So, it’s exactly a month since I put up a post. I was going to use the “writer’s block” line, but a wise man told me and I paraphrase: “You can’t have writer’s block if you’re not having sex.” In other words, one comes at the expense of the other. Great sex or great writing. And since I have been celibate since I was born (some people prefer the term ‘virgin’,) I guess no writer’s block for me. 😦
It is a dark and gloomy day. The sky is grey and it’s drizzling softly. I look up at the angry clouds and I’m slightly amused. As dark as they are, they have nothing on my heart. Silly clouds. Bah! As I walk into the church and down the aisle, I can feel their eyes on me, their stares. I can see the looks of pity, hear the soft whispers, “Kai! Such a beautiful woman! O ma se o!” I ignore them and press forward, my gaze is fixed on the coffin in front of the bema. I walk to my place on the first pew and sit between my mother-in-law and my father. Bami takes my hand and squeezes tightly. I turn my face to him, and smile at him to assure him that I’m fine. My mother-in-law has, as usual, refused to acknowledge my presence. I don’t care. Service is about to begin anyway.
The hall is quiet. I sit very still as the priest begins the requiem. It doesn’t take long, however, for me to tune out his monotonous drone and shift my attention to the flowers. Madonna lilies. I have never cared much for flowers, but Wale loved them. And the white lilies had been his favourite. Knowing how much of a perfectionist he had been, he wouldn’t be too pleased to know that the flowers that lie atop his casket are fake. I almost chuckle out loud at the thought. I am drawn to a time 11 years before…
I was 19. I was broke and in between jobs, a position I was quite used to finding myself in. I couldn’t afford university and frankly, I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t too brilliant and I had never liked school. But I had a pretty face and the body of a goddess. And that’s what had attracted the very suave, wealthy chief that was currently on my one bedroom apartment doorstep. He was holding flowers…. madonna lilies….
“A small token of love for the beautiful Asake.” His eyes sparkled. He was way too old for me – 52 – had been divorced twice, and knew the world in ways I could only imagine. I was smitten. Bami didn’t approve though. “Your mother would roll in her grave, Asake!”
I am brought back to present by shuffling of feet as we rise for a hymn. I smile wryly as I remember those days with Wale. My mother-in-law is looking at me with distaste. She cannot understand why I’m smiling at my husband’s funeral. She doesn’t like me very much. She says it because I’m childless. I think it’s because a poor lowly girl like me had the effrontery to snag her darling son’s heart, even if only for a while. She probably thinks I jazzed him. I ignore her. The hymn ends and we take our seats again. Chief Folawiyo is speaking now. He’s talking about Wale’s kind heart, his gentleness. Gentleness? I quickly turn my fit of giggles into a cough. Everyone is looking at me weirdly now. I should compose myself. My Wale is dead.
It was our 2nd year of marriage. I was a 23 year old house wife and I was enjoying it. Well, apart from the fact that Wale was not the same person anymore. He was never home, he never paid attention to me, he couldn’t even be bothered to pretend. That night, I’d made up my mind to confront him. As he walked into the room, I jumped from the bed, ready for a show down.
“Chief, what is this?! What self-respecting family man comes home at 3:00 am?!?”
I do not wish to recall the remaining details of that night. Suffice it to say that after that night, my jaw has never quite been the same. My Wale? Gentle? Yeah, right! I scoff.
One by one, they all come to make their speeches, each one more effusive than the last. They speak of his kindness, his generosity, how he gave them money to save their dying business or child. How he rescued them from the hand of the law. Yada yada yada. They didn’t know him. I did. He was my one true love. The one that made me. Got me from my one bedroom apartment to the stylishly furnished 6 bedroom town house that I have called home for 8 years. During our honeymoon, I received more jewellery than I knew existed. He showed me the world. He was also the one that destroyed me.
You see, for every nice story they have to tell about Wale, I have a dozen more heinous acts that he committed. Is it the time he locked me in the doghouse for 2 nights because I had given a male old school mate a ride? Is it the time he broke my arm because I threatened to report his shady business dealings? Is it the countless occasions I had to sleep in the guest room because his mistress had come a-calling? But I couldn’t leave. I had nowhere to go. Bami was in a nursing home and could hardly even take care of himself. I had no relations; I was the only child of my parents, who were both the only children of their parents. I didn’t have any friends. Besides, I had nothing that was in my name. Wale laughed at my threats to leave him. He knew I couldn’t. I was weak. And for every new bruise, I had a new pearl necklace, for every broken bone, a diamond watch. I was the trophy wife. Beautiful and silent.
I had tried to run away once. Perhaps, sell all my jewellery. Wale’s “boys” caught me… I walked with a cane for 7 months. I also got a new Range Rover. Wale had me right where he wanted me. And he knew it.
But now, he is dead and these…. ugly people want me to eulogize him because that is my role as a wife. Smile, Asake. Be a good hostess, Asake. A good wife never leaves her husband’s side, Asake. No good woman would speak ill of her husband, Asake. I scoff. I should tell them who Wale really was. Wouldn’t that be a shocker. Hmm…
It’s my turn. I stand slowly and walk to the altar, passing the closed coffin. I wish it was open, I would love to see his face. But Wale’s mother wanted it closed. She’s paying for the funeral, I can’t argue. I stand behind the podium and look into the faces of the 500 odd guests that have come to pay homage to Chief Adewale Babatunde Williams. My husband. There are wealthy business partners, pot-bellied corrupt politicians, family; those that have partaken of Wale’s wealth and those that still wait in hope of the remnants from his table. I can see Otunba Samuel, the dirty old pervert once tried to put his hand under my skirt. I told Wale, but he said he would deal with him after their business deal was over. I look at my mother-in-law, Mama Felicia, regal and elegant despite her years. Her back is ramrod straight and she’s looking straight ahead, stubbornly avoiding my gaze. I feel a little pity for her. She is burying her 3rd child. She is probably waiting for death. Perhaps, it will come sooner than she expects.
I take a deep breath and look at the speech written for me by some writer on Mama Felicia’s payroll.This person does not even know Wale. He has just written what a good wife should or would say. But I am not a good wife. I’m even better. I’m a perfect wife. I smile a little as I begin:
“My husband, Adewale, was a truly, truly terrible man. Indeed one of the most dishonest, callous men to walk the planet…”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mama Felicia fall to the ground, hand on her chest, a look of horror on her face, eyes wide with shock. The crowd is in a chaotic state. Bami is shouting for help, holding Mama Felicia as she struggles for breath on the floor. Father Nwachukwu, the priest, is looking at me, a mixture of wonderment, disgust and fear on his face. I watch as her hand knocks over the glass of water beside her in her struggle for air. The glass of water I had poured out for her. This scene is all too familiar. Only last month, Wale had died like this, after drinking the water I gave him too.
Oh well…. I smile as I continue my speech, even though no one is listening.