Sochima stared out the window; she was trying her best to ignore all the voices. No she wasn’t crazy, the voices were not in her head. Her best friend Kaine had sent her a text to come over so they would hang out. It turned out to be a hoax. She had set up an intervention with a panel that included her mother, her elder sister and of course, Kaine.
She wasn’t addicted to drugs or anything harmful to her health; not conventionally at least. They each read out their written letters to her saying how they all felt about her ‘problem’ and how much they ‘love and care for’ her. What was her problem? Her husband Eric had rage issues. This doesn’t seem like a problem that deserves an intervention until this rage leads to bruises on Sochima’s body. She was a battered woman.
“Sochukwuma! Sochukwuma! Sochukwuma!” her mother screamed, using the full form of her name to show the seriousness of the situation. Her accent thicker with each calling of the name.
“How many times did I call you?” she asked.
Sochima did not reply. She was in no mood for any of this childish treatment. She had had enough of this and she wanted to leave but she knew better than to walk out on her mother. That woman would spank her even if she was 90.
“Why will you let a man beat you? Ehn? Why? Is this what I sent you to America to come and do? To come so that one half-caste boy will beat you like a thief?” Sochima’s mother continued, ignoring the fact that Sochima hadn’t answered her otherwise rhetorical question.
“Mma, Eric loves me, he doesn’t beat me like a thief. I love him and we are happy!” Sochima replied making sure to watch her tone so as not to be seen as disrespectful.
“Oooh, so this is how you now talk to your mother ehn okwia?” she replied. She had obviously sensed the anger in Sochima’s voice.
“How am I talking to you mma? You are the one that came here and started accusing my husband of things he did not do.” Sochima replied knowing this would unnerve her mother.
“Chei!” she screamed as she lunged forward toward Sochima in an attempt to grab her by the ear. Sochima’s sister Kene held her in time as Sochima promptly took a dive away from her current sitting position.
“It is not your fault, it isn’t. Chai! Kene, come and take me home, your sister doesn’t want our help. God, where did I go wrong?” she lamented as she head towards the door with Kene close behind her.
Kene promptly returned a few minutes later and in haste gave her sister a piece of paper with a number on it.
“He is a powerful man of God. Just call him and he will come and pray for you and Eric and cast out the devils inside him. You will see that God works wonders. Remember to sow a seed in the pastor’s life if not the miracle won’t be permanent. Ngwa I am going.” Kene said in haste obviously trying to get back to her mother quickly.
“Devils.” Sochima repeated as every fibre in her being yearned to slap the pigmentation off Kene’s face.
“Bye! Talk to you later!” Kene said as she hurried out of the apartment. She hadn’t heard Sochima.
Sochima was now facing Kaine squarely. She had been giving her the stink eye since the beginning of the ‘intervention’ but now it was time to tear her limb from limb with her words.
“How could-” Sochima began saying as Kaine cut her short.
“How could I? How could you? You stay in that house everyday pretending everything is fine but we both know that’s not true.” screamed Kaine who had been quiet since the beginning; probably going over her lines.
“Everything is fine!” She screamed back. Her eyes were starting to get misty. This was why she wanted to leave early. She didn’t want to talk about any of it and leaving anytime this topic was on the table was her only strategy. Now she was trapped.
Kaine saw she was fighting the tears, she knew there was a story behind why this strong independent woman was allowing herself to be messed up by her drunk of a husband.
“Sochi, talk to me. Please.”
Sochima’s eyes held back the tears, she let the memories flood back in. The memory blocks she had put in place to help her go through the hard times were coming down. She didn’t like it. She turned away from Kaine and looked out the window at the snow. New York was just beautiful this time of year. Sochima knew why she let Eric get away with all he did. It really could be summed up in a few words but she feared that if she said these words no one would understand. They had been married for 3 years now and he had beaten her at least once every month for a huge part of those three years. They never fought. The word fight could not be used to define what happened because it implies that the other person put up a struggle. No, not Sochima. She took them all with nothing but tears and muffled cries. Eric drank and this didn’t help the fact that he naturally had rage issues. Her ‘offenses’ ranged from accusing him of cheating to smiling at a text on her phone. He was paranoid. On rare occasions, when he was sober (this hardly lasts. A week, two weeks tops), he would treat her to fancy dinners and cook for her, call her pet names, make her feel pretty.
Sochima was never considered pretty let alone attractive. Her childhood was filled with taunts from boys and girls regarding how she looked. She had been extremely skinny (she still was) and flat. When her peers were way past puberty, she was constantly waiting on someone to tell her breasts and buttocks that it was high time they grew and when they finally did appear, they were disappointing and not just to her. It didn’t help that her sister Kene was quite shapely at a young age. People would snicker as they both came into school and the boys would call her the ‘ugly duckling’, ‘black sheep’, ‘adopted one’.
At home, things were not so different. Her father who occasionally drank himself to a stupor would often make comments like “Why are you black like this eh?” and “Mma Kene this one is not mine o” and they would all laugh. She never understood what was funny about all this. He died a few years later from liver failure. She had never told anyone but the tears she cried at his funeral weren’t real.
She was very dark in complexion. This characteristic which was a source of African pride and beauty to some girls got her more insults like “Why are you so dark and ugly?” from boys at her high school. She was too happy when she got a scholarship to study at NYU and her mother actually allowed her to go study in obodoyibo. She’d thought her being taunted in high school was because boys in her class were too naïve and immature and moving to America she would meet sensible boys who would see her as beautiful. She’d thought wrong. The insults only grew in breadth and depth. Racism from the white guys only made it much more painful. She was called “black monkey” by some of her Nigerian counterparts. Slowly, she became a loner only going to places when the population wasn’t more than a few people. She’d met Kaine at the library during one of her ‘alone times’. They had become instant friends. Kaine was conventionally attractive and her being friends with Sochima was seen as pity. Sincerely, Sochima didn’t care. She had a good friend and that was all that mattered.
After school she got a job and climbed gradually to a high position in less than 4 years. Then she met Eric. Eric was an athletic playboy who didn’t seem to have a care in the world and was known for his moves with the ladies. She had met him at a Starbucks and had offered to buy his coffee when she sensed he and the lady at the counter were going to have a row over a few cents. He’d said “Thank you” and left with his coffee. The next time she saw him was at the subway and this time he’d said “Hey! You’re the beautiful woman who paid for my coffee. Thanks again” She didn’t know this then but at that moment he had her; hook, line and sinker. Of all the mistakes Sochima had made in her entire life, the one she would dread the most would be letting her guard down too quickly with Eric. She jumped at the first sign of affection he showed her and made sure there was nothing under God’s good earth that he asked for that she didn’t give him. She made him her all.
“Sochi…” Kaine said as she shook Sochima.
She hadn’t realised she had been absent the whole time she was reminiscing. She stared at the clock behind Kaine; it was 4:30pm. She had to be on her way home; Eric would be back soon. She stood and headed for the door, Kaine bolted for the door and got there before her and locked it.
“Look Sochi, I understand you don’t want to talk about this but it is getting too much and I am your best friend, you have to tell me please. Why? Why do you let him treat you like this, why do you allow him hurt you like this?”
Sochima stared at her, knowing the answer but not knowing the words in which to put it.
“Kaine just let me go…”
“No. Tell me what it is, then you can leave.”
She knew Kaine would call her mad, She would too if she was Kaine. The words had finally come and they described exactly why she let Eric get away with all he did.
“He calls me pretty.” She said, trying to somehow explain why she allowed all these things happen in just four words.
Kaine hugged her and the tears started again but this time she let them fall…