“Who’s there?” Ayo’s slurred voice made me freeze mid-stride. Bimbo stopped crooning a lullaby to her youngest child and scuttled into the house. Heavy but dragging footsteps from the empty garage told me Ayo was coming in our direction and that he was more than drunk. He must have been swimming in alcohol.
In this household where we fight and bicker everyday, everyone has devised a means of escaping from it all. My husband has his getaway - the bottle and the merciless pounding of his two wives at the slightest provocation. Bimbo, my younger wife also has hers - caring endlessly for her stair-step set of six children. As for me, I’ve got none. I just wish life would unroll under me like a dark carpet and thrust me into nothingness.
I made it to my room unscathed and sat heavily on my bed. The creaking springs told me, like they did everyday, that it was high time I got a newer bed. And a look around my dingy bedroom told me what I already knew - that I needed to get away from this loveless family.
“Funmi, where is my dinner?” the voice came from just outside my door, causing my head to roar alarmingly. I had quite forgotten that it was my turn to cook his dinner, knowing fully well that my lapse would earn me a good beating.
“I say where is my food?”
I was on my feet in an instant. “Just a minute please.”
It took me more than that to get his food ready. A black eye and forty-five minutes later, as Ayo devoured his meal like a starved puma, I crawled back into bed, and considered my existence.
The childless first of two wives, married 15 long years, lacking in basic education, and only rich enough to afford the next meal. Here in Nigeria, it isn’t uncommon to find a man, even though legally married to you, take another wife (illegally), put the two of you under the same roof and rule as lord over you both. It’s worse when you don’t conceive on time, or at all, as is my case.
We’d been married for five unhappy years before Ayo brought Bimbo home, her big pregnant belly pointing out to me my abject failure as a woman. It took two more years for Ayo to turn into an animal, and in those two years, I learnt that Bimbo was as base as our husband, taunting me at every turn.
“Why don’t you leave?” My mother had asked unendingly.
“Yes, why don’t you leave?” Even my sister.
Why didn’t I leave? Now, I ask myself. Maybe I was scared of leaving the familiar for the strange. And where would I go? How do I begin to cope as a childless, aging divorcee?
Drenched in my own sweat, I leapt from the narrow bed. The dream I’d had was jumbled and I couldn’t even remember it, but I knew it had been scary. Peering at the clock, I discovered that it was just a little past one. After staring at the ceiling for almost an hour and unable to sleep, I got off the bed and started to pace around the room. Two steps forward, one step backward until I reached the window.
It was pitch dark outside, but not quite as dark as it was in my soul. My house felt like a prison, and yet I didn’t want to trade that prison for freedom. What on earth was wrong with me?
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed°. One of my sister’s favorite verses.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free°. Another verse of hers.
As I paced, a truth silently dawned on me. My sister also had her trials, but was strong because of her faith.
Could I find strength like she had? From the Bible? Could my sister’s God give me enough strength to escape from this household, this prison?
Maybe and maybe not, but there wasn’t any harm in trying. Sighing, I dragged out a dust-laden box from underneath my bed and brought out an equally dusty leather bound book. Maybe I would find some answers. I desperately hoped so.
“God, you've got to help me.” I was pleading as I opened the book.
The Bible my sister had given me three years ago.
°John 8:36 NIV
°John 8:32 NIV
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