Home Culture I’ve Had Enough of You, A Short Story By Olusola Akinwale

I’ve Had Enough of You, A Short Story By Olusola Akinwale


From: Margaret Fatoki <mkf@gmail.com>

To: femi-ceo@femifatoki.com

Sent: Sat, May 27, 2017 at 9:05 a.m.

Subject: I’ve had enough of you

Dear Femi,

I’ve resigned myself to accepting you as a man who has no idea whether his wife takes her coffee black or with milk, a man who never appreciates his wife’s cooking. I’ve given up hoping you’ll see how you’ve undermined me. Nevertheless, your selfish attitude has become increasingly difficult to live with as the years go by.

It’s 6:40 a.m. in Ibadan—six hours and forty minutes into our twelfth wedding anniversary. I’ve waited up the whole night, expecting your call, rolling onto my side countless times to check the clock on my nightstand. By the time disappointment made me push back my covers and get out of bed, the lavender scent rising from the freshly laundered sheets was cloying. I know it’s still Friday, May 26, in California. But American time isn’t our time; Nigeria time is. I’m not one to make an excuse for you that you didn’t want to disturb my sleep. You simply didn’t bother to call, just as you didn’t care to be at home with me for this anniversary.

I remember picking up your journal from your bedside table one starry night in mid- February. You were in the bathroom, the shower a staccato of distant gunfire. I opened the journal straight to the silky crimson bookmark and found Trip to US written in your slanted script. A double asterisk dotted the top, signifying the trip was tentative, as opposed to a single asterisk, which would have meant the event was definite. The water stopped running, and you exited the bathroom.

In my white terry-cloth robe, a towel-turban wrapped around my head, I said, “You’re going to the US at the end of May?”

You dried your hair. “When did we start sharing the same planner?”

“Five minutes ago,” I joked.

Your gaze tore into me. “Why did you snoop in my things? Do I tamper with yours?”

You picked up the A7 organizer and wiped off its brown leather cover as if my touch had defiled it, then tucked it into your Fendi briefcase, climbed into bed, and flicked off your nightstand lamp.

“It’s the week of our wedding anniversary,” I reminded you. And when you remained silent, I added, “It’s our wedding week.”

“Is there a prize for the week?” you muttered. That was you, bricking off the tunnel of communication between us. You always did. You always will.

I’m writing this at the dining table. The house is quiet, save for the refrigerator’s hum. The early morning sunshine ribbons through the slight parting between the curtains and flooded the blue fabrics, giving them a tawny glow. The sun must be a blazing primrose-yellow like yesterday’s. A thin strip of light creeps in from beneath Salewa’s bedroom door. I won’t wake the kids, even if they sleep past ten, because I need silence to release my burdens into this email.

You’ve demonstrated over the years that your job comes first, while I come second (if I even appear anywhere on your list of priorities). Of course, I’m happy when you appear on TV or radio talking passionately about the need for ramps in public buildings. It gladdens my heart when I drive through a city and see the buildings you designed or Architect: Femi Fatoki and Co. on the grove of signs planted in front of a construction site.

No visitor to Ibadan drives past Damien without being awed by the kaleidoscopic oval roof of the fourteen-story hotel you envisioned. But, unlike those state-of-the-art structures, I think of our marriage as a roofless building; people see a roof that isn’t there. What do you expect when a woman lives in a home where she feels no emotional connection with her husband? I may have shattered the glass ceiling in my profession, but in our marriage, I’m no different from the samurai warrior in the gilded glass case in our living room.

At the last dinner hosted by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria in Calabar, a plus-sized woman met me at the buffet table and asked if I was related to the architect and ramp advocate Femi Fatoki. I smiled and said yes. Ten minutes later, the woman came over to my table, nursing a glass of cabernet. With a firm, moist handshake, she introduced herself as Lillian and sat across from me. I had finished my fried rice, but sliced my second piece of beef in two and offered her one out of courtesy.

