Temi sighed as she looked up from the pages she was reading, then left a bookmark inbetween to preserve the place, swearing under her breath. Twenty minutes of cramming and revising was hardly enough to absorb any knowledge, and all she wanted was to bury herself in her pile of assignments. Was that too much to ask? To her pompous husband Bisi, it most definitely was. There was always a reason, excuse, or taunt to pry her away from her studies when she least expected. When would she start preparing dinner? Had she collected his suits from the dry cleaners? Why was she wasting her time over an exam she was unsure of passing? She shook her head bitterly, asking how her own husband could be terribly unsupportive.
Temi dashed out of bed and hid the book under the clothes in her drawer before producing another one completely unrelated to the module she was learning, and as she placed it on her pillow with the pages down, she could hear the impatience in Bisi’s voice as he yelled out for her yet again. As she was hardly in the mood for another cussing session she quickly headed towards the living room where he was sitting in front of their giant flatscreen with an ice-cold beer frothing in a glass beside him as the World Cup qualifier transmitted, hardly noticing Temi as she announced her presence.
“What the hell took you so long? I’ve been calling for you several times, but you’ve been in bed doing nothing.” Temi winced at this fib as Bisi had only called twice, but remained silent as he continued. “I’m hitting the hay early tonight because I have this really important meeting tomorrow. There’s this delegation arriving from Johannesburg, and I have to be well-rested and prepared. Perhaps you should start dinner now?” He reclined on the sofa as his wife grimaced with rage through clenched teeth. Typical, she thought, the only time you develop those hunger pangs is whenever I open a book.
“Now? It’s too early…” Temi had hardly began to speak when Bisi cut her off in a voice so calm it was almost deafening. It could only mean trouble.
“Maybe I’m not making myself clear,” Bisi replied as he reduced the volume with the remote control. “The meeting is important, and I have to be there very early. It concerns a valuable contract the company have been negotiating for months, and as I’m in charge I’m determined to see this deal through. Because let’s face it, somebody has to pay for those exams you’re likely to fail. So if I were you I’d stop arguing, do as I’m told, and prepare the bloody meal. The sooner you start serving, the sooner I can go to bed. And we’ll leave it at that.” His steely glare pierced through Temi who struggled with her emotions as he uttered his insensitive command. “Is that clear? ”
Temi nodded slowly as she turned towards the kitchen, but reversed to take a few steps towards Bisi who was still captivated by the match. “Darling, can I borrow your laptop afterwards? I’ll need it for research, and my own computer still hasn’t been fixed.” She braced herself with crossed fingers as she awaited the reply he was certain to blurt out, and he did not disappoint.
“But you’re watching TV now, and you’re going to bed after you’ve eaten…”
“Are you deaf?” Bisi’s authoritative tone caused Temi to coil back in terror as he raged on. “I need the laptop, so you can’t have it. If you want to do some research, go to the internet café down the road, go to the library, go to your father’s house…I don’t give a shit. It’s that or nothing. Either way, you’re not using my laptop, and that’s that. Why do you even need a Masters degree?” He paused to light a B&H as Temi attempted to recover from this outburst, her mouth still agape. “Oh, and by the way, I want rice.” With these words he turned up the sound, and Temi fumingly marched to the kitchen where she opened her cupboard in search of ingredients, using all her restraint to stop herself from slamming its doors in anger. She had been married to him long enough to accept he would always be difficult, but this was ridiculous; he knew she would never consider stepping into that rundown café where she was sure to be chatted up by lecherous 419ners as she struggled with her revision. As Bisi’s wife, she was entitled to his support, yet all she received was scorn and criticism which showed no sign of disappearing. She craned her neck to inspect the other cupboard, and upon realising she had run out of salt and Maggi, Temi reached for her purse and informed Bisi who grunted his approval as he took another sip from his glass.
Had Bisi damaged Temi’s laptop on purpose? It seemed likely; after an expensive textbook went missing without an explanation she had taken drastic measures to prevent similar incidents in future, which was why she had bought that second-hand book. No prizes for guessing who was responsible for its disappearance, she thought as she paid the petty trader for the ingredients. Note pads, handouts, and printouts always seemed to vanish without reason, and as she walked back home Bisi’s words were increasingly poignant. Luckily there were no children involved to witness any tension between both parents; they had tried conceiving since their wedding eighteen months prior without success, although expensive tests had proved Temi was still fertile. Yet Bisi refused to accept this, constantly specifying barrenness was unheard of on his side of the family, and for months Temi had endured with his other major put-down.
Those exams you’re likely to fail.
