There was only one thing standing between Mr. Gbadegesin and the door: a table. It was one of those low-lying wooden coffee tables that had come from someone else’s house and now housed old newspapers in the sitting room. But, Mr. Gbadegesin was not interested in the news that afternoon. His plan was to escape through the front door without waking up his wife. But that table. Very heavy object. He could not lift it off the ground. Necessity demanded that he drag it across the concrete floor, and that was certain to make a racket.
“That won’t work. Mama Joko will wake up, and then it’s all over,” he muttered to himself, wringing his little hands. As small as they were, his hands could have been mistaken for those of a child. It did not help that they were attached to short, skinny arms, which were of course, attached to a body that was a little over 4 feet tall.
As he exercised the muscles of his brain, a pounding headache followed. The moment the pounding started, his right hand automatically reached for his head. As soon as his hand met his head, sharp jabs of pain radiated from the wound she had inflicted on him a few hours earlier. He felt like his head had been converted to a conga and a crazy drummer was pounding away with reckless abandon. The only layer of protection over this wound was a bloodied bandage. But this was entirely his fault, as his wife had repeated, as she sat on him and beat him without restraint.
Yes, it was his fault that all these small small girls were always calling him at odd hours. Mr. Gbadegesin’s excuse was that as the owner of a bookstore that sold mostly romance novels, women formed the bulk of his customer base. Beyond what was written on his business card, he usually gave out his number to some of his customers who wanted to be personally informed when certain books arrived in his store. Top notch customer service. That was what he called it. His wife did not share the same perspective.
When Mama Joko, his wife, asked him why Kingsley, the boy who served as his assistant and who ran the bookstore in Baba Joko’s absence, could not give out his own number and provide those extra services, Baba Joko had paused for an extraordinarily long period of time before coughing out an excuse along the lines of “Because I am the oga, and he isn’t.” Clearly not satisfied with his answer, she had pushed him to the ground, sat on him and with her fists, she had spelt out her disapproval in blows and punches.
Being one of those people who believed in explaining her reasoning while delivering judgment, Mama Joko had bellowed in between the blows:
“You think I am stupid ehn? I wasn’t born yesterday! Romance books indeed! From book to real life. That’s your plan, abi? Oya, talk now. Isn’t that your plan? Later you will tell me you want to become an actor. Acting bedroom scenes with those small small girls. Not in this house. N-e-v-e-r!”
Baba Joko’s pleas fell on deaf ears, and all his efforts to break free were useless. Mama Joko did not relent until she had exhausted herself. Only then, did she get up and retire to the bedroom. Baba Joko had pulled himself up, and then cleaned and bandaged his own wounds. As he had tried to leave the house that Saturday morning, Mama Joko had blocked him and ordered him to return to the bedroom. She warned him not to leave the house, and had dragged the coffee table to block the front door. Baba Joko, who was thoroughly humiliated, and weak from the one-sided, early morning wrestling match with his wife, had obeyed and climbed into bed. He did not sleep though. He watched his wife fall asleep, and when he heard her snoring, he had climbed out of bed. He planned to leave the house quietly. That is, until he encountered the coffee table.
As he stood looking at the coffee table, he thought to himself how thankful he ought to be that Joko, their own child, was in boarding school while all these incessant fights between her parents ensued. It was not good for a child to see her parents fighting, he thought. He prayed that she would not turn out to be like her mother, so insecure and ill-tempered. Baba Joko did not consider how his own actions had triggered off that response in his wife. But she had not always been like that. Certainly, not ten years ago.
Back then, Mrs. Gbadegesin was a secretary at a small private company. She was known simply as Jocelyn. Jocelyn was the thirty-something year old who was put in charge of recruiting a new driver for her boss. She conducted the interviews herself and had rejected all the other applications on account of their incompetence, until Mr. Gbadegesin presented his application.
From Day One, she had shown her bias for this applicant, to everyone’s surprise. The typical “we will contact you later” response she gave the others was never used with Mr. Gbadegesin. Instead, after just a ten-minute interview, she declared that he had been selected for the position. No one understood how a man who did not even have a driver’s license was a perfect fit for the position of a driver. She considered that to be a temporary setback and personally took it upon herself to ‘fix’ it. Jocelyn knew what she was doing.
Perhaps, if anyone’s curiosity had led them to investigate further, they would have noticed a certain pattern. The men Jocelyn dated closely resembled Mr. Gbadegesin in stature and character: vertically-challenged, weak-willed and easily manipulated. However, since nobody, not even Mr. Gbadegesin noticed, Jocelyn went forward with her plan. Her plan, of course, was to marry Mr. Gbadegesin. He was her future, the perfect man for her.
A woman would have seen through Jocelyn’s craftiness, but men are often not as perceptive as women. Mr. Gbadegesin had no idea why this woman was so kind to him, cooked for him, was so supportive of him. It seemed that she lived to please him. He certainly did not complain. And of course, he did not know that everything Jocelyn did was calculated to reach her goal.
Her calculations were right and within six months of their first meeting, Mr. Gbadegesin had proposed to her, declaring that she was the love of his life. Although he was 38, he allowed his emotions to prevail over reason, especially when it came to women. He loved Jocelyn’s cooking, the way he felt after she praised him for even the smallest thing he did (as long as she noticed it), and her confidence. At 6′ 2” and with her athletic build, Mr. Gbadegesin literally looked up to Jocelyn. However, he overlooked the fact that the praises she showered only came after doing what she requested such as visiting places that were of interest to her, not him. She made decisions for both of them, without his input and certainly, regardless of his approval. Most importantly, to his detriment and eternal regret, he overlooked the little slaps she generously delivered whenever he did something to upset her. Anything could upset her. If the water he boiled for her tea was lukewarm, he got slapped. Too hot, another slap.
– to be continued –