BEDROOM SLIPPERS

It all started with a haircut. Two days after I accepted to marry him, John asked me to keep his company in the barber’s shop to cut off his ‘bachelor’s hair’, to wear a hair befitting a ‘responsible’ man. John normally carried a big hair which he only trimmed but he was going to cut it very low, for
me. I was rather impressed.
It was a small lush saloon with a lot of diversions, newspapers, magazines, a Plasma TV. There were only sport and politics in the papers, nothing of fashion, nothing of romance—nothing for me.

And the TV was tuned to a war
station—bombs, crumbling buildings, starving children, abandoned limbs, shattered hopes. Not for me. So I kept my
eyes locked on John’s head as the clipper taxied on the surface of his sleek hair, like a grass mower on synthetic turf. In a way, I felt light watching
the clipper do its responsible journey on my man’s head; paving pathways for me into his being, into a first-hand feeling of his head-beat, heart-beat. It was the most important haircut of the century.

The hair ritual took close to three quarters of an hour and I was a little disappointed when it ended, but glad that it was over; I now had a new man.
John faced me and when he smiled my heart sank. He was not the man I came here with. He was still the tall, dark-skilled
good-looking thirty-three year old man I loved but he wasn’t the man I came here with; it seemed his big hair was a skin which had now been lifted
for me to see the real him.
John was smiling at me but his smile looked fixed, a little patronising. He seemed to be smiling down at me. I had
known John for two years.

When I accepted to go out with him I only liked him. It took me two firm years to grow the love I had for him. But here, before
my very eyes, this love had
developed a fault; I still loved him but the fault was like a small hole in a pyramid-sized tank; it would take time but
some day, the water in the
tank would empty out and my love for him would die—die?

‘God forbid,’ I said aloud.

‘God forbid what?’ John said.

‘I have headache,’ I said.

On the car, our way home, my narrowed eyes fixed on the windscreen and seeing nothing, I thought about John. We
would be wedding in two months’ time, married for a lifetime, sixty years if we
lived well. How would I
fare been with this man for so many decades?

I discovered that I had never
really thought of this. Wedding John was a good thing, but marrying him, living with him—I didn’t know.

John was caressing my lap. Before I accepted to date him I had him agree to refrain from sex until marriage, but he insisted and I allowed him touch and kiss me—a fair compromise, then. Today his
hand on my lap was a little too
hard. I grabbed his wrist. ‘Stop that.’

He gave me an odd look and showed me his tongue.

‘Please concentrate on your driving.’

He continued to massage my knee. I hit his hand off. He looked hurt but I didn’t care.

‘Drop me at my place,’ I said.

‘I thought we—’

‘Drop me at my place.’

He shrugged. He stopped the car before our gate and I got down.

‘Goodnight,’ I said.

‘Goodnight.’ He didn’t look at me.

That night I lay awake thinking about us. I invoked the good memories we had shared. I put them in the television of my
mind and played them on a soft
romantic musical background. But the more I watched them the more they appeared imperfect, the more I found faults in them; hard as I tried I
couldn’t get the scenes in Technicolor, my memories of John and I were in hazy black and white. I switched the memories off and moaned at my headache. I was so tired and needed sleep badly; everything would clear after a well-earned rest. The angel of distort that had sown such nefarious doubt in my heart could be slept off, must be slept off. I slept off.
# #
‘I don’t want to marry John,’ I told Ike. My seventeen year old brother looked at me as if I was out of my mind. I looked back at him, as though matching his eyes proved my sanity. Gently he put away his PlayStation keypads. The day our last maid was electrocuted Ike didn’t put his keypads away. He put his keypads away to hear me out.

‘What did you say?’ he asked, willing me to confirm he had heard wrong. I mustered all my energy: ‘I don’t want to marry John.’

‘Are you mad?’ Ike was eight years younger but we were so close it was normal for him to be rude, not today. ‘Don’t insult me,’ I said.

He laughed without mirth. ‘Insult? You haven’t seen any insult yet. It is less than two weeks to your wedding and you
talk like this. Everything has
been planned, the cards have been distributed,  the venue is booked, and the dresses…’ He sighed. ‘What will people say?
God, Daddy will throw you out
of this house; Mum will be heartbroken. There—’

‘I am only pulling your legs,’ I said. I didn’t sound convincing but the innocent boy took my words for it. ‘Oh sweet sis!’ He came forward and kissed my cheek.
# #
My love for John that begun backpedaling that fateful haircut day was completely gone a night to our wedding. The love had grown in arithmetic pace but faded in geometric speed. It was gone
so fast it seemed that I
never loved him, it seemed that my love for him was a lie someone was trying to sell me.

A night to my wedding and I
was sure John wasn’t my
husband. I could feel it strong in my marrows, but I couldn’t help it. It was hours to W-Day. What would people say if I backed out of this marriage? What would they do? I didn’t want to think of
it—but I knew I would be lucky if they only go for my hide. So I wept at my helplessness. There was no one I could confide in, no one would
understand. They were not
interested. They were interested in the wedding not the marriage.

My mother came to my room to comfort me. She understood my tears and hugged me hard, willing to take some of my pains into herself. But she didn’t
understand the pain. She knew there was pain, she saw it in my tears, but she couldn’t define it. She might have thought it was the pain of leaving home—she understood this kind. She wouldn’t understand my real pain, it would demoralise her, it would confound her—I would be wicked to subject my
darling mother to such helplessness. So I ate up my sorrows, it was difficult to swallow but I had little choice but to force my system to digest it.
# #
The sun didn’t just shine on our wedding day; it burnt down on the earth with ancient fury. If one listened one could hear it
burning. But no one listened, everyone had eyes on ‘the latest couple in town’ as they say, and ears for the oaths. Prison oaths. If marriage wasn’t a prison, a chore, why the oath, why the signings? Why not just announce that you were married? No, you have to stand before God’s sanctity and swear ‘to love and behold till death do us part’. It wasn’t fair. I said the oath with husky voice that belonged to someone else, someone impersonating me. I went through the reception rites like a malfunctioning robot. I wasn’t in the ceremony and everyone must have noticed, but I didn’t put any foot wrong so I robbed them of the concrete evidence of my disloyal diffidence. I was relieved when the wedding came to a close.

Then came the marriage. At home, that night I had to play my conjugal role to my husband. ‘I am so tired,’ I told him.

‘Oh come off it,’ he said, ‘you know how long I have waited for this.’  His voice was throaty with lust. The voice of a lion that had sighted a
prey. I stood up and began to undress. He yanked off his shirts and stood waiting impatiently. ‘Hurry up, virgin,’ he said.

Foolish man, I cursed him inwardly. He had slept with hundreds of girls and now he was marrying a virgin. Who was going to marry the girls he had devalued, used up? For the first time in my life I regretted having kept my
virginity thus far. This man didn’t deserve to deflower me. You say no to so many men, some of whom you really
admired then you give it to a pig. I am ashamed to admit this, but if John had
given me a chance to get out now I would have given my body to the first thing I
see in trousers.

Sex is a painful act, and really painful doing it with someone who is so insensitive like John. And selfish. All he was after was satisfying his libido, without caring about the ordeal his partner was in. This wasn’t my dream wedding night. I had dreamt of a man who would make love to me, transport me to the next world, not have sex with me, not heaving in and out
of me, stabbing, and letting
sweat from his forehead blind me. It wasn’t love making; if there was anything like making hate, this was it. When John finally disengaged from me he made straight to the bathroom as though he had just survived a fall in a latrine and must clean up fast.

Terrible man.
#
UPDATE: Part Two is ready, here
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