The words continued to haunt Temi as she measured the grains into the basin until a lightbulb pinged in her head – Bisi was masterminding her pending failure, willing to throw away a fortune in tuition fees to ensure she remained a lousy failure…and an even lousier doormat. With a sigh, she unwrapped the stock cubes but did a double take as she recognised the lady in the old Hello! Nigeria page the petty trader had used to envelope the Maggi. Temi uncrumpled the paper, then scanned through the article. Everyone in Lagos knew Libby Thomas was the hottest interior designer/events planner in town, but her colourful life had not always been glitz and glamour. Rumour had it her ex-husband, a high-flying bank manager, had kicked her out of their marital with their children trailing behind her to marry the hydroquinone-crazy youth corper he had mentored at work. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, she had used her artistic talent to the best of her ability despite the odds stacked against her (No experience, limited funds, divorced with two children…). Six years on, Libby Thomas was a successful entrepreneur enjoying the fruits of her manic labour with her now-teenage children and rumoured boyfriend, the dashing London-born Bob Purnell who ran an advertising agency in Victoria Island. Temi’s eyes lit up with admiration for the striking lady posing in her cherry-red evening gown whilst clutching a champagne flute, and nodded. Any husband who belittled his wife to retain his Alpha-male status was not worthy of her love and devotion, and enough was enough.
Temi switched off the stove before making her way to the bedroom. The fake textbook she had left on the bed was nowhere to be seen, confirming her suspicions. Enough was enough. After throwing a few essentials into a suitcase she grabbed the books that had survived Bisi’s wrath, as well as documents and files from her primary teaching job. Then she sat at her vanity mirror where she combed her hair and glided Peach Blossom across her lips. Her husband, still glued to SuperSport 3, resting another beer on the ever expanding waistline he constantly ignored despite his family and friends’ teasing. Good luck negotiating at that fake meeting tomorrow with a hangover, but don’t expect me to clear up your vomit if you get drunk, she thought, as she stood tall in her four-inch heels, blocking his view as the game went into a penalty round.
“Do you mind?” Bisi growled as he stretched sideways to watch the bout. “You are not transparent, can’t you see I’m trying to watch the football?” Noticing the change in Temi’s appearance he hissed in anger, his voice rising a notch higher. “If you’re thinking of giving some stupid fashion parade, forget it. I already know what you look like.”
“Fashion parade? I’m not moving because I have something to say, so why don’t you forget the TV for once and listen?” Bisi was stunned at the aplomb he never knew she processed, but she had barely started. “What exactly do you have against my Masters degree? No need to pretend – I know you’ve been hiding all those books. You’re pulling all the stops to make sure I fail, that’s why you disturb me whenever I study while you sit there in your boxers watching SuperSport all day, everyday. Important meeting indeed…”
“Temi, I’m warning you now, watch your words! Remember who’s paying for that degree before you insult me.” Bisi, who had now abandoned the match, was equally agitated. “I’m paying your fees, hoping you’ll pass…”
“Insult you? Earlier on you doubted my ability to sail through any exam, and you’re now hopeful?” Temi let out a sarcastic cackle, noticing two cigarette burn marks on his vest as Bisi attempted to switch off the set with the remote which proved difficult. The batteries were weak due to the constant fiddling, and as he stood to perform the task manually Temi could barely choose what surprised her more – his change of tune, or his unexpected ability to unglue his lazy chauvinist arse off the sofa. “Be honest, the only reason your throwing away your money is because you’re willing to do whatever it takes to prove to everyone I’m not good enough. I’m sick of you sabotaging my progress, and I’ve had enough. All I wanted was to borrow your computer for my research, but you’d rather I went to that rowdy den of fraudsters across the road when there’s already a computer at home. And don’t lie to me – I know you hid my books; you did it today – did you think I wouldn’t notice? Think what you like, but I’m not dumb. I don’t understand why you feel threatened by an educated woman in the year 2017, but I won’t stick around to hear your excuse. Continue with your football, don’t let me stop you.” With these words Temi paced behind the sofa to retrieve her suitcase as Bisi watched with disbelief but he quickly recovered to deliver a tirade of abuse Temi chose to ignore until he dropped the ultimate.
“Stop that nonsense, woman, and get back into the kitchen.”
“No.” It was clear Temi would not be pushed – literally or mentally. “Are you even listening to yourself? ‘Go back to the kitchen’…seriously? You really are beyond help.” She nodded towards the laptop which had long finished recharging in a corner of the living room but was still attached to wire due to Bisi’s complacent sloth. “See that? If you can walk across the room to reach it, google allnigerianrecipes, wikihow, go on YouTube…they’ll teach you how to cook, clean, get rid of your fat belly…basically they’ll teach you how to stop being a total arsehole. And that’s what I call research!”
Bisi was fuming as Temi slammed the door with her head held high, too agitated to acknowledge chants of “GOAL!” from jubilant neighbours running outside to dance merrily and light fire crackers. With her heels clinking Temi wheeled her suitcase behind her, and as she made her way toward her parents’ home – one of the options Bisi had suggested during his harsh criticism – she assured herself she would be fine, whatever the situation. She had no idea where life would take her now she had walked out of her marital home, but as long as she had determination the sky was her limit, and as she raised her head to observe the firework sparks, she knew in her heart she had made the right decision.