Infidelity

Let Courage Speak

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On Thursday mornings, the wind of excitement that got caught in his Agbada and swept out of our house whenever he left, returned to lie in wait, ready to welcome him when he breezed in without fail come the evening.

When I was younger, I looked forward to Thursdays. It was the one day in the week when she woke up on the right side of her bed, the one day I didn’t get beaten for existing. She would sing loudly, out of tune, as she made breakfast, and pepper my face with kisses when she dropped me off at school. Wisdom taught me to save any requests I had till then because joy turned her into Santa, doling out gifts and granting wishes like it was Christmas. As I grew older and began to understand it for what it was, Thursdays became the worst day of my life. It was the day my mother dolled herself up and allowed that man treat her like a prostitute.

I would come home from school to find him dressed in his white vest and briefs, sitting in front of the TV watching CNN, a tray of eba and ilasepo balancing on his thighs.

Omo mi, my daughter! Come, come and greet your daddy!”

I hated it when he called me that. Technically, I was just a girl he saw for a few minutes on a Thursday evening before he dragged my mother off to her room to earn her keep.  I never debated the point though, after all, it was his money that kept a roof over our heads and food on our table. I would shuffle over to his side and pause as I reached him, unsure of what greeting him entailed that day. Some days, he would draw me onto his laps and wrap his arms around me in a cassava infested hug. Other days, he would gently push me to my knees saying, “In our culture, we kneel to greet our elders. Your omo igbo of a mother is teaching you her nna ways!”

I hated the way he breezed in and out of our lives, an unsettling wind knocking over everything in its way and leaving pandemonium in its wake. She would be angry and irritable the second he left and a cloud of danger would hover over my head, raining down drops of hell. In that state she was quick with her hands so I learnt to disappear, donning my cloak of invisibility.

I hated that the whole world knew I was his bastard child. I hated that even though he provided for me financially and deemed me fit to adopt his name, not once in my 18 years had he acknowledged me publicly. According to his company website and all his media profiles, “Chief Cadrew is blessed with a lovely wife; his childhood sweetheart, and four beautiful sons.”

The devil must have taken her sanity captive when she insisted I attend the same high school as my half siblings. The one time I tried to explain to her how it felt to walk past my brothers in the corridors at school and have them look through me like I didn’t exist, she beat me so badly I couldn’t sit for a week. Her beatings I had learnt to live with but I couldn’t live with my brothers’ indifference. I wasn’t even worth hating; I was nothing to them.  The whole school knew we were related but no one talked about it. They had parents who loved them and friends that idolized them but I, little miss bastard child, had no one. None of the kids at school would talk to me and I didn’t know why till one girl decided to inform me that they were all afraid my mother would decide to target their fathers.

Couldn’t she try and understand how it felt to see my father come to my school on parents day and not as much as glance in my direction? The same man who called me “omo mi” every Thursday. I would watch them from a distance; him and his wife. I could never get over how beautiful she was. She looked so regal, spoke so eloquently. And when she smiled, her eyes sparkled like the diamonds on her fingers. I could see why he wouldn’t even consider trading her in. Pretty though my mother was, she was in a class a lot more ordinary.

I hated that she thought the life she was living was good enough for me.

“My dear you don’t need an education to survive. What you need is a good man that will look after you and provide for the children he will give you.”

I wanted to go to University, to make something of my life, but she wouldn’t hear of it. I should have known better, shouldn’t have dared to dream. What else did I expect from a woman who had earned every kobo in her bank account by lying on her back?

I hated that she had turned me into a show horse, parading me before rich old men, like a lot at auction.

“Someone is coming to see you today so you had better wear a nice dress and put on some makeup,” she would say, her eyes twinkling with excitement.

I was her retirement plan, her pension fund.  As much as I hated her, I hated myself even more for not having the courage to stand up to her and demand better, fight for better. Every night, I cried myself to sleep knowing it was only a matter of time before I caught some slobbering old man’s eye.

I rehearsed my speech; planned the words I would use to express the pain I had endured over the years, the shame I felt at the circumstances of my birth, the life I envisioned, the dreams I longed to achieve.

But every time my feet found the boldness to walk up to her, my mouth couldn’t find the courage to speak.

