Stupid or Conformist?

Moyo sat in the darkness of the bedroom she used to share with her husband. She had given up on wondering where he was. He only came home once in a week to check up on his children. He bought them toys on these visits. He came home the previous day and they had another big issue. It was as if he was asked, “what will make you happy today? Getting a promotion? Getting a raise? Winning a jackpot?” and he replied, “No. talking Moyo down would make my day. In fact, it would make my year.” He came home and just vented. As usual, he found something wrong she had done. It was like there was something about criticising her that turned him on. He didn’t stop at bathing her with insults, he kicked her out of the room. She ended up sleeping in one of the guest rooms downstairs.

Lately, they didn’t have sex. He couldn’t stay long without shoving his shaft into her oven. Obviously, there was another woman who was giving it to him. She had confronted him on several occasions. The last time she did it, he gave her the beating of her life. After that incident, she swore never to confront him in her life. That was two months ago. Good enough for her, she didn’t have to bother about anyone asking her questions. She was a stay-at-home mom. She wouldn’t have believed it if anyone had told her four years after getting married to him; he would turn into a dastardly monster. She wondered where she had gone wrong. She regretted putting her life on hold for him and her children.

Before she got married, she told herself that whomever she was going to be with wouldn’t have any other woman besides her. She remembered a heated debate she had in class with her other classmates in the university.
She had vehemently stated, “Whomever I get married to will not cheat on me. Both of us would be one.” She went on to emphasize the oneness by interlocking her index fingers of both hands. If her classmates knew what she was up to, they would feign pity for her but laugh hard behind her back. Especially Kenny. Kenny had a sadistic laughter that she used to find annoying. It sounded like something from a maniacal psychopath.

Kenny was one of those people other people hated just because they were awesome. She was “hated” by many because she had what they lacked. In the hatred, there was an iota of respect because Kenny had it all: intellect, grace, charm, wit, beauty, and other endearing qualities. It seemed like Kenny was amazing without even making an effort. Kenny seemed anti-matrimony. Recently, she heard through the grapevines that Kenny wasn’t married. To make it more interesting, she was the owner of a very successful law firm somewhere in Ikeja. Kenny was one of the few women she had come to respect. Kenny was now a prominent member of the society at just 29. Here she was: an out-of-shape wife of some ungrateful man who had made stripping her off her dignity his favourite hobby.

Moyo smiled to herself. Those of them that are single don’t understand how lucky they are, she mused. They have their own money. They have their freedom. They have peace of mind. Moyo didn’t know when the tears started trickling down her face. She sniffed in the darkness. She tried to imagine how her life would have been if she wasn’t married.

She was one of the best students in her class. She was even nominated for the Most Likely to Succeed Award alongside Kenny and two other dudes in her class. Everyone knew she had potential. She used to be very opinionated. No lecturer back then could treat her class how they felt like. Moyo wasn’t the course rep but her lecturers were scared of her guts.  How did she become this subservient and timid woman? Many a times, when she looked into the mirror, she didn’t seem to recognise the person she saw in there.

She could see the fear in her eyes.

She met him in a bus. He was sitting on her left side. She was going to visit her sister who lived at Ikorodu. As expected of Ikorodu road, there was serious traffic. She remembered she hissed. That was when Victor spoke to her. He had asked her why she was angry. She had spent most of her energy getting angry at the traffic jam. She didn’t have enough energy to reply him. He didn’t get it that she wasn’t in the mood to have a conversation. Or maybe he did but he just felt like chatting her up. He told her that anger wasn’t worth it. He even supported his claim with a biblical passage.

That was when Moyo got interested in him.

Most of the guys she knew were not good Christians. She believed that once a man was god-fearing, he wouldn’t act the way many guys do. She believed unbelievers were the ones who smoked, drank, and screwed everyone that had a soft, warm, moist orifice between their thighs.

In the bus, they talked about hold ups in general. She went on to tell him that the cause of most hold-ups in Lagos was because most motorists were not patient. He told her about the longest traffic jam he had been in was for five hours. He said it was on his way to Abuja. He told her more stories. She hung on to everything he said. One hour later, they had exchanged numbers. They were still stuck in traffic. Although, they had made progress from Palmgroove bus stop to Ojota. Moyo had told him it was a good thing having someone to talk with. If not for him, she would have been bored out of her mind. They found out he stayed five streets away from her sister’s. He laughed and said, “imagine o. God just brought my wife to me.”

Moyo smiled. Her insides were ticklish. She had heard of couples that met in funny places. Those couples ended up having very happy families. They seemed to live a sort of fairy tale life. Seeing their wedding photos and reading their stories on Facebook always melted her heart. There and then, Moyo imagined herself getting married to Victor.

