There is shame everywhere. Shame in her mother’s kitchen where she makes meals for the children of whatever sibling has come visiting their grandmother. Shame in the only bathroom in the house where she is bathing and her mother walks in to use the toilet noisily with no apologies. Shame in waking up from nightmares on the couch she fell asleep on as a teenager. Shame in the outright questions of relatives who show up at her mother’s house uninvited and treat her like there is no place here for her. Shame in parking lot of the KFC she and Eneh grabbed lunch everyday when the security guard asks ‘Madam, whey your oga? Una never come here together since.’ Shame in her office when her co-workers ask after Eneh and when and if he will ever propose.
In the end, it is this shame that drives her back to him after more than three weeks of the flowers and emissaries that accompanied his pleading.
The first few weeks after her return, he is unbelievably sweet and she is reminded of the man she fell in love with. He asks her to marry him the fourth week after her return, in front of friends he has invited for a surprise party in the house they share together. Everything inside her screams “No” to the question he has asked, but her lips betray her and say “Yes”.
There are hugs and kisses of celebration and she lets herself get carried away in the joy a simple ‘yes’ has brought to so many people, and most of all, him. So what if her insides won’t stop churning? So what if her heartbeat won’t slow down? So what if she still flinches every time he reaches for her? So what if her hip still hurts from the way she landed when he pushed her away angrily three days ago?
They make love that night for hours on end and then he falls asleep. She used to love watching him sleep. But now she knows sleep is a mask, a disguise, ‘a wickedness wherein the pregnant enemy doeth much’.
Before Eneh, she had loved Shakespeare. He had laughed at her collection as she unpacked it the day she had moved in.
“No one reads Shakespeare anymore.” He had mocked. She should have walked out then, back when it was easier, back when the chains weren’t so tight around her, back when shame wasn’t a tangible presence that attended her wherever she went.
She no longer watches him sleep.
Her father had beat her mother until the day he dropped dead from a heart attack.
Her sister’s husband had beat her once and stopped after their brothers, Chimela and Obidike, had shown up to his office with planks of wood from their father’s carpenter store.
She had grown up in Oshodi where spousal abuse was common, even encouraged.
“If you no beat woman, them no go get sense,” She heard her father tell her brothers matter of factly one evening over palm wine and fufu.
Eneh’s house in Banana Island is quiet. His generator is the silent type and the first time he had beat her, if it had been in Oshodi, their neighbors would have heard and maybe come to her rescue. In Banana Island, their closest neighbors are a few acres away. All she has are Ate, the houseboy, and shadows that belong to no one.
She had taken off the ring for fear of scratching his beautiful body in their exertions. She holds it to the moonlight now and watches as light bounces of the diamonds.
The beatings will continue, she knows. If she leaves, she will be come back to him. And this is the reason why. This ring; it is the magic wand that will ward off the shame. Its glare will detract people from the black eyes and bruises. Its weight in gold will outshine every cloak of shame. And who knows, maybe someday he will drop of a heart attack like her father. Sure she will have to wear black for a few months but the time will pass quickly and after that she will have the respectability of a woman covered in scars but who stayed.
Anything was better than shame.
Song of the day: Pat Barrett – Yes and Amen