Your milk has gone watery!
Abidemi’s voice rose high as she argued with Oladele, her husband outside the house. Her voice was a sharp knife that cut through the serenity of dawn. She clung to her husband’s shirt like a bloodthirsty leech would to flesh.
“Piles have finished your life, and you cannot make your wife happy, Ehn?”
The husband made to free himself from her grasp. ”Please, let me go. You have roughened my shirt and I am already late for my interview at the factory. Which kind trouble is this early in the morning?”
“How can you get the job when you leave me unhappy at home?” She tightened his hold on his shirt.
Anger welled up inside Oladele. This interview at the biscuit factory had taken divine intervention. Three months he had been jobless, laid off – with the rest of the staff – from the textile mill where he had worked for ten years. Ever since he lost his job, he had been worried about money. He no longer slept with her even.
“If at this stage I become less of a man, then I am happy. At least those three kids inside the room are proof that I was once a man. Let me bother about providing for them,” Oladele replied.
Mama Basirat, their neighbour and friend whose window faced the veranda peered out from under her curtain.
“Abidemi, please let your husband go,” she counselled.” Whatever the problem is, you can talk about them when he comes back. It is too early to be quarrelling.”
“Thank you o, Mama Basirat,” Abidemi said. She turned to narrate the night’s events to her friend and her hold loosened a bit on her husband’s shirt. He quickly disengaged her hands and ran away.
He could still hear his wife’s insults trailing him as he boarded a bus to his interview venue.
Abidemi bent with difficulty to stoke the fire. She was cooking in the makeshift kitchen at the back of the house. She could not stand this kitchen that had large holes in its corrugated roofing sheet through which sunlight shone through and bathed her and whose walls had blackened with soot over the years.
“This wood is not good,” she complained and rose slowly. “It is more of smoke than fire.”
She supported her back with both hands. Her pregnancy, which was at an advanced stage, bore her down like a heavy weight. Two tears, one from each eye left a trail as they rolled down her grime covered face.
“Sorry o,” Mama Basirat said. She was preparing supper too in the kitchen. “The ones I am using are the same. It is hard to find good firewood these days.”
They cooked on in silence, each lost in her thoughts. Then Mama Basirat said, “Come to think of it, you were fighting your husband over his watery milk a few months ago. What miracle made your stomach protrude like this?”
“Haba, Mama Basirat. You have started with your funny talk. How can you remember that kind of talk? Were you eavesdropping on me and my dear husband?”
They laughed. More tears streamed down Abidemi’s face as her body shook with the laughter.
She bent down to stoke the fire again. Times were hard, and cooking with firewood was one way to make ends meet. She had always believed her mother’s saying that children came into this world with everything they needed. But it seemed her three children came with less and less as she bore them. Her husband’s meagre salary and the little she made from petty trading barely sustained the family.
Her husband wasn’t exactly happy with the coming addition. He had gotten the job and the pay was a little better. He started sleeping with her again, each time asking her if she was safe. Each time she said yes because she was happy that they had gone back to normal. A woman has her needs that only a virile man could fill.
The arguments had begun when she got pregnant again.
Perhaps, this new child would come into this world with enough, and even remember to bring all that its predecessors forgot to bring along, she thought to herself.
She rubbed her belly and smiled with renewed hope.