Kambili | Iloanwusi Viatalis Chinemerem | Nigeria


“ I am never going to go back there mum. You can’t convince me to act otherwise. For once let me make my decision, I can’t remain a toy to a man forever” , I retorted with so much confidence to my amazed mum.

“ So what do you plan on doing? Come back to the house to live with me, yet again as a spinster. Mbakwa ooo!

Where would I hide my face in shame, what would I even say to my fellow women at the meeting. It cannot happen ooo! You better start packing those bags of yours, back to your husband’s house. I can’t cater for myself and your sick Dad, talk more of adding you to the list”, Mama said.

She was a woman who placed her prestige higher than any other thing. I knew all her conviction had nothing to do with finance, after all I set up a big supermarket for her while still with my husband and Papa’s business was still making enough progress.

This had nothing to do with our financial condition, it was all about her reputation in the women’s meeting. Who wants to ever tell the world that her daughter is out of her marriage, regardless of the circumstances surrounding her decision.

“ Mum, for once treat me with respect. For once see me as a woman and not a toy to be cajoled into certain destructive decisions. Have you even wondered what living with a monster like Zota could be?

Where is your sense of motherhood? Where is your conscience? How could you sell your virtues out in exchange for a reputation that could still get broken.

Mum, I am your daughter. I am not just your daughter; I am your first daughter. What example do you expect me to show to my younger sisters? How would you explain to the world that your daughter died while trying to adjust to an abusive marriage. Is it better for me to die while trying to remain with someone who doesn’t even know my relevance or do you rather accept me back to my father’s house, hale and hearty” , I said with so much tears pouring out of my eyes.

I stared at my mum straight into the eyes and I could see her battling with the tears that desperately needed to pour out from her swollen eyes.

“ Somkene, I am your mother and I would not lie to you. Marriage demands patience, marriage demands faith, marriage demands persistence. My daughter, you aren’t going to die, if I could survive Thirty Five years of my life, living with your dad, you also can adjust freely and remain with your husband. All these are just phases in marriage, they don’t last forever”, Mama said with a convincing tone

“ So you prefer I die in the name of patience?” , I queried with a teary eyes

“Taa, who ever mentioned death here. You wouldn’t die, as I earlier said, it is a phase” , she responded

I removed my gaze away from her face, positioning my eyes at the stars. I never stopped having that mindset that my stars were my direction. I remembered when I first fell in love with Zota, the day I accepted his proposal, I sat in front of the stars and I saw that support to keep going.

I saw beyond the stars then, I could see myself in one star while I saw him in another and the two stars smiled at each other. That was an assurance for me to say yes to him, but I couldn’t see those stars again. I only saw mine standing and looking beyond the stars I saw a broken spirit, seated in my position.

I pulled the seat from behind and sat back to continue watching the fading star. I closed my eyes and all I could see were images of abusive Zota, pouncing on me without any show of pity. Tears dropped down from my eyes and I recounted the last event that led me into taking the final decision. I had experienced my Third miscarriage in within Four years of living with that beast.

I saw visual images of everything that happened that day, playing out in my head, like it was just happening to me. Zota had arrived from work that day and as usual he arrived with one of his endless complaints. This time, he was complaining on the late arrival of his food to work.

I couldn’t even come to terms with that, the same man that was fully aware of my condition, expected me to displease myself by coming very early to his office to deliver his food. I was going through severe pains that morning before he left for work and I did explain my situation to him, even agreeing with him that I may not make it to the office, but I still had to put myself up and deliver the food to him. I literally became a maid to the man I called my husband. No atom of sympathy for the woman he promised to love all his life. I arrived his office that afternoon and gave the food to him, he didn’t even say anything to me, he never bordered to ask concerning my health and how I had managed to come through.

Our marriage had already collapsed before I broke up with him. We barely had time to talk or even share secrets again, all we did was wake up, go to our different places of work, eat and sleep. Zota became so inconsiderate that I couldn’t see myself remaining with him, even for once again.

Eight months earlier, I had taken the decision to dissolve the union after going through the Second miscarriage. The circumstances that led to that decision triggered me to stand firmly on it. I caught him cheating on me with my cousin and not just did he cheat, he had forced little Sita into the act. I walked in to behold that and seeing it caused the shock that made me miscarry.

I resolved never to go back to that marriage again, but my parents, his parents and my abused cousin had pleaded with me to accept him back. All along, Zota didn’t border to apologize for his shameful deed. He thought money could buy everything.

I agreed with my mum that the reconciliation was going to be my last show of forgiveness to that beast. Regardless, I already lost all the love I had for him. I was only going back because of the endless plea from the parents and mine.

Our marriage began again and Zota had promised not to go back on his words. Two months into our reconciliation, I took in and that was the last miscarriage that caused my final decision. I recounted the events that played out that evening, from the endless complaints to the beating that almost took my life.

“Why was my food brought to the office late?” , he voiced out angrily

“Honey, I thought I explained my condition to you before you left for the office this morning .

