Sweet Cytherea

close up photography of hand near window
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The bowl of garri looked patchy now. The argument started as soon as the spoon of garri entered his mouth. it seemed she had been timing the insertion of the spoon; for she started with:

“I know you were not born with a silver spoon, but I’m tired o, look around this house; I’m pregnant, is this what my baby will come into this world and call home? for how long?”

“Baby, how many times are we going to have this conversation this week?” He said dropping the spoon back in the bowl.

“I don’t know; I don’t care eh; if my mind tell me to talk I will. I should now be afraid to talk to you?”

“No, that’s not what I mean, I…”

“eh ehn that’s exactly what you mean. A wife should be submissive abi?

He didn’t reply

“I should be submissive because you have penis ehn James? You have penis, but can’t you take care of what comes out of this your penis that’s making you feel like a man? There’s no food in the kitchen? I can’t remember when last I had a balanced meal or a good time, other than that your brother’s birthday. Everyday is manage manage manage. I’m tired of managing. I’m tired of this low life; I’m telling you now: better do something, better do something before this child comes.”

That was when he looked at the garri and realised it had gone patchy. She never allows me eat. Low life? Balanced meal? Why was she exaggerating? There was food in the kitchen. Well, it wasn’t surplus but something to go by with. He looked at his wife. Pillow under her. Bulging stomach, Restless lips. She was still talking but he had gone mute in the head. This was the ritual everyday. Maybe this was the reason he wasn’t getting any job or contract after all the interviews, maybe this nagging sucked him of any fortune he had. Did she think he needed all these reminders?

“Have you been listening to what I have been saying? No no no Don’t nod your head like you were, you were not. I don’t like this thing you do every time.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“You know what you are supposed to do”

“Rob? Steal? Become a thief? ” He sighed and a far away look appeared in his eyes, as his head sank into his hands.

She stared at him, with his head cupped in his hands, chin stubbled; right leg shaking slightly in his suit-trousers (that thing he does when he’s frustrated ), and her heart sank. She felt his suffering. It was their suffering. She was aware he goes through a lot for them but sometimes it seemed he underestimates the bulk she carries. Doesn’t he know, as she is now everything sets her on an edge? She never knew the smell of harpic would irritate her. Or indomie seasoning or detergent. She was having an Olfactory blow up. Her nerves were on the edge. She was having cravings; doesn’t he know pregnant women had cravings? Yet him came home empty-handed repeatedly. When she heard his footsteps outside the door today, she told herself maybe today he will get something for me, Just for him to come in empty-handed. See oh, he’s stretching his hand towards me now. Idiot. What would you call him idiot. I don’t know he’s annoying.

He held her hands. She tried to pull them out. He held on, and caressed her hands a little; as if to say I love you lets not do this today. Her hands felt softer. The pregnancy had its perks, Look how blossoming she looked: her hips and breast filled the wrapper. She looked like a snack covered in serviette. Remove the wrapper, the snack is steaming; it’s inviting you. That will definitely provoke her. It’s ok like this. Just look at her. He read somewhere (can’t remember where) Marry a beautiful woman because when you’re angry one look at her will melt your heart.

He passionately said “ I have faith before our baby is born things will get better”
All these promises got me pregnant in the first place. Look at him promising again. She removed her hands in a swift manner that left him agape, and stood up from the bed carrying the caked bowl of garri to the kitchen.

“I’ll make eba with it for you” she said from the kitchen. A while later the smell of soup filled the one room apartment, and she opened the kitchen window to let fresh air come in. On the road she saw a woman pushing a baby stroller, and wondered if she will push her baby in that or wrapper with her baby, tied to her back will be her stroller. He said things will get better. Abeg. How many times has he said that already?

She carried the food in a tray and rudely dropped it on the bed.

“There’s no pure water oh, better go and buy “ she said walking back to the kitchen.

