I watched as my sister-in-law, the head of the women furiously unwrap the razor to be used on my long hairs. Since their sudden arrival, none have produced any sympathetic words to me rather they added to my wounds.
“Come and sit down…let’s scrape your atrocities away”, she hissed. I kept wondering the reason behind their acrid attitude. These were the same women who dished out words of ‘advice’ the day I was sold to my beastly husband. The day my life came to a halt, they gathered and filled my head with ‘don’ts’ leaving me naked with no choice of my own.
“As a woman, it is your husband’s duty to carter for all your needs so do not make him angry”, my mother cautioned.
‘What if he makes me angry?’ I thought. None said anything about the husband making me angry… No one gave him the kind of instructions I was given…that was enough to be drafted into a constitution. So many ‘don’ts’.
“Don’t say NO to your husband…always be in the mood, force the mood even”, Mama gave out a serious face as she pulled my ears. She was my father’s elder sister and fond of calling me a stubborn girl because I wanted to complete my secondary studies.
“Don’t wake up late, serve his food early and always”. I looked up at the speaker who shot me a sour smile. She was pale and I guess from working herself to death. That day, I concluded marriage was another form of slavery. The women around me, that day my father made a fortune off my head, looked scared as they spoke but here they were with tongues sharper than the razor they came with.
“Don’t give birth to only female children mix it up…if possible give him a son, first”, my aunt said as if she was the goddess of male children. She should thank her stars that the Almighty blessed her with seven boys. There are things that shouldn’t be heard from a woman’s mouth especially the issue of bearing male children. Common sense toppled with the teaching of my basic science teacher, made it vivid that it wasn’t in anybody’s might to determine the sex of their child. But there they stood dishing out nonsense in the name of advice.
“Don’t go out without his permission. In fact come to think of it, where will you be going to apart from the market because am certain your husband will treat you like a queen”. I wasn’t only going to be a slave but a prisoner too. My heart was swollen from the horrifying pictures my mind created.
“Don’t show your anger, endure everything as women do”. I couldn’t let this slide, as I opened my mouth to say something, my mother pinned my lips with her fingers and said “…don’t talk back at your husband. Listen and say nothing”. “What?!” I heard my chest pound. These people cared less for my happiness…they just wanted me out of the house because I was up to age as claimed and wouldn’t want people to say they didn’t abide by the custom. A custom that was unfair to girls like myself. I have been paralyzed by the custom of my people, made to marry a man older than my late grandfather because ‘they’ said he oozes money and my father was broke.
The so loving husband according to the women who had never lived with him was my nightmare. Every night he would barge into the room, strip off my clothes without my consent and roughly make his way inside of me with a hot breathe threatening to kill me if after his hard effort I give birth to another female child. Afterwards he abandons me like some piece of trash. I never had a say. They said I shouldn’t talk back and this gradually ate me up. Twice I had ran away from the beast to my father’s house, the only place I knew to run for safety but I was brought back twice even after showing them my bruised body.
“You’ll get used to it” my mother said as she held me by the hand back to the house of horror. “I got used to it, your sister did. So yours won’t be any different”. I was alarmed when I heard her. Deep down I knew I couldn’t bear ‘it’ any longer. Why make my life miserable when I haven’t done any wrong, never said anything hurtful to my two-faced husband, sweet to the world and filled with hatred inside. I was being maltreated for birthing female children.
Now, they stomp in with wrathful faces and long mouths as if to say I never kept to their constitution. I was a living dead because I listened to them…like a bare tree waiting for a heavy wind, I stood. The death of the man that killed me mentally brought them to his house like a vulture perceiving a carcass miles away. Their eyes pierced my soul accusingly.
“I hope you’re now happy? You’ve achieved nothing as a married woman. You didn’t even bore him a son to follow his footstep”, that was the voice of my sister-in-law. Her last statement made me glad that a male child didn’t come out from my abused marriage. I wouldn’t have the heart to see my son walk same path as his monstrous father. My own child was still a stranger to me. Each day I stare hard into her face with mixed feelings hoping she doesn’t turn out to be like her mother, who failed to stand on her ground.
They believed I killed my husband, no one remembered that he was sixty-four when he married an innocent fourteen years old girl. I won’t forget. My joy knew no bound that he was gone for life and perhaps scraping off my hairs will usher me into a fresh start…fresh voice, fresh ground, fresh me.