She looked to her left, then her right. There was no one in sight. She could see light from afar but no shadows or figures. She kept walking, almost running. She knew that everything ends tonight.
It used to be sweet and good, but now, it’s painful.
Pain-ful. And bad.
She continued to run-walk.
Everything had been good and beautiful until her husband, Ikenga, brought that witch of a sister to live with them. She had protested the decision, but Ikenga had promised her that it was just for some time. Maybe a month or two. But that month or two had stretched into six, seven, eight, nine months and half, and that girl became pregnant.
Pregnant! She almost screamed, she clamped her mouth with her left hand.
Pregnant for Ikenga!
Who would believe this?
And he never attempted to deny it. All he said was that she wasn’t related to him .
But how could she have been so foolish? How could she not have seen that they were not related? That the girl was his new wife, sent from the village by her mother-in-law, to come and take her Ikenga from her.
That witch of a mother!
She kept walking and running.
That girl with her nonsense pregnancy! Ha the way she’d been flaunting it, as if she wants to torment my childlessness. It’s not my fault that my stomach cannot hold a pregnancy.
Ikenga had been so supportive of her, consoling her and fighting his mother for her. He had comforted her and followed her to all the doctors and pastors that were recommended. He had cooked and drank and bathed with all the oil and herbs and potions and concoctions they were given. He had prayed and fasted and thrown small parties for children like they were told, parties because children are spirits and if treated well and kindly with love and generosity, could bring babies to those who sought them.
Why didn’t you tell me that you wanted a baby badly? Why humiliate me?
A light flashed from afar. A thick voice, almost like leather, asked who it was. She stopped.
Police! Yes. It was the police.
She ran towards them.
They kept the torchlight shining into her face, blinding her.
“Woman, what is the problem? Where are you coming from this late in the night?”
“I killed them! My husband and the pregnant girl. I killed them both with poison. Please arrest me… arrest me now!”
If Hillary Clinton was a Nigerian woman and APC Presidential Candidate this is how her interview will go:
Nigerian Journalist: You have been a First Lady and Senator even the Secretary of State in all this how did your husband cope?
Hillary: I thank God for my husband he is very good and supportive, in fact as I was making his breakfast this morning he was happy (shows pictures of herself making breakfast for Bill)
Nigerian Journalist: You mean with all your campaign and busy schedule you still find time to cook for your husband
Hillary: Ah yes oh, that is my primary duty, I cook for him and wash his boxers no one can do that while I am alive. In fact if I have to travel for meetings when I was Secretary of State I will cook and send it through private jet hot and fresh. Immediately I return home I will rush to hand washing boxers.
Nigerian Journalist: Wow madam you are a real humble African Queen, how did you handle the cheating Scandal with Monica, I mean why did your husband have to cheat, were you too busy to satisfy him? And how are you sure that if you become President now you won’t be too busy and push him into the hands of other strange women!?
Hillary: Hmmmmmm, you know as a woman everything is prayer, one has to be steadfast, when my husband cheated I realised it was because my hair was too long since then I cut my hair and to the glory of God no more cheating since then, in fact even as President if my husband wants me no matter who I am meeting with I will excuse myself and go and meet him, you know the home is in the hands of we women. Men are babies.
In fact there is this movie War Room, I advise every woman whose home is being threatened by a STRANGE woman to buy and watch, don’t let STRANGE women ruin your home be prayerful
Nigerian Journalist: You have only one child and you have not given your husband a son are you not worried?
Hilary: It is well God that did it for Sarah will do it for me.
Nigerian Journalist: What is your advise to young women, you know many young women this days are saying they want to be equal to men they want to be like men, the divorce rate is so high because of that.
Hillary: Young ladies should be humble, they should stoop to conquer and talk to their husbands with small voice.
Nigerian Journalist: Finally, your daughter just had another baby how will you cope with campaign and omugwo?
Hillary: aah leave campaign first I am on my way to Omugwo, election can wait this is my duty.
Nigerian Journalist: Thank you Ma, you are very humble
Coming out of my closet, I carry my heart about
It is my way of being transparent- that is coming out wearing
on the cuffs of
It is my way off attracting like-minds.
I find my kind of people everywhere I go
any closet I snoop in.
It will amaze you …the number
The caliber of people
hiding away in their closets,
coiled up upon themselves,
trying to get smaller and smaller,
just hoping to vaporize.
