You started drinking when you were pregnant with your first baby, a bottle of small stout spread over four or five days to help with the nausea. By the time you had your second, you were up to one bottle every two days. By the time your daughter – your third child – came, you were drinking close to three bottles every day; ogogoro on days you didn’t have money to spend.
Do you know how much blood comes out of a head wound? Plenty. Especially when you’re hit on the head with a spanner by your husband. This is after you’ve insulted him for hours and torn his shirt because he wouldn’t bring enough money for your daughter’s naming ceremony. It’s been five days since you brought her home, two weeks since you had her, a tiny little thing who almost died, and you should be resting but it is important to have this party. It doesn’t matter that your husband hasn’t been getting much work as a tanker driver. Other drivers are complaining about his drinking.
When he is asked why he drinks, he says he has a witch at home.
When you are asked why you drink, you say, you are married to the devil.
Neighbours help you when the blood starts to flow. They got tired of separating your fights a long time ago. Too many people had been hit by a stray fist from you or your husband so they stayed away. But today there is blood and so they hold you by the hand – still spewing invectives and kicking– and take you to a nearby chemist.
Your first has been standing by the door all along; it was his shout, mummy! that drew the neighbours’ attention. Your second is in the village with your mother, he was sick before your went to the hospital. The baby is inside your one-room apartment, asleep through the quarrel.
He goes into the room after everyone leaves, you with the neighbours, your husband to his favourite bar. He struggles to climb the bed, forbidden to him because he wets himself every night.
He lifts the baby net gently. He sits there and looks at her for a few minutes.
The slap is sudden, startling her awake; her cry is piercing.
This is all your fault, he says. And slaps her again.
– Enajite Efemuaye