Victor ticked almost all the boxes of her idea of Mr. Right. He was tall, dark but not your typical idea of handsome. He was smart and god-fearing. From the look of things, he was a very successful engineer at 29. He was even from Oyo state. He had told her he had attended University of Ibadan. That was all she need to know.

On weekends, she would leave Yaba to go all the way to Igbogbo to see him. Igbogbo is in Ikorodu. All that distance to see her “one, true love.”  To her, she was investing in the relationship. On getting there on Friday, she would have amazing sex with Victor. She did it porn-star style with him. On Saturday, when he was out, she would do his laundry. Cook for him. Clean his house. Iron his clothes. Whenever he returned, she would make love him. In her hearts of hearts, she knew she scored an A+ in the uxorial duties course. When he proposed to her, she was beyond elated. Her efforts were not in vain. God had finally crowned her effort with success. She wasn’t going to be like those other women that didn’t get married until they were too. She had eventually landed a man. One of her cousins, Trisha, was still single at 30. Trisha was rich. She was a medical doctor. But, without a man, Trisha was nothing. That was what her mother told her the last time she was home. Her mother had advised her to get married on time so she wouldn’t be like Trisha. Now that she had succeeded where Trisha failed, her joys knew no bounds.

They had dated for a year and few months before he popped the expected question at her. In return, she had feigned surprise that she screamed her lungs out. A woman can fake anything from a smile to an orgasm. She was anything but surprised.

She was in law school at the time. Her friends had wondered if it was a good idea getting married at 22. She would have none of it. That was when she narrated the tale of other women who got married at very young ages. She convinced them that they were happy. She went on to make them understand that it was advisable for a woman to have children between the ages of 22 to 28. “Anything after that is difficult o. I read it online.”  She recalled that Zuri had said, “is this not how people from your side just get married at two years old. Babe, what is the hurry? You are smart and sexy and all that. You haven’t even started enjoying your life. You can just submit your CV to any law firm now and they would take you. Chill a bit.”

She had convinced Zuri that this was the best thing for her. She supported her point by saying, “don’t you know that this is a good thing? You should be happy for me. I am done with school and all. Like you said, if I submit my CV to any firm they will take me. What is left? I just want to have my children on time. After the kids, I can go on to focus on my career. Kids are very important. By the way, Victor has enough money. He just wants to pamper me. He doesn’t want me to work. He says he wants me looking fresh. You won’t believe if I tell you I don’t fancy the idea of me getting a job. I want to start my own thing. You know like a boutique…”

Moyo went on and on rationalising her reasons for getting married. She pleaded with her friends to support her because she felt they mattered a lot. Moreover, they were going to be in her bridal train. She knew Zuri had a crush on her. Zuri had told her about it since the first year they met. But then, Moyo didn’t swing that way. She made Zuri understand that it wasn’t going to happen.

The wedding was big. That was when it actually dawned on her that Victor was loaded. He made that day special for her. What else could a girl ask for? He even got a beautiful car for her as a wedding gift! He was crazy about her.

They had a three-week honeymoon in Ghana. She had always wanted to visit Accra. They also went to Obudu Cattle Ranch. It all seemed perfect. She was in a state of bliss. The sky was bluer. The grass was greener. Food was sweeter. Sex was more amazing. Heaven was a place on earth with him by her side.

At this moment of her life, it seemed like she neglected her friends. The calls reduced. Once, Ije “liked” a Facebook picture of her horse ridding. Victor had taken that picture of her. On Facebook, she had apologised to Ije for “abandoning” her. The excuse was, “I am busy, dear.” Indeed, she was busy enjoying the best days of her married life. Her friends were in the farthest place in her mind. Zuri didn’t bother pretending she was happy that Moyo got married. Zuri was very honest and blunt. She didn’t even call or text. Moyo felt this was because she broke Zuri’s heart in a way. She later made Zuri understand that she cared about her but she was in love with Victor. It took a while for Zuri to wrap her mind around the concept of Moyo being out of reach.

Three months after her wedding, she was pregnant. Victor was very happy when he knew he was going to be the father of a set of twins. The joy was doubled when he knew they were boys. He took extra care of his wife. Every day, he had something to celebrate. Nice restaurants. Breakfast in bed on weekends. No wine, though. He got her a pair of diamond earrings.

Moyo was in the throes of love. He was in love with her, too. He even did the chores for her when he had the chance to. She had him eating from the palm of her hand.

