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The International Writers Magazine:Married Life

Things You Never Knew You Never Knew
Emmanuel Iduma


My Nana,
I am going to tell you the truth. I have lied for so long and I am tired of living a double life. You know how it was when we first starting seeing each other. All the promises I made. I do not know if I made those promises because they appear so far away from me.

I went to the open scenery of the meat market to write this letter. Flies buzzed around me, and the stench became a bore. I had no real reason for going there, except that I wanted to endure punishment while I wrote the truth.

You know I really loved you, even from the university. You know I really meant it and would even boast about it to my friends. They mocked me, telling me that out the many fishes in the ocean, what I chose was a tadpole. I did not listen to them; because you meant more than a tadpole to me; because you were my whale. Never dispute that I really loved you. Never dispute the fact that I loved you then. Even if you doubt it because of the truth I am about to uncover, just find a place in your heart to place the conviction that I loved you. And yes, to prove that it was really love, not the jink of infatuation, when you came to my house to see my mother, what my mother said behind my ears was enough to end our dating. She said, "Is this the best you could bring home to me? This one with a satellite ear and a sad face?" I smiled and told her that it was my own best, and that beauty was not the criterion for marriage; that love was, and still is. I did not care what anyone said. I wanted you. I wanted our love to thrive.

We entered into marriage. We had gotten jobs before then. Life was playing a good host to us, and we had nothing to worry about. We had agreed that there would be no children until after a year of our marriage, that you would get pregnant the next year. I should not remind you of the things we agreed together. But that was the truth. Everything was perfect, even more perfect than movies. Until that day I came back without my job.

I remember how you reacted. You showed surprise and you said, "How can they do that to you?" But you slept throughout that night, while I tossed from one side of my corner on our bed to the other. I did not understand you at that moment; you had shown concern but did not toss the bed with me. I did not sleep that night and though I saw that my eyes had bags underneath them, you did not notice.

I think that was the beginning of our problems. By that time, we had spent one year in our marriage. It was time for you to get pregnant. You did not. Two years into the marriage, and you still did not. My mother, the one who had complained that you had satellite ear, justified her earlier complaints. She started nagging, though you did not know because she never nagged in your presence. I was not pressurizing you. You know Obi, my friend from childhood. We married at almost the same time; he was only two months ahead of me. The first year came and his wife did not have a protruding stomach. I began to hear quarrels whenever I went to visit him. I even heard him call her "a man." I was sorry for the woman. She had no satellite ear and was always with smiles, unlike you. Yet she was not pregnant and Obi called her names. I did not do that to you. Tell me the truth, did I? Did I call you any name that was not befitting for your dignity? Did I send you away or heed the voice of my mother who brought a girl from our village and said I should marry her? Did I quarrel with you? Was it not for love that I married you? Did I marry you for children?

I did not complain when you came home very late for the first time. You did not give any reason. You only asked if I had eaten and "why are you sleeping on the couch?" I was nearly infuriated; couldn’t you see that it was because of you that I was not on our bed? But I consoled myself with the fact that it was the first time. And the first time began the trend of further late comings. You never said why you came late; you only asked me if I had left some food for you. I always said yes. Those days, what my mother had said kept ringing inside my head. The fact that culturally I should have been the one asking, "Did you keep anything for me?" did not do any good to me.

Many times I cooked for the visitors that you brought. Many times I heard them say, "Your chef can cook well." I had become used to your sheepish response; you smiled in a way that told them that you had chartered the best chef in town. None of them ever asked about your husband and children and I kept wondering why. They were mostly men, and they wore clothes that should have been made for two; clothes that were spangled with expensive embroidery. You always sat with them in the parlor and talked about one government functionary or the other. I wondered what your job as a Polytechnic lecturer had to do with government functionaries.

On one of those days that your visitors came, you wore a dress that was too transparent. It was linen. I came to serve them food and you touched my head and said ‘thank you.’ You touched my head, a significance of what I had become to you—a common cook. It was not your touch that was painful for me. It was the fact that one of the visitors, who had made a joke earlier, laughed raucously and said, "She knows I want to marry her." You laughed and scanned the parlor for me. I was there, sitting at the dining and peeling the oranges I wanted to serve your visitors. You knew I understood you had told them that you were single. So you avoided my eyes and stopped laughing.

I did not complain to anybody. Would I have complained to my mother, who would bring the village girl again? Would I have told Obi who had so many other women that I feared for his life? I was silent. I had lost my job, which was the best anyone knew.