I told you I was experiencing some complications and you know this is significant amongst pregnant women”, I responded to his nagging

“ And so? What does that change! Did pregnancy originate from you? You have just used this condition to cover up for your lazy excesses” , he retorted

“How can you say a thing like that. You and I know, that I try my best to fit in to my responsibilities as a wife. It is not easy to carry on my responsibilities as a wife and still perform my official duties at work. Try to understand that these things aren’t easy”, I explained while moving away from his side

“ You can imagine such utterance coming out from the mouth of a woman who hasn’t even bore a child. Words of a lazy woman”, he insulted

“How do you even expect me to bear a child when you have pounced upon all I ever conceived and even in this state  I am forced to carry on hectic duties, how do you expect the child to come….”

I had barely finished saying all I had in my mouth, when a heavy slap landed on my face. Next, I found myself on the floor and the other things that transpired are still unknown to me.

I only recalled seeing myself on the hospital bed, struggling to live and all along I didn’t even see my supposed husband pay me a visit. All I kept hearing was the constant nagging of my mum, who sort for all means possible to put the blame on me. She blamed me for standing up against my husband, for speaking up the truth and standing by what I believed. My mum believed women should fall prostrate to men’s opinion at all times, whether good or bad.

I remember her indirectly telling me to remain a slave to my husband’s mischief as that was a display of my womanly virtues. For the first time in my life, I became tempted to slap my mum. Because how could a woman utter such evil and call it a statement. Did that even make any sort of meaning to her.

All along my mum had refused my sisters from visiting me in the hospital because she knew they were definitely going to stand by my decision.

One day, during my stay in the hospital we were listening to a story shared by a female activist on a radio station. The lady had shared the story of her daughter’s death which resulted from her determination to remain in an abusive marriage. According to the lady, the alleged husband of her daughter flew into thin air after killing his wife. The death of her daughter led her into becoming a full feminist and female advocate.

The story had triggered my unrepentant mother to turn off the radio. Of course, she saw the truth in what the female speaker was saying and she knew it was surely going to cause me to remain adamant in my decision.

“Don’t mind all these men haters. She is probably doing this because of her failed marriage. I know people like this, they should never be listened to” , my mum said

“Mum! How can you say such? Where is the feminist in you? Where is your sense of motherhood? I am so sorry to say this, but I just have to let it out. If this is your little way of telling me to return back to Zota, then count it as a failed mission, because it is never happening “ , I said as I lay back on my bed.

Recalling all of this just gave me a greater confidence to remain unmoved by anything my mum may say or do. I stared back to the star, the broken star and once again I recounted all the actions that led to this decision, beginning from the first miscarriage, down to the second, the rape of my cousin and the beating I still received for beholding the scene, the events that took place after the final chance; starting from the emotional abuse, maltreatment, constant bantering and the final miscarriage down to the hospital incidents (non visitation and the message from the radio). I also recounted the days of our courtship, all the promises he made, the lies he spoke confidently and for another moment I saw tears roll down my cheeks.

I turned to the spot my mum was sitting, she stared at me with a smiling face, maybe that was because I faked a smile. She probably thought I would give in to her conviction. I stared at her with so much courage and anxiously she awaited my decision. At least she needed to hear what I would say in the court the next day.

“I would announce it during the hearing. Good night”, I said as I walked towards my room.

“ Somkene, come back here. This girl you better not put me to shame ooo”

I met Zota at the court the next day. So stupid of me to have imagined him begging for the offense he committed. My lawyer was sitting by me through it all, encouraging me to choose the path I was never going to regret. I was confident in her capability, at least she was the actual person that inspired me the most to take that bold decision. My lawyer was the lady that spoke on the radio the day I was with my mum in the hospital.

True to her words, she was an enthusiastic feminist. She didn’t charge a dime for my defense. According to her, it was a call to fulfill her dream.

Just as I expected, I won the case against Zota. It wasn’t as easy as expected, as even the presiding judge had been influenced by Zota and his lawyer who gave him some amount of money.

And right there, I threw back the same question I asked my mum to the entire court.

“Was it better to die while struggling to remain in an abusive marriage or was it going to be more honorable to remain single and alive?”

I stood as a representation of many women who go through this pain silently and yet decide to remain in the marriage for the sake of what the society would say.

Right on that podium, I saw thousands of other women who had been through this suffering and yet died silently. I could see the dead ones motivating me to go on with my choice, while the ones seated physically could only pour out tears that seemed like a hope of freedom.

And I remember ending with the phrase that pushed the judge to take her final verdict;


K’anyi bili

Let us live

The dead tell no tales”

Iloanwusi Vitalis Chinemerem is an award-winning writer, poet and spoken word artist. He believes in the power of his stories and he delights more in sharing short stories that spark lots of imaginations amongst his readers. Vitalis is a graduate of English and literary studies Education, from the prestigious Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu state. He is a Nigerian and particularly hails from Anambra state. He is reachable on his social media handles

Instagram: @vital_ingo and @vital_in_poetry

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