OPEN WOUNDS (1)
Okay, so it’s Thursday morning, and I’m on the phone with a friend of mine. She says we are hanging out on the beach on Saturday, just us girls. We’ll wear our shortest shorts, take our food and lots of booze. It’s going to be a fun day, I intend to soak up the sun-make up for all this time I spend cooped up in the office. Now I’m looking forward to the weekend, no pressure to perform no pressure to look stunning, just hang with the girls, and no guys to make us all want to bite one another’s heads.
Saturday morning, we get to the jetty, get into our nice boat and the chatter is on. I close my eyes, feel the warm sun on my face and the breeze through my hair. This is a day made in heaven. We get to the beach pretty quickly, in unison we rush to the water front and get teased by the waves. Someone is screaming, she’s trying to stop someone from going too far in. The screams just encourage her to go further. Others are throwing Frisbees and laughing, to see us now, you won’t recognize the bank MD, Doyin, who is known to have stepped on anyone in her path to get to the top-she’s the one running into the beach. Or Benazir, married, a beautiful daughter, her clothing line and loads of dough. Or Jamila-high powered ruthless criminal lawyer, “ohhh” the Frisbee just hit her in the stomach and Jemima her sister. It’s not long before we get tired and hungry, the smell of barbecued chicken does not exactly help matters.
We settle down to eat and everyone is talking, and giggling and generally chilling. I mention our ‘oyibo’ friend Imogen about how she is so extremely cute and intelligent but how she seems unable to stay married. She is in the process of getting a divorce from her 3rd husband. And ohhh, I wish I didn’t. the fun day took a whole new dimension!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Benazir says I am being judgmental because I am not married. That I am thinking if I were the one I’d do better. My mouth is agape! Where did that come from, and she goes on, talks about how I flirt with guys I meet, travel when I want and how I have so conveniently dropped my child with my mum to take care of. She basically says I have eaten my cake and had it and so I dare to judge.
I have been Benazir’s friend for years; I have told her all my secrets and shared hers. She has lived my life and I hers-vicariously and she says this about me, in public, because I mentioned a mutual friend? The Counselor in me, steps up and I ask ‘is there a deeper problem? Are you upset with me? Or is something the matter with you?’ and she starts to cry. She says that because we all look up to her, she has been quiet, but its eating her up inside. It’s like a cancer. Nobody speaks, in my mind I’m thinking ‘I don’t know what she is about to say but I’m already afraid’. ‘I have been cheating on Amir for the past two years’ she blurts. Dead silence. Even the waves seem to hold their breath. My normally wide eyes must look like saucers-I think, in an out of body kind of way. Doyin, not one to be easily fazed says ‘who?’ Jemima who I secretly think has always been jealous of her more beautiful married friend says ‘why?’ and I identify with that. Benazir’s husband is tall, dark and handsome. He is kind, he always seems to be courting her, she makes so much from her clothing line but never needs to spend it-she buys us manolo blahnik’s and channel bags when she travels!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What’s happening here?
She looks at us, her beautiful face now calm, now determined, she says ‘I know what you are all thinking. You think I’m a liar and a cheat. A betrayer. You are all wondering what else I want.’ And she starts to tell her story. She says shortly after her marriage, while setting up the study, she sees Amir’s bank statements in a stack and looks at them just out of curiosity. She notices that every month, he makes payments into a certain account, the account name is that of a lady but with Amir’s surname, her surname. She thought she knew all his sisters. She asks him over dinner and he stops eating, he says he has been looking for a way to tell her. He’d been married before and had a child by the marriage. He says it was when he lived in Germany and needed to marry a German citizen to get a green card. He says it is over now, there has been a decree nisi and the divorce will be final in a few months. ‘I was heartbroken’ she says, and I ask him why he didn’t trust me enough with this. He said I was everything he dreamt of, pure, angelic and the type of girl, he didn’t think he’ll ever meet, talk more of date and eventually marry. That he was afraid. And like a fool I believed. We hadn’t gotten to our first anniversary when I started feeling that he was cheating on me, he was not as attentive, not as available and could not be found where he said he would be. I was pregnant with our first daughter then. Well, one day I go to his office and the gate man who is also northern stops me and I’m wondering why. He says that I should be careful and try to please my husband, that good men like him are difficult to come by. I dismiss his advise as that of the unenlightened. I love my husband very much, but I don’t live my life to please him.
‘I get to his secretary and she is wearing a dress that I have, that I no longer wear (because of my bump), she is wearing jewelry that I have, both bought for me by Amir. I wonder how she can afford them. Strange. I ask to see my husband and she is hostile. He pops his head out of the door sees me, looks shocked. I enter his office and ask about the dress and the jewelry. He says he knows nothing about it. I ask why she was so hostile and he asks how he should know? I make to ask another question, that’s when I hear it, a slap. I say hear it, because I didn’t see it coming and did not feel it. It can’t be me, it can’t be my Amir. He didn’t just slap me!!!!!!!!!! He is shouting, asking me what gives me the right to question him? Why I show up at his office unannounced (I was hoping to take him to lunch), and if there’s any reason why he cannot do what he wants with his money? After all he gives me more than enough. And he matches me out. His secretary snickers as I go out.
Its all surreal. I’m leaving his office, but wondering if I’ve been having some sought of bad dream, a hallucination. It was just the beginning. The secretary was sacked, but there was the next girl and the next and the next. And every time I have mentioned it I have been beaten and warned off. I have tried to leave many times, only to get more beaten every time I got caught. It’s one of the reasons my daughter stayed with my mother-in-law throughout last year, so I could not attempt to run with her. My own mother will not have me back, she says I would be a disgrace to her and the family. My father might put both of us out. She asks me to bear it, consider what I have and be thankful. It’s the way of the woman she says. What are a few beatings for the luxuries I have, the husband I have and the doors that bearing his name open?
So I had to have my revenge, I had to feel wanted, loved and like I had a one up on him. I met this guy at a party for the doyens of the petroleum industry, he owns the company that is direct competition with Amir’s, he finds me attractive and I found his money and the fact that nothing could hurt Amir more, very attractive. Our affair has gone on for two years now and in spite of the fact that I am getting my revenge I couldn’t be more miserable’, she ends.
We are all staring; I am sitting beside her, holding her. Doyin is crying, Jemima is crying, we had no idea she was going through so much. And then Jamila says okay, since its confession time I have something to tell you all… I am thinking, this is heavy stuff. This is heavy stuff….