Tolerance was like a rubber band, stretched too often in Janine’s life. Every time she watched people use it against her and now her fingers stung of betrayal and abandonment. She had been lying on her back for three days, mostly talking to herself or to God, mostly thinking about him. She was not sure if love was supposed to feel this way, a horrible tightening in her chest followed by futile efforts to keep the dam from collapsing. All her life her mother raised her to believe that men were snatchers and all they did was take things from you, valuable things. But as she grew older, the advice got complicated. Men did not always take, women gave. Women gave with trust and sometimes men squeezed that trust like crumpled paper and threw it in the trash can. The problem, she thought, for women is society’s glaring eyes. Whether she chose to accept it or not, women have to take on the daily blows of religion and culture. It all came down to ‘the thing to do and the thing not to do.’ Don’t be headstrong, don’t emasculate him, don’t show desire, don’t don’t don’t. She had done the third one and she had sort of enjoyed it. She understood it was wrong and she had asked for forgiveness from God. So you see her problem was not guilt. It was that she was beginning to sense the loss of value in Kola’s disposition around her. Even though he had agreed to her terms and conditions titled ‘NO MORE SEX’, part of her was relieved and somewhat touched that he was willing to wait and the other part was more worried, worried at how agreeable he was and if the reason for that was because he had already taken his slice of cake. It is these insecurities that burdened her and she had to free herself of them. Not by sharing. Pity was all anyone had to offer, even the advice a friend could offer will be laced with pity and a subtle air of superiority at not having erred like she had. She would learn to forget.
She got up from her bed and walked to the balcony, it had rained all morning, sharp torrents that hit the roof, pooled at the edges and landed in patient splashes. A crowd had gathered at the house across, much like the puddles on the streets. They appeared to be frantic and they simmered in the cold, visibly vibrating with anger. There were occasional ‘Chais!’ and more frequent ‘Nawas’. She was not familiar with her neighbours and she did not want to offer a branch of familiarity for something as trivial as gossip. She peered through the mosquito net on the bars and tried to make out their conversation. It felt like her eyes were doing a better job at hearing than her ears because in no time they had gotten teary from the dust in the net. This was what she knew. A man across the street had been attacked by his wife with boiling hot water and she had fled the crime scene and found solace in the house of another man. The injured husband sprawled on the ground. His hands hung stiffly in the air like an over starched shirt and he was slathered in GV and eggs, breathing in the scent of an anxious crowd. Some of them wanted to involve the police, others craved jungle justice and a curious pair, two women, one plump and the other stick thin reminisced about knowing the man and the woman separately before their union. The plump one described the wife as a ‘she-devil’ and said she had never liked her and she did not understand why he went on to marry her. The stick figure talked about how she quarreled constantly with the man despite his numerous provisions for her. “Very ungrateful thing! I remember how this poor man buy am plenty baby things, carry am go hospital where she for give birth. In fact, no be the first belle wey she don carry o. The first one wey she get, na so she and the man quarrel. Nain she carry medicine swallow am, abort pikin comot. Na the same man carry am go hospital dey nurse am for there. Make we go find am, useless girl, married woman like that go dey hide for another man house. We go beat that madness out of her today.” The plump one clapped her hands in agreement and said “ehen, na so so victim she dey form for there, like person wey them dey abuse, meanwhile she be the terrorist. She nor even consider the baby wey she get.” The plump one was still talking when a child called for her attention from a store a few blocks down. She shouted, “wetin e want, belle full? Belle full nor dey, na hungry man.” She continued to watch both women converse before they ran off to their respective stores after the burnt husband was driven to a hospital. She wondered at how minute her predicament felt now and how instances like this rarely surfaced in people’s conversations or the media. How it was always a man raped, a man killed or a man beat and maybe because the world had focused on these crimes, it failed to notice the steady influx of vengeful women, irresponsible wives and mothers with knives for tongues and idle brains drunk on schemes. It would appear that the scales were balancing themselves and women, weaker vessels or not have made men the victims. Men did not always take, women gave and men nurtured and women were not satisfied.