BITTERLEAF

 Image

Bitterleaf…

 

 

I shut my puffy eyes in solitude, away from the unsightly compound overgrown with pig weed, as the only word I could find to ascribe to Onosakponome swims about in my head.

 

Bitterleaf…

 

“Onosakponome, my Bitterleaf,”

 

Next thing, I feel kicking inside my taut belly. Strong vigorous movements that make me heave and groan. I know they have nothing to do with any baby growing inside me. For, this time yesterday, I was rid of my twins, the only true companions I had since five months ago, by Onosakponome.

The air is heavy with the stench of stale shit oozing from the pit latrine some distance away. Sitting on the crumbled block of the verandah of our one room apartment, I await Onosakponome’s return from work. I’m sitting facing the narrow path through which he walks in, my scars ridden thighs spread out. His dinner is in the brown cooler inside the room to keep warm. For dinner, I prepared his most favourite soup. Bitterleaf.

Yesterday, as the blood from my miscarriage ran down my thighs, I swore by my dead babies that I will never see the light of another day after today here. Dead or alive.

Now, I remember Mama; how she used to sit outside and wait for Papa to return home. My mind spirals forward to the last time I was together with her.

“You should be more concerned about passing your SSCE, ” Mama had thundered that evening I told her I wanted to get married. That was two days after my sixteenth birthday. My response to her had sent the kitchen knife in her hand flying towards me. I raise my hand to the deep gash the knife had left on my upper left eye, still fresh and sticky, and wish it had caused much worse damage. Probably, blinded me, so that Onosakponome would have deserted me, or better still I would not have been able to find my way to his place. Caressing the wound, I sob myself to sleep.

My slumber is terminated by a knock on my head that sends me tumbling.

“Die in your sleep!” the familiar voice growls. The next moment, like a stone tied to a rope, I’m dragged into our room.

Onosakponome reeks of burnt grass, the kind that makes me want to double over and empty my guts.

Inside the room, I kneel in appeal till he walks away from me. I do not wait for him to demand for his meal before I serve it, praying that he found the ceramic plates clean enough not to be thrown at me. The dark green leaves and chunks of stock-fish floating in yellow broth prepared with weed killer solution is too much of a temptation for Onosakponome to resist. He settles onto the floor to eat, ordering me to join him. I obey. The time I spend moulding a ball of fufu, he has swallowed three large balls. As his eyes bulge on swallowing the forth one, wearing a smile of victory, I excuse myself out of the room.

Getting outside, I walk away without turning.

I’ve won!

 

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Why Some Men Beat Their Women

For those of us constantly in line with media reports, Akolade Arowolo’s charge, prosecution and eventual death verdict is no news. That, however, isn’t the reason I’m here this morning.

I’m here to share my views on what I believe are some of the reasons why some men beat their women.

You might wonder why I choose to talk strictly about ‘Men beating Women’. Well, if you’re a man and your wife beats you, sorry o… I have no clue at all concerning why your wife should be able to flaw you in a wrestling contest. Maybe some more akpu in your diet will do. Lol!

While it surprises a lot of you why a husband should be abusive at all to someone he sees as part of himself, it baffles me more why a woman should remain in an abusive relationship.

However, still, that’s not the reason I’m here.

I’m here because I want to share my views on why some men beat their women. I’m repeating myself too much shey?

Okay. Shoot!

From my experiences, findings and reasoning, I came up with the following points;

1. The ‘See Finish’ Syndrome; This is a condition I heard about first from Charly Boy. It is definitely one of the major reasons why physical abuse happens in a relationship. The intial sparkle is lost. Therefore, you no longer see your woman as a part of you. Rather, she’s more like a scab on your flesh you know would most probably never go. So you gnaw at her at the slightest irritation. (Why the change in feelings happen, I do not really know and I’m not talking about it here.) Like someone once said, you don’t ever get so angry as to smash your blackberry against the wall when it hangs while you’re doing something important with it. Not to talk of hurting someone as precious as yourself.

