This is one of the stories that came out of the Writivism 2014, a project of the Centre for African Cultural Excellence, with the assistance of several partner organisations, which identifies, trains and engages readers and writers in public discourse through literature. As part of this years activities, they will have The Writivism Festival from 18 – 22nd June 2014. Like the Facebook page for more updates
Uju watched her husband, Ikem, hunched over his laptop Facebooking and reading stupid tweets. Activities he’d call ‘job hunting’ when Uju accused him of frittering away time. She sat on the couch in front of the TV, their son’s head resting on her lap as she watched Ikem at the dining table. Uju wondered if he even knew she was in the room. He barely spoke to her or even looked at her. He had more fun giggling at his computer than he did talking to her. When she tried to make conversation, she got curt nods or silence in response. Uju spent more time with her son, Junior, instead and sometimes out of loneliness she told him things a five-year-old had no understanding of.
As Uju tucked Junior in later that night, she couldn’t help but think how much his sleeping face looked like his father’s. She used to call Ikem my handsome man in the days they had been in love. She wondered what had happened to them to bring so much coldness between them that she had on occasion considered quitting the marriage. She only stayed for fear of what people would say, how her mother would have to cover her face in shame at the village meetings and how much her father’s heart would break. She smiled sadly at her sleeping son and drew the blanket up to his neck, kissing him a little longer than usual on his forehead and wiping the tear that slipped from her eye to his cheek.
The sex that night was as usual. She only felt a tingle when he penetrated her but nothing more than a tingle. He rode her fast and rough. He didn’t see her, his eyes were closed the whole time probably lost in his fantasy. His pig grunts grew louder as he climaxed and Uju was glad it was over when he lay limp, heavy on her.
She lay awake in the dark, listening to his snore, wondering how much longer she could live this way. She wished she had heeded to her father’s warning many years ago. She had gone to see him at his shop in Enugu to tell him about Ikem’s marriage proposal. Uju had been sure he would be ecstatic for he always worried that her bank job made her appear too expensive for any man to ask for her hand but had been greatly surprised at his response.
“Don’t marry him Uju” he had said ironing a customer’s white-washed brown shirt lying on the rickety table that took most of the space in the tiny room with one window.
“You haven’t even met him papa”
“My spirit does not accept him. Asim mba”
But her mother had encouraged her to ignore her father. She wasn’t getting any younger; she should grab the husband she was seeing now. What did her father know? Uju had gone back to Lagos and told Ikem he could bring the palm wine and dowry to her father that he had said yes. Her father had accepted the items without a word and had barely spoken to her since the marriage.
She didn’t care, at first, about her father’s aloofness. Ikem loved her and they were happy. He treated her well. He left her chocolates and love notes at work. He served her breakfast in bed and massaged her feet when she came home after work. She excused his joblessness and always answered “he’d get a job soon” to her colleagues when they inquired. But Ikem hadn’t made any attempt to get work; He changed like a green leaf in the harmattan season and started complaining about everything. I don’t like this bank job, he would say, it keeps you away too late. Who do you expect to take care of our son? You are neglecting your family, he would whine. Once, Uju had had enough and told him she would quit if he got a job and he had responded with a shrug. Then he stopped talking to her altogether. He simply climbed on top of her every night and rode her like a slave.
The next day Uju came home to find Ikem laughing at something showing on TV in the sitting room, Junior lay on the rug in front of the TV asleep. She murmured a greeting to Ikem and bent to pick Junior up.
“Leave him. I want to speak to you first” Ikem said and Uju stood surprised, staring at him
“Sit down” he said pointing at an arm chair.
Uju sat in it, observing him suspiciously.
“Since you have decided that your job is more important and you are neglecting your duties as a wife, I have decided to marry a new wife. She will arrive tomorrow, so I need you to move into the guest room because she will move into the master bedroom.”
“You must be out of your mind” Uju rose to her feet as she spoke “What rubbish, in my own house. You are mad!”
“What did you say?” Ikem asked standing up
“You heard me” Uju replied
Ikem stood up and grabbed her shirt collar. A pain tore at her cheek at the impact of the first punch and she couldn’t scream even though she wanted too. She heard her son scream as the other punches struck her cheek, neck, breast, arm and every other part of her body as she fell to the ground.
The beating finally stopped but the pain stayed with her. She couldn’t move a muscle so she remained on the floor through the night. Junior curled up by her side and she felt his tears on her breasts. She wanted to rub his head but her hands were too heavy, she wanted to tell him that they could leave now, with a reason that was visible to the world, but all she managed were laboured groans.