When boys refuse to become men, they alter the natural course of transition. They sit around in dirty, old boxers, the ones that have pathetic peek holes at the bum as tell-tale proof of overuse. Tell him to be a man, to throw those bet slips and gambling in the bin and watch. Watch him avert his gaze, stare at his ratty old couch with a silly expression on his beautiful face. You begin to wonder why all the ugliness doesn’t seep into him, like a coffee stain would cotton. He is beautiful. Dimpled smile, boyish grin, sultry baritone. You can’t possibly leave him.
“Why are you behaving this way?” You would ask.
Only that lopsided grin has you shivering, your knees buckling, and your red panties a mini sea. Wo. Let him see. Let him part it. Abi? Abi, Enitan?
You know he cheats. He makes you – Bsc holder in dentistry, the golden child – sit on the low stool, legs spread apart, his clothes around you. He tells you to scrub them in the broken plastic basins, because you are his wife, Enitan, and a wife must look after her husband. What is this dance you have learnt to dance so well, vigorously wriggling your hips to its mocking lyrics?
You sit in a corner in his house, staring blankly. You think of how beautiful and rosy you thought your life would turn out, and now you are staggering through what remains of your life, drunk with regrets. ‘Well, at least he knows how to send a woman to heaven, bursting with star-laced ecstasy.’ You think aloud, a mirthless, quiet laugh slipping out your lips. A bittersweet joke, because before you can bask in the novelty of that single moment of bliss, the stars are clawed out of your eyes, their ethereal shimmer snuffed out by the stench of his vomit all over you. We all wonder if those scales of grief and self-pity will fall out of your eyes, if you will ever find your way back.
Enitan, your mother would turn in her grave if she saw you now. That dark skin that used to have a mysterious sheen is now dry and cracked, worn and tired. The thick afro curls that used to make hearts stop just years ago is now an unkempt thinning mass on your head. The star of the family. With full pink lips and soft curves. You were perfect, Enitan. This— you, you have become a ghost of yourself.
Every day, your father sits on his verandah, watching the road, hoping he would see you. He tells his brothers and his kinsmen that you would return to us. He cries himself to sleep on certain nights because he does not know if the lines between truth and hope in his words are blurry. He sits there, on his verandah, when rain patters on the tin roof sheets at sunrise, when the sun sinks silently at sundown. He never smiles anymore, Enitan. He cannot see beauty in anything.
Ọmọ ìyá mi, my sister, return to us. We will take you back, broken as you are. The fault lines can be erased and redrawn. If this story is one so sour that we read with our faces twisted in disgust and pity, then we beg you to crawl out of the spaces in between each word and return to us.
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