Six years old Wemimo sat between her mother's thighs making faces to ease the pain that came from her hair plait. Her mother’s hand moved rapidly as she passed the three part hair sections over one another in turn. “Gbo ri duro fun mi*” her mother snapped sporadically in between her talk with Mama Comfort who came to share the latest gossip in the compound.
“… although I heard her scream I just couldn’t be bothered. Maybe when he beats her black and blue then she will know not to bother him when he is drunk. When will she learn not to provoke her husband? It is as if she enjoys what goes on in their lives. Imagine, she went crying to the landlord this morning. I don’t understand why she craves so much attention” Mama Comfort tattled.
“So she can cry?” Wemimo’s mother let out a loud hiss. “Can you believe she wanted to fight me this afternoon? All because I removed her dry clothes from the barbwire fence. She terrorizes the whole building with her bickering when her priority is to take care of her husband. Don’t even get me started on how she mollycoddles that rotten son of hers Subomi. He is bad influence; Wemimo I hope you stopped playing with him like I ordered?”
Wemimo murmured a yes accompanied with a nod. She felt the compulsion to defend her friend Subomi who is more mannered than Comfort the mango stealer but it was best to please her mother at the moment because she knew a knock on her already throbbing head will definitely increase her misery.
Twelve years old Wemimo walked into a scattered mess living room. The room resembled the aftermath of a violent storm. A stray paper here and a lone book there, at the corner laid her brother’s football and sneakers smeared with mud. On the center table, specks of garri swam in a ring of water, stray cheerios played on the floor while the box stood at the base of the entertainment center. She watched as brown dried leaves were swept in an air vortex then its lazy rage quit as suddenly as it began.
“Bamidele” she screeched “why is the house so messy. Tidy this place up before mummy gets home”
“Why should I do it, aren’t you the girl?” he stated nonchalantly
Her face turned red with rage. “You must be mad. Did I participate in this mess? You made it and you must clean it up” Wemimo’s mother walked in during her outburst and was taken aback at the mess.
“How can I have a daughter and still come home to a dirty home?”
“But mummy, Bamidele, made the mess, I just ….”
“Clean this up now before you father comes home. As for you Bamidele, are you a pig? Look at the mess you created for your sister to clean up. I don’t ever want you to make such a mess again. Do you hear me?
“Yes mummy” he beamed and feasted his eyes back to the television just in time to see Clarke Kent change into superman
Eighteen years old Wemimo woke up to her mother terrified screams; she lunged for her wrapper and ran towards to her parent’s room. Her mother crouched on the floor with both hands on her head; the inarticulate sounds she uttered could not be deciphered. Wemimo’s father had a Koboko in his right hand, he looked like someone who had just quenched his rage of thirst but wanted more to get the sweet feeling of the very first drop. His smiling face disturbed Wemimo, it was the same facial expression he gave when he was promoted the year before and when Alaji Bakare forgave his huge loan. To him, that smile is associated with good. To him, what he just did to her mother is good.
Wemimo helped her mother up and led her towards the door then she turned to her father “I would have been proud of you if you had done this to Alaji Bakare’s son Ibrahim when he slapped you for stepping on his shoes.” She didn’t say more but the shame of that day crowded her father face.
She returned from school to see her mother waiting at the gate. “Wemimo, I hope you did not mention what happened this morning to anybody? What happens in this house should stay in this house. When you get inside, please apologize to your father. Under no circumstances should a daughter talk to her father the way you did this morning. Things happen in marriage, when you get married you will understand”
Twenty eight years old Wemimo rushed into her parent’s home crying with her two children in tow. “Mummy, i am divorcing Kunle. He slapped me twice in front of the children.”
“What did you do to him” she said calmly
“What did I do? Did you just ask what I did to him? What ever I did should not warrant any beating from him.”
“pele, ile oko, ile eko ni. He is only teaching you”. Go in and sleep but tomorrow your father and I will go there with you. Under no circumstances should you ever leave your husband home. Do you know how many women will gladly take your place”?
Wemimo fought, she pleaded, she left for her uncle’s place but she heard the same thing there “ile oko, ile eko ni*”. She sought the help of friends, she got a small place to live, She was gossiped about at work, she was insulted and spat upon – “after all a woman who earns as much as she does can never respect her husband”. She was fired from work, her children were taken from her, she was evicted with no place to go.
Tired and broken she went back home
Home was with Kunle
He gave her a room, he gave her the children, he got her a job, and he beat her once a while
But she survived
Fifty four years old Wemimo sat on the balcony in her house with a newspaper in hand. Temilade her daughter rushed in crying “Mom, I am done with Dapo, I cannot take his daily physical and emotional abuse any more”
“What did you do to him”? was the first sentense Wemimo uttered.
Gbo ri duro fun mi – Keep your head straight
Pele – Sorry
Ile oko ile eko ni – Your husband house is a place of learning
(Sorry for the errors.. no time to proof read)