I am not one of them,
I come out all the time,
even though I am timid
I like to look in on them-
those still hiding away
in their closets-
Amongst this run of
hiding away their
in the Closet of
are the most gifted beings-
And many they are that will never come out of those
to get some air in the sunlight. They dread to be
to be outspoken
You know like the
I was one time peeking into such
and I found a feminist
a one who really could use the
of getting some
fresh air and sunshine
“so, what are you still doing in there”,
“I went in
for the feminist rants,
and stayed in
for the kids.”
I knew she isn’t coming out
so the answer
to the question of
“why don’t you come out from that hole already”
was out of the
who are like
I am- timid about coming out
and walking in the
Many-Colour-Coat made from rags,
I still will wear mine
and strut about in it
– even if I only do that
It always begins with a song. Then memory sets in. Soon you are coursing down familiar roads, back streets, broken waters. Suddenly, you are back here again. It is the same house on Shagari Street with busybody neighbours.
You are one of the privileged few; you own a tokunbo car, you live in a self-contain, your white-collar job holds retirement benefits. And you worked for it; you earned by self-sacrifice as you soldiered through university fending for yourself.
It always began with a song. Fela. Then you lit your first cigarette. Orlando Owoh. Then you took your first gulp of liquor. You found your taste in forbidden substances, in the brew for the society’s dregs. The foremost reason stayed with you. You wear it on a locket, your mother, a maiden image just before Father desecrated her, left her for death.
Every time the thought recourse through you, you make a fist and aim to drive it into wall, faces. You could not forgive the old bastard, not even at his funeral. You could barely hold the urge to grip his cold cotton-wool stuffed nose. Let him die again.
You carried the bitterness in a pouch, like bile. It stained your demeanour, left a tinge that earned the respect of men, the curiosity of ladies.
It was first trendy classmates, then desperate youth corp members, then she. You saw mother in her, didn’t you? It was the same eyes, you could swear on Father’s grave. It was the same smile too. Sade was a reincarnate.
Forbidden fruits never stayed out of your reach, pursuing a spouse out of the reach of your social class. Middle-class still you were. But education, you thought, was the cure to social divisions, the melting pot for unexplained inequalities.
She loved you. She treasured you. She kissed the strip of skin between your brows and yet, you did not shiver out of your dream. You had to have her, by all means. Orphan marries into Old money. Daughter of Millionaire Elopes. Perfect tabloid captions.
She left the old mansion in fair clothes and followed you to Shagari Street. You turned a princess into a house-keeper. She made your meals and your bed, and you both slept in it like young cubs. You kept her nights feverish and during her days, you fled to make money.
Then life happened. The cusp of love once filled with affection was diluted with reality’s tragedies. Tragedies you could live with. Tragedies she could live without. Then one night you returned and she had sulked back to the old mansion.
It always begins with a song. Burning Spear. You lit your first spliff. Bob Marley. Then you hit her on her return. Your bunched fist jammed into her translucent skin and called blood.
She returned but you didn’t. You did not forgive her; let soothing waters of love run on your hurt. Let the aqueous mixture sublime on the bed of passion, moans, and orgasms. You put a bottle of liquor in your right, a glowing spliff in your left, a condom on your member and you fucked the world instead.
You skipped nights and days, strayed into the dregs of the city to squeeze cheap lemon-sized breasts, oblivious of her missed period, her growing belly, your seed, the baby.
When her water broke, you were nowhere to be found. You were hustling the street for forbidden substances. Sade was wailing. Baby was coming. Sade was weeping, crying out labour pains on the floor of your apartment on Shagari Street. You were lying with a jaunty dancer called Linda. Sade stopped to cry and you shivered your orgasm. Baby stopped to move and you lit another spliff.
You returned to Shagari Street and you heard about their deaths. You had desecrated her, left her for death too.
From the Editor: The housemaid, in Nigeria, encompasses all that is wrong with the way our country is presently structured. She is the avatar of what the patriarch wants a woman to be, cleaner, washer, primary caregiver for the children, often abused sexually and assaulted by family members, the housemaid is the poster child for suffering that the West has embraced as ‘the African Child’. Not that there are no male servants, but the majority of people serving in our homes are girls between the ages of 9 and 16, most people prefer it so because they are easier to ‘control’ and it is not likely that they’ll ‘sexually abuse’ our precious children.
The story you’re about to read is actually more anecdotal than imagined, it is something that was experienced as a child by the author, who was sad that he had not spoken up when as a child he had gone to ‘piss’ inside his aunt’s bath, but the woman had taken out her rage on the housemaid, who of course knew nothing about it. His point was ‘why do we keep quiet in the face of unfairness?’
