..anyway the entire ramble was a necessary digression from the story of my life.
It is funny how different the same things look from another perspective. From where I am presently, I see things so differently. The veil has been removed and all is crystal clear. My hearing is also quite acute. Here, everything no matter how originally colourful, is distilled into black and white…..
The sounds of pestle on mortar that filled me with feverish expectation many years ago were predictive of what was to come (check part 1). They were reminiscent of the beats of native war drums that are ignorantly mistaken for the call to a village party. The pounding was a premonition of the battering I was going to receive, the punches that were going to have me reeling, the blows that would make me wish for death and the kicks on a tummy swollen with my first son. But all was lost on me that fateful day. It was ages ago but the memories are as fresh as the events of the past second. The softening of the yam was a tell tale of how my emotions and self esteem were going to be pummeled into mush until I became a human husk. An incomplete husk, having lost a couple of teeth, suffered a broken arm and multiple lacerations in a decade of hellish living.
The pepper that made my taste buds sing songs of rapturous delight were a divination of the hurt I was going to go through. The spices were a foretelling of the kind of torment that made Dante’s seem like a day in a massage parlour. I suffered, but the worst part of my agony was that I kept mum. I could not let any one take a peek into my soul to see what was going on. I was too embarrassed because I had been warned. Most people especially Amaka had told me not to touch my husband with a barge pole but mulish recalcitrance was what I offered to their heartfelt pleas.
A wry smile slits the thoughtful deadpan expression of my face when I remembered how my obduracy made me tell everyone who cared to go take a wash in the nearest ocean because I had found “love”. How stupid I was to have thought that Deberre was my destiny. The foolishness of youth is a death trap like I know now but its too late to turn the hands of time. My father used to say that dry fish could never be bent. My own fish is so dry that it has crumpled to dust akin to ancient papyrus scrolls found in a mummy’s tomb.
I lived in a vicious circle that would not let up. He lost his job along the way and it gave me a vindictive thrill to see him cut down to an even shorter size by the shock of it all. There is something about losing a job that emasculates the male Homo sapiens. But the downside of it was that the economic downturn affected me badly too. He took out the loss on me like I was the witch that cast the evil spell. He had made me quit my job after we got married since his ego could not stomach me working. It was enjoyable initially. Being waited on hands and foot by a retinue of house helps was fun coupled with not going to work. I eventually sent them packing because they took up the extra work of being concubines too especially during my pregnancies and post delivery. My husband usually laid claim to any woman that crossed his territory like a strutting cock.
To make matters worse, I stupidly got pregnant. I know the methods of child spacing were not as rife then as they are now but common sense should have told me to keep my womb locked to his fishy smelling, tadpole shaped bullets. But my in-laws harassed me like angry hornets until I gave in. Why did they keep poking their noses into the number of offspring we had? Is that not supposed to be solely the business of my hubby and I? Why would anyone want to keep having kids who would end up suffering? I would have thought the beautiful thing about having a child is the companionship, the nurturing of the bond that persists after the umbilical bond has been slashed. However, my people give birth and leave their children with their parents until the little ones felt they (the real parents) are visiting relatives. What is it about the African woman that makes her think giving birth is attached to her pride? I knew someone who had four girls and wanted a boy so she got pregnant again. She went about begging for help to pay her antenatal fees. Since I was part of the brainless throng that did not look before leaping, I commiserated with her, encouraged her that it was well and God was going to provide. Religious Nigerian cliches, like God did not give us brains to think. If you want to have a baby and cannot afford the basic tests needed to see you and the baby through the delivery, how would you and your progeny feed after parturition? How will the child receive an education? Why would anyone have so many children that dispersing them like seeds being scattered by explosive mechanism to kinsmen all over the globe would be the only way they could school or feed? More often than not these children are not treated well, which to me is another form of slave trade though with less horrific consequences. This is one of the reasons the word reparation makes me mad. Africa should deal with its issues before it starts pointing fingers. My people have a saying that when you point a finger at someone, the other four are pointing back at you. The statement is quite apt and I am so disgusted with myself that I joined that free breeding train.
But like they say, hindsight is 20/20 vision especially in this place but useless. However, I digress once again as I am wont to these days, but back to my story………
Deberre finally got a break! A new contract that fetched him some good dough and brought some sanity into the insanity that had besieged my home. But more fool me If I thought that was going to last. Before the good feelings of the relief package could die down, it was time to commemorate the memorial service of his father who had died fifteen years earlier. What a fan fare it was, enough pomp to have ridiculed Solomon’s reception of the Queen of Sheba. Of course that wrecked our blooming finances especially since the contract was not renewed. In retrospect again, I wonder about my people, why do we not leave the dead to bury the dead? Why is it that we celebrate the dead at the expense of the living? Why is there such ostentatious display of opulence during burials when the living has no food to eat? Why do we borrow and steal to prove a point? Why can we not just be content with what we have? What is wrong with us?
Our state got worse than it used to be. I did not even have enough to register for antenatal care. To make it worse I was still in my clam mode and refused to let anyone in to what I was going through. The kind of show I put up when they came around was usually enough to win me an Oscar. They suspected things were bad but never knew how terrible.
I finally had to register with a roadside maternity home which I was just barely able to afford (most of the government hospitals were more licensed to kill than James Bond anyway). I wonder now why the Government allowed such to thrive like poisonous mushrooms in the country.
When labour finally came it was obstructed and there was no one to help. The Power holding Company of Nigeria is paradoxically a custodian of perpetual darkness (I am still amazed their offices are not subterranean, considering the implacable hatred they have for illumination). The power holders chose the inopportune time of my labour to strike. The inadequate illumination from the 40W bulb serving the whole room was snuffed out and there was also a dearth of fuel in the whole country. The birth attendant who kept murmuring impotent platitudes only had the help of a kerosene lamp as raging pain tore through me. I was a dart board that had poisoned projectiles piercing it on every side. It was a storm of agony that made me wish for death. The contractions stretched me on a torture rack of anguish. I sobbed, cried, wept, until my tears dried up like an ancient well. My mouth became a desert and I could not even cry out for water. My blood swelled and flowed like the Nile at high tide. I felt something finally give within me and heard his faint cry. By then, my strength had ebbed into nothingness and I fell off the precipice I had been holding on to with the tenacity of a bulldog. Stygian darkness swallowed me whole…….
Now as I look down on everything, my children growing without me, my husband in the embrace of other wives who maltreat my kids, I feel so stupid. On the other hand, fortune finally favoured Theo. He is now involved in a union that is the “happily ever after” kind. His wife should have been me! Unfortunately I can’t do anything about that anymore. The hands of the clock cannot be turned because now I exist beyond time. The pain of my wrong choices still wounds me so deeply even though I am beyond living. My decision determined my destiny. It haunts so badly that I can never sleep. Intentionally, I chose the wrong side of Fates’ coin and no superhero can save me now. The flames of my consequences scorch my soul, the grief is more than words can capture. What I keep seeing are all the wonderful ways life would have turned out if my flipped coin had turned up the other way, instead I used it to pay the canoe-man who ferried me across the river of death. The sadness that engulfs me in the gloomy cell of my doom, the thoughts of what might have been if I had taken another road, the fact that like Esau I exchanged my destiny because of an untamed appetite…This is my hell ….
There is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof is the way of death.
© 2013 Ekpo Ezechinyere