“Your father is a woman”.
This was my mother’s way of telling my sisters and I to forgive him for his compliant role in his family’s agenda. The way she says it, you’d think being born with a vagina absolves one of all sins.
But I’ve learnt that women are meat you can price.
Growing up, our house would always be invaded by my father’s people. His sisters came like a storm upsetting everything in its path, but this time, it was my mother that was in their line of sight. They always had something to complain about; the food taking too long meant she starved their precious brother, the house looking unkempt meant she wasn’t a dutiful wife. If we didn’t greet them properly, she didn’t teach us manners. Maybe that was their way of punishing her for giving birth to six girls.
But I’ve learnt as meat, words cut finer than cutlass.
My mother had difficulties conceiving. It took two long years to finally prove to my father’s people that she wasn’t a man. For a newly married woman, those two years didn’t fly because they weren’t good times. They were made up of threats of bringing another woman to give the first son of their family a male child to accusing her of being a witch or a barren prostitute; no day went by without a taint in memory. My mother kept the pain locked in her left palm because she didn’t believe in letting go.
But I’ve learnt as meat, you can rot from the inside out.
My father’s people are influential. They’re from a royal family. Maybe that was why they thought they could play God. As if He was only borrowing their lips to pronounce judgment, like the time they took her to the king’s palace and accused her of infidelity. In my village, marital promiscuity is a taboo for a woman and if such a woman cheats on her husband, the result is the death of her children. My mother was accused by my father’s mother, who from her recounting, says, one day, my mother came home late and no decent married woman would return to her husband’s house in the dead of the night. Lagos traffic wasn’t a concrete excuse; it had to be that my mother was having an affair.
She was taken to the village under the pretense of going for a burial and as soon as they arrived, she was dragged to the king. Her cries meant nothing. She had to prove herself once again by drinking a thick concoction that would proclaim her innocent, if she didn’t run mad.
She looked, with pleading eyes towards her husband, begging him to tell his people to stop this humiliation, that his wife of 22 years wouldn’t step out on him and that he trusted her. But he looked at her also with pleading eyes, as if begging her also for his weakness, for allowing his family’s influence get this deep and not cutting them off. He sighed and looked away and says, “You have nothing to worry about if you’re truly innocent”.
From my mother, I’ve learnt that meat cooked at high temperature will shrink and dry out.