“Baby why all these. Can’t a man have Peace in his house“

“Peace ? Do I have Peace ? When I worry about his child ? Why should you have Peace ? Have you set in motions things to cater for this child? Always making promises.”
“It seems you have become a different person I swear”.

“I haven’t. I am just being a mother.”

“Ok, I have heard everything you said. Allow me eat please”

“Ehn eat na, am I stopping you from eating?”

The tray she served him with had their wedding sticker. He remembered how hearing you may now kiss the bride had been a very happy moment. That moment, and this moment, now, seemed like two different planes of existence, not merely the past and the present but like two different lives witnessed by the same soul. An old coin tossed in too many wells. When did I become a philosopher? I just wanted to get married. It was the jewel of my existence the day I saw her coming down the aisle in her father’s arm, latticed-gown, under the ceiling of the church, after all those years of her shakara; she in my arms, her father turning back to have his seat. We marched to the altar. I lifted the veil. Slowly. Slowly. Slowly. Savouring the moment as her chin came to view; her lips, succulent, red and full; her aquiline nose, pointed and contoured; till her full face, radiant, in Ivory smiled at me. My bride. My wife. My missing rib. I kissed those lips like it was the first time. They tasted like butter mint. The congregation cheered. My heart cheered. I looked in her eyes and I saw  liquid happiness. We had danced into the reception, with I, falling and everybody laughing and I stood up and continued dancing like i hadn’t missed a beat. The reverend had later said, “marriage was like him falling you just had to get up and keep dancing.” It seemed different now. The transition; I almost couldn’t believe it. Why di…

“Are you not eating?”

He didn’t answer. Beads of sweat were beginning to form on his forehead. He remembered he hadn’t taken his suit off, and angrily did.The wedding coming into his mind only reminded him of how much he had spent on the wedding; on his suit; her wedding-gown. Her lips close to his ears. Flowery words whispered, cascaded into a lush indoor wedding event, with chandeliers that shone bright on expensive cutlery. The ambience was royalty. The seat arrangement, heart-shaped, and a piano, it keys, played, as they walked in, flanked by little flower-girls sprinkling red, pink and purple petals. He felt awed by the grandness. “Beautiful,” he had whispered to himself. It was hard to believe it was his wedding; hard to believe he was married. She had squeezed his hand. In her eyes he could see how happy she was. It was pure. The loftiness of her smile; the tenderness of her gait, majestic; this soul walking in ivory long flowing ,had seen heaven, was walking in; breathing in it. Her eyes oh my God her eyes had bore heavenly satisfaction. He felt fulfilled seeing that warm glow in the window of her soul. Cameras had burst in flashes here and there. Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful…

He looked at her by the kitchen door and quickly looked down when he saw she had been staring at him. He was avoiding a confrontation, or maybe he was tired of one, for he knew it will very well end up with her crying. So he started to eat the food.

“I thought you will not eat the food na”

He said nothing.

“I was beginning to think maybe you have started eating outside?”

He looked at her and back at the food, and continued eating.

“Hope the food is not salty because I was crying when I was making the soup today”

Don’t answer her don’t answer her don’t answer don’t answer her. “The food is fine”

“Won’t you ask why I was crying ?”

Oh my God.“Why were you crying ?” He said finally, looking at her.

“The tailor that designed my wedding-gown called me today, very early after you left the house, asking about her balance, she told me I shouldn’t even talk. I tried to plead with her, she said I should shut up and just listen to what she has to say, she threatened to disgrace me; s-she s-she called me names Terumun, she called me names she called me names I-I-I-I- don…

“Shhh shhhhh, baby don’t cry baby don’t cry”. He dropped the tray and rushed towards her.