2. Uncontrollable anger: When it comes to control of anger, some men are at grade zero. They are ready to throw rolled fist at the slightest provokation. Testosterone surge things I guess. True, some women’s bad mouth could displace even the devil from hell. But, guy, haba…

3. Over Machoness; “I’m a man, she’s merely a woman, so she can’t be as strong as I am.” And so when you’re challenged, the most suitable way to wield your superiority is to hit her. I call this thinking of the Early Man. ‘Homo…’ what is it called again? In some cases anyway, some men are proven wrong after the first fight.

3: History of Violence; Some men have been known with history of violence right from time. Probably they grew up in an abusive home, or ordinarily they are bullies, or they fought their way through life. So it runs in their veins, and no sort of counselling will ever mutate the gene.

4. Psychological Problem; Some men actually believe their wife enjoy battering. Because she gives them the best of everything, from sex to food to whatnot, after the session. Such men I advice should go have their head examined.

5. An Act of Discipline; Don’t be so surprised to know that some men see battering their wife as an act of disciplining them. To them, they are more like kids that need to be corrected by swinging the stick. Well…

6. The devil; Well, the devil won’t stop existing simply because you accuse him falsely all the time. When he pushes you to fight your wife, why has it never been to hit yourself so hard that you’ll have all the reason to resist him next time?

What else?

I think I’ve tried with my points. You can do whatever you like with them. Maybe analyse, find out if they’re true or false, find out where your own situation lies and see how to deal with it, or…anything. It’s open to you.

Before the end of this week, I should bring up some points why Women Are Beaten By Men.

Thank you so much for reading.

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Nought

That you like me not is not your fault
Natural it is says my thought
This vain feelings for you I fought
Good to have found the answers I sought

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Me, Unchanged

That look in your grey eyes, I know
Its kind I’ve seen, not in your face
But likes of you, in deeds and thoughts;
Self righteous men clad in thick robes
Embroidered the theme; ‘Holier Than Thou’

To them, their kids can do no ill
A special breed, last of their kind
Pure strains they are, nurtured and armed
With virtues to polish your pride

We’ve seen, we’ve known, we’ve heard them all
The scandals of the pure offsprings
The highway theft, or sneaking tricks?
The prodigal life, or promis’cuity?
We’ve heard them, seen them, known them all

I said I know that look of yours
Condemnation rolled and dipped in strife
Damnation stuffed deep with disgust

Each thought of you these days through me
Bears weight of your dislike for me
Knowing this, slights me not, at all
For after all that’s said has passed
And you’re left dripping with your gall’s bile
Look back, you’ll find me there still
Me, Unchanged

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Darkness

It spread through you to me
On those ancient church pews
On which we had both sat
On that cold sunday morn’
Gathered for the Lord’s feast

From youth it marvelled me
The couple love you shared
A youthful love so pure
That even in its wake
Old couples wished and learned

Surprised you would be to know
That from you both I first learned
The gospel truth in the lie
That even here on earth
Exists Happily E’er After

To him, you were ‘Mother’
The woman even the earth dost bless
To you, he were ‘Father’
The man next only to God
Role not merely proclaimed
But shown to all by deeds

So, it spread through you to me
On those ancient church pews
The darkness now your world
Over life’s hard made fact that
You both would never more be

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What was that?

I knew I didn’t love him anymore.

The only man that genuinely loved me. Or, rather, acted it out so well.

Adinoyi.

From the way my shoulders slouched on sighting his beautiful face at my gate, and my heart sank deeper within me eliciting intense feeling of irritation, I knew the cord that once held our hearts together was severed. I hadn’t approved of his visit to my place that day. But when he appeared at my gate, I was clueless. It had been happening that way since the past three years. Yet, it was impossible for me to keep him out even if I wanted to, because, hard as it was for me to admit it, he was still special to me. I was sure it was the specialty he was mistaking for love. Once more my guilty conscience assailed me with inquiries about my actual love for this man from the onset as I unbolted the small black gate that secured my two rooms apartment to let him in. As always, I found no answer to those inquiries, simply because they lied with my old self which was long dead.

I welcomed Adinoyi with a greeting not louder than a mumble. He responded with pressing me against his hard body. His scent filled my nostrils as my head pressed against his chest. He never used cologne. Not like he smelt bad anyway. His scent brought back regretful scenes of the night I’d taken in all of him, a scene that haunted me unending for two years, and I cleared it off with a sigh. It had been that easy for me to handle since after then.