It all changed when Moyo decided it was time to get a job. Her children were four years old at the time. She remembered that morning in April. She was packing his lunch.

“Dear,” she said without looking up from the lunch pack. “I think it is time for me to get a job. The boys are old enough to start nursery school. I am excited about this, you know. I will get to meet brilliant people. I am thinking of a law firm. Did you know that some of my classmates in uni already have their own firms? Imagine me in a killer suit and repping people like that in court. Baby, I will be the bomb.” She was very excited.

“Because of that you now want to bath my food with spit, abi?” He spat.

“Haba, now,” she looked up at him and pouted. “I was just sharing my idea with you.  You remember we said I could start working when the boys are old enough to start school. I want to contribute to our family.”

“You should let that idea die like that. You want to now go out, abi? You want to make money, eh? So that they will say because I can’t take care of you, you have gone to hustle, is that it? How much do I pay you as salary? How many of your age mates are earning up to that? You want to go and get a job. Have you seen yourself in the mirror recently? You are now fat. You say you want to get a job. You look ten years older, sef. No one would want to employ you. Just give it up, madam I-Want-To-Get-A-Job. No be only job.” He hissed at her.

She was flummoxed. She didn’t even know how to reply him. She didn’t know where this barrage of insult was emanating from. They had had arguments in the past. But this time around, it was more than she could take. She was livid. “Victor Morakinyo Ekundayo where did that come from? Ehn? What do you mean by-”

Before she could vent her vitriol, she couldn’t believe the slap that covered half of her face. The sound alone scared her. It sounded distant yet so close.

“You dared to call my names? Ha! O ma se o! Civilisation has done more harm than good. Now women even dare to call their husbands by their full names.” He pulled her by the collar of her pyjamas shirt and slapped her again. She couldn’t even scream. He pushed her to the floor with the force of the anger he had bottled up from God-Knows-Where.

When the reality of what he had done crashed around him, he gasped and rushed to her side. He could see the tears cascading down her cheeks. “Baby, I am sorry. I … I don’t know what came over me. It is the stress at work. You know, work has been hectic and annoying the past couple of weeks. I’m sorry.” He said while cradling her head in his shoulder. He could feel her shudder. She was so fragile. She cried her heart out. He promised he would make it up to her when he got back home.

If only she knew that was the beginning of her misery.

Once upon a time, when she still had sense, she had told anyone who cared to listen that she would be a “woman rights activist”. She would make sure that any woman who came to her to complain of domestic violence would milk her husband dry. She vehemently stated that no man had the right to lay his hand upon a woman. She even added, “If my husband makes the mistake of laying his hands on me… hmm… that is the day I will quit that marriage. Ha! A whole me! One man will slap me and I will be looking at him? Olorun maje! I will so sue him, ehn… in his next life he will see a woman and run.”

It is one thing to say something. It is another thing to do it. She never understood why women remained in abusive marriages.

“Why am I still in this marriage?” she asked the dark, cold room as she turned to her left side on the bed. She was under the duvet. She groped to find the remote control to increase the temperature of the air conditioner. She didn’t miss Victor. If for any reason, she was happy he was gone. He no longer had sex with her. The tears were threatening to fall. Then she smiled, “and Zuri wanted to do stuff with me today. After all these years, she seems smitten. She is a hoe. Maybe she is one of those people that want you because they can’t have you. When they eventually have their way with you, they toss you to one corner like thrash.”

She was yet to answer the question she asked herself. Why did she decide to remain in this marriage even though she knew it was over? She had discussed the issue with her pastor’s wife.
“Wait on the Lord, sister Moyo. God understands all our problems. He will definitely rescue you. The Lord condemns divorce. Our society condemns divorce. What will the people of the world say when you leave your husband’s house? They will laugh and mock you. The devil will be happy that he has finally snatched a soul from the Lord’s vineyard. Don’t you know that the crown of a woman is her husband? What you have to do now is pray and fast. I also want you to read the Book of Proverbs. In fact, let me tell you a story. It is an African story.

“Once upon a time, a woman went to complain to the medicine man in her village that her husband was abusive. You know what the man said? He said, ‘go and bring a hair from the mane of a lion’. The woman said, ‘how can I get you the hair from the mane of a lion?’ The medicine man told her that it was the only alternative she had. That was how the woman left the medicine man’s shack without a clue of what to do.

“After a week, she made a plan. She would kill a lamb and cook it well. After that, she would put it on the path the lion crossed. She did this for a while. At a point, the lion got to know her. The lion played with her. One day, she was able to pluck the lion’s hair. This was because she had gained his confidence.