She was in his arms now; Her warmth, the feel of her skin, the bulge of her stomach pressed against his body had a stimulating effect on him. He wanted to do something, anything to make it alright. To kill the tailor even. She was sniffling, She pressed her head onto his chest. He felt her weight. Could she hear his heart thudding? He hugged her tighter saying “shh shhh don’t cry.” Was she really crying? He didn’t understand pregnancy? He lowered his head and kissed her forehead saying, “don’t cry baby shhhhh.” The smell of her hair untangled a memory: he remembered how he had held her from behind a week after their Honey moon in the kitchen, her hair had smelt of soup like it did now and she had shown him her Instagram page, saying honey look at how many likes we have on Bella Naija. He had feigned excitement. The wedding; the splendour had actually been her thing. He would have preferred if they had used the money to get a car or something tangible: a land; business, another house in another state,whatever. He had put too much financial strength in the future. I’ll make all the money back. A new president had come with a policy to limit importation. What the bloody hell. Why start there? The tariff sky rocketed. His investment pummelled. He couldn’t afford to import which such heavy custom duties. Apparently everybody was having a hard time. Who did he know to get a contract? He dusted his C.V. That had only worn out his shoes and her patience. For worse came sooner than expected and like the serpent it went to her first. Daughter of Eve. How could she say all these after all I have done for us? What drivel to drone about my penis and not providing for what came out of it like it’s a one-person crime? Then he remembered why she had been crying. His body stiffened. She felt it. My food is getting cold he said, and let go of her, and went back to sit at the bed. He just stared at the food. He felt her eyes on him. Heavy. Silence hung in the room like odour. He was tired, would this thing end in a divorce. Divorce divorce divorce divorce divorce. The word rotated in his head like spiked ball. Divorce. The ball swung. He looked at her. Head resting on folded arms. That bulging stomach. It slowed his pulse.

“Baby,” he said, “please come sit by me”.

She obeyed, nimbly. The bed creaked. The room was poorly illuminated. Low current. The fan was slicing the head of their shadows.

How do I start this? He put her hands in his. She squeezed it.

“We had a spectacular wedding love.”

A smile slowly expanded across her face.

“I couldn’t believe it was my wedding you know. It was magnificent. In that moment I regretted having those bitter arguments with you over the money we were budgeting for the wedding. Seating on that seat, i-it felt like I was marrying the daughter of a king; I was just smiling, you know, soaking in the splendour. Then there was this moment, did you notice, I kept drinking the wine in the glass you kept refilling?”

She nodded; deeply interested.

“That’s when hit me I paid for this”

She laughed, in that lovely way he loved, that sounded like a car that won’t start. “Kekekekeke”

It felt good hearing her laugh. Then he continued, “ too bad that lasted for a day you know. Here we are. It’s hard to believe we had that kind of wedding. So broke now. So frustrated, I mean, we are at each other’s throat everyday. We have a baby on the way and things are so uncertain. My God, I wish pregnancy came with a manual for partners. It’s like one moment we are laughing and the next your melancholy and crying, then cracking jokes again. I don’t get it. And I know it hasn’t been easy for you. For better or worse ehh? Worse came so soon I tell you. You say those vows with pleasant on your mind, then marriage tests you. I know it has been hard for you. I know it. It has been hard for me too. I don’t eat till I get back home. It seems unfair we signed up for this saying I do. From reading poetry for you at the back of the class to this unpleasantness. It seems so unpoetic. I’m scared; I don’t want you to leave me. I want our child to have a coherent family unit. Not dad’s house or mom’s house or I’m going to see my dad in so so state type of life. A whole family. Good or bad together. Hopefully more good than bad. So I know this is all hard now especially with your hormones all over the place. But one thing is for certain we are both hardworking. I know who I married;you used to sell clothes and makeup kits in class, you have that hustling spirit, and I know it’s because of this pregnancy. We both agreed you won’t do any work while pregnant. So believe in us love. It might seem like mighty work now. Believe in us. Our efforts are going to pay off. Please. Please. Please. Believe in us. All I ask. Please.

She placed her head on his shoulders, and simply said

“I love you, but what about the wedding dress?”

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