We leave you to enjoy and maybe reflect on the story of ‘Patience’…
Two slaps landed in quick succession on the younger woman’s face before she could cover it with both arms to deflect a third.
Somewhere in a corner, a fan whirred noisily, periodically flicking the leaves of a stack of papers on a table and raising dusty minions that swam about the small living room around the arms of a madam who was beating her maid with reckless abandon. The others looked on without saying a word.
There were three cushion chairs, two side tables, a television and a fan –witnesses, mute consorts with the people in the room. The madam’s husband, who occupied a sagging chair by the desk that bore the table fan and two little children – the man’s nephews – who had their arms gathered in neats folds on their laps switching between watching the lone bulb hanging above their uncle’s head and the raining blows that threatened to tear the maid to shreds. The oldest of the children – about seven and the younger about four, wore matching pleated white shorts with lilac trimming at the edges that conversed in purples with the permanganate hued ankara skirt the maid wore.
“Why did you piss in the baff? I say why did you piss in the baff?”
The madam in her mid-forties, had a yellowing complexion that bore a sharp contrast to the fading black hue that was the colour around her ears, her knuckles and the back of her ankles. Her small haloed eyes sparkling with rage, lent her narrow bony face more depth. Her braids flew in the face of fury and wrapped around the beaded neckline of the green kaftan she wore. She wasn’t asking the questions expecting answers but the maid persevered all the same.
“Madam I say it is not me!”
“You say it is not you … Is it me you are talking to like that? Is it me you are talking to?” Her questions were accentuated by further slaps that sounded like thuds against a shield of arms.
“It is not you, it is not you then who is it? How many of us are in this house you useless girl. Is the baff where to piss? Ehn…Is the baff where to piss? And you,” she turned towards where the children sat “… what are you children just sitting and looking at like mumu. Oya get inside!”
The children scurried towards a bare door.
The maid called Patience – in her early teens, by now was negotiating her way slowly towards the nearest the door, away from her domestic assailant. The blows hurt but what hurt more were the words of her mother – words she still remembered before leaving their little hut in Otupko in Benue State. Words that gave her hope that she would ‘only’ be travelling to ‘help’ these people. A hope that died when her mother paused to count the money the agent had paid in return for her service as maid for one year. Patience smarted at the sting of the madam’s ring as it caught her right knuckle in searing pain that ran up her forearm.
She couldn’t hold up much longer. She made a dash for the entrance door which was open wide but barred by the net shutter that prevented mosquitoes from entering, she tore away from the arms of her madam, as the older woman tried to pull her back by the neckline of her tee shirt. The black tee shirt gave way too easily as Patience hauled herself against the net shutter. It wasn’t bolted and yeilded to her weight, she stumbled her way to freedom on the two steps that led to the bare earth of the outside and the wide boughs of the almond tree that shaded the front of the unpainted bungalow she called home.
“Where are you going?” The woman screamed from inside. “Don’t come back into this house today. If I see you in this house I will kill you.”
Patience ran a couple of metres away from the house – out of earshot, turning to face the receding house before she finally stopped. She then folded her arms in defiance and began breathing hard as the pent up streams of tears she had held back for so long began to flow easily now that their dam was broken. She hadn’t done it. She hadn’t urinated in the bath. She didn’t know who did it.
She couldn’t help but wonder whether her two elder sisters – Ene and Florence, who had also ‘travelled’ the year before her were facing the same things. She wondered if they ate dinner before going to bed. She wondered if they slept on the bare floor beside an empty bed no one ever slept in. Maybe they had more caring madams.
She missed their mischievous trio and battles with their other brothers. Even in lack, the company of all seven of the kids was all the home that mattered to her and the brief moments with her father, in the little time she got to know him before he left home and never came back. Patience looked around the alien surrounding she had lived in for almost 6 months now, the trees, the grass, the idling livestock, the people and their strange language.
She looked up at the wide skies and imagined she was a bird. She would fly away and see blues and greens in its splendour, the wind beneath her wings.
She imagined herself in far away lands where she was queen and had numerous servants and vasals tending to her every wish. She would not be a wicked woman like her madam. She would be kinder, more considerate, more human.
She ran her gnarled fingers through her matted hair down the nape of her neck. It was thick with sweat and hurt badly. She couldn’t see the scratches and the little welts that had begun to form just below her hairline. She couldn’t see the blood either.
We leave you to enjoy and maybe reflect on the story of ‘Patience’.