She shook her head. “I don’t eat red meat.”

“My husband has an ally in you.”

“You’re a power couple,” she said, “with both husband and wife at the top of their professions.”

I smiled and thanked her.

She drank her wine and unconsciously licked the scarlet gloss off her lower lip. “My son is studying architecture and would like to intern at your husband’s firm.”

“It’s like all these young guys want to work with him.”

“He must be a wonderful man.”

What Lillian meant was, You have a wonderful husband. But being a good architect doesn’t equate to being a good husband. You see, when I started out spinning tales about Femi Fatoki the husband, the words felt thorny in my throat, and I choked on them. But my listeners didn’t seem to notice. They were always awestruck by what they had imagined you to be, which I was confirming to them. Sometimes those words were as bitter as chicory. But with time, they began to taste like Nestlé Choco Milo, and I savored them. I no longer see my stories about Femi Fatoki the husband as lies. I tell them to make myself believe them, as my listeners believe. I’m building a haven of optimism, wouldn’t you agree?

I sat up straight, squared my shoulders in my slinky black sequin dress, and recreated you as the man I wish you were. I told Lillian if I were reincarnated, I would want you as my husband again. I told her, “He’s been supportive of my career.” After all, you facilitated a workshop on ergonomics for Beta Finance Nigeria, which greatly improved our staff’s performance.

Lillian glanced off to the side as if taking a sudden interest in the jazz band playing at a mellow pace. When she returned her gaze, her eyes twinkled with envy under her perfectly arched brows. How crazy!

I’ve pondered whether lying—for good?—about one’s husband is genetic, a gift I inherited from my mother, who always smiled in the face of my father’s brutishness. Since you never got to know him, let me tell you that Mr. Michael Gbotifa was a bony-faced man with a toothbrush mustache. He clicked his fingers when he ordered his children to carry out a chore. At our church, he showed worshippers where to sit—the women dressed like Amish and sat on wooden benches separated from the men. As he distributed hymnals, his trousers pulled tight around his thighs while the hems poured over his boogies.

When growing up, I watched my father throw insult darts at my mother. He cursed her for joining her friends to buy anko for a function when he needed money for something I can’t recall now. My mother’s explanation that her friends had all contributed money to buy her the cloth didn’t sit well with him. He threatened her with death if his conditions didn’t improve as if my mother, who had been fending for us, was the evil one sucking off his fortune. Whenever he threw his expletives, I shivered from some internal chill. This same man would afterward sit on the veranda, whistling through his buck teeth.

My mother apologized with equanimity and tended her wounds. Her abracadabra of smiles left her scars invisible to outsiders. I thought her a liar and a hypocrite who boasted to other women that her husband was the priceless crown she wore with pride, and no vicissitudes of family life could make her lose it. She told me, “A woman’s virtue should trump her husband’s shortcomings.”

At fourteen, I started writing poems about my mother’s life as if inking her experiences in a notebook would bring her relief—what you dubbed my “feminine lamentations” when I launched my chapbooks.

My mother collapsed in the bathroom on my sixteenth birthday. The doctor notated “Brought in dead” in his report. She was forty-two. My chest ached when I noticed two occurrences that oddly mocked her in death. The first was the poster announcing her funeral, entitled “Transition to Glory” in dark blue letters against clouds that rolled like the waves of a stormy sea. Why had the printer selected that image? He must have thought the template would be fitting for a woman described as virtuous to a fault, but the poster seemed to imply that my mother had died in a storm. But then is a troubled marriage so very different from a ship buffeted by the raging sea?

The second was the folks from my father’s church saying (as if it was the church’s anthem to the dead) that the righteous had been taken away before the day of evil. My mother had seen so many evil days that their consolation was mere hollow rhetoric. Those men and women came in one group after the other, masking their faces with gloom, taking up all the spaces in our small parlor, which darkened as if they had come to suck off its light.

