“I’m tired,” was the phrase that kept ringing in my mind as I looked at my husband. I was just tired and wanted to sleep. To just walk to the bedroom without having to pick up a sock on the floor, dirty smelling shirt on the armchair, half-eaten bowl of food on the foot of the bed or documents scattered as usual on the rest of it. To just sleep and not have to baby an overgrown adult anymore.
I went to sit on the sofa and picked up a polythene bag filled with what? Spaghetti? This looked like what was leftover waakye. I took a tentative sniff. Ugh. It smelled like one too. Wait. Krantwi had brought waakye home today, eaten it and left the rubber on the sofa for good old wifey to pick it up? I searched for the plate he must have eaten it in and found it pushed under the coffee table. Who does that? Am I his maid? Am I some silly girlfriend hoping and praying for a ring so that I have to tolerate everything he does without complaining? I am his wife! I deserve some respect! To come home and for once will not expected to pick up clothes and shoes, pick dirty dishes from all over the apartment and to rest! That’s what I needed. To rest. I was working, alone, to feed 3 mouths and I was tired.
I sighed and got up. Oralizing wasn’t going to get things done so as usual and like the dutiful wife I am, I grabbed the long broom from the kitchen and started to sweep and arrange the hall. I put back sofa pillows, pushed coffee tables to their proper places, picked up a glass of sobolo from the floor just in time to avoid it spilling onto the carpet as the broom hit it, arranged the faux fruits on the center table, swept up torn pieces of paper, a crumpled newspaper, picked up a dustpan and came to collect the rubbish. I saw a transparent rubber in peeking from the newspaper and stopped. Was that what I thought it was? I used my thumb and forefinger to remove the offending piece of rubber and was shocked. Used condom?
I let the dustpan and broom fall on the ground as I rushed into the bedroom holding it aloft.
“A condom, Krantwi? You slept with someone in the living room? You brought another woman here?”
He was seated on the bed folding letters into manila envelopes. Something he did every day in order to apply for jobs nobody called him for. I had sent emails upon emails and had him follow up with hard copies of the letters but as usual, nobody called him for an interview.
He spared a glance at me as if I was an offending fly and asked flippantly, “and so what? You’re holding it as if you haven’t seen one before.”
That shut me up. What did he take me for? That I’m confronting you and you’re talking to me in such a manner? I wanted to hit him, to scream, to insult him, to throw the condom at his face and so many of the very satisfying ways I knew would appease my anger but I did none of these. I just turned away and walked back into the living room knowing that he would just watch me leave with a leer. “There goes my perfect wife,” he would say. “Even when I hurt her, she will keep quiet and not talk.”
I went back and finished collecting the rest of the rubbish and took it outside to the dustbin. I looked at my wristwatch and it was half-past 12. My daughter would be home by 3 and I had to quickly prepare something for her. At age 13, she ate like a horse.
I was cutting onions when it hit me on how foolish I had been. 3 years ago, I quietly accepted my fate to provide for the family and never said a word when he turned down jobs from family and friends one after the other. It wasn’t that nobody wasn’t interested in giving him a job, he was just not accepting them and rather wanted to apply to be the manager of this or HR of that company. I had told him repeatedly that it would be best to get a job there even as a cleaner because vacancies come for weeks before the general public is informed. He ignored me and I had no other choice than to just continue helping him the way he wanted.
As I started to cry because of the onions, I realized what I’d been doing for all these years. In trying to be perfect, to not raise a dissenting view or do anything to rock the marital boat, I had lost myself. I had pretended to be this quiet woman who went along with everything her husband wanted, whether good or bad. I couldn’t save because he would come for the ATM and remove money at will. He would give me the ATM just twice a week and I wouldn’t complain if he nearly wiped out everything in the account. I once to questioned him on what he used the money for. He told me he used it on uber to the offices he applied to and bought lunch.
How one person could spend close to 500ghc a week on just transportation and food beat me but I never talked. To his parents, I was an angel. “Oh, Grace doesn’t like talking oh. She is like the proverbial Aggrey beads. She doesn’t talk. Her actions are her words, always loving, obedient and helpful.” He would tell them and my head would swell as they thanked me for taking care of their son. I never told them that whiles I was taking care of him, he was killing me. He’d turned me into a shell of a woman. One he detested so much that he didn’t care he’d been caught cheating.
I stabbed the wooden chopping board with the knife, still weeping.
“Hey, what was that noise? What’s the problem?”
I looked up and there he was. Clad in the boxers I washed a day earlier, wearing a mango stained singlet and nothing else. He was holding a pen and paper and looking at me with irritation in his eyes.
“YOU! YOU ARE MY PROBLEM!”
It was as if I had moved from inside my body and was watching myself from outside, a little above my body as I lit into this man I called husband. I had never been more furious in my life as I grabbed the knife and whiles brandishing it, lit into him with all the venom I could rustle up. I was angry, exhausted and hungry. I shouted, yelled and screamed at him for all the injustice I had suffered at his hands for all these years. I reminded him of past mistakes, present mistakes and, possible future ones. The most important ones being the condoms I was sure to find. He at first looked bewildered, furious, then alarmed as I ended my tirade with, “since you’ve decided to disrespect me by bringing another woman here, you shall have no more cash from me. I shall not give you my hard-earned money for you to spend on another woman. When I cook, you can get some. If I’m on my way out and you decide to join me, I will pay your fare but I will not give you physical cash. If you want to buy anything, make some of your own!”
“Look, wait a minute. What’s the meaning of this?”
“Listen Krantwi. I’m trying to remind myself that I’m your wife. I’m supposed to support you just as you are expected to support me. Since you’re in your home, you are supposed to do the things normal people do at home, instead of treating this house like an apartment and me as room service.
Should I decide to forget that we’re married, I’ll just grab my bags and daughter and move into my parents’ home till I complete the house you refused to help me build even when you made 4 times what I make now but spent it all on women. When I leave, you can go for any of your women, both past and new, to come and take care of you. The only time you will see me after that is when I take you to court to get our divorce. I’m leaning towards leaving but it’s still a democracy so I want to ask you this, do you want me to stay or do you want me to go? Choose one. If you turn around, walk into the bedroom, remove all the documents you’ve scattered on the bed, lay the bed for once so that I can take a needed nap, I will stay but should you stay here and argue with me, I won’t waste another breath but quickly go and get ready to leave. It’s your choice.”
He looked at me quietly for a moment, probably trying to gauge if I was serious or not. I really wanted to walk away from this marriage but wanted to make it work, to move on from this by making him see that I will no longer allow him to disrespect me like he did. I had a kid nearing teens. We had to teach her that men could also do what women do by feeding and cleaning after themselves. She had to respect her step-dad and respect herself in order not to allow any guy in the future to turn her into his slave when she was a helper and not a servant.
He crumpled the paper in his hand and without another word, turned to walk into the bedroom. I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding in and continued cutting vegetables. This was the dawn of a new era. I sniffed and after that, smiled.