Whenever Henny, a childhood friend, visits, she always leaves me feeling uneasy. According to her, I am too trusting. I leave valuables strewn all over the place, my doors are so poorly secured that even a kid could pick the locks; and I always pay the artisans without haggling to the point of annoyance. In short, I was a soft touch. Her criticism seldom fazes me, but lately, every strange noise in the night makes me apprehensive. Was it a thief lurking around the house – or an armed robber? Benny’s voice always rings in my ears at times like this, “How could you allow your house-boy to always knock at the back door and you open the door all the time?”, she always rages. “What if a gun-man holds a gun to his head and he knocks and there you are face to face with the nuzzle of the gun? Let him use the front door all of the time!”. So, when the front door knocker rapped recently, my heart was in my mouth. It was close to midnight and the street’s security gates had since been locked.
What could be going on? Have the security men been tied up? Killed even? “Help!” I shrieked a voice I recognised so well, “Candy, open the door! It’s me, Ronke. I was out of bed like a shot. What demon could possess her to leave her house at this hour of the night. Was it her husband? One of the children? If so, I was hardly able to do anything at this hour, was I? What if she was being chased by armed robbers? My imagination was given a wide rein as I peered behind the curtains. Ronke looked so frightened, like a bat from hell that I quickly unbolted the door, thoughts of armed robbery attack vanishing. The sight that greeted me was more frightening.
“As I quickly dragged her inside, Ronke looked like a deranged woman. Her clothes were in tatters, her eyelids swollen and she had a cut on her lips. What the heck happened? `It’s Okey’, she panted, still bewildered. “We were n bed when my husband woke me up, brandishing my mobile phone and accusing me of still seeing Lateef.
“As he ranted and thrust the mobile in my face, I discovered he’d found a stored picture of Lateef that I’d forgotten to delete”. I sighed. We’d been through this Lateef lark over and over again. Some years, back, Okey (her husband) had been involved with a girl who claimed he got her pregnant. He seemed to be thrilled by this pregnancy, inspite of the fact that they already had three healthy children. Pompously, he told his wife, he would be spending the odd weekend with the unborn child and its mum. In future, he added, the child wouldn’t be made to feel like an outsider as it would have free access to the house! Unfortunately, the day of the child’s naming ceremony he got the shock he deserved. Okey had gone with his younger brother and a few of his relatives. As the brother cradled the new born, he noticed a strong resemblance between him and a man who had walked in a few minutes ago, throwing his weight around.
The new mother had looked a bit apprehensive at this strange man’s arrival but had quickly recovered her composure Okey’s brother then asked him if he’d noticed the resemblance between the man and the child. He took a closer look at the child and promptly stood up, plunking the infant in the arms of his mother. Of course, Benny didn’t hear this until months later from Okey’s brother himself.
He’d come to have a word with her not to let his brother’s treatment of her when he was expecting his ‘baby unique’ affect her affection for him. As if! Benny had found solace in the arms of Lateef in the ways she was hurting but as soon as she heard what happened, she threw Lateef over. Lateef was married anyway and I’m sure he must have been relieved to be free to explore greener pastures! We would never know how Okey found out about Lateef, but he did. And all hell was let loose.
In the end, with my prodding, they both agreed to give their marriage another go by forgetting their indiscretions. So why did Benny still have Lateef’s picture in her mobile? “I forgot to delete it”, she whimpered, “but Okey’s anger had obviously blocked his hearing as he began punching me in the face again and again. I tried to fight him off and this enraged him more. One of the children heard the commotion and screamed. As Okey clamped his hand over my mouth, his finger slipped in my mouth and I gave it a good chump. He screamed in pain and that gave me the opportunity to run into the night in my knickers and bra. The night guards hanging around must have been grateful for the free show that was now playing on the street. At first, Okey ran after me, but a few of the guards closed in to protect me, so he stormed back inside the house promising to deal with me!” I still couldn’t take it in. I’d been close to the couple for years and Okey had never shown any sign of violence. So, why now? They’ve both strayed; both have agreed to try again. So, what unleashed the violence that was obviously simmering underneath? After a while, I settled her in the guest room but it took me a long time to drop off. The next day, I reluctantly agreed to go with Benny to her house. Was the madman that was once her husband still raging? The house help told me Okey had already left for work but she looked a bit frightened.
As I went with Benny to the bedroom,we both gasped. cupboards were opened and drawers were pulled out. Benny’s clothes and expensive native gears were maliciously ripped apart. Torn tops, skirts, trousers, even shoes were vandalised.
Benny burst into tears as she watched her impressive wardrobe turn to a heap of rubbish. “That’s done it, as far as I know, I no longer have a marriage”, she said, she could afford to be on her own too. She is a medical consultant whilst her husband ran a computer outfit that wasn’t making much – no thanks to the fierce competition from the computer village which was close to his outfit. Still, Benny financially propped up the marriage because Okey had been good to her in the past. So, why did he stoop this low? She was in no state to drive, so I dropped her at work where a colleague of hers, cleaned up her scratches and gave her painkillers for her bruised head before being sent back home where we were once again faced with the shredded remnants of Benny’s once impressive wardrobe. All she had left were some old trousers and a few blouses.
She was now well composed. She told me, I could leave for my office, assuring me that she would be okay. As I drove to the office, the whole fracas seemed strange.
Benny eventually left her matrimonial home and took the children with her. Shortly after, Okey came looking for me, looking as if he’d been bereaved. He wanted his family back. But, what demon possessed him to not only pummel his wife like a panel beater attacked a badly damaged car, but shredding her clothes too? “I’m really sorry I did all that and I promise it won’t happen again. But the thought of my wife being banged around by this Lateef creep always drives me insane. So, I had a moment of indiscretion and fathered a child, was that a reason for the mother of my children to be messed around by a man looking for a fling, not a commitment?” Men. Will we ever understand them? He’d conveniently forgotten he was in no condition to promise commitment to his lover when he was already committed to his family. The way I saw things, his wife’s infidelity would always be a dark cloud hanging over the marriage. A wife could forgive infidelity over and over again, but men seldom do.
I promise to have a word with Benny and I did. I told her Okey had solemnly promised that what happened would never happen again. “To right, it wouldn’t”, she spat. “I’m never gong back to that animal. I am a medical doctor. The difficult part about wife-beating is landing the first punch. Once that’s done, the beating becomes more regular with the culprit bleating it would never happen again. But it does, over and over again. As it is now, words had spread round the hospital about my plight. The stories staff alluded to my being beaten up so viciously would make you wonder if you ever knew me at all. He didn’t even give the presence of the children a thought as he beat me up. Marriage should never cost you such emotional stress …”.