10 Nov A Death Sentence Called Marriage
“Aramide, isn’t that your name? Listen to me!”
“You are useless.”
“I don’t know why I even married you! Maybe it was pity”
“Good for nothing”
“You can’t do anything right!”
“Terrible mother to my children”
“You are ugly, you have always been ugly”
“You are a waste”
“You can not understand what it feels like to walk through those doors with my arm attached to the man I married ten years today, coming back here to where we met. My parents dedicated me to the Lord right here on this stage; my mother often spoke about the importance of dedicating her children to the Lord in front of all the members of the church, “it is not easy to be a parent,” she would say, “prayers for wisdom and guidance from God are essential, the church is a family and together we shall raise our children to follow the right path, so of course I had to call on every member of the congregation, my sisters and my brothers in the Lord to pray for you and for us, so that we may carry out our responsibilities as parents well and lead you on the right path.” My mother was a strong, hearty, troublesome Yoruba woman. She never let anything beat her down, she loved and cared for any living thing that walked through the doors of our home, she taught me about love, compassion, and obedience. My parents loved each other for forty-seven long years before my mother passed away, I aspired to find love like theirs and ten years ago I found a comparable love in my husband, Kola.
The bible refers to the man as the head of the house and my mother certainly agreed but she would then say that the woman is the neck, and without her, the head cannot stand. I used to laugh at her silly demonstration of a falling head but today I realize how important it is for women to understand that marriage is a partnership and not a dictatorship, it is about compromise. Sometimes you may need to take a step back in your own personal journeys to allow your partner take a step forward but that does not mean you should halt your journey forever.
If someone tells you marriage is easy, they are lying because it is not. My marriage is relatively young in comparison to some of you seated here today, so I am sure you know what I am talking about. Ko easy o! Your wedding day is the best day of your life, all the attention is on you and your new love, you are surrounded by those that appear to love and care for you, showers of gifts flood at your feet, women will envy your aso ebi for weeks after, but that is not marriage. Marriage is what happens after when everyone has gone home and you are let with your significant other.
I met my darling Kola at a time when my prayers mainly consisted of cries to God for a man I could call my own, a man to hold and comfort me in my moments of weakness, a man to lift me up and encourage me to reach my full potential. I prayed continuously for a man that will be honest, God-fearing, kind, humble and understanding. I have heard stories of men that think their wives to be beneath them, that her rightful place is in the kitchen, cooking, washing and squeezing fresh fruits for him to drink at his beck and call. I know men that will never allow their wives progress in their careers if that means they become the breadwinner of the family, I know some that will never allow their wives work full stop. My work in the women’s ministry of this church gave me the opportunity to speak to women that have survived bad marriages and hear the stories and advice they had to give as a prayed for the man that I will one day start a family with to be shown to me. If I took anything away from that period, it was something one Mz. Patricia Okonkwo had said to me, “no matter how kind his eyes look when you stare into them, watch him, make notes of his behavior, if there is anything you can not envision yourself being able to live with for the rest of your life, biko nnu, run!”
My dear sisters in this congregation that are still searching to be seized by the man of your dreams, be careful, some of the behaviors or actions you excuse or believe that he can never demonstrate towards you can ultimately turn marriage into a death sentence…”
I do not remember the rest of my speech. The next thing I remember is the shock of pain sent through my temple into my brain from the hardwood bedside table of which my head collided with mid-way through my nightly prayers.
Kola did not come home with me after church, we walked down the aisle in the church from our seats all smiles and in a close embrace but the second we stepped into the parking lot, Kola withdrew sharply without a word or a slight glance in my direction proceeded towards the car and got in. On approaching the car I reached for the passenger door, only to find it locked, the engine roared to life and Kola had pulled out of the parking spot and drove towards the exit. This was a regular occurrence. I began walking towards the taxi rank, my thoughts whizzed about in my head obstructing my ears from the sound of Pastor Atinuke shouting my name above the plentiful chatter that surrounded me. I imagine she thinks I purposely ignored her and would have said something to the effect of, “ki lon se awon omode yi, she is too vainglorious.” I never knew whether Pastor Atinuke made up these words or just put two adjectives together but I enjoyed going home to look them up and that particular one happened to be a real word.
When I arrived home, Kola was nowhere to be found. I began preparing his lunch just in case he showed up at any time. I made his favorite, amala, gbegiri and a little bit of stew with assorted meat. I made juice with some of his favorite fruits, mangoes, pineapples and oranges, fresh from the fruit market that I went to before our church service. I sat and waited for hours till 11pm when I usually began my nightly prayers.
He never has a reason, I asked him why he would hurt me like this countless times but he never responded. I was subjected to punches, kicks and slaps, he threw me against the wall, breaking one leg of the table as my back crashed into the side of the table which cut a deep slit in my side.
“You want to make me look bad abi? You want to paint me as a monster in my own church.”
“You must think I’m stupid, but it is you that is stupid”
He hurled insults at me as he used my face as a punching bag. I struggled for air beneath him, my nightgown slipped, exposing one of my breasts.
“This is why you want to work right? So you can expose your body to other men abi”
“I own every inch of you, you will not make me a laughing stock in this city”
He tore off my nightgown, leaving me naked on the floor, forcefully spreading my legs apart and proceeding to rape me as he cursed the day he met me.
He got off me and walked into the bathroom, I could not take it anymore. He had beaten me senseless for as long as I could remember since we had our first child, Mobayo. He threatened that if I ran away or went to meet anyone I will never see Mobayo again, the same thing with Kunle and Ranti. I prayed and prayed for an intervention in my marriage but it seemed God had become deaf to my prayers. I stretched my left hand towards my pillow to feel for my phone that lay underneath, wincing at the pain from the cut on my right side. As Kola stepped out of the bathroom, he took one look at the phone in my hand and a fire consumed him, he glistened from the sweat residue on his body, rage filled his eyes, he reached for the broken leg of the table and that was the last thing I ever saw.