I settled into the sofa to read his message for the sixth time that day, a blush firmly registered on my face. How was Nnamdi so able to succinctly say the exact words that vigorously excited the waters of my heart, I pondered warmly.
Late that evening, I felt the blood flush my face again as Nnamdi gently caressed my hair. The feeling was better than when he stroked my chin. That only made goose bumps rise. But on this night, we were standing face-to-face at the Lagoon front, our faces only inches apart, and I could tell exactly what scent he was wearing.
This was the man I fell in love with, the man I married. He knew God, he had potentials… but all this magic was six years ago.
Nnamdi has changed more than I could ever imagine. He is such a fearful uncertain soul, except when he is dealing with me. He can’t summon the slightest courage to resign from his job and start the business we spent countless nights talking about during courtship, but he comes home to me a poignant being, after reprimand from his female boss at work, and endlessly drives home the point that he is the MAN of the house.
“Then act like one,” I thundered one day during a quarrel, and I immediately saw bright stars. The impact from the slap took a while to register. I cried for hours- the slap was only an excuse to unleash years of hurt.
Every passing day, I hate Nnamdi more. We never agree on an issue. He totally stopped attending morning mass. He asked me to choose between our marriage and a job that offered to pay me a salary more than six times his own. He greets Laide, our neighbour who is a single mother, with extra fondness. I’ve tried to convince myself severally that Nnamdi is not deliberately trying to frustrate me.
But why does he irritate me so? The way he sleeps and snores like a dying animal, sometimes awaking me at 2a.m. as though I am nothing but a child-breeding female; demolishing the mound of pounded yam and onugbu soup I serve him without as much as a compliment; wearing over-sized shirts; and not giving me enough money to cater for our children. You should hear him analyse Jonathan’s government, and you’d think someone should at least be kind enough to drop a kobo for all his knowledge, for all the effort. The sound of his voice appeases his soul, and Laide’s frequent exclamations, Lobatan! e gba mi!! kpekele kpekele!!!, fuel his desire. He is a man, afterall, he must think gleefully. Hadn’t he told me severally?
Daily, I cringe at not providing a good enough life for my children. I hate that they run around in those over-worn over-washed Mickey Mouse polo tops, that they attend a state public school, that they are denied opportunities I planned way before their conception. I am in my late twenties and this is too much for me to bear.
I have harboured thoughts of divorce, or at least, the less-dramatic one- separation. But I think of my elderly mother in the village, how distraught she would be. She would become the talk of the village, trend in their discussions when they gathered for town’s meeting at the ilo. They would cast sympathetic glances at her, and she would be an example of those who thought they had everything going for them, an example mothers would cite to warn their daughters from marrying wrong, or perhaps be submissive to their husbands and not behave like those overly-educated girls who thought the world revolved around them.
Things would not have been this bad if I had not been brought up in a very religious home. My father made me and my siblings belong to at least two organizations in church. We were never found wanting in activities. The priests knew us. We had dedicated our time to service at the local parish. Now he was gone, he died six months before my marriage to Nnamdi, and nne was alone to face all the impending shame I would cause.
I shake my head vigorously. Nne will not… cannot understand. How can she understand that I need a life? How can she understand a desire as simple as that? Is it too much to ask that I want some of my childhood dreams to come to pass? How can I explain to nne that Nnamdi is now not the only problem, but that I also find Chief Olaitan’s offer to give me and my three children a fresh start in the UK very tempting indeed, and imagine, in exchange for only a few nights?
My sad smile evolves to hoarse laughter as I play out nne’s response. “Odinakachi,” she would call out in full, “you may so do only after you have killed me.” This she would say going on her knees, and simultaneously picking her falling wrapper. Her eyes would be armed with tears flooding their banks, and generously pouring unto my best ankara. When I visit the village, I have to endorse myself with my best clothing, to differentiate from the villagers, for I have come from Lagos, and am more educated, a class apart, and so they would know I am not suffering, and so my mother would be proud of the daughter she begot.
I have cried many tears no one sees… no one knows. Thoughts of Chief Olaitan have lingered on my mind. I have replayed countless times how he let me sit on his laps in his luxurious office, and how tightly he held me close, how he even wiped a tear ever so gently from my cheek.
I turn at the noise of what brings me back to life, and Nnamdi shuffles across the sitting room without throwing me a glance. We are fresh from a quarrel from the previous night.
I look at my husband and I fight the despise that wells up in my heart. Why is he not even the tiniest bit attractive?- His beards overgrown, his stomach round, his gait clumsy. Why has he failed so woefully? I recall the words of Reverend Father Iheanacho – I must be the Proverbs 31 woman. I think about nne – I must not shame her. I take a glance at my children – they must not be the product of a broken home. Another crushing look at Nnamdi, and I resolve to endure my marriage.