Thank God For My Husband

You meet him at the supermarket. You are at the counter, ATM card in hand. Chatter rising and falling, music bouncing on the walls. He taps your shoulder and you turn around. He has a strong chin, movie-star smile, and stubbled jaw. He holds up a bracelet, the resin beads shaped like quail eggs, red like your nail polish. 

“I think you dropped this,” he says. 

You immediately love the sound of his voice booming deep out of his belly. Your hand closes over the bracelet, over his fingers: long and warm. You know you would love them inside you. It’s been a long time since you had a man’s fingers inside you. And it had been just once; a boy’s in secondary school. The social prefect; the lanky senior boy with the badly bitten nails and orange knuckles. You’re ready for love, relieved at the chance to finally love. And he seems like a catch, like the kind of man women are eager to love. Just like your father. 

You surprisingly find your voice. “It’s not mine,” you say.

“I think it is,” he says. 

You slip it on, and his smile grows bigger, yours shyer.

The bracelet belongs to him.

*

Now he knows your bends and curves, your folds and scars, like he knows his name. He knows what makes you squeal, what makes you beg, what makes you squeeze your eyes shut and lose your breath. You are standing before your mirror. Rihanna croons in the background. It’s your one-year anniversary, and you’re getting dressed for dinner. The handbag he bought you last week is perched on your dresser. 

“I knew you would love this,” he’d said. 

It was yellow and black snakeskin leather, and you have a phobia for reptiles. But the bag cost a leg: he left the price tag on. You thanked him and kept it. 

He is munching on a wafer as he watches you dress, his long legs sprawled on your bed. He is shirtless. He watches you tussle with your scarf. He says with a mouthful of sugar, “I think you should lose the scarf.” 

You turn to him. A lone drop of sweat sails through the middle of his ripped tummy, down to the outline of his pubic hair. “I think you should get waxed,” he’d said last week. 

“I think you should move in with me,” he’d said last year, when you were unable to renew your rent. 

He’d watched you turn his flat upside down for your glasses, frenzied and drenched in anxiety sweat, 10 minutes late for your interview, before he eventually pulled it out of a kitchen drawer, handed it to you, and said, “I think contact lenses would suit you better.” 

“I think we would enjoy a threesome,” he’d said this morning, as he held your head down the toilet sink and thrusted from behind. “Like an anniversary present.” He kissed you, and you tasted yourself on his mouth. His tongue stroked the back of your ear, where he knows you go wild. You must have liked it: you came. 

You ask if he likes your dress. It’s new, red as sin. It’s low v-neck and makes your breasts spill. You like the way that you look in the mirror. Your waist looks thinner, arms less rounded. The rolls in your belly have vanished in this dress, like a bad secret taken care of. That’s what the salesgirl said. Her eyes round, mouth ajar. Theater stars, those Lagos salesgirls. As though she hadn’t quite believed her eyes, believed it was possible that clothes work magic, that the right clothes could shrink the wrong woman, make her into the right woman. “Madam, you don’t look big inside it at all. Wow, see your stomach. Buy it now now, Oga will like it.”

“You look smaller. Sexier,” he says, admiring you, making your insides come alive. “I told you you should dress more like this.” 

You take off the scarf. His lips curve up in a smile, and your insides warm up like a lantern.

Four months later, he says, “I think we should get married,” and you let out a sigh you’ve been holding for two years. Of course you say yes. Now, you will ensure that he never leaves you. 

*

Your father had the most intriguing tales to tell you: of brash singers and cranky models; champagne bottles worth more than your rent and swimming pools vast and blue as the sea.

He was a celebrity photographer. He had sort of the coolest job, was sort of a famous man. And not just a celebrity photographer but an award-winning celebrity photographer. An award that nobody cared about, that remained poised at the top of his CD shelf, untouched, unmoved, gathering dust year after year. But an award nonetheless. 

He was sort of rich, too: being on the retainer of the biggest artists in the country made one sort of rich. He shook hands and rubbed shoulders with men who raised their voices in important spaces, and girls who clung to men. He spoke about them with a tilt in his voice and a shimmer in his eyes; magazine cover girls and music video girls. And he returned home with tales that made you hold your breath and nearly fall from the dining chair: that time Dagrin, whiskey bottle in arm, stumbled backward into the pool; that time the Paul of Psquare bit his tongue while wolfing down pepper soup and screamed like a woman; that time with the beautiful model. 

He spoke most times about the beautiful models who smiled too brightly at him, spoke too softly to him, who invited him into their hotel rooms, whose fingers caressed his arms at lavish parties. Models who were not fat like you and your mother, whose arms did not jiggle like your mother’s, whose chins did not fold like yours, who had curves only in the right places. He would nudge their hands away; he would excuse himself out of their grip. Look at him, boundless access to girls half his age, girls who did not have creases in their foreheads and folds in their bellies, whose body parts did not shake as they cat-walked. Yet, everyday he returned to your mother: everyday he returned home. He would pause at the tail end of his story then. He would look at your mother, and you would turn to your mother too, and she would smile a small smile, a lopsided smile, and say, “These yeye-yeye girls,” or “Thank God for my husband.” 

