I felt blood trickle down my nose into my lips and I tasted the all too familiar coppery tang. It didn’t stop there, I wished it would but it didn’t. The blows kept coming; from my stomach to my shoulders and my face again. It was a relief that my teeth were still adamant on being attached to their gum, considering all they’ve been through. Bayo didn’t stop; the sight of blood seemed to provoke him further to anger, like I didn’t have any right to bleed. I know because he told me himself. He said he hated the sight of my blood; that I bled on purpose; pretending I was innocent and I didn’t deserve the beating I received. I had learnt that talking back to him was useless, if anything it prolonged the usual duration of the beating. So I always kept mute, like I was mute now as his fists had their way with me. I didn’t even fight back. He could kill me if he wanted, as long as he didn’t touch Feyisayo and Omolewa. They didn’t deserve to suffer for the mistakes of their mother. As long as I had breath in me, my foolishness would never affect them. So Bayo could punch and hit all he wanted, the pain was no longer new, I wore it like a second skin. If anything I was proud, like a martyr in the face of death. A death I died everyday; who would have known that I would ever get used to this suffering.
The first day Bayo hit me, time stood still. I stood for what seemed like hours, staring at him with my face in hand. I screamed bloody murder and rained curses at him; I tried to run out of the house but he held me. He didn’t know what came over him, he said. He would never do it again, he said. Three months into our marriage, there was really nowhere for me to go even if I had run out of the house, so I stayed. I could remember he never raised a finger to touch me when we were courting. Yes, he raised his voice every now and then but never his hands. I convinced myself that it was a one-time thing and perhaps I had also behaved rashly. I mean I should have called to tell him that I cooked vegetable soup instead of the Ewedu he asked me to prepare. I should have left work earlier, that way the Ewedu would not have all been bought. It was my entire fault. So like a good little wife, I went on my knees, apologized and all was well.
Soon we had our first child, Feyisayo, and he treated me like a queen. I felt like a queen too, with her very first princess in her arms. I couldn’t afford to mess this up. After I was done with my leave; I would drop our baby off at the day care and head to work, pick her up and head back home to cook and clean before her father got back. The day came when he had settled down to eat and I excused myself to go out and buy him water. I rushed back into the compound and was greeted with the sound of a crying baby. No sooner had I opened the door that my eyes were blinded by a thunderous slap. I was too shocked to speak and he didn’t wait. He pulled me into the house and dragged me to the dining. What sort of wife gives her husband food without providing water, he demanded. What sort of wife left the house without informing her husband? I tried to explain that I had just noticed that the water in the dispenser was finished so I rushed out of the house to get back before he could feel my absence. My pleas were an excuse to reward me with even more blows. The more I voiced my dissent the more punches I earned. Feyisayo’s cries weren’t even helping matters so he stormed off to the living room where she lay on the sofa. Panicking, I ran after him. I entered just in time to catch her as he flung her at the wall. It was then that his sanity returned. His eyes widened at the realization of what had almost happened. I realized it too and I burst out crying. I could have lost my baby, my princess, my Feyisayo. He came towards us and I cringed, shielding my baby from him. It was like the moment a werewolf transformed back into a man. The rage was no longer in his eyes as he reached out and carried Feyisayo. The moment his tears began to well up, I ignored the beating I just received and was moved by pity. He turned to me and began to apologise. The same exact words he told me the first time. Against all odds I chose to believe him. Maybe I should have checked for water first, maybe I should have told him before I left the house. It was my entire fault.
Soon, I was no longer able to tell if it was my fault anymore. I was no longer able to find reason in the pummeling I received. I had quit my job, become a full-time housewife. I lived to please him but all I did was irritate him even more. The blows came more frequently and before I knew it, no day passed without him making his mark. My parents were less concerned, I was only exaggerating. I had always been a stubborn child, they claimed. Maybe he was also going through what they went through raising me. It even got to the point where they warned me to stop running home with my swollen face. I was embarrassing them; no one should know what goes on in my matrimonial home. I should never give their enemies a reason to rejoice. He would kill me, I warned. My father was infuriated; then I should kill him first or we could kill each other for all he cared. No daughter of his would leave her husband’s house with children. He didn’t raise us that way. Defeated, I went back to my matrimonial home; it was obvious I was in this alone.
Now that I was being subjected to another boxing match, my father’s words rang clear in my head. “Then kill him first!” With brazen resolve I got up and pushed him, pushed him like my life depended on it because truly it did. He came tumbling down like the wall of Jericho, falling backwards. I winced as his neck made contact with the concrete railing that led up to the bedroom. I could hear the crack of his bone; it was as audible as spoken words. A part of me hoped he had given up the ghost. The other half that pictured me in prison garments and a widow’s shaven head stirred me to run up to him. He was unconscious but breathing. Thank God, or not? It was confusing. I rushed out of the house, screaming for help. Soon my neighbours were gathered and someone volunteered to donate their car as ambulance. My blood stained face made it obvious that I was in no state to drive. It was a whirl wind of emotions for me that night.
After weeks of staying in the hospital, Bayo was coming home today and I was more than happy to bring him home. It was a struggle stuffing his wheelchair into the trunk of my car though. So I had to persuade some male nurses to help. It would take some getting used to. I drove home and wheeled him into the house. He would have looked around if his neck could move as he was paralysed from the neck down. Paraplegic as the doctors called it. So I wheeled him around to see, I was more than content to do so. More than content to do everything for him; as long as he couldn’t lift a finger to do it himself. As long as he couldn’t lift the finger to hit me ever again. Although I would not have been bothered by a widow’s shaven head, I was more relieved that I wasn’t wearing a prison uniform. I wheeled him into the guest bedroom downstairs; since it didn’t require stairs it would be his new room. I left him there and went upstairs to have a long bath. To wash off the pain, tears and suffering of the former days. Feeling brand new, I headed straight down to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of wine. Hearty cheers to a new beginning!