THE EXCHANGE (Episode 18)
We got to our house and things seemed to be going on smoothly…my mother-in-law had backed off a little bit and I was beginning to enjoy my husband. He would come home straight from work instead of going to his dad first. The “doctor visits” or whatever they called them, also stopped…I couldn’t ask for more.
Not long after that, I was home in the morning sorting out clothes for the dry cleaner. I always checked the pockets of every cloth before passing them on to be washed. I found something in one of Baba T’s pants; I brought it out and it was some kind of polythene bag package. It was tied up so I opened it; it contained a white powdery substance, just like what I saw him snorting a while back. I decided to investigate and find out what it was so I took it and hid it.
When my husband got back from work, he started to look for something. He almost turned the room upside down. I asked what he was looking for and he told me not to worry about it. He was so agitated and angry…he later asked if I had seen his blue pants, the one he wore to work two days earlier. I told him I gave them to the drycleaner…it was as if my response was the passcode to the inner chambers of hell.
“ Who told you to give my clothes to the drycleaner? ”
“ Why didn’t you ask me before giving my clothes to the drycleaner? ”
“ What kind of stupid person gives other people’s stuff out without asking them first? ” he started to rant and yell
“ Why do I need your permission to take dirty clothes to the drycleaner?
Is this the first time I am taking clothes to the drycleaner? ” I asked him
The response I got was a dirty slap…it felt like a dream. I must have passed out for a couple of seconds because when I came round, I was on the floor and I couldn’t remember how I got there. The sharp pain on my left cheek confirmed that it was reality.
I wanted to say something but there was blood in my mouth…besides, Baba T had this wild look and I didn’t want to push my luck. Even with my silence, he still pushed me out of his way and in the process, I broke the mirror on the wall while struggling for balance. I had a cut on my left elbow. He left the house and did not even bother to see if I was wounded or not. It was our house help who had heard the shattering of the mirror that rushed in to see what was happening. She helped me up and asked what happened…I told her I tripped and had to struggle not to hit my head on the mirror.
I tried to hide what happened from her, but I couldn’t hide my tears or the mark on my face. She got some iodine and bandage to stop the bleeding. She asked if she should call the driver to take me to the hospital. I told her not to worry about it…so she helped to clean the room and carried my baby, who was crying after all the commotion. I was just glad that Junior was with Baba T’s parents and he did not witness it.
I had heard stories of women beaten up by their husbands but I never thought I would ever be a victim. I wasn’t sure of what to do; I didn’t want to call my mother-in-law because of the “ I told you so ” gloating that could come from it.
As hurt as I was, I still wanted to know what that substance was…as a matter of fact, Baba T’s reaction made me more interested in the quest. I called Laide but nobody picked up, I figured she was not at home.
I was getting ready to leave the house when Baba T came back, he looked very mad, he dragged me from the sitting room into the room and did not care that the house help was there.
Supposedly, he had gone to our drycleaner to check with them and was told that “ madam always checks and empties pockets before giving the clothes to us ”. He choked me and said he would kill me if I didn’t produce his ‘stuff’…he was like a raving lunatic and was screaming at me. I was so scared that I quickly told me where I hid it.
“ Try this with me again and I will kill you” he said, as he took the package and left the house again. I knew at that moment that I was in trouble…I needed to talk to someone.
I tried Laide’s number again but it was just ringing. I decided to go to her house but I couldn’t find any of the car keys. There were 3 cars in the compound but I couldn’t find any of the keys. I also learnt from the house help that my husband had sent the driver away for the day…so I figured he took the car keys.
So I called my mother-in-law and told her what happened…she was too shocked to even gloat. She said she would send her driver to come get me…I sat there on the floor, holding my baby until the driver came.
The driver didn’t come alone; he came with that maid that always gave me the ‘look’. She said my mother-in-law wanted me to come with some of my stuff and sent her to help with that. We went inside to pack and I let her carry my son while I got the things we would need. I couldn’t hide my tears as I was packing, my mouth was swollen, I had a cut on my hand and I had marks on my neck, the lady didn’t need to be a genius to figure out what happened.
“ Oga Tunde will never change…I thought getting married would make him better, but a leopard can never change its spots ” the lady said
I looked up and something in me wanted to yell at her for poking her nose in my affairs and daring to say such a thing about my husband but my reality made me indulge her…so I asked what she meant by the statement. The lady said she had always wanted to talk to me just to let me know what she felt was hidden from me. She said she saw me as an easygoing person and had always wondered how our paths crossed
“ Auntie, if you truly knew Oga Tunde, you would not have married him o ”.
