The doctor turns on his heels and faces us.
“Doctor Jide, you may go in with Madam. His condition is quite stable at the moment so you should be able to speak with him. Please, come with me Sir.” He says to my boss and I watch as they both walk down the hallway until they’re out of sight.
“Come on in, Biola.” Uncle Jide says in soft, sympathetic voice. As I cover the little distance between me and my husband’s ward, I feel a tight knot in my throat and soldier ants in my stomach.
“Please God.” I mutter under my breath, not quite sure what to beg Him for.
My husband is facing an empty chair and talking to himself when we walk in.”
“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t get a divorce, I love my wife too much to do that.”
Uncle Jide and I exchange glances; mine conveying a look of horror and confusion and he signals to me to calm down before moving closer to my husband.
“Femi, it’s me; Jide.”
Femi gives him a blank stare for a moment before a smile suddenly lights his face.
“Jide my man. where have you been now?”
“I went in search of greener pastures. Besides, you were married and I felt I should give you space to focus on your marriage.”
At the mention of marriage, Femi looks at me with remorse in his eyes.
“The doctor says I’m sick.” He says to no one in particular, shifting his gaze from me to the ground.
“Do you think you are?” Uncle Jide asks as he motions to me to sit down on the only chair in the room. He is sitting on the bed beside my husband.
“I don’t know, I’m still having a hard time believing those people aren’t real like he said.”
“People? What are you talking about Femi?” I ask, still confused about the whole dopamine levels and psychotic thing. My husband looks pretty normal to me and it’s not like I don’t talk to myself sometimes.
“Your sister and her husband. They’ve been visiting for sometime now.”
Since we got married, Femi has never set eyes on my sister and her family. They are based abroad and didn’t even come for my wedding.
She’s the only family I have left apart from Sheila, since my parents are dead but she’s the kind of person people call ‘adekodere’ because since she traveled abroad with her family eight years ago, I’ve only been seeing her in pictures and hearing her voice on phone.
“I don’t understand. My sister can’t visit without informing me and you didn’t tell me anything too.”
“She asked me not to tell you. She said she didn’t want you to know because of what she came to do.
My confusion evaporates and curiosity takes its place.
“She was the one that told me you were unfaithful. At first, she kept telling me to be at alert, saying you could grow wings since we are practically surviving on your salary and I wasn’t man enough for you. Then she encouraged me to beat you. She said she knows you like the back of her hand and beating is the only language you understand.”
I stare at my husband with a puzzled look on my face and different waves of emotions washes through me; from confusion to anger and then, sadness. I still don’t understand how everything my husband just said could be possible since I’m still in contact with my sister and I know for sure she’s still in the US.
“Are you sure my sister said all these? I mean it could have been Sheila or someone else.” I say in a firm voice hoping he’ll come back to his senses and at least say it was someone else.
“Biola, I’m sure your sister never visited. She and her family are just in your husband’s imagination. They are not here and that was why the doctor said they aren’t. They are only in his mind; everything he said she told him came from his own mind.
“Her husband was here too. He said beating a woman is normal and that it’s the only way to keep them in check.”
“He said that in front of his wife?” Uncle Jide asks and my husband shakes his head.
“No, we were alone together when he said it.”
“Please Uncle Jide, I still don’t understand any of this.” I say with a pleading look, hoping Uncle Jide will stop asking questions and tell me what is wrong with my husband.
“You see Biola, I kicked against your marriage to Femi for one reason. Femi is a very good friend of mine, in fact, we’ve been friends since we were kids because my mother and his were very good friends.”
My mouth slightly falls open, I didn’t think Femi and Uncle Jide had such a long history together.
“Femi’s mum didn’t die a natural death; she died from injuries inflicted on her by his father on one of several occasions he used to beat her up.”
“That’s not possible, Femi told me she just slept and never woke up.” I reply and shift my gaze to Femi, expecting him to corroborate my version of the story but he just keeps staring at the floor .
“Yes, that’s what you think. The same way his mother’s people think she died from a domestic accident. Femi’s father covered his tracks well and Femi was too ashamed of his family to tell you the truth about them.”
Femi raises his head and looks at me, motioning Uncle Jide to stop speaking at the same time. He continues;
“I had to keep the secret because he swore to disown me if I told anybody and I was only ten years old then. I made a vow there and then never to lay a finger on my wife when I got married but I couldn’t stop having nightmares of that night my mother was killed by her own husband. I was so afraid I was going to be like him because I hid him and denied my mother justice. I always heard her voice in my head; telling with scorn that I was just like my father and the more I tried to convince myself I was going to be a better husband than my father, the louder my mother’s voice got in my head. The fear of turning out like him crippled me and that was why I had to lie to you; I didn’t want you to think I was going to be violent to you having grown up in a violent environment.”
“Shortly after he met you, he confided in me and said he always had the urge to hit you into submission any time you had misunderstandings or you disagreed with him; just like his father used to do to his mother.” Uncle Jide says further and I smile as memories of our years of courtship played back in my head.
Marriage has made me soft or maybe it’s the love for Femi in my heart that keeps growing like an aggressive plant; I remember I used to be tough and stubborn then and I did piss Femi off a number of times.
“Well, I guessed the experiences Femi had while growing up was starting to influence his thinking and interfere with his reasoning against his wish. It was like the trauma was pushing him into becoming his greatest fear. I didn’t ask him not to marry you Biola, I asked him to see a doctor and get possible treatment before marriage. I wasn’t kicking against your marriage, I was kicking against him getting married to you at that time because you are a good woman and you don’t deserve even half of what I knew might be coming.”
The ward grows silence as Uncle Jide rounds off his ‘speech’. My husband is looking at me now but I can’t meet his gaze. The sickness in my stomach and the knot that was in my throat when I came in is gone and has been replaced by feelings I can’t explain. The only thing my brain is interpreting quite well right now is the need to get fresh air.
I get up from the chair and try to excuse myself but the words aren’t even coming out so I just communicate my need for fresh air and walk out of the ward.
As I struggle to get myself out with my stiff legs, I can feel my husband’s gaze boring holes into me.
I know why he’s staring at me; I know I have some tough decisions to make…