It was a day just like any other. The only difference was, this was the day he had decided to kill her. He heard her stirring outside, and he turned over in his bed, pulling his wrapper over his head as if to stave off having to get up. He dreaded seeing her and her accompanying drama, dreaded hearing her voice that seemed to have perfected the art of scraping along his very raw nerves. He contented himself with the thought that today was the last time he would see her miserable face, and with this comforting thought, he drifted away again on the wings of sleep. A cock crowed outside, hesitantly at first, and then as though gathering boldness from the lightening sky, with more and more gusto. As he further toyed with the idea of staying in bed for a little longer, his wife came into the room.
‘Good morning Baba Seye’ she muttered, the greeting sounding more like a curse than a benediction.
He gazed at her sullen, resentful face and wondered who or what it was that had upset her so early in the day.
‘Good morning my queen’ he replied, hoping to stave off the flow of words he knew was coming, sure as day followed night. ‘I hope you slept well’
‘Slept well? With the words of that woman ringing in my head, how could I have slept well?’ she retorted, casting him a pained look as if she felt he was just as culpable for the words as the party who had said them.
‘It is okay my queen. They were only words, her usual utter nonsense, nothing to take to heart’
She maintained a martyred air as she bustled around the room, tidying up ostentatiously. The room was sparsely furnished, all it had in it was the bed, some suitcases and a low table, and still she bustled from corner to corner. He watched in silence as she picked up his dusty pair of trousers from the floor where he had dropped them in his exhaustion the night before and held them out to him.
‘She even commented about these trousers’ she said in a suddenly lowered tone which inexplicably turned into a long, drawn-out wail.
He gathered her into his arms as he gazed at the once-graceful arch of her neck, wondering which of his machetes he would use to deliver the coup de grace. Her wails subsided into sobs, and then gentle hiccups as she appeared to reach the end of her seemingly bottomless reservoir of tears. He patted her on the back one more time, and marvelled at the change that had been wrought in his once cheerful wife ever since they had moved into his family compound.
Who could have imagined it would come to this? They had started out their married life in a small room in a ‘face me, I face you’ three-storied tenement in downtown Akure. He had proudly gone off to work daily as a clerk in the small Local Government Secretariat, and she had been glad to receive the sheets of paper he pulled from various files at random, they had come in handy for wrapping the roasted groundnuts she sold at a small table in front of the building. Their life had been near idyllic, and he was sure it would have continued that way had the Northern Nigeria bound train not derailed, and fallen over right into his office.
The accident had happened in the early hours of the morning, and he had arrived at work that day to find scenes of total carnage. The entire block that housed where his office used to be was a mound of rubble, twisted metal, with bright splashes of red streaking various random surfaces. He had drawn close enough to ascertain that the streaks were blood, and the pieces he had assumed was luggage flung out of the windows of the train carriages were actually human limbs and torsos.
He had helped in the rescue and clean up operation for many long hours, and by the end of the day, had not been surprised to learn that his department had been closed down for the foreseeable future. He was not one to dwell on ill-fortune, had no patience for those who held on to the dreams of yesterday instead of living for the reality of today, and had decided almost immediately to return to his village until his job reopened. His wife had been aghast at the thought of going there, but had capitulated when he reassured her that they would not have to live in the family compound.
And despite all his plans, it had come down to this. He had to use his own hands to end a life, just so he could retain some sanity in his.
He let his wrapper drop as he reached out for the trousers she was still clutching in her hand, and she stared at him with bold eyes as he stepped into them. That was one connection they had always shared, and it was with regret he moved towards the door, grabbing the tin cup that held his toothbrush and toothpaste as he went out. He stifled a gasp as the cold air hit his bare chest, and then made his way quickly to the tin shack that served as a bathroom for him and his wife. The others had jeered as he had constructed it, wondering aloud why his wife couldn’t go to the stream to bath like the rest of them, but he had wanted to do something to please her, to enhance the quality of her life since she had been forced to relocate with him first to his village, and then to his family house.
His bucket of water was already in there, and he noted with pleasure that she had heated the water, probably by scooping some water from the big communal pot that the other wives had put on to boil in the middle of the compound. He scrubbed himself with the raffia strands that had been fashioned into a sponge, and inhaled the smell of the black soap appreciatively. She had made it for them specially, adding honey, lemon and camwood to theirs especially, unlike the batch she produced for sale. She was adamant it enhanced their complexions, and he was not sure if it was just that, or also his physique that had earned him admiring glances from other women. Of course he had pretended not to notice, as he hadn’t wanted his wife to feel any more insecure than she already was.
He rinsed off the lather, dried himself with a clean, old cloth, then stepped back into his dusty trousers. It was ironic, he thought to himself, getting so clean in preparation for a job so dirty, and then as he remembered the blood-letting scheduled for later in the day, a smile split his face, and he stepped out with a brisk step.