“Hmnnnn, I see,” said the shrink nodding her head. “So you get along well with men, why are you afraid to get married then? you could talk about your concerns with your fiancée you know” “of course talking is a good thing” Adaeze continued “that’s why I’m paying so much to talk to you” she laughed, “men don’t like to talk, they especially don’t like to hear the truth, how do you tell a man that the day he hits you, you’ll probably kill him? that would just scare him off.” There was a spark in her eyes as her whole countenance lit up at the thought. “and they do change you know, so maybe sometimes a little action is what they need, at least that’s what aunt Ebi taught me.” She continued…
“You see I have often heard tales of women beaten by their husbands, sometimes these women had scars, ugly scars as stamps of such beatings and I was always dumbfounded. As I was that day, listening… no eavesdropping as mama Sikira relayed her most recent beatings to aunty Ebi … “don’t they fight back? Don’t they have hot soups and ground hot peppers in their kitchens to use as defense weapons? Didn’t their mothers teach them to fight back? Is this what they call victim mentality?” I wondered. she kept on crying and talking about how her husband finished off the beatings, with belts military belts fa; how he changed his shirt and then walked out of the house. As if nothing happened.
Hehehehe, that didn’t happen in our house. Aunt Ebi and her husband had fights alright but it was as the name implies, fights between two people, tournaments if you care… because on very bad days, the children joined in to drag off their father if he was getting an upper hand.
‘Why is there so much pepper in this food?” My aunt’s husband barked on one of such days. He was this huge formidable Officer that inspired fear and respect, but aunt Ebi was in no mood for all that. I knew trouble was brewing as she had been drinking shot after shot of squadron all day. “Stop shouting” she retorted, “I thought you liked pepper so much that is why you are befriending that Yoruba girl in high level, anyway, tell her to pack out of that room you rented and furnished for her before I visit her o.” the whole house went silent, you could hear a feather drop.
Aunt Ebi’s husband started washing his hands quickly; he stood up and headed for his car keys. “ Where do you think you are going?” She asked him, in the same breadth, she dashed for the door, locked it up and put the keys inside her bra. She stood arms akimbo, all 5.11” of her, daring him, taunting him with words and abuse. The poor man knew he had been cornered and walked off to his room.
“Now you can’t talk abi? Useless man, your mates are buying land and building houses, you are there carrying ashawo all over Makurdi and wasting your money. Tell her o, I am coming for her, if she thinks she can reap where she did not sow, whosai!! She has failed woefully, tell her I married you when you lived in a one room apartment and had just a six spring mattress on the floor, nonsense! msheeeeeeeeew”. She gave a long hiss and walked up to the shelf to pour herself another shot of hot drink. She strolled majestically to her chair, sat and crossed her legs, she had on khaki shorts and her husband’s shirt, she was ready for battle, she began to sip her drink. Perspiration had gathered on her nose and forehead.
“That went well,” I thought as I cleared up the dishes and went into the kitchen to continue with my chores, next thing I heard kpagidigidi kpagidigidi; the tournament had begun.
“Give me the car keys,” he shouted desperately trying to yank it off her bra. “No way” she screamed back at him and pushed him off her, he fell on the stool breaking the glass cup. I rushed off to get a broom and packer and swept the broken glass in a frenzy as the shoving, shouting and pushing continued.
They exchanged slap for slap, blow for blow. Kpagidigidi, kpagidigidi the fight was getting tougher by the minute. Hot sweat jumping off their bodies, me refereeing without saying a word, jumping all over the place and grimacing in pain when I felt an imaginary blow landing on my back. She bit him on his arm and he screamed, “This woman has bitten me, Gaddammit woman! Are you a dog? Gaddammit” he swore. “you are lucky I’m not biting off your thing! after all, I’ve given you five solid children, what more do you need it for? She shouted. “Oh! so that’s your plan”, came his quick response, “were you at my circumcision? “What makes you think I went through all that pain as a child just to dedicate my manhood to only you? I am an Izon man, I am entitled to as many women as I desire”. The screaming of obscenities, shoving, scratching continued, they were both running out of energy but no one wanted the other to win this fight.
Aunt Ebi felt betrayed by her husband. Yet she knew what he said was true. It was the culture, if her mother hears this in the village there would most likely be a family meeting on the matter and no one would take her side. Not even her own mother. The Izon people even have a song for women who wanted their husbands only for themselves. Jealousy was frowned upon. It was a disgrace for one not to have step siblings. Her own father had countless children with many wives. She hated it, the rivalries, the schemes to get their father’s attention. She didn’t want any of that for her or her children. Why was culture so cruel to the woman? if she was the one sleeping around, her husband would have simply bundled up her things and sent her back to her father’s house and asked for a return of his hot drink and “tebe sa”.
But that was not the deal she thought she had with her husband, she thought what they shared was special and that he was going to stay faithful to her as he promised. He said he loved her. Theirs was not an arranged marriage, they met and fell in love. She felt betrayed and angry because her husband was boasting about his cultural rights instead of feeling sorry. She wished she could subdue him and make him stay faithful. She knew she couldn’t so she started heading for items she could subdue.
She dragged off picture frames and smashed them on the walls. She yanked off the turntable from its cord and threw it at her husband; he stood in front of the black and white TV on the room divider defending it from her momentary mad rage bouncing from one leg to the other like a boxer waiting for blows. In previous tournaments, he took out valuable items and hid them before the fight. This one took him unawares.
He wondered who told her about his new girlfriend, she always knew. His last girlfriend left him after multiple visits from aunty Ebi, she had taken the guard with her when her husband left for work. She harassed the young girl so much so that she was forced to move out of the neighborhood. She would arrive the girl’s house early in the morning before she got ready to go out. she would sit on a stool outside the girl’s door and start speaking to all passers-by, ” this girl is a home breaker yet she hopes to be happily married someday, please ask her to leave my husband alone”. She would talk and talk and talk. Talking about how she met her husband and how they both have laboured to be where they are today. Before you knew it, a small crowd of sympathizers would have gathered”, taking aunt Ebi’s side and advising the girl not to bring on a curse on herself.
Was she a witch or something? The husband would have wondered. No she wasn’t, she had bought the loyalties of his driver and PA with crispy Muritala notes. They always gave her the latest gist. If only he knew. In the meantime the fighting and screaming continued. She ran into the kitchen frantically opening the cupboards, opening cans of dry pepper, salt, anything, everything and flinging the contents at her husband and I swept and packed when I got the chance. I knew I would be saddled with the job of cleaning up after the fight; I may as well do so now. The children cried and begged them to stop. Their parents shouted at them and asked them to go to their rooms. Neighbors came to knock on the door, everyone went silent, the neighbours left and the fighting continued until they were both spent. This was a family matter, no outsiders were ever welcome.
As swiftly as the fight began, it ended, they were spent.
They both walked up to the fridge, opened it and took out whatever cold drink was there, drank it up, sat down and started laughing. “Why do you always have to break things?” the husband asked, aunt Ebi was a destroyer, she had smashed the side mirrors of his car in the past and driven a nail through the tires of his car on another occasion, if she fought professionally perhaps Ebi the breaker would have been an ideal name for her. “so you know a better way to spend your money next time” she answered. They walked into their room. “thank God she didn’t break the TV this time” I said. The psychiatrist had her mouth open and her pen in mid-air……