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19 Bush Street : Part 1 of 2

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His face was redder than I’d ever seen it, eyes bloodshot and spilling hot tears, scalding tracks along his cheeks. I’d see him cry many a time, usually in silence, but this, the state he was in, was new territory. I heard the cracks as his heart splintered, the sharp edges piercing his lungs, drawing blood and cutting off his air supply. I caught him in my arms as his knees gave way. It was then I felt the throbbing welts peppered across his back. Anger burned within me.

How could he do this to him?!

Yet I was powerless to act. I lowered myself to the ground, taking him down with me, gently rocking him as he cried out in agony, silence, no longer an option.

“It’s okay Baba, it’s okay,” I whispered over and over again as I continued to rock him in my arms.

“Why does he hate me so much, Tega?! What have I done to him?! I want to die Tega, I want to die! God please let me die, I am tired of living!”

I wanted to tell him everything would be alright but knew I’d be lying. If the things I had witnessed in the two weeks I had been living with them were anything to go by, it was only a matter of time before Baba’s wish would be granted.

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I’d met Big Uncle once before I came to live with him; when he came to Warri for Papa’s funeral. He was the golden boy of the family, the only one for generations to break free from the clutches of poverty. His hands fed many mouths, mouths that multiplied as poverty continued to breed poverty. He was a demi god, the saviour of the family. When he mentioned in passing that he was in need of domestic help, Mama latched on to his words like a baby suckling its mother’s breast. She offered me up speedily, eager to please her saviour. With Papa gone, life was about to get even tougher for her. Being in our benefactor’s good books was of the utmost importance.

I was excited, eager to see Lagos, the land of opportunity and the birth place of Big Uncle’s fortunes. The schools they said, were better and to Mama’s horror, Big Uncle had agreed to fund my education when I cheekily asked. The only reason she didn’t beat me black and blue was because He seemed pleased with the idea. I would go to school during the day and cook and do chores at night. I had dreams of going to University and the thought that I could potentially be the second ever graduate in the family, a student of Unilag, made me giddy with excitement. My chest thrust itself outwards and I walked around the family compound like a peacock about to take flight.

The day I told Papa I wanted to go to University, he laughed so hard, Mama had to pat his back furiously to stop him from choking. To prove a point, I sat JAMB and passed with flying colours. Not that anyone cared. I wasn’t going anywhere when Mama needed a hand frying akara in the market. Yet, here I was, packing my meager belongings, getting ready to leave the smell of stale oil and soaking beans behind.

When I arrived at 19 Bush Street and realised I would have a bedroom all to myself, I danced in circles till I became unsteady. I would no longer have to share a room with all three of my siblings. After years of dodging my younger sister’s fists as her subconscious dealt blow after blow in the midnight hour, I would have a bed all to myself. A proper bed complete with a mattress and bed sheet! Collapsing on the bed, I stared at the ceiling in awe. A fan stared back at me. A fan, a ceiling fan in my bedroom?! Heaven was finally smiling down on me.

The first time I saw Big Uncle beat Baba, I knew for sure that heaven had tricked me. I had traded in a lesser form of hell for the ultimate damnation. I had seen many parents beat their children, received many beatings from Papa myself, but this beating, was like nothing I had seen before. He unbuckled his belt, backed him up against the wall and flogged him till he collapsed to the ground. But for the sound of the leather slapping against Baba’s skin, the room was silent.

The speed with which Big Uncle’s hand contracted and relaxed as he swung blow after blow, left me speechless. Tears pricked the backs of my eyelids but I didn’t think I had the right to indulge in tears. If Baba could lie in silence while Big Uncle beat him for dead, who was I to cry?!

I stood motionless till satisfied with his handiwork, Big Uncle left the room. A part of me feared the blood stained body lying still against the wall, was a corpse. Staring intently, I willed it to come alive. What would people say if they heard that a man had used his hands to kill his own son?!
And then I saw his chest heave. Tears of relief streamed down my face.

Everything would be alright.

The Man I Met

20131028-155827.jpgI met a man, the perfect man. Gentle, yet a tower of strength when I lost my mother. I sat and watched as he calmly but firmly took charge of the funeral arrangements when I didn’t have the energy to deal with it all. Patient, he sat with me in silence for days on end, when the words wreaking havoc in my mind wouldn’t escape through my lips. Caring, he held me when I sobbed uncontrollably as her body was lowered into the ground, his arms, the only things stopping me from plunging six feet under the ground. Funny, his unlimited selection of rib crackers teased the first smile from my lips, proving his emphatic declaration that he’d make me smile again.

