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Love is patient and kind

“He will change. Pray for him. God will do it” sister Fidelia was clutching her bible nodding vigorously as she said the last sentence.

“Sister Joy, you have to let God take charge of your marriage. Be patient. Treat him well. I am sure you have not been cooking all the things he likes to eat. Take care of your husband and he will take care of you” she said, her voice raising an octave.

I was too ashamed to tell her that I had slept in the kitchen that night. I laid there, egusi clinging to my dashiki. Ikenna said the soup was too salty and spat in my face.

I gasped and regretted it instantly. Gasping was the wrong move. He flung the soup at my chest. The hot soup trickling down between my breasts confirmed it. So no, there would be no soup tonight.

Love is not jealous

When Ikenna told me to stop working because he could care for his family on his own, I knew I should have said no. I was tired and did not want to quarrel. I resigned. I was bringing garden eggs and groundnut for his friend and him when I heard him…

Love does not brag

– bragging

“But bros, how you go let woman dey earn pass you?” Ikenna was asking his friend.

“Nna! The tin fear me. Wetin man go do na?”

“Tell her to stop working now. That’s what I did to this one. Abi you no be man? Your salary can sustain you. Let them have small money now, and they stop seeing the need for you”

I wanted to unhear it. I stared at the blue tiles on the kitchen walls and convinced myself that it hadn’t happened. But I couldn’t stop hearing his laughter. It moved my world and yet stopped it all at once. I started shaking.

Love does not behave indecently

Before I found out, I used to always say

“At least my husband is faithful. He has his flaws (hitting me until I bled. Dragging me across every floor in our house. Letting daggers out of his mouth at me)”

Then I saw him at Ifeyinwa’s wedding with that small girl. His hand was on her bare lap, and he was smiling at her. He hadn’t looked at me that way since the first month of our marriage. We have been married 6 years.

We were eating dinner two evenings after when I asked him who she was. It was silent, and the big clock in the dining room was ticking loudly. My palms were sweaty; the cold stainless steel fork was slipping from my fingers. I placed my fork on the plate.

“Are you cheating on me?” I could barely hear myself ask. My voice was hardly louder than a whisper. Yet, that is the bravest I have been in six years.

He laughed that laugh again, like the idea of me questioning him was the funniest joke he had ever heard. He laughed for about a minute, head thrown back and then bent over. He hissed after and suddenly the wind of shame flew into my chest. Shame is cold and merciless. It is a thing that causes you to wrap yourself up into oblivion. I wanted to disappear.

But Ikenna doesn’t let you face your shame alone. He revels in it, wraps it tighter around you, until it suffocates you.

Love does not become provoked

My sister Christiana can tell how badly I’ve been beaten up by which room I’ve spent the night. If there’s too much blood, I sleep in the bath tub. It’s easier to clean the next day and sometimes I’m afraid I will die and no one will find me. At least, there, he will find my body in the morning. I toy with the idea that maybe he will be sorry when I am dead. Only when I am dead.

On days when I’m relatively well off, I sleep in the kitchen. I contemplate running off, but I have nowhere to go. Mama will bring me back the next day.

Love does not keep account of injury

But my husband does. The only time I ran away, I spent the next night in the bath tub.

Love does not rejoice over evil

The day I saw my friend Dubem at the supermarket, I got excited, I let him hug me. I think he held on for too long. Ikenna was smiling, but I could see his jaw working. While Dubem gave me his number, Ikenna clenched and unclenched his fist. He squeezed the trolley handles so hard I thought he would break them. On the drive back home he kept sweating even though the AC was on. He did not turn on the radio and he did not say a word. You could have cut the tension with a steak knife.

After he had beaten me, he stood and watched me. He chuckled at my split lip and black eye

“Let me see what man would look at you now”

Love bears all things.

“Do you not love him anymore? Abi is there someone else?” mama was asking me.

“Don’t disgrace me, this girl! You cannot stay here! Is this how I raised you? Do you think this is what love is about?! Small beating and you run back here. Don’t you know that only a man who loves you will correct you?”

My eyes widened

“Mama, Ikenna is neither God nor papa. Why should he correct me?!”

“Love endures all things” mama stretches the word ‘alllll’ until it is gaping at the mouth.

“Well, I don’t want love. I am sick of love. I am in pain from love. Mama, love has failed me”

There is a hesitant moment in which mama seems to be reconsidering her stand as I bend gingerly to pick up my bag. She stands up and watches me for a few seconds. Then with a pained expression, she turns her back to me, re-tying her wrapper. I begin to walk away, hoping she will call out to me. She doesn’t. And so, I just walk, because what is home if you are not always welcome?

I don’t know where I’m going, but anywhere is better that this place.

 

*******

Post image by Kathryn via Flickr

About the Author:

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetAfoma is medical student who enjoys weaving words in her ever diminishing spare time. Her work has been published in Klorofyl magazine. She swoons over well written poetry and perfect sunsets. She enjoys blogging and is conscientiously working on taking better selfies.

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

9 Responses to “Love | by Afoma Umesi | An African Story” Subscribe

  1. Abubakar November 18, 2015 at 2:46 am #

    Thoroughly enjoyable write-up. Would like to read more

  2. David November 18, 2015 at 2:53 am #

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!

  3. thegracedmisfit November 18, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    This is hauntingly beautiful. Great job, Afoma.

  4. Tonye Roberts November 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

    some stories make the heart flutter even when it seems very familiar..
    nice one Vedi

  5. Chiziterem November 19, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    A beautifully woven story.

    Sidenote: This kind of husband can beat schizophrenia into a person. They need to be locked up in a GULAG prison worse than Alcatraz.

  6. L. Han November 20, 2015 at 12:58 am #

    Well done with this. I like the redefinition of love you did with this story. It seems strange yet familiar. However the many subtitles may have a way of interfering with the flow of the story, and at the same time they make the form of the story stand out.

  7. Iheme Nzube November 20, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    Intelligently woven. I envy your panache.

  8. chinenye November 22, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    I thoroughly enjoyed this… This story has been written and watered down but your style made me read it differently.

  9. joe schwartz spa world February 5, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    Tremendous issues here. I’m very glad to look your post. Thanks a lot and I
    am taking a look ahead to contact you. Will you please drop me a
    mail?

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