He had the type of face one could easily forget even when looking at it. But he also had a manly demeanor that intrigued her. For the next couple of months after meeting (in no manner that called for tea to tell), she found herself mesmerized by this manly-yet paradoxical-demeanor. He was neither polite nor impolite in his approach, neither too much in giving of his attention nor too thirsty for her attention either, neither express about his intentions with her nor vague in his actions that to any rational human implied his intention. In a nutshell, he was neither here nor there right from the word go. Difficult to read; and a man wrapped in mystery is worth a fantasy trip, no? she thought in awe.
‘…before your father, there was a man who broke her so badly, her sisters gathered, sucking their teeth, healing her with words, feeding her with spoonful of loves…(Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo- Twenty six). And 26 she was then, this girl Nya!
Theirs was a home devoted to raising children of substance. Mama lived by one single mantra- that ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’. No rod was spared, no correction ungiven. They turned out just right, all five of them. Wife materials they were called, lucky husbands they would get- the community said. And so they grew up, oblivious of the fact that the reward for being a good woman was not a good man; and naive to the fact that subconsciously, their minds had been tuned to marriage as their end goal… Is it not an open secret now that to this society of ours, the burden of proving that one is a fit for a partner lies on the girls?….do not do this, do not be lazy, you have to learn how to cook; otherwise no one will want to marry you…
Uni came and went and in one way or another they went bad. Because Uni has a way with getting the good girls going bad in this way or the other. But a good girl at heart remains just that…so she turns out as one of those- pretty little bad girls; charming at heart but wild.
And now at 26, Nya is back at it. Love-struck, over her previous heartbreaks and disappointments, in no need of spoonfuls of love from her sisters and in what she thinks is a mature relationship, -with this mysterious man who is neither polite nor impolite in his approach, neither too much in giving his attention nor too thirsty for hers either, neither here nor there. At 26, she has decided that she is now ready for a serious relationship that will lead to marriage, ready to be impatient about the grayness in the relationship but patient enough to appreciate that the shade of grey today is deeper than it was yesterday. Soon, she thinks, it will be a clear black. Because in relationships, it is either black or white, either you are there or here. (Okay- you in a grey zone, hang in there. The black/white vibe is the theoretical part…in reality you may fight battles to be the one who eventually makes it to the alter sissy… )
Their relationship has been doing just fine. Not as good as it appears on social media, but above average. But lately it has been in a furnace, she no longer knows what is right or wrong by his measure. Recently, when they bumped into her classmate of old-way back in their primary school days… she was elated. She cordially introduced him to HIM and continued an animated chat for the next 10 or so minutes with him. So animated was it that she did not notice that he- her boyfriend-had walked ahead to the car and was impatiently throwing glances their way.
She has never seen him like that- the evidence of the level of fury visible on the now pounding veins on his forehead.. His lips remain conflicted between parting ways to flash a deceitful smile or the lower lip submitting to a painful bite from his upper jaw in anger. In an attempt to ease the tension, she gently says that it has been long since she bumped into any one from primary school. But he cuts her short with incoherent words, sounds like something is chocking him. And even though she does not know him for a jealous man, it feels like it is jealousy chocking him. When he finally turns to her, Nya can tell that his eyes are telling the tale of a man who has just swallowed a flame of anger and forgotten to take something cold.
She wakes up with one black eye and one that won’t open. It will not open for the next couple of days. He refused to eat the food she prepared. Later in the night, he lost it. He accused her of showing signs and symptoms of promiscuity through that sly laughter of hers. He demanded to know why a girl would laugh so hard to dry jokes from another man, was he not enough- man enough for her. When words failed him, he started throwing things around; and then out of nowhere, grabbed her by the throat, pinned her against the wall and rained blows. She cannot remember much because she passed out.
She stands by the mirror, trying to listen to her mind but with a heart too overwhelmed. Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows.
But ours is a society that has mastered the art of rationalizing the irrational. One that knows that in love, you take the loveable and the unlovable-because no one is perfect. One that will tell you when someone shows you who they are, you ought to believe them the first time; but still ask you to learn and master the art of forgiveness. It’s a society that has taught us that for a person to get to such a level, they must have been provoked. And you-pretty little bad girl- should not provoke a man to such levels. (Let’s give a round of applause to our society).
He buys flowers, he apologizes in a thousand charming ways, he seems changed for the better. He will do everything to make it right and keep her around. He will invest his emotions and finances in making it right. On vacation, they will post beautiful photos with cheesy captions. Her peers will scroll endlessly, occasionally pausing to look up to the skies and implore the giver of perfect relationships- Lord, your humble servants are ready for our relationship breakthrough and success story. Those in struggling relationships and situation-ships will inhale their relationship struggles and by the mighty name- exhale relationship goals.
The show will not last long. He will lose his anger over and over again. He will have bouts of extreme liking and exaltation for her: and bouts of extreme dislike and despise for her. He will get annoyed by her action and inaction in equal measure. Sometimes it will be about something she has done, and sometimes about what she has not done. They will somehow work things out and the relationship will defy many odds. She will stay because she prefers the devil she knows, she will stay because he is ‘man enough’ to own up when he errs and apologize. She will stay because at 26, she decided that she was ready for a serious relationship that would lead to marriage. Her ovaries are not getting any younger, her options in life partners not any wider.
Last night, he banged her head against the wall so hard that she remained silent. She will be silent for forever.
A misogynist somewhere will write a phenomenal article, that women should not provoke men to such limits that will push them to react like that. He will find every reason that could have angered a man to murder. Never mind that no one has the right to another’s life.Never mind that she will never tell the side of her story. Many feminists will react angrily and take to social media, cursing any man who does such a heinous act. ‘Stop killing our women/stop killing women for love’…Never mind that they have chosen to objectify the women- like they want to say that it is okay to kill, as long as it’s not our women’. Never mind that this has now been labeled as an act of love-that he killed her, yes, but for love. (Oh what a divine act)
Nya remained silent in life; and she remains silent in death. In hopeful waiting for the reward of marriage, in excitement that she too belonged. But at what cost? Was the tolerance worth it? And how much is too much?