We both flop down on the sofa and begin to talk. “You were telling me about the day after your husband hit you, you stopped at the point after he came to your office and threatened to hurt you if you came home that night.” “Incidentally” she starts “that night I did go back home, I was scared of what might happen if I didn’t. I met him in the sitting room when I got in and walked straight into the room. I had been sitting on the bed for about 20 minutes wondering what to do when he walked in.” “Woman, where is my food?” “What would you like to eat?” “Fried plantains and chicken sauce please!” “I made his dinner that night and nothing happened. In fact I remember that he was trying to have conversation and behaving as though nothing happened”.
Things went on like that for a while and I walked on eggshells around the house, wondering if and when Bayo would explode again. I was beginning to settle into a not-so-easy peace and almost wondering if I had imagined the entire incident when it resurfaced almost two months after.
I had just come home from work and was looking forward to a restful evening. I saw that Bayo’s car was parked in the driveway with the boot open, his driver was bringing out tubers of yam from the car. “Good evening madam” the driver said “Mama is around”, since I lost my mother as a child I knew it was Bayo’s mum from the village. “Really” I said sprinting towards the door, Mama cooks well and has always been friendly to me, helping me feel that in marrying Bayo, I got back a mother.
I rush into the sitting room to her side, kneel down and say welcome, then try to give her a hug. “Don’t touch me, you he-goat” she hisses. I recoil, it feels like I have been slapped pretty hard. “Why are you staring like a fool? Looking shocked! Are you not a he-goat? Wouldn’t a woman have borne children for my son by now?” “Mama?! What have I done? It’s God that gives children!” I hear myself respond. “Shut up! Is it not the same God that gives mad women children that you claim to worship? Why is it you that has not been given? You know what you have done. If you have managed to bewitch my son, it will not work on me. Ehen, why are you just getting home? Is your husband’s dinner supposed to wait till you return from work? And what type of work are you doing, that it is at this time you get home, I will not be surprised if the “work” is actually done on your back”. My jaws are open, they feel like they might drop to the ground. I am silent for a while, “Mama I am very sorry” I hear myself say again “I will do my best. Please do not be angry with me.” She just looks me up and down and hisses. I get up- I did not realise I had been kneeling since I got in.
My mind is reeling. I walk towards the kitchen, Bayo is sitting at the diner table. “Good evening Bayo” I said. He is eating something and does not respond. I make to leave, “where are you going Fehintola, if you are thinking of going in there to make dinner, please don’t worry, Mama has cooked real food.” I do not know what happened to me that night, but I found that I still carried Mama’s bags to the guest room, made her bed and asked her how I could make her comfortable, and as you can imagine, she did not bother to respond.
I moved around my house like a mouse for the next week and a half. I did like I was told, I stayed with Mama in the kitchen and was not allowed to touch my own utensils, talk more of the TV. Since Mama did not tell me when she was coming, she did not bother to tell me when she might be leaving and of course I did not dare ask. But every morning in that period, it was the first thing I asked God for as I woke up from sleep.
Sometime, into the second week, I arrive home from work and hear a raucous from the sitting room. I rush towards the door and open it, immediately, I am swarmed by a group of men in white garments, candles in hand, I see that Mama has a candle in her hand as well and Bayo is kneeling in the middle. One of the men in white garments is pushing my head, “kneel down my daughter, kneel down, today, we shall get the devil out of you”. I am kneeling. They are shouting, I can not make out a word of what they are saying, they are dancing around me in frenzy and I’m thinking ‘is this what my life has come to? My girlhood, when I dreamt of being a princess, being loved and living happily ever after. In university, I kept myself, I was not promiscuous, though I had the chance to be. All for the dream of a time when I would be married, I started work, I tried to be the best I could be at it. I took care of my body and treated myself to nice things and nice places only to end at this point?’ I did not realise I was shaking my head as these thoughts ran through my mind, the next thing I hear is one of the men in white garments saying “it is a troublesome spirit, see how it is refusing to come out. Who do you think you are saying no to?” He is shouting at me but seems to be looking through me. My face is awash with saliva, that he spews out as he shouts, “leave our daughter now! Evil spirit die!” “Die, die, die, die, die, die” they are all chanting as they dance around me.
I start to cry, it is self-pity more than anything else. I put my head on the floor and a few moments later I realise they have stopped shouting die. “It has finally submitted” I hear one of them say. “It was a strong spirit but it has been defeated. Her womb will be lose now” the one who seems to be the leader is addressing Mama. “Let her drink this mixture every morning and evening for the next two weeks. By the 3rd week she will be pregnant”. I am watching the exchange, “my children, you may get up now, it shall be well.” He turns to me “you must drink this mixture I have given to Mama if you really want to have children”; he also gives me a thread necklace with many little crosses on it, “you must also wear the crosses to stop the evil spirit from re-entering into your body.” “Thank you very much” I say curtseying as I collect it from him.
The mixture was very pungent and I did not drink it that first morning, but I was stupid. I left it in my bathroom cabinet. With hindsight, I wish I had been wiser; I could have poured out a portion so it’ll look like I drank it. I returned home that evening to meet Bayo and Mama by the door. As I got close and knelt to greet, I felt a slap on my back-It was Mama. “I told you she was evil, didn’t I? She is a witch from the pit of hell.” I am stunned. She is holding up the bottle in front of me, “you did not drink it abi? You want them to say my son is impotent? You want evil spirits to fill his house, so you can be comfortable here!” I look at Bayo who is staring at me with contempt. “Bayo, please, help me beg Mama…” “Shut up!!!!” another slap from her. Bayo does not move.
Something in me snaps. It finally dawns on me that I am more than this, that this price is too high to pay for marriage and even a child, so I turn towards the house, I’m thinking I must get my things, this marriage is truly over. Bayo pulls me by my hair “Fehintola, you dare walk out on my mother?” “I have told you, she is possessed! How will she know how to behave?” Mama is saying. Bayo starts to hit me, I fall to the ground, he is kicking me, kicking my stomach, I am wailing, Mama is standing over me, bottle open, trying to pour the contents into my mouth, I feel a burning sensation in my throat, kicks to my head – that was the last I felt.
It must have been a while later, when I drift into consciousness, I find that I have been put in my car (I don’t know how) but have been covered in a wrapper that I see my gateman’s wife wear and there is dried blood on my face. I glance at the clock in my car, it says it is 2 a.m. I turn towards the door, the gateman is standing by the window, it is painful to turn. “Madam” he is saying, I manage a grunt “Allah na gode maka” he says, Hausa for I thank you God. “Madam I sorry, I sorry”. I must have drifted back into sleep because when I turn my eyes to the clock, the green lights are flashing 4.35 a.m. I try to get out of the car. I find that I can not. My legs feel like they are out-of-place under me, my head feels like I am wearing a crown of stones and one of my eyes is swollen shut. This is how I was when Bayo’s driver resumed the next morning.
He comes towards my car and starts to scream “Oga, oga, Madam don get accident o!” Bayo steps out of the door, tells him to get into the car and they drive off to work… There I was, bruised and battered by the person that had vowed to love me. I do not know if he hoped I would die there but one thing is sure… I did die on the inside.”
Knock, knock. We both look up startled. “Excuse me” I say to Fehintola. I move towards the door. It’s Clara, “hello Clara, you are late today.” “I had to go the market first, sorry.” I am already returning to the sofa and I am thinking, this is heavy stuff, this is very heavy stuff…