ECHOES OF SILENCE – PT. 9
That evening, Abike sang as she prepared dinner. Even the presence of Iya Dele, who hovered around to make small conversations, did not deter her gay mood.
A few days ago, she would have preferred to work alone and in silence. She remembered the early days of their union, when they both ran around the house like little children. Home was fun and a happy affair then. She loved to sing and most often, his deep baritone joined hers. At that time, it was not unusual for him to join her in the kitchen too, and they worked and sported while their meal got ready. She smiled wistfully as she reminisced.
“Iyawo, mind that ewedu; it is almost spilling over into the fire”, Iya Dele said perfunctorily in a high pitched tone, wondering at her dreaming look and calm disposition. Lately, she always looked upset and had been too easy to anger. However, she seemed different today and had virtually ignored her disguised ploys to spark her ire such that Iya Dele began to wonder if she had missed anything.
The only thing she observed was that Mama had suddenly become upset and unusually quiet despite her efforts to joke of past incidents in the village. After a few futile attempts to enquire what was wrong with her, she let her be.
“Mama is upset, Iyawo is happy: how does this tinker my game plan?”, she brainstormed as she washed the pot Iyawo had just used to prepare Semovita. Abike dished the soup and took the food out in a tray.
Dinner ready and served, everyone, was at the table, except Mama.
“Maami, do you want your food served where you are seated?” Wale asked after he noticed that his mother did not respond to his wife’s repeated invitation to the table.
Her silence to his question confirmed that all was not well, so he washed his hands and walked up to her. Iya Dele and Abike also stopped eating. Mary, however, tore into her meal, oblivious of other’s concerns.
“Maami, are you unwell? Do you need me to take you to the doctor, what is it Maami?” Wale asked as he felt his mother’s temperature.
“There’s nothing wrong with me: it is your wife you should help me to ask why after over six years, there are no cries of children in this house”, she replied, as she knocked off his hand and looked directly into his eyes.
“Maami, what is this ugh, is that why you will not eat this night?”
“What useless food do you want me to eat when my heart bleeds for my children? Can’t you see that her charm is making you to forget why you married her in the first place? H-e-n, Wale? Where are your father’s next generation, W-a-l-e?” Mama cried to the shock of everyone.
“But it is God who gives children na. We’ve been through this discussion before and certainly not here, Maami”, he looked up to see his wife’s head bent as she sat dejectedly at the table. Iya Dele stood up, while Mary watched as she continued to eat.
“Yes, as you say God gives children. But when will he remember to give you a child when you are married to a useless and rude woman, who does not deem it too big for her mouth to call your own mother disrespectful; h-e-n, tell me?”
Abike’s head jerked up as she watched from both mother and son. Wale’s shoulders dropped as he looked at his mother, he sighed.
“Mama, why now? Why do want to spoil this evening na?”
“My son, you should have seen that things have spoilt s-i-n-c-e! Since your first year in marriage to this woman, you should have seen that everything is spoilt. Look at her as she happily gobbles you and your wealth up without anything to show for it. What is marriage without children, you can’t answer me abi?”
Unable to stand the tirade, Abike got up and walked the staircase, towards her bedroom, like a zombie.
“Oh oh, she is running to the bedroom. Ehn, that is the refuge of useless wives ke. Did you hear her singing gleefully a while ago; someone who ought to weep her eyes out because of her barrenness o?”, Abike heard her mother-in-law rant in a raised voice intended for her ears as she shut her door.
Wale entered the room noiselessly. He was sorry for how the evening turned out.
His mother’s outburst on his childlessness was rare. She had always expressed her views on the issue as a concern, which he was quick to allay, and not as a confrontation. Hence, he was more shocked at her anger than the confrontation. He was used to her confrontations, though it had been a while since he witnessed her exhibit that side of her: that was over sixteen years ago when she confronted his father on his quest to take another wife.
Things had thereafter settled to a frosty truce between his parents: his father threatening to take a second wife whenever he was ready and his mother insisting that it would be over her death. Their relationship had not precisely been lovey-dovey but they functioned nevertheless till his father passed ten years ago.
Ironically, she outlived him and there was no second wife. However, he had always longed for a close relationship with his better half even before he met her. He wanted it all: love, passion, peace (which for him meant submission), wealth (which included children) and everything that added to his notion of happy ever-after. He had no clue his dreams could turn a mirage on account of any issue, such as their fertility.
She had been to the doctor severally and had been treated for hormonal imbalance. They have, thus, resorted to fasting and prayers after the treatments and are full of hopes that God would answer their prayers while they wait joyfully. His mother’s attitude was certainly understandable but unhelpful.
His mother may not be the most amiable person to live with but she still remained his mother, and he always found that though she may hold stubbornly to her views at the expense of being the odd one amongst many, her positions are usually not baseless or outrightly senseless.
If one overlooked her unyielding reputation and took time to understand the rationale behind her positions, one would likely not have any misgivings about her views, Most often, her problem was the way she presented herself, like the way she did tonight.
He still owed his wife an apology for his mother’s words. Memory of her fallen countenance as she went up the stairs twisted his heart. Oh, Lord why are you allowing my wife to go through this fire, he queried wordlessly.
“Darling, am so sorry o”, he said as he stood beside her. She was coiled in a foetal position on the bed and did not answer him. He bent down beside her and touched her brow but she did not move and her eyes were closed.
After a while, he assumed she was asleep and left her to go to the bathroom.