How long is that dark turbulent road that the soft feminine being often journeys to fetch the beautiful silver stones of life, in order to satisfy the natural desire of societal norms? “The life of a woman is a complex one” My mother once told me. But from my experience so far, the life of a woman is more than just a “mere complexity”, but a long chain of troubles and anxieties. A woman who would not agree to this, I would say, “Congratulation”, your life must have been so beautiful. I wish I could say same to myself. The pressure to get married rains down storms of anxieties and mockery on a lady as she breaks the walls of Thirties, stepping her foot on that rail to forty. If she finally gets a man, God bless her if she gets pregnant on time, otherwise a new bane sets a new road of anguish. And many other ills women do suffer, especially in this part of the world. Perhaps the primary reason I was born is simply to come and suffer pains and anxieties. I enjoyed life. Life was beautiful until I turned Twenty-seven. “Where is your Boyfriend? When is he coming to see us?” My family would always say. Though they asked jokingly, but I knew that jokes are sometimes the cheerful way to express the grief one bears. As I attended a series of wedding, sewn numerous ‘wedding Aso-e
bi’ if I wasn’t the chief brides maid, the pressure grew higher. When is my wedding ever going to come? When is this man ever going to notice me?” These questions only threw breeze of silence at me. When I clocked 30, getting married became the only goal and dream I had in life. I went out with beautiful smiles in search of suitors, walked gorgeously before men and invited them with my smile. Lo, it never seemed to work, it aggravated my pains the more when they just passed me by without noticing me. And when it did appear that I’ve found one, all he was interested in was SEX! And the one who seemed to love me and wanted to marry me wasn’t just ready yet, they begged me for patience. And what’s the life span of patience in the heart of an old girl desperately desirous of marriage? I simply went out of such relationships and the search continued. Eventually, luck smiled at me when I met this man and we got married a year later. This time I was 35. Everything was blissful, in-laws were lovely and my husband was simply wonderful and amazing. I could not have asked for a better man because a better one existed not. Things changed five years later and discords brewed exceedingly all because there was no issue in the union. I’d subjected myself to series of test at different medical centers, all test proved that there was nothing wrong with me. My husband did same and the doctor confirmed he was alright too. Then what was the problem? That was a mystery that would take another Eight (8) years to unravel. I became the object of ridicule in the midst of in-laws, neighbors and friends, and sorrow gradually became the air I breathed. I was sinking and drowning in pains, I cried whenever I was alone. My in-laws who called me all manner of names thought they needed a child more than I desired one. “Call me your barren wife” I overheard my mother in-law said to my husband. I was shocked, the sound of these words came with a thunderous attack on my emotion, and as if that wasn’t enough, my husband walked into the room and said to me, “Mama wants to see you” this words broke me down, I sat on the edge of bed and wept, I couldn’t hold my emotions back anymore. It was like the whole world was crumbling one me. “You and your mother now call me barren” I said with tears all over my face. “If you don’t like that, then give me a child.” He said.
“What did you just say?”
“You heard me” he affirmed his words and walked out of the room. I wept and wept, dried my tears myself and headed to where mother in-law was sitting to avoid further troubles.
“Mama, I heard you”
“Heard me say what?”
“Mama, you called me barren” she broke into laughter. When she’d had enough laughter, she starred at me disdainfully and hissed. “Madam Fruitful” she hissed loudly, “That’s how you want to be addressed. Isn’t it?
“Mama I’m not barren!”
“Then give me a child” she shouted, standing up from her seat “give me a grandson, that is all I want” She came closer to me, “And by the way, did you think I called you barren behind you, hoping you don’t hear me?”
“Mama, I’m not barren, and your son knows it”
“My son knows it? How? Have you ever carried even a small rat in this your empty….” She pointed at my tummy “to prove to him that you’re not barren?” Anger fused with pains and battered emotions boiled in me, but I could not hit an elderly woman. “And where are you going, where you not told I wanted to see you? have you asked me the reason I wanted to see you?” She said. I simply stared at her disdainfully and walked away. “I don’t blame you. I blame my son who married a dead dry wood she calls a wife”.
I heard her said behind me and that aggravated more tears. I sat on my bed sobbing. Then the door opened, it was my mother in-law. “This is the seventh year”. She said and left for the sitting room, I seethed in anguish. “She’s right, this is the seventh year after my wedding, still there’s nothing to prove I’m married” I said softly to myself. Thoughts flooded my mind. Why was life this cruel to me? Why was God so far away? Why could He not give me a child? All I wanted was a child to call my own; a child who could dry my tears. Soon, they started calling me a witch. They said I’ve eaten all my unborn kids in a coven and there was no one left for me to bring to life. My in-laws warned their children against me. They admonished them not to come close to me.
“Daniel, come. How are you?” I said to my sister in-law’s son who had always loved my company.
“No, I’m not coming” the little boy said “My mummy and grandma said you’re a witch, that you kill children. I don’t want to die” He said. I went into tears, never knew when I sat on the dusty ground in my white wears, until this little boy was standing by me, consoling me and trying his best to stop me from crying. But I was gravely hurt and devastated. I could not understand the wisdom of this little boy who was just five years old at that time. Suddenly I saw him running away and few seconds later, his mother appeared. He must have sighted his mother coming. The little boy’s act showed he knew what he was saying. He’d been warned. My sister -in-law and her two children had been living in my husband’s house since the demise of her husband and her subsequent eviction from their rented apartment. This ill-treatment continued unabated for years. I’d done all within my powers, prayed and fasted, visited different prophets and prophetess, all to no avail.
