The Good Wife
My phone is ringing; singing “Sweet Mother.” That’s Mama calling. I do not know if I should pick her call. She would sense through my voice, some way that there is something wrong. I am still clearing my voice, cleaning my face when the phone starts to ring again.
“Good evening Mama.” I greeted.
“Rita, you don’t sound well. Everything fine?”
“Mama, I am fine. It’s just this cold. It has refused to leave.” I lied, sniffing, pushing the phlegm back through my throat. That was the same thing I told her last week, after I had a shouting match with my husband that left my voice cracked.
“OK dear. Have you used something?” She wanted to know. Mama, always wants to know: have you taken your medicine? How was the exam? How come you are not pregnant yet? How come this? How come that?
“Yes Mama.” I reply clearing my throat.
That evening, while I was waiting, praying that Uche returned that night after two days of being out of the house, Mama called again. She wanted to know if I was feeling better. Now, I had run out of my well of lies. I’d cried the whole day, so she could barely hear me. That was when I broke it to her like someone broke a chinaware on the floor, the cracks still visible long after.
“Mama, it is Uche.”
What is wrong with him? Is he fine? Is his work fine? Has he been taking care of you? My Mama, is like that. I wait for her to run through her list of questions. Then, I answered one by one.
“He is fine. Work is fine. He is taking care of me, at least he drops food money.” I told her.
So, what is it?
“Mama, Uche drinks. When he is drunk, he beats me.”
My dear, what did you do to him? You must have done something to that kind husband of yours for him to do such a thing. She asked me, emphasising you and kind.
“Nothing o, Mama. It’s because of small things like too much pepper in food. Small things like the small spiders in the house. Small things like asking him for food money. Small things like who pressed the toothpaste from what end. Mama, they are small things.”
Silence. Then, a deep sigh.
“Rita, you call those small? If your husband says they are big, then they are; a wife does not do what her husband does not want. Whatever he says you should do, biko my dear, just obey him. A good wife submits to her husband”
Yes Mama. Yes Mama. Yes Mama. Yes Mama.” I said it four times, one for each of her sentences. A pause for each sentence. Tears welling at my eyelids, threatening to fall.
After I dropped the call, the tears came like a dam broke down. They were hot against my cheeks. I cried till the screams reduced to sobs, till I could no longer hear myself.
That was the last time I told Mama anything about my marriage. I did not tell her when the drinking got worse. I did not tell her when the beatings got worse. I did not tell her when I got pregnant. I did not tell her when Uche used his leg to kick the baby out of me. I did not tell her about the many girls that he brought into our home. I did not tell her about the meals that he told me to cook for them. I did not tell her of how I spoke louder to the spiders in the guest room to distract myself. I did not tell her of how I pressed pillows to my ears as they groaned and laughed in pleasure, Uche – my husband, and other women.
Now, everything–between my Husband and I to my mother–is fine. And that’s fine. I am the good wife, and that’s fine. She is the good mother, and that’s fine. She would say thank God before cutting each call. I would sigh. And that’s fine.