“When she went to meet the medicine man, he exclaimed, ‘hee! The same way you got the hair of this lion is the same way you will tame your husband. You have been patient in winning this lion’s confidence. You must be patient in dealing with your husband.’ That was how the woman tamed the lion. She was patient. Sister Moyo, nothing is too small for God to do. Are you a worker in the church?”

“No, ma.” Moyo replied as she shook her head.

“Please, I strongly advise that you work in the Lord’s vineyard. You should be ready to serve Him with your time, your talent, your treasure, and everything you have.” That was when Reverend Doctor Mrs. Chibuogu, JP+ (as it was written on the church’s calendar hanging on the wall behind the reverend’s chair), a.k.a Mommy in the Lord (as she was fondly called by her congregation), decided to launch into the song, My Life Time. Moyo joined her in singing this song. The song now made sense to her. In all her 27 years on earth, it was on this day the song made sense to her: “… if I give God my lifetime, he will take care of me. He will never ever let me down. I will give God my life time.” She sang to the point she broke down in tears.

Her tears gushed forth like a faucet.

Reverend Chibuogu gave her a new handkerchief. “I always keep a new one just in case. Just read the Hosanna Scripture I asked you to read, ehn. Read the whole of Proverbs. The Lord has a message for you there. Make sure you become a worker in the Lord’s vineyard. Be steadfast and don’t give up. The Lord has the heart of the king in his hand. With prayer and fasting, your husband will change. Stop provoking your husband to anger. The bible has told us where we belong. We are the ones that cause our problems. You are the wife. You should know your place. You know he is hot-headed, you too should tone down. Apply caution. You know, it is only those unbelievers that reply one hundred words when their husband says one word. When their husbands get angry and hit them, they go and file for divorce. They are going to hell. Yes, the bible says ‘judge not’ but God has given me power to judge. This he did when our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘whosoever’s sins you forgive, are forgiven.’ So, Sister Moyo, go and sin no more. Don’t make your husband angry…”

When she got home, she reasoned. Yes, she was going to be a better wife. She wouldn’t even argue with her husband. She couldn’t afford to leave the marriage. What would they say about her? She had a reputation to keep. After all, she wasn’t the first. She won’t be the last. She just needed to mind her temper. With time, he would cool off.

If only she knew, she would have shut her trap about stepping out of the house that day to talk with Mommy in the Lord. Victor flew into a rage when she told him that she had gone to see the pastor’s wife. He beat her to a stupor. He warned her never to take their marital issues to people. That day, she couldn’t stop crying. He just left the house. She didn’t see him for about a week.

How was he living? He didn’t take any of his clothes from his cloth rack. That was when it dawned on her that there was another woman out there. The realisation almost ripped her heart out of her chest.
After giving the best years of her life to him, this was how he chose to pay her back.

She would have saved herself a trip to the hospital if she had just accepted her new reality. No. She still had a modicum of University Days Moyo in her. She was going to give it to Victor. If she was going to fight him, so be it.
She was set for him that evening.

The memory of that evening played in her mind like it happened three minutes ago.

Victor came back home and Moyo was sitting in the living room downstairs. She had forgotten all the advise Reverend Chibuogu gave her the previous week. She had had enough. Today, she was going to show him the stuff she was made of.

“You think I don’t know, ba?” She said as soon as he got into the house. He looked at her like she just stepped out of Crazytown. He simply ignored her. He went upstairs to their bedroom. It was 8 PM. The kids were already in bed upstairs. She followed him up.

“Am I not talking to you?” she snapped at him. She had her hands on her hips. She was poised for attack. “You are cheating on me, abi? After knocking me up with two children, you are cheating, abi? You can’t fuck this body again, ba?” she screamed as she grabbed her breast with both hands.  “It is those small-small girls that don’t have future that you are now fucking, ehn? God will punish you, Victor.” She said in pointing her index finger at his forehead. “ You are a bastard child of a thousand fathers. I have been taking your shit and I am done. It is either you kill me today or I kill you o. E mura! What will hit you today will seem like a hurricane. You will not be able to snap out of it. It is today o. I have had all your bullshit to fever pitch. How fucking dare you?”

From nowhere she had expected, a slap landed across her face with a force she didn’t believe. “Yeei!” She screamed. She didn’t believe the intensity of the slap. It was hot and powerful. “You are dead. Kai! Victor! Ti e ti tan. You own has finished today. If you don’t die today you won’t die again. Jesus!” She ran out of the bedroom and went downstairs to get the pestle she used for pounding iyan.

Victor wasn’t expecting her to have a comeback for him. And if he were expecting a comeback, it wasn’t what he envisaged. Before he knew what was happening, she hit him on the back with the pestle.