Supreme Evangelist Koku said despite my mother’s death, we had many reasons to thank Jehovah: that she didn’t turn vegetative or suffer a stroke and become a woman defecating on herself; that she didn’t run mad and become an inhabitant of a psychiatric house. “Wouldn’t it have been shameful for you seeing your mother walk naked in the street and scavenge a dump?” he asked me. His question was a thin needle of revulsion threading its way through my insides.

My father, face pebbled with sweat, leaned his head against the back of the wingback chair that no one else dared occupy (the Tiger’s Chair, I had named it). He was quietly singing church songs while some women fanned him with newspapers. I hated him for getting the sympathy he didn’t deserve. He killed my mother. God knows he killed her. Those words sloshed inside me until suddenly I wailed them aloud. They clouded the room like smoke. A hand blanketed my mouth as the women dragged me into my bedroom.

“This girl! What has come over you?” Iya Seye asked in a light but menacing tone.

“My mother’s husband killed her,” I cried.

“Keep quiet. Don’t let the devil use you against your father,” Mama Eno said. “He’s a holy man.”

The women left for the parlor and filled the house with hymns and prayers. They turned into a community of multilinguists, speaking in diverse tongues and rebuking the devil that had possessed me.

No one cared to know the cause of my mother’s death. An autopsy might have revealed she overdosed on some drugs, or her blood pressure was high, or she was mentally distressed, which would have prompted questions about the life she lived with her husband. But those women didn’t think of postmortem. To them, my mother, a daughter of Zion, had gone to be with her Lord. And when God calls His daughter home, the cause of her death counts as nothing.

When the women left, I wrote “Not Praying.”

Not praying to have him

My mother’s kind of man

Lucifer in his home

St. Michael in church

Not praying for the dark

Not praying, not praying

For my mother’s hell

After my mother’s funeral, my hatred for my father extended to those women and their faith. I chose waywardness as my new religion, and for four years I was a faithful adherent. I regret living that life, but I don’t regret what living it produced. Mothers are women who didn’t eliminate their fetuses or abandon their children.

Hannah Adunni, my mother. I still see and talk to her in my dreams. It feels real like necromancy. As I picture her now, I think, had she lived her life with another man, she could have been more beautiful with her round face, broody eyes, and plump lips.

It is easy to presume that my mother’s husband objectified her in their bedroom. The tiger that he was dominated her body. I imagine her responding to his bidding with no expectation of pleasure. After all, she made herself believe her body was a banquet for him to feast on. Perhaps her husband passed that belief to her by implication, just as you wanted to do to me.

Look, Femi, our union lacks eroticism. It’s because of your idea that my body is an offering to appease your libidinous god. You’re physical and powerful with your dense body, but I would have loved you using your strength in a controlled way. Unfortunately, you showed you’re resistant to change last year. I wanted a break one night from the routine of your fiery pounding, your aggression that leaves painful welts on my breasts. I needed you to learn that although the Creator shaped men’s third legs like a weapon to impale, you can still penetrate me without me feeling like I’ve been raped.

As you slid your hand up my thigh, I said, “Could you hold on a minute? There’s something on my mind.”

In the amber light of our nightstand lamps, you grimaced, as if it were an effrontery for me to have stopped you. I swallowed, then exhaled a short breath. Outside, the rain blew in gusts and lashed the roof with the ceaseless rattle of falling gravel.

“I’d love it if we could change from the usual,” I said.

“What usual?” Your voice was lower than mine, but clipped.

At first, the words solidified in my throat, but then I managed, “I mean trying something new . . . like reverse missionary.”

“What nonsense!” you snapped, then jumped out of bed and switched on the main light. In your silk boxer shorts, you stood over me, your eyes the shade of the night sky. “What the hell do you mean? You riding me? You controlling things? Me following those stupid things you read in those stupid romance novels?”

My cheeks smarted. My head lowered of its own accord, and my braids fell into my face like a black veil.

“I didn’t know I live with a bitch.”

