I like that name, Ayoka. It is so Yorubaish. Lol.
I don’t know why I am writing about abuse so much these days. This is just fiction but the horror is real for so many women. Beyond the pain of their bodies, these women have to deal with broken minds and broken hearts even more. This one is for women that don’t know where to begin, whether with packed suitcases or with self-defense classes or dialing 911 or seeking outside help. There is hope. There are new beginnings every where. Speak to someone NOW!
Her bruises had turned the color of forgiveness, purple. It usually took a few days, depending on how hard he hit her and whether she bothered with some type of salve or not.
The last time her her mother-in-law had visited from the village, she had brought along with her a huge jar of Shea butter mixed with some other herbs and spices Ayoka couldn’t identify. She was a city girl after all-born in the city, schooled in the city – the city was all she knew. The older woman had handed her daughter-in-law the jar of ointment with a sad smile, as if to say “I am sorry that I can’t do anything about your pain except for this miserable jar of salve.”
The last episode of violence had been brought on by Ayoka. It was always her fault, this pain he constantly inflicted on her. She had failed to get his purple striped Ralph Lauren shirt laundered in time for the meeting with his investors. It was his lucky shirt and she really should have known better.
He had waited until the meeting was over so he would not wrinkle the replacement boring white shirt with the force of his blows to her arm or stain it with the drops of blood that flowed from her broken skin.
The blood had stopped him in his tracks. Usually he was careful not to make her bleed; a push here, a couple of slaps there, maybe some punches when he was really mad.
The investors had rejected the terms of financing for the deal out-rightly. Ayoka reasoned that this explained why Nsibe was more violent that usual during the beating that followed.
Looking at her reflection in the mirror now, Ayoka was thankful for her dark complexioned and resilient skin. She had her mother’s side of the family to thank for this invaluable gift. She smiled to think of her mother; her smile, her enthusiasm for life, her love for everyone and everything. Ayoka was her second child and first daughter. She remembered how energetically her mother had danced during her traditional wedding. Her white wedding had been more subdued, coming two months later and at a time when the make-up artist had to work a little harder to cover the first bruises Nsibe had inflicted on her.
It suddenly occurred to Ayoka that it had been a while since she spoke to Maami. That too was no one else’s fault but hers. She had been avoiding her mother even more than usual, and with good reason too. She could mask sadness and pain under lies and bravado with every other person but not the woman that knew her inside out.
The jar of shea butter her mother-in-law had given her was sitting on the bedside table so Ayoka tiptoed quietly so as not to wake her snoring husband. It was only 4am but Ayoka wanted to be made up before Nsibe woke up and found another reason to smack her around. He hated seeing the results of his anger mapped out on her skin.
He was a good man really, Nsibe was, a good provider and he had married her when no one else would have her. She had been 34 when she finally got married; a constant prayer point at family devotions and the reason for her mother’s constant trips to one seer after the other. Even if she had wanted to refuse the eligible young man from her father’s church that she barely knew, she couldn’t. Not at her age. Not without breaking Maami’s heart and adding more lines to the already deep furrows on her father’s face.
Divorce was not an option now, Ayoka knew. The shame, the loneliness, becoming the subject of family devotions all over again…she knew she could not go down that path. She would rather die. Death had in fact been looking better and better every day.
There were days when she did nothing else than dream up easy and painless ways to die. Tasteless sleeping pills that would softly transition from sleep to death. The cold barrel of a gun against her head; one bullet was all she needed and that would be that. There would be no time to feel pain but Ayoka worried about getting blood all over the house. That would mean Nsibe had to clean up. She didn’t want that for him. She didn’t want him to have blood on his hands.
The shea butter felt like real butter on her skin as she rubbed it in and her lips let loose an involuntary sigh of pleasure mixed with pain. She quickly opened her eyes to make sure she had not disturbed her sleeping husband. He was still sleeping and she breathed a silent sigh of relief.
In the dark light of approaching dawn, he was a beautiful man to behold. Full lips that were enhanced the dark shadow of his morning beard, the long eyelashes that most women would kill for, his toned body… Ayoka felt the child within her kick, as if to say, ‘Stop lusting Mama,’ and she smiled and laid her hand on her belly for comfort. She had concluded that it was a boy from the way he kicked; Nsibe would love a son. She was yet to tell him about the child and her slight body had aided her secret. But for how long? And would it matter? Would it prevent him from playing different keys of pain on her body? Would it make him love her? Would it change everything? Anything?
There were many ways to die, Ayoka knew. She had chosen the path of cowardice, a slow death, caused by the poison of hate that welled up in her belly every time she sighted the man she married, the noose of guilt that hung her soul for wanting to bring an innocent child into all of these, the bullet of bitterness she swallowed every time she saw a random happy couple.
No one could ever accuse her of being brave, no, not in all of her 35 years. If anyone should know her propensity for cowardice, it should have been the woman that bore her. Yet that same woman had sent her a ‘care package’ last month after Ayoka’s troublesome youngest brother had showed up unannounced one day on a visit to find her with blackened eyes.
The care package contained a vial and note that read “One drop in his dinner and we will take it from there…” Neither the note nor the vial had surprised Ayoka. This was Maami we were talking about after all.
It was the sight of her own blood two days ago that she blamed for the thing she had done last night. Three drops instead of one. One drop for herself, one for the child in her belly, and one for the long days of being a prayer point in family devotions that awaited her.
The thing is Ayoka figured she was better off pitied rather than shamed, a widow rather than a scorned wife. Her own mother had once being a widow before finding Baba. There was no longer doubt in Ayoka’s mind how that first husband had died.
The pain in her body felt much better after the shea butter and Ayoka silently apologized to the thoughtful, kind woman who had given it to her and who was about to lose her son. But even that was alright-Ayoka figured she could make it up to her with a grandchild.
She finished making up her face to the music of her husband’s irregular breathing. By the time she was dressed in her favorite dress, the music had died a silent death. Still she waited, sitting on a chair facing the bed that held the last bit of her cowardice, legs crossed at the knees, she waited. She waited till the sunlight had streamed into the room and exposed death for what it was; salvation, hope, a future. She waited till her son kicked again. She waited till she was sure she wanted to begin and not end too.
Then she picked up the phone and called her mother.
“I am there…the place we can begin working it out.”
Song of the day: Jamie Lawson – Wasn’t Expecting That