He fell to the floor in a heap. This didn’t stop her. She raised the pestle and hit his thigh. She didn’t even pause. She picked his belt from the bed and made sure she beat him with it. He was reduced to a whimpering, snivelling mass on the floor of their bedroom: This bedroom they had had steamy sex in. He was in the foetal position and at that moment she hoped he would just cross over to the great beyond. She needed to get rid of him. He was like a cancer to her. She had lost her favourite aunt to that disease last year. She vented the pain of losing Aunty Tumi, the pain of being in an abusive marriage relationship, and the pain of not being fulfilled in life on him.  Despite his cries and pleas for mercy, nobody came to ask what was happening with them. In the estate, it was one man to his compound. Everyone minded his or her business. Yet, the next day when they saw themselves, they gave themselves saccharine smiles. No one came to his rescue. She was angry at everything. She kept on beating every part of his body. When he made to stand up, she stomped him in the nuts. This made him shriek in pain. Moyo was merciless. She kept on lashing and whooping him.

She beat him to the point he passed out.

When she realised what she had done, she stopped. She checked if he still had a pulse. She was panic-stricken. She quickly called the gateman and they took him to a clinic not so far from their house. She didn’t have any explanation to give the nurses and doctor on duty that night. The funny thing was that when she saw the marks were on his body, she felt liberated in a twisted way. If there were to be a soundtrack for her at that moment, it would have been Eva’s I Done Did It.

She had begged a neighbour to help her with her kids for the night. She promised she would be home by four in the morning. Mama Charity had agreed. Mama Charity was a sweet woman in her late 60s. Since she loved the boys, she told Moyo that she could leave them with her for as long as possible.

That was how Moyo spent the night at the hospital with Victor.
The matter didn’t die there. Victor reported her to her parents. His parents. His friends at work and in the church.

Her parents were shell-shocked. They couldn’t believe that their own sweet-natured Moyo could beat her husband and leave him with marks. Victor even went as far as exaggerating the events of that night. Not even her mother took sides with her. Her father counselled her. He assured her that marriage had its ups and downs. He reminded her that one of the greatest shame that a woman should avoid is being divorced. He gave her instances he had issues with her mother. Nevertheless, they were still together as a couple. He reminded her of the negative connotations attached to women who were divorced.

Moyo was the villain.

How could she beat her husband? She even overheard a church member who came to visit them advice Victor to take her for “psychiatric evaluation”. She wanted to enter the sitting room and give the person the insult of his life. But, that was something she couldn’t afford. The man was very analytical. Her sanity was in question. Her character was tainted. She couldn’t walk the streets without someone whispering or pointing an accusatory finger at her saying that she could kill her husband. A woman who could beat her husband could kill her husband. Why did they hate her when she beat her husband? When her husband beat her, it was okay. Of course, the society was supporting violence coming from men.

The bulk of the judgement came from her fellow church members. Some of the elderly women called her and admonished her. They reminded her that a woman wasn’t complete without a husband. They advised her to remain in the marriage for her kids. They went on to ask her what would happen to her kids if she decided to get divorced. How would she tell them that she left because they had minor arguments?

She tried to make them understand that she did what she did out of pent up anger and frustration.  She told them of the instances he had beaten her up. She further reminded them that she was the one they should feel sorry for, not her husband. The women told her that it was a taboo for a woman to beat her husband. It was unheard of. “No matter how provoked you were, you shouldn’t have beaten him with a pestle.” By this time, the story has taken a new shape. It was now embellished.

When it dawned on her that these people were going to judge her and not sympathise with her, she decided to keep her problems to herself. She had spent five years in matrimony and she wanted out.

She spoke with her parents and they advised her against it. She remembered her mother had asked if she was the only one. Her parents told her that everyone had a cross to bear. This marital problem was a cross she must carry. Her mother reminded her once more that divorce was sinful in the eyes of God and man.

It was one year after that incident and Moyo was still in the marriage. She knew she wanted to leave. But she couldn’t. She told herself that she would endure the humiliation for her kids.

Sleep was finally caressing her. She had cried a lot while thinking about everything that had transpired in the past one year. She had made up her mind she was going to stay for the kids.
“No, I won’t file for a divorce. How will I pick up the pieces of my life? How will I start anew?  My parents won’t be willing to accommodate me for a long time. Joy cometh in the morning. I will just endure. This will not last long. At least, I don’t see Victor often. Let him stay with the other woman, or women, I don’t care. So long, he doesn’t infect me with any virus or disease. I will endure.”

She drifted to sleep with that thought in her mind.