One late afternoon, I came home and met my sister-in-law weeping. I consoled her and tried to find out from her why she was crying, but she would not say a word. The next morning she packed her belongings, taking along her children and heading towards the gate. I saw her through my window which is directly opposite the gate. I came out and ran after her. By the time I got to her, she was already outside the gate. “Prisca, where are you going? Don’t tell me you are leaving us” I said with utmost curiosity. Tears fell on her face. She looked at me, came closer, held me and started sobbing.
“I’m sorry for all I’ve done to you. Please forgive me for all the wrongs I’ve committed against you, most especially the insults and mockery. I didn’t know it was all ignorance on my part” she was pleading for forgiveness. “Prisca, please note this, I don’t have anything against you. You’re only concerned about your brother. Perhaps I would do same if I were in your shoe” I assured her. She patted me on my shoulder; I’m leaving for the village. I’ll be staying there for the moment” she said.
“What happened? Is it my husband? Did he ask you to leave?” I asked, but she shook her head and gestured a “NO”. She turned and started away, her children following behind. About five steps away from me, she paused and said “Please and please, always pray. And if you’ve been praying, please pray more now. “And please pray for my brother too.”
“Thank you. I’ll be praying for you and my brother.” She said and continued her movement. When I opened the gate and walked in, I met my mother-in-law by the gate. I knew she must have been eavesdropping. I could not understand the mystery that enshrouded the family, taking over the family air.
Five months later, on this fateful day, a Saturday afternoon, I returned home from my boutique. I’d forgotten a customer’s clothes she’d paid for, in the house. With hastiness, I rushed through the sitting-room, dashing into our room. What a shocker it was? Was I dreaming? I saw the most horrible, despicable, and abominable act ever. My husband was busy on top his mother. They did not notice my presence in the room until I screamed out loud. They jumped up, scrambling for their dresses to cover their bodies. I took to my heels, ran out of the compound, not knowing what to do. A new wind of sorrow had just had me blown heavily. That was the last straw that broke the Camel’s back. I’ve had enough. I was dead alive. That day I slept at a friend’s house and the next morning, I went to the house and took my belongings and left the house. I could tell no one what had happened; neither did I know what to do. For many days, I was bottled up in a hurting silence, depressed and horribly gutted. I tried to purge my mind out by discussing this with somebody, but I just could not, and tears became my only companion. Two weeks later, when I could not keep this to myself anymore, I called my sister-in-law, Prisca, and told her what had happened. I wasn’t exactly surprised when she told me she’d caught her mother and her brother in this crazed act, and that was why she had to pack out of the house. She could not tell anybody because there was no one she could talk to, their father had died many years back, and my husband is her only sibling. Prisca showed up in my parent’s home where I was, one evening, she’d had a long journey from the village. “We need to do something about this. We can’t just fold our arms and watch them continue this evil act”. Prisca said. “I really don’t care. My marriage to your brother is over. He can do whatever he likes with his life.” I said.
“Please, do this for my sake. He’s the only brother and sibling that I have.” Prisca did her best to convince me into following her to a certain church to seek spiritual help to end this evil. I saw reason with her. After all, how was I going to get another man which I could not get on time in my young age? It was now the twelfth year of our marriage.
So I followed her to the church. We met with the pastor who organized a seven day fasting and prayers for us and insisted we go to my husband’s house to observe the fasting and prayers. On the fifth day of this fast, my husband came to me with a broad smile on his face, taking my hand, but I shoved him off, warning him to stay off me, but he wouldn’t. He went on his knees. “Please forgive me if I’ve offended you in anyway.” He said, reminding me of the early days of our marriage. Those were the words he always used whenever we had little misunderstanding. He was lovely. This prayer seemed to be working because my husband had not said a word to me since I and his sister had come to the house for this prayers. “Forgive you? For what now? That you call me barren? Or that you have been having sex with your own mother?” I said with a boiling anger. He got on his feet, wrinkling his face with a disbelieving look on his face.
“What do you mean? How can I have sex with my own mother?” he said “Are you denying it?”
“What are you talking about?” he asked confusedly. I simply kept quiet and walked away. Two days later, the evening of the seventh day of this prayer, a mysterious ailment gripped my mother-in-law. Before we could take her to the clinic she started confessing. “I am the leader of my coven. I killed my husband and cloaked my son’s face. I made my son my husband.” She was blurting, and scratching the balls on her once light skin that suddenly became dark. My husband was shocked and dumbfounded. “Yes, he doesn’t know he’s been sleeping with me” she continued as my husband went into tears, sitting on the floor. “I caused your barrenness. I didn’t want you to have a child for my son because it would have removed the cloak from his face… Please forgive me” she said to me.
As I tell this story with tears, she is lying critically ill in the hospital, still pleading for my forgiveness. How do I forgive a woman that’s wasted twelve good years of my life? Would forgiving her bring back those years?