You did not tell your boyfriend that you were getting married. So when your phone rings on your wedding night and his name and picture appear on your phone’s screen, you do not pick the call. It
continues to ring, this iphone with its delicate features, with his face on the screen; his reddish lips glowing redder. You do not pick.
Your husband stands up from the bed, his slightly protruded belly hanging low, as if tired. He walks out of the room. The sound of his footsteps against the cool, mirrored tiles is the sound of a person’s palm is beating the surface of water. When you are sure that he is out of earshot, you pick up your phone to call Kunle back, but then a text buzzes in from him. It reads:
“One day our dreams will come true. We will both be the people we want to be. Happy and of course blessed. Then I will have my heart’s one desire – coming back every day to see my bae on the couch, with those hot legs crossed. I will kiss you and then we’d talk about our day and what to do about our children’s performances in school. Till then, sleep well, my love.’
You feel a movement in your chest. A warm sensation wraps around you, like a cuddle. Your husband comes into the room. He does not see the tears you blink back. He will never know that your eyes burn on the inside. He smiles at you, a suggestive smile, and you smile back.
‘Coming, Emeka,’ you say.
He nods quickly and you enter the bathroom. As you close the bathroom door, your back leaned against its smooth surface, you exhale slowly, feverishly. You take off your smalls and climb into the bathtub, your phone in your right hand. You swipe open the screen and reread the text message again. This time around, there is a rhythm in your heart, a vibration of some sort. The water rises around you, its white foam the same color as your bathtub, the color of snow. You read the part where he writes, ‘with those legs crossed’ and you laugh, tears streaming down your cheeks unrestrainedly. You do not know how long you stay like that until you hear your husband banging on the bathroom door and saying: ‘Is everything alright?’
You jerk into reality and, almost in slow motion, stand up from the tub.
When you come out, your husband looks at you from hair to toe.
‘Boobae… is everything alright?’
You nod quickly. If only this jelly of a man will stop calling you boobae.
He still looks unconvinced as you drop your phone and dry your body. He stands up and walks out of the room, his buttocks, his flesh, every part of him shaking, as if he is made of water. You remember Kunle’s firm body.
Then different thoughts start contesting for space in your mind. You wonder what Kunle is doing at the moment. How he will stare at his phone and then mutter aloud, ‘Why isn’t Jumoke picking up?’
When your husband returns with a mischievous smile, you are lying on the bed. He claps his chubby hands together. Each of his fingers looked swollen, as if he suffered from whitlow. Then he climbs into bed, beside you. The mattress reduces, drowning in his weight.
You look up to the ceiling as a way of evading his eyes. You can feel them on you, those bulgy eyes that peeped out of his face like spectacles.
‘Boobae… I don’t like this. You don’t look happy.’
You turn and look at him. His appearance is newly repulsive. His saggy breasts lie on his chest, as if they were sleepy. And that stomach has tilted sideways, as if about to fall off.
‘I’m fine,’ you say hysterically. Your eyes will soon betray you, so you stand up and put off the light.
‘No, boobae. I want to see your face.’
You do not protest. He turns the light back on and stares at you moronically. You lie down back and take a deep breath to hold back the tears.
‘I’m just tired from the wedding…’ This is all you can say.
The rest of the night is a catalogue of mishaps. First, this jelly of a man climbs on top you, his weight crushing you. You feel him thrust in and out of you, his thing the size of your last finger. The look of contentment in his eyes makes your stomach knot, and, when you feel his sticky fluid inside of you, you feel soaked up in mire. He rolls away from you. It brings to mind the way the angels rolled away the heavy stone on Jesus’s tomb.
He keeps on panting, lying next to you. You stand up, turn off the light and lie down again. Then you feel his hand, the hand that is as rubbery as a sachet of water, cuddle you. Tears drop from your eyes and you bite your teeth into lower lip to avoid crying.
In the morning he serves you tea in bed.
‘What is it? Do you need anything?’ He is troubled by your indifference towards him.
‘No, you shake your head. And, almost immediately you add, ‘Stop calling me boobae!’
He shakes his head. ‘No, Boobae. I can’t. You are my boo and my bae all wrapped in one.’
You feel like strangling him as he chuckles, too pleased with his attempt at being humorous.
You are grateful when his PA knocks on the door and despite his protest, insists that he must take a business call.
When he steps out, you look around your room. It is lush, comfy and speaks volume of Emeka’s money. But it lacks something. It lacks the presence of Kunle – his chiseled face and reddish lips, that aura of masculinity that exudes from Him, his firm thighs…
You allow your thought to drift to that cramped room of Kunle’s, near MCC road, in a less expensive part of Calabar. You picture him sitting near his small window, playing his guitar, his forehead furrowed.
When your husband comes back in, he is apologetic.
