Three months had passed since I met the lecturer, Caren’s husband, he who now guided my writing classes; I say three months had passed since, in the course of which Jane had fallen pregnant; and at work, Ken, my supervisor, had promoted me to a position upon which I supervised some night operations; while back at Maili Tisa, Uncle had (by what means I didn’t know) discovered that I’d never flown to Eastern Europe for studies, and had thence disowned me.
Once the folks in Maili Tisa had uncovered my treachery, Joan, the youngest of Uncle’s seven daughters, had called me one night, and entreated me to travel home and ask for pardon from Uncle. She said, that her mother—Uncle’s wife that is, would implore Uncle on my behalf, for he to grant this forgiveness. She revealed too, that her mother held the opinion that, the girls in the city had polluted my mind and altered my disposition, to that of a detestable young man; and that, solution lay in finding me a decent young woman from the village, who’d care for me, in the customary way, as did wives of yore.
These developments about me formed most of the themes I practiced on, as I wrote passages to the lecturer, who read and rated my work. I wrote about the night Jane, while cooking, informed me, in an unforeseen manner, that she’d become pregnant. I wrote about how, upon this revelation, confusion confounded me, meanwhile wondering, how this could have happened, since I owned a packet of a hundred condoms, and never failed to use one, whether in a sober position, or a drunk position. I wrote about how I swore and cursed, and told Jane that the baby should belong to Fred, her former boyfriend anyway. I wrote about how Jane turned wild, and tossed spoons and knives and pans and semi-cooked food my way, and how she shattered glass and plates and yanked the kitchen drawers and yelled and insulted me and caused such havoc I had never seen before. I wrote about how neighbors, having heard the racket in our house, and in fear that I might harm Jane, or she me, called the janitor to check upon us. I wrote about how I hurled a stool in the direction of the door (which had remained unlatched hitherto), when the janitor appeared, that he presently retreated, after which I bolted the door from inside. I wrote about how Jane picked a thick rod from the kitchen drawers, left there by the builders of this house I think, and pursued me to the sitting room; and how she hunted me with it, and how I avoided her by revolving about the table, and sometimes the couch, all the while denying responsibility, and she saying, ‘You think you can deny this baby?’ touching her belly, ‘Just like that? Huh? You don’t know me. I swear!’ and she’d strike the table with her rod, as I maintained utmost vigilance, should she decide without warning, to hurl the rod at me. I wrote about how we stayed in this state of combat for long, one dancing for escape and the other for capture, with knocks and bangs at the windows and door, of neighbors’ pleas. I wrote about the attempt I made, of jumping at Jane, to snatch the rod, when I thought she’d grown weary of the dance around the table and couch; and how she had dodged my coming, like a cat, and I had thus missed her and fallen to the rug, at which opportunity she struck my back with the rod, and I issued a cry that every creature in the five-floors flat heard.
I wrote about how Jane snubbed all voices from the windows and door, entreating her to stop the beating; but waited for mine, for she’d asked me more that thrice now, accompanied by a strike on my back after each question, if I would deny or accept responsibility, and I hadn’t responded yet, but suffered the strikes in silence. I wrote about how her voice turned shrill and her anger intensified, as she asked the same question many times, without accessing a satisfying response from me: ‘Huh, Taifa? You deny this baby?’ doof. A hit on my back. ‘Taifa, say it! You deny this baby?’ doof doof! ‘What kind of man are you? This. Is. Your. Baby. Get that! You hear, Taifa?’ doof doof doof!
I wrote about how I felt my spine crack. I wrote about how I heard, at length, a familiar voice of Caren, calling from the window, and beseeching Jane to stop her business. I wrote about how Caren spent the night in our house, as a peacekeeper and mediator, to thwart the possibility of another episode of violence erupting during the night. I wrote about how, after that incident, I questioned my role and status in that house; and how Caren had mediated between us—the warring husband and wife, and how she asked the wife to remain submissive to the husband—as the Christian ethic required, and for me, the husband, to love and respect the wife, notwithstanding the new militant side of her I had now witnessed, which of course posed a security threat to my well-being (as we waited to confirm, after eight months or so, by look of nose and fingers and lips and eyes, the paternity of the baby).
I wrote about how a new order established itself in the house, under which I assumed, without choice, the second position in command. Under this arrangement, I’d tell Jane beforehand, any plans I had, of visiting friends or of doing whatever I wanted, and then she’d grant full permission, under which I’d do as I pleased; or half permission, which now included some caveats, as of the time I should return home, or the amount of money I should spend, or whom I should visit or no.
I wrote and submitted these works to the lecturer, sometimes in secret, via Caren, she who’d grown averse to Jane’s new temperament, by and by. I wrote how I began to miss the folks back in Maili Tisa, and thought Joan’s suggestion, of me going to ask for pardon from Uncle, made mighty sense; and how melancholy ruled my mind, and sadness crowned my face. I wrote these works and submitted to the lecturer, who read and rated them. He’d make red marks in the work and include comments in minute font, which I failed to understand sometimes what he meant to say. He’d cross whole sentences, and claim they made no sense whatever; and advise instead, that I rather used strong verbs and nouns. He’d say, in his comments, that, the story’s sad tone notwithstanding, it should, the story that is, in the least, capture the attention of the reader, and bear some human truth in it. Having reviewed a writing, he’d return it to me, via Caren, in secret sometimes, and ask me to redo, especially for the writings he thought had the potential to improve.
In this style, I continued to sharpen my writing, until one night, when Jane and I lay in bed in silence, and a call rang on my phone. Joan, Uncle’s last daughter had called, and first had asked if we could talk (for this was her way of determining if I was alone and could so speak freely). I said yes. In truth, I had turned on the speaker of my phone (one of Jane’s new guidelines) so Jane could catch the conversation. Joan began to speak on the phone, and I only responded with mnh, eeh, I hear you, very well, thank you, ah? Is it so? Very well, mnh, thank you and silence at her last words, and a disconnect of the call by me, and a subsequent powering down of the phone, for she had said at last, in Jane’s hearing, that her mother had located a suitable and decent girl for me to marry, and that I should go home Saturday to evaluate her.
#To be continued…
A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.
[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]