BEDROOM SLIPPERS (PART TWO)

Here’s the concluding part of Bedroom Slippers. Read part one here.

We didn’t have honeymoon. We had planned to honeymoon in South Africa but John wanted to ‘tie one or two things down’ in his business before we left.
He continued to tie one or two mysterious things down and kept postponing it until we no longer talked about the honeymoon. Actually, we talked about very little. Because of the traffic between our apartment and his shop, John woke up by five and left for shop before six. He never bothered with breakfast. He didn’t come home for lunch. He returned for dinner but ate so little, painfully little. Few weeks into our wedding, he stopped eating completely. I confronted him.

‘I am not hungry,’ he said.

‘I am tired of cooking food that nobody eats,’ I said. He said nothing. ‘I am not going to cook in this house again,’ I shouted. He didn’t even look at me. He was busy on the television. I went and put the damned thing off.

‘What is the meaning of this?’ he said.

‘You know what it means! I am tired of been treated like trash in this house…’

John stood up and walked into the bedroom. I followed him, shouting. He laid down on the bed, I snapped out the pillow and threw it at the wall. I wanted to quarrel, let him beat me if he wished. But
John didn’t think I was qualified to quarrel with, nor worthy of a
beating. When I got tired of
screaming I moved my things into the guestroom; I wept my eyes out, that night. I continued to cook for him.

I didn’t know the nature of the trade John did—he dealt in the wholesaling of electronics, this was all I knew. I knew he was involved in a countless other businesses. I heard him making calls every time, even in the dead of the night, shouting that sixteen televisions should be supplied to Abuja, nine DVDs for Nkechi had been delayed, Mekus hadn’t paid for the decoders, and a hundred other references that made little sense to me.

‘How is business today?’ I would ask. ‘Fine,’ he would reply. Nothing more.

One day, John was arrested by the police and locked up. It was Nnamdi, his closest friend who told me about it and took me
to see him. I asked him what
offence John had committed but he wouldn’t tell me. ‘Just chill,’ he said, ‘we will get him out.’

When John finally came out after four days, he wouldn’t discuss his police problem with me. He slept most of the time and only came out for his food. After a few days he was ready to resume business. I blocked his way. ‘I want to talk to you.’

‘I am late for shop…’

‘Shop can wait.’

‘What is it?’

‘I am your wife for God’s sake and I don’t know a thing about your business; I have been to your shop just once and I don’t even know your warehouses, your assets, your employees, your associates, nothing. I
don’t…’ I choked. John was looking at me like you would look at a child who suddenly appeared on the highway on oversized Road Safety vest, directing traffic.

‘Why do you want to know everything about my business?’

‘Because I am your wife!’

‘And so what?’

It was like a stab on my belly. I shut my eyes. But I wouldn’t give in to despair yet. I opened my eyes. John was already at the door. ‘What if anything happens to you?’

‘If that is your prayer it will not work in Jesus name.’ He was gone. I decided to confide in someone. We lived in a flat in a big estate occupied mostly by young couples like us. I chose a housewife who lived three apartments from ours. She was in her early thirties and kind-looking, my church member, also.

‘I am having problems at home,’ I said.

‘Your husband?’

I nodded, tears streaming down.

‘Does he beat you?’ No.

‘Does he fail to provide money for housekeep?’ No.

‘Does he keep late nights?’ No.

‘Does he drink?’ No.

‘Does he fool around with women?’ I don’t know.

The woman sighed. ‘What is the problem with you?’

I left the house.

Eight months into our marriage I was no longer trying to love my husband, I was fighting not to hate him. We were total
strangers now, making puny
attempts at polite tolerance. I was tired of staying at home, living boring days without end, waiting for a husband that wouldn’t come back to me; I was tired of my company, I needed to do something to divert my mind from this monotonous circle before I went crazy. I have a diploma in accounting and I applied to a tobacco company across the
road. They invited me for an
interview but John wouldn’t let me go. ‘I am capable of feeding us. If you need anything ask me.’

‘I just need to be busy,’ I said.

‘Busy doing what?’ I had no answer for that, I shelved my diploma.

Two days later I entered our bedroom and overheard John in the bathroom talking over the phone. ‘Yes,’ he was saying,
‘you are right; if she becomes pregnant it will keep her busy.’

Now, I was sure, I hated John.

Now he came to me in the guestroom every night. I would just lie there with parted legs and let him do his press-ups. But it was eating me up, the whole sex stuff. That was my duty but that wasn’t my only duty; I had no say in this house, except to be available for sexual intercourse which I had no control over. So last night he came to me and I told him to go to hell. He tried to force me and we had our first fight. My strength amazed me. Perhaps it was anger that gave me such brutal energy, I don’t know. But I gave John as much as I received. I tore his singlet and designed his face with my nails. I had a swollen eye and red cheeks but I was victorious, he didn’t use me. I was asserting my independence with violence.

This afternoon, our pastor and his wife came to see us. I was surprised to see them; John hardly attended church, it
beats me how he could convince the number one family of our church to come in
such short notice. I tried to be
in my best behaviour. I liked the pastor who seemed an open-minded person; I also liked his pretty wife whose smile broke hostile fences. I served them
malt. In no time John came back and the meeting began.

They scolded John for beating me. I was his rib, a part of him
and how would he fight himself? Women would definitely do annoying
things but he as the man, the
head of the family must be patient, tolerate all idiosyncrasies. He mustn’t allow his anger rule over
his senses.

They turned to me. My husband
wasn’t a bad man, he was better than most husbands they know. He played his role well; he never let me lack—many women would do a lot to have John as husband. They told me about submission as being the divine key to a woman winning over her man. They said many things which I can no longer remember. Finally, they came to the issue of bedroom. I became alert.

‘Move your things back to your matrimonial bedroom,’ the pastor said. ‘That is your rightful place in this house,’ the wife added. ‘When your husband comes to you at night, oblige him,’ the man of God continued. ‘Sex is designed by God as a gift to mankind.
Marriage is the only time to enjoy this gift. Sex is more than the avenue for procreation; it is a tool for communication and building of stronger intimacy and lasting relationships…’

Before they left they made us apologise to each other, and made us promise  to build a godly family. I moved back to
John’s bedroom. Tonight he came to me. This time around he helped me undress and was gentle in the art, with highhanded restraint that was almost an insult. After the exercise he fell asleep. No conversation, no romantic words, nothing. Asleep. Soon, he was snoring.

Now I understand. He had brought the pastors to help tame me, to secure his sexual dominion, and he had gotten
that. They didn’t ask him to
discuss his business with me, to talk to me and treat me like a partner. That isn’t my role, opening my legs every night is. I see everything clearly: I am a pair of slippers for John, something he uses only in the bedroom, nothing more. He may be gentle with me, he may treat me with respect but that doesn’t make me anything better than slippers. I am a pair of slippers, and at best I will be an expensive pair of bedroom slippers

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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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