You regurged the celebrity tales in school and your schoolmates listened, eyes wide and ears elongated. You regurged them long after your father left, long after you no longer were privy to them. Your classmates would watch you as if you were magic, as if you were Tiwa Savage herself. You relished those moments when their eyes fell on you. You felt like one of those models your father spoke about. You felt seen, felt as though they would never turn away from you, never move on to the next person with the next story.  But when your father leaves, so do they. 

*

You are discussing wedding ideas. “A boat wedding would be so cool, like Banjo and Miranda’s,” he says. You watch him knot his tie in the mirror. Black like his eyes, like his suit jacket. 

You like black ties and suit jackets. You like parties and functions perched by his side, like bumping into the occasional schoolmate. You like the way your ring glitters as you tuck your braid behind your ear, the way his arm loops around your waist. You like showing them that you are loved, chosen, unalone. 

You are afraid of water bodies. He must know this, you have mentioned it a few times. “I thought, maybe, you would prefer a big hall,” you say. 

He stops knotting his tie. He looks at your reflection in the mirror. You don’t hold his gaze. 

*

You returned from school and your father wasn’t seated at the head of the dining table for dinner. Two days later, your father wasn’t seated for dinner. A week later your father wasn’t seated. You asked your mother if he had traveled for the occasional event abroad. 

“Your father is going to marry,” your mother said.  

You did not say anything for a moment. Then you asked, “Like, a second wife?” The words felt like hot coals on your tongue.

“Another first wife,” she said. The words sounded like hot coals burning off her tongue too.

“Like, a new family?” You coughed and coughed. Your throat burned, your chest burned, your whole body was on fire.  

“Drink water,” she said, and pushed a cup toward you. 

*

Lanky senior prefect with the badly bitten fingernails and orange knuckles: he was your first time, your first anything. 

A week after your father’s wedding, two months after your father’s leaving, the back of his palm grazed the side of your breast in social studies class. He palmed your bum as you bent to touch your toes in PE. In the school bus, his fingers crept into your bra. You held your breath. You closed your eyes. You smelled nice. “Johnson’s baby oil,” he said. He liked you. He must have: boys did not squeeze and claw at the breasts of girls they did not like. 

You kissed in the computer room. His mouth tasted of zobo and spicy fish pie. He chanted in tongues as your head bobbed up and down between his legs. You choked on his cum. His fingers inside your thighs were fast and indelicate. He panted like a wild animal. You closed your eyes and screamed and opened your eyes, and he smiled because he believed it was a pleasure scream, not a pain scream. You wanted to believe it too, so you did. So you returned his smile.

His fellow lanky prefects with their upturned collars and untucked shirts made sounds when you passed in the hallways. They came to you in the computer room with their hands suggestively cupping their crotches. You told them you weren’t sure what they wanted. You told them you didn’t really want to do what you thought they wanted. They stopped looking at you in the hallways, and the lanky social prefect boy stopped looking at you. You wet your pillow at night because you wanted him to look at you. You wanted other things, too. You wanted your mother to have done more, to have made your father stay. You wanted your father’s voice booming in the dining room, his eyes making you feel like the only girl in the world. You should have asked him more questions, you should have laughed harder at his jokes. When your mother thanked your father and thanked God for her husband, you should have thanked your father and thanked God for your father too. 

*

“I didn’t thank him for checking the generator,” your mother says when you bring him home for the first time. You’ve just seen him off for an urgent work thing, let him kiss your mouth, locked the gate after his jeep faded into the curve of the road. You’ve returned to the living room and locked the door when she says, “I didn’t thank him for checking the generator.”

“He will hear,” you say. You introduced her to your husband-to-be. You showed her your ring. She stopped him from prostrating and called him, “my son.” 

“See, God has done you well,” she says to you. “He has turned my frown upside down.”

You smile and sit beside her as you discuss wedding plans. 

“He is a good man, make sure that you treat him well,” your mother says after a silence falls in your midst. An old silence, familiar as the stories your father told, familiar as the peeling walls and dust-ridden CD shelf he left behind. “Your father will like him.” 

When you return home at night, you take off your dress. You have a hot shower together, slippery skin against slippery skin. He kisses your neck and parts your legs and draws little slow circles on the inside of your thighs. He lifts you up, hands clamped tight around your waist. A zing of delight. A soundless cry. You arch your back. You shudder. Tears fill your eyes, and you want to thank him for loving you. 

You will never leave him. 

He strokes the damp hair off your back. He says behind your ear, voice like a songbird, “Have you given it some thought?” 

“Yes, yes,” you gasp. “Let us do a boat wedding.”

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2 comments On Thank God For My Husband

  • This story both saddened and enraged me. I have SO many oscillating emotions. On the one had I was like, “Someone help this girl!” and then on the other I was like, “Girl, HELP YOURSELF!!!” I think this is some of the frustration people feel because we are powerless to help victims of emotional abuse because it doesn’t *look* like abuse to the wider world.

  • wow this is so well written! Wow

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