For eight years we pleaded with God to bless us with a child. I prayed fervently, cried diligently and fasted religiously, starving myself until my pot belly deflated, my cheeks became hollow and my collar bone threatened to break free.
“Eat my darling, please eat!” she would cry, fearing for my life. Eat? Was food going to improve the quality of my sperm? How could I eat, knowing I was the reason we were childless? Every night we knelt to pray, I asked God to forgive me for not telling her the truth; for not telling my wife that my non-existent sperm count was the reason we were childless.
My fast was a signal to God; I needed Him to feel my desperation, needed Him to see how much I was willing to sacrifice if He would only make a real man out of me.
“It is God that gives children,” they said, but that was no encouragement to me. Had I done something wrong, something that deserved such a severe punishment? I gave to the poor, fed the hungry and looked after widows hoping that God would see what a good person I was and have mercy on me. I clung to hope, to the belief that the God I believed in would end my misery.
And then one day, the very thing I had been praying for, we had been praying for, finally happened.
That day, the day she told me she was pregnant, everything changed. Hope turned to the darkest form of despair, sorrow to a blinding rage. I knew then that I had surely offended God. After everything I had done for him, given up for him, how could he sit back and let this happen to me?
I saw fear in her eyes as she stood before me, silently begging for my understanding.
Shame embraced me tightly as the reality sunk in; another man had given her what I couldn’t. A better man, a real man, had stepped in and excelled where I had failed so miserably.
Shame turned to anger and I struck her across the face; twice. She stood still, tacitly urging me to carry on if it would make me feel better. It didn’t but I slapped her a third time for good measure. Still she said nothing, gave no explanation and in that moment, I knew that she never would.
There was no miracle about her pregnancy; no divine intervention or immaculate conception. Someone had impregnated my wife and neither I nor God was responsible. I knew it, God knew it and she sure as hell knew it. For months I had been unable to handle matters in the bedroom. The pressure to father a child and the guilt of the secret I was carrying had taken its toll on my libido.
Anger coursed through my veins as I imagined another man flooding her womb.
Did she love him? Did he love her? Was it a one night stand or were emotions involved? Who was he; someone I knew or a stranger she just met? Did she even know or were there a number of potential candidates?
Months went by and the bigger her belly grew, the hotter my anger burned. I wanted to tell the world she was no better than a common prostitute, selling herself for the seed of a man. I wanted the world to hate her for betraying me in the worst possible way but to do that would be to admit that I, the same man who cruised the streets of Lagos in cars ten times the size of my flowing agbadas, could not impregnate his own wife. So I smiled when people congratulated me and sang praises to God on my behalf. And the more I had to smile the more I loathed her for making a fool of me.
I gave him my name but even before he was born, I knew I could never love him. I watched him as he grew to see if he resembled anyone I knew but he was the spitting image of his mother. I saw how her eyes would light up when she looked at him and hated him with every fibre of my being. He was a constant reminder of my inadequacy as a man and yet I had to feed and clothe him and pretend he wasn’t some faceless man’s bastard son. I prayed she would go and take her trash with her, but I should have known better. If my prayers didn’t work when I was giving away my wealth and starving myself, it certainly wouldn’t work now that I was at war with God.
I pummelled her, hoping she would pack her bags and leave, but she didn’t. I beat the crap out of him hoping the so called love of a mother would compel her to whisk her bastard to safety, and still she stayed. No matter how mean I was, how monstrously I behaved, she wouldn’t leave me.
I knew what she wanted, what she craved more than anything, but over my dead body would I give it to her. She would have to turn to God to absolve her of her guilt because I would never forgive her for defiling our marriage, for taking what was left of my pride and burning it to ashes.