I looked you straight in the eye. “I’m not a bitch. Suggesting another position doesn’t make me a bitch, either.”

Lightning cracked. You raised your voice. “I’m the man.”

“Would you lose your manliness if you broke from routine and considered my suggestions, even in the grander scheme of things, just once in a while?”

“Is this your subtle way to gain control over me? To put my back on the ground?” The veins popped in your neck, and your hands clenched and unclenched. I kept mute. You once smacked me across the face. You looked frozen afterward, but your ego eventually burned through your paralysis.

Thunder grumbled. “Listen to me,” you demanded. “I can’t be tired of being in control, so I’ll continue to have it the usual way.” You shrugged into a shirt and slammed out of the room. The humiliation was shards beneath the cover of the mattress, poking me no matter how I turned. Later, I sobbed, choking and wetting my pillow with tears. But, because of the rain, my weeping may not have reached our children in their rooms, unlike how my mother’s bawling reached me in my room years ago.

Around one a.m., two weeks before my mother’s death, I woke to the sound of crying and a paroxysm of gasps. It was her. I swung my legs out of the squeaky bed and onto the warm floor. The day had been hot, the sun drenching the house, and the pores of the walls and floors trapping the heat. Darkness shrouded the whole house, but when you’re used to the dark, it defines itself to you. I crept out of the room, leaving my snoring sister behind, and headed toward my parents’ bedroom.

I eased the door open, felt for the light switch, and thumbed it down with gentle pressure so it wouldn’t click. The sixty-watt light washed the room. My mother, naked and hugging a pillow, was curled like a fetus on the floor. Tears slid down her half-closed eyes. Beside her lay a bottle of Valium. On her lips were sticky yellow traces of the drug. She must have chewed it. Another pillow lay in the center of the rumpled bedsheets.

My father had gone to an all-men’s vigil, but his abattoir smell hung over the room as though it had been left to taunt her. I put a tentative hand on her shoulder, which was slippery and warm. I switched on the fan and turned it toward her. She began to talk, but the voice wasn’t that of the woman who read Bible passages in church.

Sometimes, when Tiger was out, my sister and I would go to their room and speak into the fan’s rolling blades, thrilled as the vibration distorted our voices. But that night, my mother’s speech was distorted in a way that hastened my heartbeat. “Koija . . . Yaza . . . Naza . . .” She might as well have lip-synched the words of a demon.

I quickly made the bed, tucking in the sheets only on her side of the mattress. When I helped her up, I realized how light and fragile she had become. I could piggyback her without breaking a sweat. I threw the curtains and louvers open and covered her to her waist. Her lids fluttering, she mumbled, “Blood . . . forgive him . . . cross.” I held her hand and watched her body go slack. Perhaps the demon had gone out of her. Her arms were knotted with veins. The skin beneath her eyes seemed to have cracked, adding a layer of years to her face—something I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t sat close.

I left her when the Black Forest cuckoo clock in the parlor struck 3:00 a.m. It occurs to me now that my mother may have wanted to kill herself. If you know living in a home can kill you, and you remain there, and eventually die there, is that also not suicide?

In the morning, I found my mother in the backyard, grinding peeled beans on her milling stone to make akara for her husband. She urged me to not tell anyone what had happened.

“There’s something good in every bad person. And there’s something bad in every good person,” she said. We were now in the kitchen, where the palm oil in the skillet was already heating for the akara. She had added chopped habanero pepper and onion into the bean puree. She stirred with a spoon, added salt, stirred again, and tasted the paste. She dipped a finger into the mixture and touched my tongue. (It was inappropriate to say she might have meant: My dear daughter, have a little taste of what I’m experiencing under your father. Only years later would my taste buds be flooded with the same bitter abuse.)

“Is it well flavored?” she asked, and I nodded.

She scooped a spoonful into the oil, which crackled, popped, and stung her hand. She jerked away with a groan. Had there been anything about her husband that didn’t hurt her or leave her moaning?

