doesn’t in anyway have anything to do with latex. or Alcohol.
I just refused to be one of those women that assume Mr. Husband is cheating simply because he went out with his friends. Yes, he came back home drunk, but don’t we all have our moments of weakness? The perfume…it could be anything. It could even be the alcohol mixing with his perfume and mine. It could be my have been my imagination.
But it got different when Mayowa would stay away from the house. After a while he started forgetting to pay the power Bill and the Meter ran out. On those nights he would come back late, and yell at me because there was no gas to warm his dinner that had waited 6 hours for him to come home. He would complain about how he was doing everything right but I just wanted to be wicked to him.
Those nights I would close my eyes until he started snoring, then I would open them and think about how my life had fallen so far. In a way it was a bit like that movie MR and MRS. I imagined I was like Nse Etim-Ikpe and would demand my freedom in a radical way. But I didn’t have the courage to pretend to be cheating on him. And I didn’t have a cousin that could send me raunchy messages to drive Mayowa jealous.
And I didn’t have any children that would make him beg me to stay if I threated to leave.
So I smiled for the whole world and put up with his rubbish. I started paying the bills myself from the braiding I did whenever I wasn’t cooking his meals. His stomach grew by another inch every month- I could feel the weight on top of me increase every time he was clear-headed enough to remember his conjugal duties. Yes, he called them duties, like it was an unpleasant task. If anyone were to call it unpleasant it should be me- imagine lying under the weight of a sweating, panting, grunting pig-shaped human. Well, I vowed for-better-for-worse and if this was “worse”, at least it wasn’t as bad as other women whose husbands beat them, was it?
But you know it’s not a long shot from yelling to blows! One night he came home as usual. Drunk, Dirty, Hungry and Horny. I fed him, bathed him and put him to sleep. Just as I was falling asleep, he tapped my shoulder from behind. I’d read about the shoulder-tap, I’d seen it in movies and all that…if not for the irony of the moment I would have laughed.
“not tonight” I said as I gently pushed his hands away from my night gown.
“come on, baby…I want you so bad right now”
“of course you do. But when that alcohol wears off will you still think I’m hot enough?”
“what’s your problem?!” he grunted as he pulled me closer. I knew he didn’t mean to be rough with me. It was the alcohol.
“please, Mayowa. I really can’t. It’s that time of the month…”
I expected him to be disappointed, to fall asleep as I gently caressed his hands to show how sorry I was. What I did not expect was a sharp kick to my calves.
“You bitch!” he screamed, suddenly full of energy. “you think I don’t know? You’ve been running around behind my back. All those your lovers you claim are your brothers…you’ve been sleeping with them!”
I hadn’t quite dealt with the heat spreading from my legs, nor hearing the b-word all of a sudden, at 1am. But hearing My husband, the man I chose to die for…hearing him accuse me of cheating broke my heart.
“Mayowa, I would never do that to you. I’m on my period, simple. In two days I’ll be fine and you can come back and take me all you want”
“Liar! Why don’t we make sure that’s true? You Igbo people know how to deceive people. I know very well”
He dragged me by my legs and slid his hands under my nightgown for a second time that night. This time I slapped his hands away.
“Mayowa! I won’t take this!”
I stood up and got down from the bed. I flicked on the light, half-remembering there were only 2 Units left on the meter. It was then I saw the evil glow in his face. He looked at me calmly, as if the alcohol had actually cleared from his mind.
“oh you won’t take this? I paid your brideprice, woman, I OWN you! So you’ve started growing wings? After everything I do for you, this one thing, just to open your legs and let your husband enjoy you, and you won’t let me have it? You bitch! Why the hell are we married if I can’t have you in my bed? What are you doing for me that other people can’t? ehn? I can eat out with my friends, but I choose to come home to your horrible cooking. I can…”
I covered my ears with my hands trying to block out the words he was yelling at me. So the only thing he married me for was for sex? And my cooking was horrible? I really started to hope MR and MRS would come to pass in my life, that like Benjamin Joseph my husband would ask me for a divorce and his mother would come and beg me to stay so that his father’s political career would not be damaged until the 2015 elections were over. Sadly Mayowa’s father hadn’t spoken to them since he was 5, and his mother died just after our wedding.
Then he started beating me. The blows rained over my head, my neck, my hands. I put up my hands to protect my face from the blows. His fists smacked the flesh with a muffled thump.
I tried my best not to cry. Mayowa hated the sound of crying, because it reminded him of his childhood. And that was why he never wanted to have children, because they would cry all the time and torment him. But I couldn’t help it and soon I started sobbing.
All of a sudden he went blank. And he walked over to me and spoke gently like a mother.
I didn’t stop
“it’s gonna be fine. daddy will come back very soon and we’ll be a happy family again”
What? What the hell was he talking about?
“I said daddy will soon come back”
I looked up at him and I saw a lost little boy, with tears in his eyes. I hugged him like I often fantasized I would hug my twin sons when they finally came. I led him quietly to the bed and lay beside him, rubbing his head. I would later find the bruises on my forehead and my hands, but I held him there like he was the most breakable thing in the world.
In the movies, when your husband beats you, you run and report to his brothers and yours. But I kept quiet about it and blamed it on his troubled childhood. I loved him too much to bring his family into our private business. So I decided I would tell no one. And if anybody asked about the bruises, I’d say I had started learning football. Or karate for self-defense.
That was the biggest mistake of my life.