A Crave For Freedom
Obadofin Aminat Temitope
I can’t remember how it all started. I can’t even remember the year it began. All I know is it would always begin with the most mundane thing. Gradually, steadily, it seeped into our marriage, into our lives until it became as familiar to me as the breath I took each day.
It began with the arguments.
“ I am sorry. I was only trying to…”
”Shut up”’ He roared. “You don’t talk while I’m talking in my own house!!!”.
My lips quivered. ”It is my house as much as it is yours. I am your wife”.
He raised his hand as if to hit me but he didn’t.
I gasped “you want to hit me? Because I got your shirt burnt?.you won’t even allow me to explain. I was only trying to check on the Children. They were having one of their silly quarrels again.that is…”
He raised his hand up to still the words that tumbled out of my lips. “I have had enough of your nonsense for one morning. Daniel, Rachel, let’s go to school.” I watched the children run out of their room, I gave them mechanical pecks on their cheeks. I watched the door close behind them and I sank heavily onto a cushion. My entire body was trembling.
One day, He slapped me.
“Are you mad? How many times do I want to tell you to never talk back at me? What do you think you are?”
I held my blazing cheek and watched him from my slumped position on the floor. I couldn’t even talk. I bit my lips to hold back the tears. He stomped angrilly out of the room. That night, I laid in the bed with my back turned to him, sulking.
“Hey Rita”. His voice was as cool as his touch on my arm. I shrugged his hand off. “Rita, I am sorry. I was just angry that you don’t trust me even after all these years”.
I turned to face him “You shouldn’t have hit me”
He smiled. My heart melted. “I am sorry. I won’t repeat it ever again. I love you so much babe.”
I smiled back.”I love you too”.
After we made love, he held me like I was the most precious thing to walk the surface of the earth and stroked my head till I slept.
Another day, Another time.
He yanked me up by my hair.”Please, please Mike please, let go of me. The children are watching. Please let’s do this inside the room. I beg of you”. He shoved me hard against the wall. “Did you say children?. Children! You are very stupid. I am talking about how you embarrassed me earlier and you are talking about the children. You are a fool.”
Even as the blows pummeled my face, all I could think of was my children, of them watching, of their hearts ripping apart.
As soon as I could pull away temporarily, I screamed.” Rachel, Daniel, go to your rooms now.”
Rachel tugged frantically at her brother.”Daniel come on. Let’s go.” She was crying. Daniel wasn’t. They fled into their room, away from the war zone which was now a part of our lives.
I called my mother.
“Mummy I have to leave Mike. He will kill me if I don’t. I can’t do this anymore. I will come and live with you and daddy.”
I wiped gently at the tears running through my bruised and swollen cheeks. “Sssh Rita. Where would you put your children? With us still?. Look don’t make any mention of this to your father. A woman’s place is with her husband, no matter what. Just keep praying for him to change. He will.”
I shook my head even though she couldn’t see me. “No mummy. I am tired! I am tired of him abusing me then coming to apologize afterwards. I don’t want his flowers or money anymore. I just want to be happy mummy.”
There was a slight pause at the other end, then “And you are happy Rita. You have what most people would kill for. A stable home, a Financially capable husband and two lovely children. What else do you need to be happy.
I sighed”I think he is cheating too, mum” My mother laughed “All men cheat. Your father is no saint too my dear. It’s our cross to bear”. I ended the call and slammed my phone down on the table in anger. Mother would never understand.
Freedom came at last.
It was on a Monday, a bright sunny Monday morning. I opened the door to let the men in. “We are from glory way police station.” They flashed their ID cards before me. “Are you Mrs Rita Nanpon?”
I nodded in the affirmative.
“We are very sorry to inform you that your husband is dead. He was involved in a ghastly accident on his way to work. He didn’t even make it to the hospital. We would like you to come with us and claim his body at the mortuary.”
My head swirled. It was as if a huge stone crushed it. “My husband?..Mike?”. My voice was a hoarse whisper. I tried to stand up. My head felt light and heavy at the same time.
“Easy madam,” that was the last thing I heard before I slumped.
At the funeral.
I watched all the proceedings as an outsider. My eyes were dry till the end of it all. I was assumed to be in shock. What no one knew was that the shock was over already and it was my time to be victorious. Mike was gone and that meant freedom for me, for the children. It was life giving me another chance and I was grateful for it.
Twenty years later.
It was also a Monday morning. A gloomy Monday morning. I received a call from my daughter-in-law. She was crying profusely.
“I stabbed him. Yes! I killed him. I can’t take it anymore. He had to die or he would have killed me. I killed him!”
The phone dropped from my hand on it’s own accord. I stared straight ahead, seeing nothing but the pages of my past. They flipped backwards and I saw it..my mistake. In trying to shield my children from reality, I had forgotten to teach them how to still the demons in them.
Mike wasn’t dead.
He never died. He remained there, in the shadows of our actions, our thoughts. Freedom was an illusion. He bound us all to him. I still trembled whenever someone shouted too loud. Rachel was too much of a coward. She could never stand up to anyone. Maria would probably live the rest of her life in that hideous asylum. My Daniel, my precious boy had paid with his life. That was the worst blow Michael dealt me.
Michael Nanpon never stopped living. He is etched into our lives. And he will continue to haunt us all forever.