“Sorry,” I said, as she blew on her hand.

“If you hate someone for the bad he’s done to you . . .” She smiled a crooked smile and took my palm, squeezing as if embossing those words there. “You could still love him for the good he’d once been.”

Maybe I should accept that, since you’ve been good to the children I bore for you, you’ve been good to me. In their infancy, you jiggled them, and they stopped howling. That was the only thing you knew how to do better than me in nursing them. You dressed them up and fed them cereals with milk. You designed this house and decided not to make it a storied building, with Salewa in mind. You ensured the entrances to all rooms are wheelchair-accessible. The lawn is as trim as a putting green to make it comfortable for her to wheel over it. Among our three children, she’s the only one who has your chin cleft. And, like you—I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed—she rummages for her smile like a woman rummaging in her purse for payment.

When Salewa turned nine, you drove us to Fun Factory. I had told her to request that outing from you. It felt awkward sitting beside each other in your Land Cruiser. If my recollection serves me well, the last time we had sat side-by-side in a car was our wedding day. We had nothing to say to each other as we cruised from Jericho to Bodija. Salewa, Niyi, and Gbenga led the conversation, directing their questions to us.

Another Land Cruiser, ketchup-colored, pulled up beside us in the parking lot. A man alighted with his wife and four daughters, the first no older than Salewa. As we entered the playground, Salewa pointed to the family. You stopped her wheelchair in its tracks. They had bought popcorn, which the father shoved into his wife’s and children’s mouths. The wife took the bowl, scooped some popcorn, and fed her husband and children, who hailed her. Our children were entranced.

“Daddy, let’s buy popcorn,” Salewa slurred over her shoulder.

“Yeah!” Gbenga and Niyi chorused.

The vendor turned the stir rod of his machine, and as the popcorn plunged into our bowl, a sweet aroma rose from it.

“Daddy, feed us like that,” Salewa said, as we moved past a wailing boy who wanted something other than what his mother had bought him.

“No,” I said, before you could answer her, because you and me feeding each other would be awkward.

“Yes!” yelled Gbenga and Niyi over the din in the heart of the factory. Salewa whined, crossing her arms in her defiant way.

You shoved the popcorn into their mouths and looked away. The children shouted, “Give Mommy some, too,” and you fed me the cinnamon-flavored snack, your hand barely brushing my mouth. I took my turn feeding the children. When I put the popcorn into your mouth, my hand trembled. Gbenga and Niyi whooped, bouncing from foot to foot. Salewa’s face glowed with a grin. Had it ever occurred to them that Dad and Mom rarely “played together” at home?

Those moments at Fun Factory? I wouldn’t trade an opportunity to relive them for all the diamond mines in the world.

I’m not jealous of my daughter, but why was it only Salewa who could have made those moments possible? I know you still grieve that she has poor motor skills and her speech is muddled. I’ve seen your eyes accusing me: Your own first daughter is healthy and strong, but you gave me a physically-challenged girl as my first. Listen, you should know that no woman plans to have a daughter with CP. But when you receive her as a gift, you nurture and adore her—not because of her condition, but because she’s your child. I’ve been doing that to Salewa, and I’ve conquered the pains of her birth. I love Salewa as much as I love Temitope.

On Friday afternoon, I sat in the chill of my air-conditioned office taking an audit of our about-to-be-twelve-year marriage. When I weighed the debits and credits, the negative balance left a sucking sensation in my chest. Loving someone isn’t as taxing as planning, designing, and constructing a high-rise building, is it? Things can’t go on like this. I don’t think I can endure one more day.  

I didn’t realize I had been talking out loud until I heard, “Yes, Ma?”

Dolapo, my secretary, was standing in front of my walnut desk. Her pink shirt was tucked into a black skirt, and pink blusher accentuated her cheeks. When she had returned to work after her wedding four months ago, I had asked, “How was your honeymoon, darling?” I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought, I hope it wasn’t terrible like mine.

