Author’s Notes: If you have, by any chance, landed on this post, The Prudent Lives Part II, and you have not read Part I of this story, please click here..
I shook my head, not blaming her at all for the shift she made between us at that moment. My heartbeat suddenly increased as I imagined Olanma telling Mama, Papa, and Uncle Chidozie what I showed her and the implication behind it.
I walked faster so I could get ahead, thinking of the physical distance as a creation of space where I could be alone with my thoughts and the threatening overflow of emotions for a few moments. I did not know how to explain to Ola that she should not tell anyone, that she was the first person I’d ever shown; I did not bother.
Ola quickened her steps so that she walked beside me once again. The surprise had mostly gone from her eyes; what remained was curiosity and my fingers were crossed when she asked the question I was expecting. “Why?”
Without as much as a glance in her direction, I replied, “Ama m. I don’t know, my sister. It just happened. I have no idea why I’m doing it.”
I did not look at Olanma till we got home. I dared not lest she sees the dishonesty that filled me, that has become a constant characteristic of my life. It was more than a habit now; it was a survival mode.
Of course, I knew why I was cutting myself. Who wouldn’t? It was even something I googled. How can one cut themselves safely? My ‘why’ was always with me, a shadow looming over my back, sucking out the breath in my lungs, counting out the seconds slowly till when Dale came home and the torment began anew.
Dale. Woman. Family. Love. Sacrifice. Home. Child. That freaking child that refused to die when I wanted it to. The child that decided it would die only when it was convenient for him. What happened to respect? What right did a child have to defy his mother when she wants him to get out, and only gets out when she beckons him to stay?
I was making onugbu soup in the kitchen when I heard Mama call my name out loud. “Obianuju!”
I expected it and was up on my feet before the last syllable rang from Mama’s lips. The kitchen was an open one, and while I was in it making the family’s lunch, I overheard very distinctly Olanma telling the family about my cuts.
She told Uncle Chidozie first. My uncle was a practical man; it showed in his face, his furrowed eyebrows, his grave expression. He said it was my husband that caused it. In the kitchen, I imagined him elaborately explaining to Ola that Dale is the reason I have become miserable, a shadow of my former self.
As Ola would later relay to me, Uncle Chidozie shook his head violently and spoke in clipped tones that projected spittle from him his mouth. “Is it not our Obianuju again? I have known Uju since she was born and I can tell you that the cause of her problems is Dale. I told my brother not to approve this marriage but his head is too strong! Can you not see what is happening?”
Olanma agreed with him, “You think it is Dale, eh? I think so too. Before this marriage, Uju was boisterous. Uju would sing and play and tell stories. Now, go and see her. She barely smiles anymore. Her skin is not shining again. She is losing weight fast. I don’t know how Papa cannot see this, that this man he let her marry is taking so much from her.”
“And the child too,” Uncle Chidozie said, “I don’t want to know how Dale feels about losing the child. He should understand that Uju feels the same way too. She gave birth to this baby for heaven’s sake. God forbid that he is treating her badly because the baby was stillborn.”
The conversation continued for some minutes before Uncle Chidozie went to take his bath, leaving Olanma to tell Mama what happened.
Watch out for Part III of The Prudent Lives.
If you are struggling with a mental illness or depression, please do check out the National Institution for Mental Health.