You told me casually that you had found another house in a richer environment. I asked how much it cost for rent per month. You said it was no business of mine, "after all, you are not contributing."
"What does that mean?" I asked you, mad with anger. And you hissed and told me that we would leave in a week’s time. The next day, I asked you why we needed a new house. You explained something about your status in the society and how our present house was demeaning. I asked you, irritated at your arrogance, what your status in the society was. It was with a snicker that you told me, "I am going to be Senator. I am running in the next elections."
I did not know what to feel—anger or pride.

Soon your aspiration became public knowledge. It was Obi that told me something I have not forgotten; something that I hope is not true. Obi said he heard you went to a witch doctor and used your womb for a sacrifice to ensure you had your political aspirations fulfilled. He said it was also public knowledge. Did you do that? Did you forfeit motherhood for politics? Did you forfeit posterity for materialism? I know you had become a stranger to me a long time ago. That we lived under the same roof and I did not know whether it was true or not that you had sacrificed your womb is not what I am grieving about. Tell me, did you sacrifice your womb? I do not want to believe. If it is true, then I would start to grieve.

We no longer shared the same room. I do not know how we managed to live together, with all the separation that bedeviled us. But I knew when you started bringing cash to the house. I knew because your Personal Assistant (with a large mouth which always smelt of stale beer and which never said a word of hello to me), always helped you carry the big bags. One day you left the house, forgetting to lock your door. Out of curiosity, I entered. And that was when I discovered the contents of the big bag—stacks and stacks and stacks of higher denomination naira notes. I had heard, previously, that politicians always packed money in bags. When I saw your stacks of notes, I knew that there was some power in money—the power that could make all those stacks belong to just one person who cared nothing about the people to whom the money really belonged to.

I stole from you that very day. I obtained some money from the big bag. And I went away to spend it.
Obi had introduced me to one of his women. He told me that she was a cheap woman and would fall for any man; that she could even assent if a tree came to woo her. I knew where to meet with her (because Obi had shown me her house). We started with a suya joint where we ate the grilled meat till her gluttony could accommodate no more. We ate suya for two nights. On the third night, she said she wanted to see the movie that would be shown in Silverbird Galleria. On the fourth night, she said it would not be fair if we just knew each other on the surface, that she wanted a more intimate knowing. On the fifth day she said she wanted clothes and we went shopping. By this time I was left with only little money. On the evening of the fifth day, you mistakenly left your door ajar. I understood why you had poor memory. It was few months to the election and there was so much to do. I stole again from your room you left ajar. Soon, I got tired of her and tried another. In all, I had about six women with the money from your room you left ajar.

After the sixth woman, I began to feel guilty. I cried one night, wailing what our marriage had become, wailing that we had become unfaithful. I wanted to mend the disaster. I wanted our love to be rekindled. But the more I wanted a rekindling, the more I found that I did not know what had caused the waning of your love and mine. That was when I began to look for answers. That was when I found Baba.

Baba was an old Priest who was excommunicated from his church because it was rumored that the gift he had to chase evil spirits was gotten from the mermaid, an evil spirit herself. Obi had told me that he could see the future and that he could read a distorted past. I went to his house. Not only did he welcome me wonderfully, but he gave me some food. He smiled and sighed at the same time, while he watched me eating.

Baba did not respond to my quest to understand what had made our love wane. He told me, while he laughed, that there were many things you never knew you never knew.
"She thinks she is destined to be a politician. No. She would be disgraced from the office she would hold." He said you believed that your achievement in life made you better than me. "It is a big delusion. A woman is never above her man. They are equal. They stand or fall together."
Baba said we belonged together forever, till death parted us. Do you know that?

Last week, I left the house. The election had come and you had become a Senator. I left the house because I had gotten a job as a Lecturer in the University of Ife. I had applied earlier. I got the letter and I am writing this letter from the University’s old Bukateria.

I still love you. I am going to wait for you to know the things you never knew. This is the truth I wanted to tell you: I love you and I would wait for you to love me back. I would never stop waiting. Would you stop waiting for love to reach perfection, for light to overcome darkness?
It’s me,
Ike.

©   Emmanuel Iduma June 2008
emmaiduma@yahoo.com

Emmanuel Iduma was born in 1989 in Nigeria. His short stories have been published in online and print literary magazines. He is a student of Law in a Nigerian university, where he resides with his parents.

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