When we are together, he makes me feel like the single most important thing in his world, the world. Some nights he stays over and I dream of what marriage to him would be like;

I dream of the moment our eyes would meet as I walk down the aisle, towards him. I imagine his, bright with tears, staring deep into my soul, making promises that transcended words. I imagine stirring every morning with the certainty that he’d be right there, lying next to me, when I open my eyes. I’d be home waiting when he got in from work; table set, dinner ready with a glass of wine waiting to take the edge off his day. I’d be showered and wrapped in satin and lace, a parcel for him to unravel. I imagine myself gently stroking my stomach, swollen with his child. I imagine my feet swollen, waist thickened, neck blackened and nose doubled in size; none of which would matter as he gazes adoringly into my eyes.

Would our daughter inherit the lone dimple in his left check? Would she be collectedly confident like her father or a boisterous scatterbrain like me? Would our son be his father’s copy or a spitting image of me?

The nights he goes home, I try not to think about it, try not to picture his boys running into his arms as he walks through the door, screaming, “Daddy!” I try not to wonder if she wonders where he is when he isn’t with her. I try not to picture her lying in bed with him, touching him, kissing him. I know how much he loves a good cuddle and I try not to picture his arms wrapped tightly around her, as he snores gently through the night.

Does he love her, really love her? Do his eyes light up when she walks in the room? When they are together, does he make her feel like the single most important thing in his world, the world?

We share a home; his clothes hang next to mine in the wardrobe, his toiletries sit next to mine in the bathroom. The smell of his cigar permeates the entire flat and the fridge is full of his favourite things. I could have his babies, permanent reminders of him left behind when he’s not around and I know he’d be there for us, look after us, come what may. But I hate that the thing I want the most, his name; a public declaration that I belong to him and he, to me, he’s already given to someone else.

Nothing Left To Say

I sit and wait for hours. My eyes are heavy, weighed down by the forces of sleep. I yawn so frequently, my mouth is permanently ajar. The grandfather clock in the hallway chimes; Ding. Dong. Ding. It’s three am, the kids and I have to be up in four hours to get ready for school.

Dear Lord, please let him show up soon.

On cue, I hear his keys rattle as he attempts to open the front door. A part of me wants to punish him and leave him at the mercy of the merciless British winter. Willing my tired muscles to co-operate, I drag myself to the door and let him in.

Our eyes meet as the door swings open and I realise he’s really gone to town this time. I make a mental note to check our bank balance as I reach forward to help him in. My weary bones crumble under the pressure of his weight and I find myself lying on the ground, his ribs crushing my lungs.

When did he get so skinny?

A now familiar stench assaults my senses, interrupting my thoughts.

“You need to get off me Tim, I can’t breathe.”

No response. Not even the drunken grunts that have become his sole method of communication.

“Tim, get off me!”

The silence accentuates the sound of his breathing and the steady rhythm tells me he has fallen asleep. Hands pressed against his heaving chest, I push as hard as I can. His eyes snap open.

“Please Tim, you need to get up,” I whisper, “The kids will be up soon, they can’t see you like this.”

After what seems like an eternity, he rolls off me and sits up, his back slamming shut the open front door.

I see the pain in his eyes and my heart breaks knowing I caused it.

“I’m so sorry Tim, so sorry. I hate myself for what I did. Please, don’t do this to yourself, I’m not worth it.”

He grunts in agreement.

“Please say something, the silence is killing me. We can’t go on like this. I’ve apologised, what else do you want me to do? Tell me and I’ll do it. Anything.”

Ignoring me, he pulls himself off the floor and staggers towards the stairs.  Jumping up, I grab his hand to steady him. I’m not prepared to be flung across the hallway. As I hit the ground with a thud, I stare at him in shock.

“Tim?!”

Making his way slowly towards me, he looks me straight in the eye and spits in my face.

For the first time since he found out, I see more than pain and betrayal in his eyes. The hatred, the revulsion is unmistakeable. In that moment I realise the consequence of my indiscretion. He will never forgive me.

It’s over. It ended the day he found out I’d had an affair.