On our wedding night, when I told you I was menstruating, your face reddened. “Why must it be today?” you snapped, your neck veins taut like bridge cables, as if my menses were something over which I had control. I sank onto the bathtub lip, buried my face in my hands, and cursed my period. For the four days the blood flowed, your tone was spiteful.

Dolapo fooled with her permed hair out of habit. “You called me, Ma.

Do you, too, wear makeup to mask domestic worries and spirit calm into your face? “I don’t remember why I called you,” I spat. “When I do, I’ll beep you.”

Dolapo left.

My laptop screen saver shifted from a picture of Temitope cuddling Salewa to a grinning Gbenga then morphed to an incisor-less Niyi. I tickled the touchpad. The screen showed the spreadsheet of an audited account I wanted Dolapo to copy into her file. But it was already lunchtime, and my leather chair had numbed my buttocks.

I shed the jacket of my champagne-colored Armani pantsuit and left the office—away from the whirring photocopier, clicking mouse, tapping keyboard fingers, and muffled conversation behind paneled walls—and headed for the elevator.

When I got to the ground floor, I noticed how few people were waiting to board the lift at the Cocoa House. I slowly went out through the Shoprite gate and headed toward Radio Nigeria, shuffling past the Central Bank of Nigeria. The cerulean sky glowed in the blinding light of the sun.

In the distance a pedestrian stream flowed toward Ogunpa. On the horizon, foot traffic and vehicular traffic competed for road space. I crossed to Oba Adebimpe Road, recalling Daddy, a poem by Sylvia Plath. Why had my father been reincarnated in you? The image of a boot in the face sprang to mind. Why are you so cruel? My breath hitched picturing our marriage as a chugging steam engine you are driving, taking me off to an early death like my mother.

I walked past the old Kingsway building, bustling with its assorted businesses. At the Lebanon Street junction, I stopped, rubbed at my throbbing temples, and wiped sweat off my face. Businessmen and women scuttled in the heat. My feet were straining in my high heels, so I hooked a left back to the Cocoa House. Music blasted from a record store across the road: Chidinma was offering a piece of her heart about the love of a man thrilling her. I picked my way around some shards of glass scattered on the pavement, glinting like diamonds in the sun.

When I reached those fabric stalls attached as appendages to the fence of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, I heard someone call me. A hand waved from the passenger side of a Nissan, but I couldn’t figure out who the person was. The cloth merchants, too, called my name, begging me to patronize them. The pulsing against my temples intensified. I stopped at a stall opposite the Ido Gate cenotaph, even though, unlike you, I buy all my suits ready-made. Isn’t it amazing that there are no bespoke suit tailors for women?

The stall owner showed me a variety of fabric swatches, saying the materials would look beautiful on me. The corners of his lips foamed, but who cares about that if he’s a good husband? He coughed, crossed to the other side of the road, and shot a gob of phlegm into the sewer in front of the UBA.

As I watched a bird perch on the statue’s head at the cenotaph, a wave of heat engulfed me. My brain imploded, and my vision darkened.

I heard “Fascist! Fascist!” and looked up to see a woman with dyed-blond hair. Sylvia Plath. She held my hand, and a breeze carried us to the cenotaph. The statue changed to Adolf Hitler throwing his Nazi salute.

“You do not do, you do not do. Any more, black shoe in which I’ve lived like a foot.” Sylvia Plath beat hard on Hitler’s shoes. “Daddy, I have had to kill you. You died before I had time.”

“Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,” I said. “Ghastly statue with one gray toe. Big as a Frisco seal.”

“Not God but a swastika. So black no sky could squeak through.” The poet’s gray eyes locked on mine. “Every woman adores a fascist.”

Her father, her brother, or her boss.

As if she heard my thought, Sylvia Plath nodded.

