FOR BETTER FOR WORSE

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“Bend down”

“Bend down” he screams once again.

You will think I am a soldier being warned of an incoming bullet. You might picture me in a camouflage trouser, a sweaty ash top, with my face covered in dust and an assault rifle in my hands. The screaming has no emotions in it. It’s the kind a commander gives to his soldier, a king to his servants. But you see, I’m no soldier and I’m in no battle field, I am just a woman in her house in Lagos. The yelling is from the man of the house, I must obey, I have no choice. So I go on my knees. His clothes will be off a few seconds from now, he will slap and hit me hard, Like its a one night stand and I’m a stripper he picked up from a club. Mind you, I am no stripper, just a loving wife, and a mother to my son Tunde. I said it, it’s been approximately thirty seconds, he is done with me now. He pushes me so hard that I fall on the pile of books at a corner in the room.

“Are you done Wole?”

“Enough with the stupid questions” he says, as he meticulously inspects what lies between his legs

“I just want to know for sure”

“If I hear another word, you won’t like what I’d do to you”

The oga of the house means every word he says. He is my general, I am to obey without questions. I must be subservient at all times. Unless I want to see his wrath. How can a fragile woman like me fight with a Titan?

“I’m sorry” I say

I’m forever indebted to the word sorry, it has become my get away ticket. It takes me away from Wole’s fists, sometimes the ticket is not paid in full and I still get a slap.

I mentioned camouflage trousers earlier; I have worn them for a long time now, not as clothes, but on my skin. The scars. Some are dry like kernels, others are fresh like ogiri. It wasn’t always like this you see, ten years ago when I met Wole at a church conference in Oshodi, he was so different and sweet.

“Your blessings have arrived”

He screamed from the pulpit, with his jump up trousers and dusty shoes. We all chorused the hallelujah. Wole was our prayer leader, always with the wine coloured bible,always having encouraging words to say. He asked me to be his wife on a rainy evening. I remember he knelt in front of the pulpit with a ring in his hands.

“Be my wife Angela, I promise to love you as long as I breathe”

I was excited, I jumped and screamed, he knew the answer before I could even say a word .

Now as I sit in this big house with the swinging chandeliers, polished floor and leather cushions, I’m not sure I understand what love is.

“Do you love me?” I asked him sometime last year, he had just come back from ą camp meeting. Wole is one of the biggest pastors in the country; I’m proud of him, trust me I am. I wasn’t quite sure he heard me, so I asked again

“Wole do you still love me?”

“You have me, that’s what is important”

I knew his answer came with ribbons and knots, he had sealed the question. All of a sudden love was now Wole. So long as I have Wole I have love. His presence is supposed to make me happy, I’m meant to scream and bend my head for him to pat, like his members do. I signed off for love not for this. I loved everything he was in Oshodi, and will gladly trade Lekki to go back to the Oshodi version of Wole. The Wole that wore faded shirts and jump up trousers. His Lekki version is killing me, eating me up like Termites would eat wood.

Tomorrow is a Sunday. I will wear my hat with the golden embroidery, and the gown I bought from my trip to England last month, with the brown shoes that can feed a family in Makoko for one week. I will wear a smile for several hours, nod my head and raise my hands up when Wole drops another rhema. His members would be shell shocked if they got to learn just a bit of their spiritual father. A man that screams “Bend down” before sex and tears my undies if I refuse, a man that dipped my face into the hot Eba I served him because there was no periwinkle in the soup. They will call me a liar; these people will jump from third mainland bridge if Wole tells them to.

Three years back, when I was still pregnant, Wole came back from the office very late one night

“Where is my food” he asked

“My love, I have been weak all day, I tried to go into the kitchen but just couldn’t”

“So what do you want me to eat? You expect me to stay hungry because you’re pregnant?”

“No honey, there is some food in the freezer, all you have to do is heat it up”

“Ok”

Few minutes later I felt an all too familiar kind of pain, I screamed. I didn’t have to turn around to know that he was using his belt on me, fast and hard strokes on my butt

“Wole, the baby, please the baby, please”

Those were the exact words I muttered. I slept sideways that night, If you have been pregnant before then I’m sure you know how uncomfortable that is. My stomach was heavy and sore, my butt was bleeding. When I gave birth to Tunde, Wole climbed the pulpit on the day of his dedication, he spoke about love and urged his members to make our marriage their mirror. I smiled and nodded my head, I did not want him to give me another face therapy at home, I was still nursing my bruised gum from the last slap.

I hear and read things about feminists,that women should be equal to men. But I also believe that the terrain matters a lot, if I was a single lady on the street with a placard in my hands that would be different. From where I come from these things are seen as an abomination. Even certain women disagree “why woman wan follow man hold ten” is what they say.

Physically Wole is stronger, financially he is too. If I leave my home people will mock me, and what will happen to my son. Its easier to criticise from outside, believe me its different once you are directly involved. Today I got a first aid kit, better late than never. Reality is an unscrupulous fellow. But I believe in it, and it says I must stick with Wole. For better for worse

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