Hey guys. This is a story i’ve been working on and reworking virtually all summer but for some strange and rather upsetting reason I cannot get it right. It doesn’t feel perfect or finished, like there is something missing but i’m tired of looking and attempting to rework it so here I go.
Just look at him. Look at the way he stands scanning the crowd before him with those dark squinted eyes that tell the most terrifying stories, but are still able to capture the attention of every living soul in the room. They bore deep into you like he is able to read your thoughts and uncover your deepest, darkest secrets, yet there is light; a glimmer, that draws you in, that makes you feel safe and at home with him, that makes you open up to him willingly. His dark skin has aged badly; the wrinkles on his face seem to move as he concentrates on finding what he is looking for. He has a gash on both cheeks that identify him as a Yoruba native; the thick vertical lines run down the sides of his nose to his mouth, they may frighten a young child but he has a smile that can win even the most hostile people over. There is something I love about the way he can seduce anyone into loving him, but I hated that he had chosen me, I was a strong girl and such a man will not seduce me.
I was only twelve. Baba had died when I was very young, leaving Mama and I with nothing. We lived on the streets, we slept where we could, and ate when we had gathered enough money to share a loaf of bread. Some days we were lucky and the nice men and women in their flashy cars would give mama more money than usual, we would buy some bread and stew and a piece of chicken which mama will save for a rainy day. Life was difficult, difficult beyond explanation, but we were able to see the next day and that made us grateful.
Mama had been in touch with Baba’s relatives after he died, they came to take Baba away but they refused to help us, they blamed Mama for Baba’s death, claiming she could not take care of him and was an unsuitable wife because she was too young and had only produced a female child for him, they chased us out of their house, hurling terrible names at us. Mama became a different person that day, she became what Yoruba people call “oloju kokoro”, all she wanted was wealth and she would stop at nothing to get it, even if it meant selling her only child off to get married to a wealthy sixty-seven year old man, as his ninth wife, at the age of twelve.
‘The twelve-year-old bride”, that’s what they called me in the newspapers. Mama was pleased, the happiness in her eyes could not be hidden, her frown lines had disappeared, her eyebrows were raised high in amusement, her loose skin folded at her temples as her cheeks rose and mouth revealed two rows of brown stained teeth, pure joy. Finally, she was living her dream vicariously through me, I was in the spotlight, soon I would be wealthy, soon I would be dressed from head to toe in the most expensive, beautiful clothes I had ever seen, but, I didn’t want any of it.
His ways are traditional, women are not to speak unless spoken to, women are to remain in their quarters unless called for, we would take it in turns to sleep by him unless told otherwise, we are his queens and he is our king, we must obey him.
At the front of the crowd, separated from the rest, sat nine women, they sat in descending order, from the oldest to the youngest. All except the youngest had experienced the joining of a new wife to the family. The eldest wife, Abike, was the kindest of the lot, she welcomed me like a sister the day I arrived, she showed me around the grounds, helped me unpack what little items I had, she made me something to eat as I arrived very late and the kitchen staff had left for the day, she introduced me to the staff and the other wives, she braided my hair to prepare me for meeting the man that would soon be called my husband, she gave me advice and told me stories about her time as his only wife. This was a woman in love with a man that did not love her anymore because he was greedy, a woman that had endured the pain of seeing him bring home a new wife eight times already and was about to make it nine. She would die in a few months from now and she would leave her jewels in a box under my bed for me to find and keep.
He was an ugly man, he was too old, he could not speak proper English, he was a proud man and he was a jealous man. He would tell the guards never to look at me for more than a minute, he would not let me out of his sight unless it was time for me to bathe or sleep and even then a guard would remain outside my door, but during meetings with the council he would show me off, make me parade myself dressed with all sorts of embellishments in the courtyard. The councilmen would lose concentration at the sight of me. My iro was cut short so you could see as my waist beads danced to the swing of my small hips and was made tight to enhance my small twelve year old breasts, and my buba tied tightly around me ensuring my small curves and big backside was on full show, so that if I bent down only the strongest men could turn their heads away. My husband-to-be loved every minute of it; he will wickedly smile at his new trophy before shrieking vehemently at the councilmen to concentrate on the meeting or he would threaten their lives and that of their wives and children. He was a proud and evil man.
I had lived with him for five years now. Somehow he was convinced that it would not be right to marry me at such a tender age and he must wait till I was eighteen. So the date was set, and six months to this day I was to marry him.
The old man died, only two months after our wedding and my mother swiftly followed.Ọ̀kánjúwà baba àrùn. Greed is the worst illness
A year before, I met Akanni, the youngest member of the council. He would bring me gifts when he came, new waist beads in an array of colours, cowry shell jewelry, and my favorite, some delicious hot akara from my father’s town. He would be the man that would teach me to read and write, he would be the man that will encourage me to write a diary on my experiences with my future husband, on how he beat me when I refused him in my bed, on how he will make me parade myself barely clothed in front of his guests, how he would humiliate me and degrade me when he felt like, the emotional and physical pain I endured with him, I wrote it all down. Akanni will be the one I will fall madly in love with, he will be the one that will marry me after the old man dies and he will be the one that I will have my first child with.