“How are you?” he asked, planting a kiss noisily on my left cheek and flashing his front set of obviously artificial teeth. Each time I saw those teeth, I imagined how rough he used to be before I met him. That was a part of him I was yet to experience. He had told me the story of how he lost those teeth in a fight just once, and it had strangely stuck to my memory since then. With the subtle way he treated me, it probably no longer existed, but a part of me didn’t believe that.

“I’m fine,” I replied without smiling, walking back into the house. Someone suddenly bumped into me. Otoyinoyi! I stretched my hand and hit him on the back.

“Have you lost your manners, or do you think I’m a piece of furniture?” I demanded with a glare. Without apologising, he ran into his father’s hands, scratching the part of his back where my hand had touched him. Otoyinoyi was a carbon copy of his father. The pliable lips, the black eyes . Except that he was a darker version.

For a while, his father just stared at me.

“Is that the way you treat him?” he asked in a whisper, amazed.

“Didn’t you see what just happened? Besides, you’re not the one training him,”  I snapped. Instead of getting upset, Adinoyi began to laugh. That soft, hearty laughter I knew him with.

“But I told you to marry me so that we can train him together and you refused,”

“You’ll grow green hair waiting for me,” I mumbled.

“Hey, this woman!” he exclaimed, “but the green hair has yellowed already,”

I forced back a laugh making its way to my throat. “Adinoyi, what do you want? I’ve told you to stop visiting.” My face assumed its usual grim appearance. At this moment, Oloyinoyi left his father’s hand and went back to face the TV screen where he had been since the past two hours. Since I slapped him the last time for standing with us listening to our conversation, he had learned to use his senses. I watched him pick up his game pad and return to his video game, then I turned back to Adinoyi. Not necessarily that I disapproved of his listening to us, but even if he wanted to, courtesy demanded that he shouldn’t show it.

“Ebiere, it’s been ten years!” Adinoyi whispered. I looked into his eyes. The longing for me was still there. As fresh as ever. I wanted to tell him to swear that he hadn’t seen underneath the cloth of any other woman since then, but I already knew the response. He would swear till heaven came down on us.

“There are ladies outside, Adinoyi. Heavy girls!”

He smiled and shook his head at my utterance.

“I don’t need you to tell me that,”

“Then go with them. Go and stop pestering my life,” I said, irritation clogging my mind.

“Get me one first,” he joked. I laughed for just a moment, sighed and took my seat on one of the single leather sofas in my sitting-room. He was still standing when I turned.

“So, you won’t even offer me a seat,” he inquired. I sighed in exasperation.

“That’s the problem with you men. You always want the women to do everything for you. Even poke your nose to remove dried mucus obstructing your breathing.”

“Ebiere, you’re a woman. Stop being stubborn!”

“Indeed,”

I watched him finally settle into a white plastic chair near the door. He stretched out his legs before him and began to undo the upper buttons of his shirt.

“I’m thirsty.” he yawned. I looked him from head to toe and let out a low hiss. Another smile appeared on his face when he saw my reaction.

“But, why do you hate me so much, what have I done to you that’s so unforgivable?”

“You keep asking unnecessary questions. You put me in this condition I’ve been unable to get out of.”

“I’ve accepted responsibility. And you know why everything happened the way it did. I’m good now. Let’s get married,”

“You think I’m a fool?” I asked, wide eyed.

“So, you want to remain this way, alone?”

“You taught me. Now, it’s my life,”

“Living alone is the life of a prostitute.”

I turned away from my TV screen and faced him.

“How I so wish I had been one, Adinoyi.” I said, narrowing my gaze, “I should have been a whore, used my life to the full, then get married. That way, I can accept whatever a man does to me.” By the time I finished, I was blinking uncontrollably to keep back tears that were forming in my eyes as memories made their ways back to my mind. The hawking to keep us, the abandonment at the hospital, my eventual disappearance, his sudden appearance.

“Then you should have done that if that should have made marrying you easier for me,”

I didn’t find his statement in the least funny. Instead, I felt sparks in my head.