‘Boobae, we can’t go to Obudu cattle ranch for our honeymoon. I have a business emergency…’ It resembles a request, his statement. And if you say no, you are sure he will budge. He will do anything to please you.
‘It’s fine. Some other time,’ you exhale.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Be right back.’ He winks at you and you feel nauseous. Contrary to your mother’s advice, you will never grow to love this man with rings of flesh around his neck, as if they are trying to strangle him.
‘Marry Emeka and deliver your family from poverty. Kunle is still young. He will find another girl. He is not yet ready.’ Your Mother had reasoned when Emeka first showed up at your house.
‘I cannot stand him. He looks like a doughnut.’
‘A woman’s mind is flexible. You will grow to love him. How long do you think it will take before Kunle finds his feet? That is if he ever will. This is Nigeria.’ She started handpicking the particles from the beans. You looked around your environment, at the roosters that went about touching their beaks on the earth, the smoke that had formed a whitish column in your kitchen, the firewood that were red hot, small yellow flames shaped like human thumbs appearing and disappearing on them. Then several thoughts gathered in your head, like traffic. That was many months ago.
When you tried to broach the issue to Kunle, you were disarmed by the smile that appeared on his face when you got into his room.
‘You know, when you called me, I decided to go to the market. I want to cook for you.’
‘Kunle, you can’t cook.’
‘You will teach me…’ He looked so excited, like a kid with a new toy. So you could not tell him. He led you to his small kitchen. You instructed him on how to cook, and when he succeeded in doing one thing right, he made sure you tasted it.
‘Here,’ he would say and spoon an undercooked chunk of meat or tomatoes into your mouth. He did it with so much care, his face alive, beaming. You laughed until tears stood in your eyes.
And, in the evening, when you said you were not hungry, he told you to shut up.
‘Tell me why you are not hungry,’ he said and spooned some rice into your mouth.
You chewed and said, ‘Because I have no appetite.’
‘What do I do to help you regain your appetite?’
‘You can kiss me…’
He pushed the food aside, took your hands and made you stand to your feet. He looked down at you, his eyes intimidating; his gaze strong. His lips enveloped yours. You could taste his craving. Something like liquid fire travelled through your veins. His hard face lowered to your breasts, and as his warm lips closed around one of it, electrifying sparks shot through your skin, jabbed at your sides. You breathed helplessly. He carried you with ease and lowered you to the bed, looking into your eyes. There was a smile like a half moon on his face. His breath left his mouth into yours. He kissed you briefly before lowering his head to the skin between your legs. You wriggled your waist and moaned, excitement burning too hot, your head expanding and shrinking, your breathing loud and uncontrolled as his tongue dipped in and out of you, sucked and licked until every nerve in your body tingled. Then he got in, thrusting and thrashing until your nose and your mouth were no longer enough to breathe with.
When it was over, he lay on top of you, trembling, his face dug into your shoulder. The sound of his breathing was gentle, like the hiss of a soft breeze that swept into the room. The sky rumbled and the rain fell. You both fell asleep.
When you woke up, the sky was a berry blue. He was by the window, his shoulders wide and arms muscled. He was still naked, his long legs rearing up powerfully, his feet looking planted into the floor. You knew then that you could not bring yourself to tell him. Tears pressed against the back of your eyes and you turned around and sobbed quietly.
He suspected something throughout your preparation for the wedding – the distance, the hostility of the members of your family.
‘Bae, I know I do not have anything to give you now, but all I’m asking is for you to give me time,’ he said one evening as you strolled along his street. ‘Give me some time,’ he repeated with clenched fists. He faced you and looked into your eyes. ‘Please…’ His dark handsome face tightened. His gaze intensified. You nodded and swallowed back what you should say. He hugged you, ‘Thanks,’ he breathed, his body warm against yours. He trembled helplessly. He felt so vulnerable, so helpless. The breeze moved around you people, like a circle of spectators. Rain drizzles touched you people, as if encouragingly. And you knew that you would never tell him that you were getting married.
You picture his face again as the curtain in your matrimonial room rises and falls in response to the impact of a light breeze. Your husband is still outside. Your phone rings and you look at the screen again, Kunle’s phone number and picture appear on it, but you do not pick.
(DEDICATED TO ALL THE UGANDAN AND AFRICAN WOMEN WHO HAD TO MARRY MEN THEY DO NOT WANT, NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMY, BUT MOSTLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN RAISED TO SEE THEIR INABILITY TO BE THE PROVIDER. HENCE, MARRYING THE BETTER PROVIDER IS THEIR ONLY TICKET TO FINANCIAL LIBERATION. MOST OF THESE WOMEN ARE LIVING THROUGH IT, SMILING EVERYDAY, AND TRYING TO FIT INTO THEIR PLASTIC LIVES.)
Chidera Duru, author of the sound of war