I was looking at Hitler when I heard, “The boot in the face, the brute, brute heart of a brute like you,” in my mother’s voice. I glanced at Plath, but found my mother holding me. Awed, I looked at the statue again. It had turned into my father in those trousers poring over his boogies.

My mother looked up at the statue, shedding red tears. “I never could talk to you. My tongue stuck in my jaw.”

“I made a model of you.” Tears shredded my voice. “A man with a love of sketchbooks, scales, and AutoCAD. And I said, ‘I do, I do.’”

I closed my eyes as the breeze picked up again and brushed my face. A sudden rain fell on me.

When I opened my eyes, I was disoriented. It seemed I had lost track of the world for some moments. Then I recognized the churning of engines and tooting of car horns and the voices flying around me: “She’s opened her eyes.” “Are you all right now?” “Don’t ask her any questions yet.” “Let her rest a little more.”

I found myself sitting on a plastic chair, surrounded by Good Samaritans, my head leaning against the pillar of the gate of the Ministry of Trade and Investment. My hair was drenched, and water dripped down my neck, wetting my shirt collar. The stall owner, whom another man called Fasasi, was waving some cloth, like a fan, in my face. I felt naked before them. The cool water on my face couldn’t relieve the heat in my cheeks. I folded my arms across my chest and made myself small.

I had suddenly collapsed at Fasasi’s stall, they told me, and they had carried me to the chair. They were kind to rationalize my passing out: the heat must have been too harsh on me, or I must have been dehydrated. They forced me to drink some water.

But how wrong they were!

Something else triggered my fainting. It was the stress from the accumulation of abuse I had suffered from living with you. The thought of your trauma-inducing behaviors had turned my head into a combustion chamber. My skull had burned until I fell unconscious.

When I stood up, Fasasi asked if I was strong enough to walk. I nodded because the “yes” caught in my swelling throat. I started for the office again. The bird, maybe it was another one, was pecking at the soldier’s head. If only it could bite off his dictatorial brain.

It is indisputable that I married a fascist of a man. When I first met you, the needle tracks in your arm should have been enough to warn me about you, but I overlooked them. I blundered, assuming you were doing me a favor then, a bachelor ignoring my single-mother status. Anyway, it isn’t too late to rectify my mistake.

Let me conclude with a story I first heard from Ms. Ebun, a teacher in my father’s church. Many centuries ago, there was a woman—I’ll call her Margaret—who started menstruating as a normal girl.

(Hey, I should tell you that I haven’t seen my period for some time. I thought at forty- three it was too early for me to have reached menopause, so I visited my gynecologist. He told me anxiety and distress might have stopped my period. “Are you passing through a rough time at home or at work?” he asked. “No,” I replied, the lie leaving me with tightness in my chest.)

One year, Margaret’s menses didn’t stop after the normal four days. It happened that her menstrual flow had turned to hemorrhaging, which she suffered every day until she experienced a miracle in the twelfth year.

Architect Fatoki, the manner in which you’ve treated me these past eleven years makes my heart bleed every day. How long should I tolerate you bludgeoning my emotions?

Unlike the Margaret in the story, I require no miracle from anywhere. I’m not chicken-hearted. In my career, I’ve competed with men and won tough deals. I correct and reprimand them at work. I’ve concluded the only way to stop my heart from bleeding this twelfth year is to end this marriage.

As I’ve noted earlier, if you know living in a home can kill you, and you remain there, and eventually die there, is that also not suicide? I don’t want to kill myself. And I need no clairvoyant to tell me that my heart will hemorrhage to death if I continue to live with you. I need no seer to tell me I’ve had enough of you. Enough of you ravaging me.

Look, I’ve experienced enough to realize that home isn’t always a comforting place. I’m moving out with Salewa, Gbenga, and Niyi in the meantime. When you come back, I hope we’ll be able to sort out who gets custody of them without resorting to court. I hope you’ll respect my decision and our separation won’t become news in the media.

The mother of your kids,

Margaret     ■




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