“Adinoyi, get out!” I got up, walked to the door and held it open. Adinoyi’s mouth was agape when I turned.

“Get out, please,” I insisted.

“Ebiere…”

“Yes, I mean it, and don’t come back,”

He didn’t get up until several minutes after. As he got up to leave, I knew from his downcast gaze that he was awash with embarrassment. Probably, this was the most he could take from me, I thought frightfully.

As I watched him walk silently out of my apartment into the darkness that had taken over outside, I waited patiently for my own life to end too.

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Salvation by Langston Hughes

I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved. It happened like this. There was a big revival at my Auntie Reed’s church. Every night for weeks there had been much preaching, singing, praying, and shouting, and some very hardened sinners had been brought to Christ, and the membership of the church had grown by leaps and bounds. Then just before the revival ended, they held a special meeting for children, “to bring the young lambs to the fold.” My aunt spoke of it for days ahead. That night I was escorted to the front row and placed on the mourners’ bench with all the other young sinners, who had not yet been brought to Jesus.

My aunt told me that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! And Jesus came into your life! And God was with you from then on! She said you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul. I believed her. I had heard a great many old people say the same thing and it seemed to me they ought to know. So I sat there calmly in the hot, crowded church, waiting for Jesus to come to me.

The preacher preached a wonderful rhythmical sermon, all moans and shouts and lonely cries and dire pictures of hell, and then he sang a song about the ninety and nine safe in the fold, but one little lamb was left out in the cold. Then he said: “Won’t you come? Won’t you come to Jesus? Young lambs, won’t you come?” And he held out his arms to all us young sinners there on the mourners’ bench. And the little girls cried. And some of them jumped up and went to Jesus right away. But most of us just sat there.

A great many old people came and knelt around us and prayed, old women with jet-black faces and braided hair, old men with work-gnarled hands. And the church sang a song about the lower lights are burning, some poor sinners to be saved. And the whole building rocked with prayer and song.

Still I kept waiting to see Jesus.

Finally all the young people had gone to the altar and were saved, but one boy and me. He was a rounder’s son named Westley. Westley and I were surrounded by sisters and deacons praying. It was very hot in the church, and getting late now. Finally Westley said to me in a whisper: “God damn! I’m tired o’ sitting here. Let’s get up and be saved.” So he got up and was saved.

Then I was left all alone on the mourners’ bench. My aunt came and knelt at my knees and cried, while prayers and song swirled all around me in the little church. The whole congregation prayed for me alone, in a mighty wail of moans and voices. And I kept waiting serenely for Jesus, waiting, waiting – but he didn’t come. I wanted to see him, but nothing happened to me. Nothing! I wanted something to happen to me, but nothing happened.

I heard the songs and the minister saying: “Why don’t you come? My dear child, why don’t you come to Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you. Why don’t you come? Sister Reed, what is this child’s name?”

“Langston,” my aunt sobbed.

“Langston, why don’t you come? Why don’t you come and be saved? Oh, Lamb of God! Why don’t you come?”

Now it was really getting late. I began to be ashamed of myself, holding everything up so long. I began to wonder what God thought about Westley, who certainly hadn’t seen Jesus either, but who was now sitting proudly on the platform, swinging his knickerbockered legs and grinning down at me, surrounded by deacons and old women on their knees praying. God had not struck Westley dead for taking his name in vain or for lying in the temple. So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I’d better lie, too, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.

So I got up.

Suddenly the whole room broke into a sea of shouting, as they saw me rise. Waves of rejoicing swept the place. Women leaped in the air. My aunt threw her arms around me. The minister took me by the hand and led me to the platform.

When things quieted down, in a hushed silence, punctuated by a few ecstatic “Amens,” all the new young lambs were blessed in the name of God. Then joyous singing filled the room.

That night, for the first time in my life but one for I was a big boy twelve years old – I cried. I cried, in bed alone, and couldn’t stop. I buried my head under the quilts, but my aunt heard me. She woke up and told my uncle I was crying because the Holy Ghost had come into my life, and because I had seen Jesus. But I was really crying because I couldn’t bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, that I hadn’t seen Jesus, and that now I didn’t believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn’t come to help me.

Culled from 75 Readings. An Anthology

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