The Trust Series: Stranger In My Bed

         

                Image © Nevit Dilmen 

           Today is like yesterday and yesterday, like the day before. Time is in limbo or perhaps it’s me? I can’t make sense of anything anymore. Thinking conjures memories and memories, emotions. I can’t have that, so I lie here desperately trying to murder my ability to feel.
          It’s not working.
          Is there no respite from this pain? Ten years, Kunle, ten years of selfless love and endless sacrifices and this is how you repay me? Oh God! You have allowed my enemies to mock me. What happened to preparing a table for me in the presence of my enemies? What happened to all things working together for my good? Have I not served you faithfully? Have I not done all that you require of me?

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          Meeting Kunle Kunle ten years ago was an answer to prayer. We were both Christian and determined to do things God’s way. We prayed and got people to pray with us till we were convinced we were meant for each other.
          Our wedding night was beautiful. It happened eight years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a first for us both and unlike the many stories I’d heard, wasn’t awkward. There was no confusion; we instinctively knew what to do. I felt so much closer to him afterwards and he said he felt the same way. We were eager to start a family and didn’t use any contraceptives. Kunle was thirty-two at the time and I, twenty-eight. We had our whole lives ahead of us and stayed up many nights sharing our dreams for the future.
          The dreams started to develop a mind of their own when a year into our marriage, I hadn’t conceived. Who has sex every other night, without contraception, for a whole year and doesn’t get pregnant? We were concerned and decided to get tested. We visited the best fertility clinic in Lagos, emptying our pockets for the privilege and the news was good; there was nothing wrong with either of us. His sperm count was above average and his swimmers were Olympic quality.   My eggs were healthy and gagging for a hatching. The doctor told us not to worry, it would happen soon enough.
          Two years later, it still hadn’t happened. At this point we’d been married three years and both sets of parents were getting restless. We couldn’t bring ourselves to tell them we were trying so we lied, said we weren’t ready to start a family. They didn’t believe us. What thirty-one year old woman in Lagos didn’t want a child? Desperate, we decided to get a second opinion at a fertility clinic in London. Thankfully, on the fat salaries we both earned, we could afford to. We flew 6,218miles, coughed up thousands of pounds and endured intrusive pokes and prods only to be told the same thing; there was no medical reason why we weren’t pregnant. I broke down. Had I offended God? Why wouldn’t he bless me with a child? It was Kunle who comforted me and encouraged me to trust that God would give us a child when the time was right.
          On returning to Lagos, we came clean to our parents. My mother, true to form, broke down and started wailing about how I was bringing shame to the family. My father just looked on like I hadn’t said anything. Kunle’s dad told us not to stop praying and believing it would happen but his mother smirked and muttered something about bareness being incurable. My spirit broke as a woman that once declared me the best thing to happen to her son stared at me with venom oozing from her eyes.
          I begged Kunle to consider IVF but he refused, said it was us sending a message to God that we didn’t trust him to give us a child the natural way. Sometimes I agreed with him, other times, I didn’t. Didn’t God create science and give doctors the wisdom to come up with the whole IVF thing? Be it by IVF or other means, I wanted a child. I watched my friends children enter the world, say their first words, take their first steps and celebrate birthday after birthday with a heavy heart. Kunle on the other hand refused to be depressed about it all. His faith that God would bless us eventually was so strong that on my dark days, I drew strength from it. I thanked God for blessing me with a man of faith, a man that wasn’t swayed by his mothers repeat suggestion to take a second wife. My love for him grew in exponential proportions as I watched him protect me from his mother’s razor sharp tongue and my mother’s wails of despair. In time, I was able to match his faith and together, we prayed and patiently waited for God’s time to coincide with ours.
          It’s been eight years since we got married and still we are waiting. I am now thirty-six and truth be told, have accepted the reality that I may never have children. I have suggested adoption but Kunle says we’ll consider it in a couple of years if we still haven’t gotten pregnant. What did I do to deserve such an amazing man?

