So this post was inspired by the TLC (The Literary Café) Task. We were to produce a work on domestic violence, and this is my contribution . . .
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
I held the blocked purewater to her swollen jaws. She winced. I reduce the pressure I am applying. I move it to her swollen left eye. She lets out a loud gasp. I heave a sigh of exasperation. She looked like all those idols in the shrines in African Magic – protruding lips, bulging eyes, misshapen jaws. I shuddered inwardly. Her shoulders began to shake. She was crying again. I gathered her in my arms and held her while she cried. I let her clean her running and broken nose on my sleeve. She cried herself to sleep in my arms. I lay her gently on the sofa and found my way to our – my husband and I – bedroom. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My ears have been securely tucked into my stylishly tied head gear. The full skirts of my Ankara gown billowed out around me. I put my hand to the turtle neck, and adjusted my sleeves at the wrist. Like someone who just got out of a trance, I turned towards my wardrobe, pulled out a box, and opened it up. I began to drag my dresses from the hangars and stuff them into the box. I unfolded a travelling bag from the same wardrobe and crammed my accessories – shoes bags, belts, purses – into it. A knock at the door interrupted my movements. I would have called her to come in, but I remembered that her fingers didn’t escape the baptism of blows. I walked to the door to let her in. She sank into the bed and sighed.
‘You didn’t tell me you and Daddy were travelling.’
I zipped up the bulging box while seating on it. I had to squeeze the bag between my thighs before it zipped shut. She sat up on the bed.
‘But this Sunday is the Marriage Conference.’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t understand. Why are you not going to attend?’
I leaned on the wall to catch my breath.
‘I need to sort some things out.’ I walked over to join her on the bed and took her broken fingers in mine.
‘But I was really hoping that Steve and I would come to see you. He would be calm by then.’
I allowed myself to smile at her. The sound of the opening door interrupted our conversation. She jumped to her feet and genuflected before my husband.
‘Ha! Daddy, welcome sir.’
‘Good afternoon. God bless you.’ He helped her to her feet, releasing her fingers when he saw her wince. His attention on her face is snatched by the packed bags and boxes.
‘You are welcome to stay here anytime.’ He turned to me. ‘Let me help you into the guest room.’
My voice stopped him in his tracks. ‘They are mine.’
He turned to face me with a smile on his face. I got up from the bed. ‘My lawyer said you got the letters.’ He turned to look at her – Moji, Steve’s wife, beaten to a pulp because she had insulted his mother. I look pointedly at him. ‘She isn’t going anywhere. The truth will be out anyhow.’
‘You want to throw fifteen years away? Our ministry? Our kids? What about the couples you counsel? What about the Church? ‘
‘You should have thought about that before you laid a finger on me. How dare you hit me? How dare you?!’
‘Listen. Just listen. We can talk to the elders. I told you I was sorry. I have asked God for forgiveness. I wasn’t thinking properly. Please, help me.’ He put out his hands pleadingly and got on his knees. I sank down into the ground and began to weep. He was sorry wasn’t he? He didn’t mean to hit me. I nodded my head and he helped me up. He and Moji helped me unpack, and then I had to help Moji settle in for the night. When I went to her room to pray with her, she examined me closely.
‘Mummy, how long ago?’ she was searching for bruise marks. I shook my head.
‘It was like three weeks back’
‘What did you do?’
‘I told him I was too tired to go to the market just to prepare fresh fish stew, that he should eat the normal stew at home that night and I would make the fresh stew the next morning. He started yelling at me. Next thing, I lose my temper and I am yelling back. Before I know what is going on, I receive two slaps in quick succession. He would have beaten me more. I ran into the kitchen and locked him out. I didn’t even know how to feel. The next morning, he is speaking in tongues during morning devotion like nothing happened.’
‘The first time Steve did it, he had a bad day at work. But we are even having problems ordinarily. When we drove into the estate the other day, one of the security guys made eyes at me. Steve was mad. He raped me in his words, ‘to make up for his long hours at work’. This time we were talking, at least I thought we were, and so we were talking about our sex life and I I told him that I needed him more. He flipped, called me names, went out got drunk and came back. I cautioned him for getting drunk. He descended on me. He hit me, I dodged. He tried again. I hit him back. He beat the crap out of me.’
She began to cry. ‘I lied about his mother thing. I am just tired. I want my husband back.’
I swallowed as I fought with my tears. ‘But the church won’t let me leave him.’
I patted her hand. ‘Change churches.’
She was taken aback. She looked at me. ‘You are really not staying?’
I shook my head.
I patted her shoulder. And allowed my tears fall. ‘I am not strong, Moji. I can’t stay. I lack courage. Forgive? Okay. Stay? No. I can’t.’
‘But what about everything you have built here?’
I buried my face in my palms. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’
And we were just there crying..