“ Mo sorry o (I’m sorry to say this) sùgbọn ęranko ni man yęn (He is an animal)”
“ Whenever that his drug thing comes upon him, even his mum cannot get him to calm down ” the lady said
“ His drug what? ” I cut in
“ Haba! Auntie, don’t tell me you don’t know that he is on drugs o…everybody in our house knows” the lady responded
The lady continued by telling me she had been working for this family for over 10 years and had seen things. She said that as brilliant as Baba T was, his drug addiction was his undoing and that was why his parents really wanted him to get married and have children so they could put their hope of a lasting legacy in the grandchildren. She said the drug he was on, made him destructively angry and abusive.
“ Do you know how many women left him because of this? Children of big people that left because they could not stand him? There was a particular case that almost got him in jail, if not for the connection of his father. He beat the girl to a pulp; we even thought the girl had died. The girl’s uncle sent soldiers to come and arrest him ” the lady must have sensed that she had said too much as she stopped talking
I sat there in bewilderment, like someone that was waking up into reality. I wanted the lady to tell me more but she said she didn’t want to lose her job. I couldn’t handle what I was hearing so I tried to call Laide again but it was just ringing. I really didn’t feel like going to my mother-in-law anymore but the lady encouraged me to go. She said Baba T’s dad was the only one that knew how to handle him and make him behave and that was why he had to live with them even as a grown up until he got married.
When we got to my in-law’s house, my mother-in-law and almost knelt down for me
“ Pẹlẹ ọkọ mi, èmi ni mo f’ìyà jęę (I’m so sorry my dear, this is my fault)” she said
I was trying to explain what happened, she said I shouldn’t bother to, as she knew what I was talking about. The lady that came to help me pack gave me a look suggesting that everything she told me at our house was right. My mother-in-law quickly sent her away and took me to her room upstairs.
The fact that I wasn’t allowed to talk, made me cry even more. My mother-in-law just kept begging me, she promised that her husband would handle it and it would never happen again. She tried to dance around the facts, blaming Baba T’s actions on her enemies that want to disgrace her family. She said I should consider my children and parents-in-law who care for me and ignore whatever Baba T was doing. I told her blatantly that I knew Baba T was on drugs and I did not want to be a victim of his rage and violence ever again.
“ Now you know what our problem is…your husband is not a bad guy, I know he is just being manipulated by evil people. They jinxed him with the addiction, to soil our family name. You have no idea how far we have gone and the things we have done to help him ”
“ We are fighting for the same thing and we should work together to get him all the help he needs. After all, he’s the father of your children”
She persuaded me to cover ‘her nakedness’ and keep the family secret…she promised that her husband would see to it that I never got hit or beaten again. I almost told her that it wasn’t really a secret, based on what the maid told me but I didn’t want to get the lady in trouble.
Somehow, Baba T’s dad was able to ‘fix’ things; my husband apologized to me and even bought me an expensive gold necklace to say he was sorry. We went back to status quo, my parents-in-law were in charge again and I felt more like a well-paid baby maker than a wife. Baba T had to report to his dad at least, once in 2 days…it was working (or so we thought). No erratic behavior, he was doing well at work and he wasn’t hitting me.
We did not have that intimacy that you would expect between married couples, everything seemed forced, programmed and monitored. Baba T was a great father though; he loved his kids and took good care of them. Laide would see me and remind me of how beautiful my life was and I would smile…but deep down, I could trade everything for some happiness.
Living with my husband was like walking on egg shells…I was constantly watching my words, my reactions to things, and would never argue with him. Even when he smiled, I was still scared.
My mum somehow knew I wasn’t happy and all the seeming good life, vacationing abroad, ‘big man wife’ status was just a charade. Many times she would ask what was going on but I kept pretending that all was well…I would tell her not to worry about me and that she should continue to pray that God should touch my husband.
There was a time she visited and spent some days; that was when she insisted that she had to know what was going on. She said she didn’t like what she saw and that our marriage looked like somebody else had the remote control to it. I told her my husband was going through some spiritual issues but God was already at work and all I needed from her, was her prayers.
She stopped fussing about it and said she would continue to pray for me. Things actually started to get better maybe because I started to see it from the “You gotta learn to live with what you are stuck to” perspective. I decided to always make the most of it and enjoy my husband whenever he was physically/emotionally available. I focused my attention more on my children and sought for joy in motherhood…I would even joke that they were my husbands. It was dysfunctional but what could I do? I had to roll with the punches.
After almost 9 years of marriage to Baba T and 3 children (all boys) to show for it, my father-in-law died. It was totally unexpected as we still saw him the night before he died. The doctor said it was due to a heart attack triggered by stress and exhaustion. He was supposed to travel for medical checkup some months before that, but he rescheduled it.
Looking for Episode 1? CLICK HERE
Looking for Episode 19? CLICK HERE