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          Kunle’s job sees him clocking plenty of air miles so when he said he had to go to Abuja for the weekend, I dropped him off at the airport as usual, kissed him goodbye and told him to hurry back. He stroked my hair, said he’d be back before I knew it and disappeared into the crowd of travellers struggling to get past the police men at the entrance to the departures terminal.
          Kunle and I typically spent Friday nights at a couple’s fellowship but that night; it was the last place I wanted to be. I missed my husband and didn’t want to be surrounded by couples making gooey eyes at each other all night. Instead, I decided to grab a take-away dinner at Marco Polo and sit in front of my TV catching up on the last series of 24.
As I walked into the restaurant, I noticed a couple tucked away in a corner. The man had his back to me but something about him was familiar. The lady was stunning, super model stunning and her laughter which was what caught my attention, had a warmth to it that was endearing. Our eyes met and the startled look in her eyes had me puzzled. Had we met before? I smiled tentatively. Startle descended to panic and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. The man she was with turned around to find out what was causing her distress and it was then, life as I knew it, ended.
          Kunle, my Kunle, whom I had personally dropped at the airport less than six hours ago, was sat at the table opposite this mamiwater of a woman. I stared straight into my husband’s eyes, down at their linked hands across the table and then back up into his eyes. The guilt in his eyes said it all. I spun around and fled from the restaurant.
          I waited three days for Kunle to come home and explain himself. Three days filled with an endless flow of gut wrenching tears. When he finally showed up, it was to tell me our marriage was over. The woman from the restaurant was the mother of his two children. Two boys he said; Kunle Jnr and Kayode. I stopped breathing, I swear it, my heart stopped. Kunle had children?! The older of his sons had recently turned five and the other was two years younger, he causally informed me as he folded his clothes into suitcases.
          “I’m sorry Kemi, I know this must be a shock for you,” he said apologetically. He would allow me time to come to terms with what was happening before beginning divorce proceedings. He was a reasonable man, he was willing to split our assets 50-50. I could keep the house; he had another where his whore and children lived.
          Was I supposed to be grateful?
          I stared at this stranger I’d dedicated the last ten years of my life to, the only man I’d given myself to; mind, body, soul and spirit. My heart had a lot to say but my lips refused to cooperate. I watched in silence as my husband packed himself out of our house.
          It’s been six months and still, my lips have refused to speak.

What Would You Do If…Your Partner Was Unfaithful

Infidelity is not a new phenomenon. It existed in biblical times and it’s done a pretty good job of staying relevant.  Every day I open a newspaper, there’s one more politician that’s been caught cheating on their partner and one more pop star caught frolicking with their backing dancer. I speak to people I know and someone’s uncle’s been cheating on his wife while someone else’s mother’s been cheating on her husband. Someone is always cheating on someone and I pray fervently to God that my name will never be someone.

The women I’ve asked about infidelity are more likely to be analytical about it, conjuring different scenarios and factors that would affect their decisions. I’ve met some women who have accepted that men will always cheat and as a result have resigned themselves to the inevitability of marrying a cheating man.  The average man on the other hand, is much less forgiving about the prospect of his woman cheating. Every time I’ve consulted a man on the issue, the speed and passion with which they’ve declared the hypothetical marriage over, has been consistent.  

My heart literally (and I mean that) aches when I imagine my partner cheating and I beg heaven every day, that it will never be my reality.  I wouldn’t know what to do. If he was my boyfriend I would most likely end the relationship in a heartbeat but if he was my husband would I divorce him? Would I forgive him? How would I know he wouldn’t do it again? What if he wasn’t even sorry he did it in the first place, would I fight for my marriage for the sake of any children we might have?

The scenarios are plenty and questions even more so.

So tell me, what would you do if you discovered your partner/boyfriend/husband was cheating on you? Would there be any factors that would make you more tolerant of his/her action?

I’d really like to know.

xxx

Waila Caan

Get Ready to Think

Hey guys,

I know it’s only Tuesday but so far my week’s been good. Really good. I’m in good spirits and I pray it stays that way.  

When I posted the blog “Faith or Foolishness? You Decide” last week, I wasn’t really expecting anyone to respond but as I type this, my email inbox is chock-a-block. A lot of people had interesting opinions on the village bride’s actions and your responses have got me thinking about how complex relationships are.  I’m currently single and though I’m enjoying life as a singleton, when the time is right, I’d like to bag myself a hubby, have my two children and live happily ever after. For that reason I think about relationships.  

I’m a thinker and I’ve been known on many an occasion to think things to extinction. I’ve analysed relationships to the point that the thought of being in one is beginning to give me a headache. Being single is so much simpler (I think) but seeing as that isn’t the fate I wish for myself, I’d better start grappling with the intricacies of two becoming one.

Over the next few days (or till I run out of scenarios), I’ll be asking your opinion on some of the popular complexities that people in relationships face.

Stay tuned ‘cause the first question is coming right up!

Love,

Waila Caan