"Oga Pepper" – the sequel
Twelve years married to the love of your life is not enough time for your secrets to stay buried. Not even two beautiful children are enough to beg life to be kind. Life will be life. Truth doesn’t like to be hidden for long. It likes to come up for air every now and then and take huge breaths even if that means it takes air that doesn’t belong to it. Demilade is the best husband any one could ask for. He loves me even more that he did twelve years ago and even before that. We have the best love story and we tell it to anyone who’ll listen every anniversary; the kids, waiters, friends. We are that annoying couple who snuggle everywhere and act like no one else exists in parties we attend. Truth is we really don’t see anyone else. I only see him; young as ever, soft spoken as ever and stronger and braver in life and art than he’s ever been. I’ve never believed that love grows but my love for Demilade won’t stop growing and that is why what has been happening in the last three months has been the most terrifying thing.
Uche is a gem. Not just because she’s given me the two most beautiful children on the planet, but because she takes care of me, she loves me. Loves, in the active sense of the word, in every way. I’d be lost without her. Not long after she came back to me, to us, she put me together again. I created art, like I’ve never before done. I loved until I thought my heart would explode and then I loved some more. But I know something isn’t quite right anymore. I don’t know how I missed it, or when it happened, but it did. My wife is disappearing and I don’t know why. Sometimes, I think there’s someone else, sometimes I think she’s afraid of someone or something. Half the time, I bury my head in the sand and choose to live in denial. I choose to pretend at those times that life is as it has always been. I haven’t changed as much now, have I?
Sometimes I think Demilade knows that something isn’t right. Sometimes, he looks at me like he cannot recognize me, like he does not believe my hastily concocted lies, almost like he knows of the huge sum of money walking out of our retirement trust every month. He left me in charge of that trust for the reason Demilade does nearly everything: because he loves me, trusts me. I love him, I trust him, but fear is merciless and jealous. It chokes every other emotion and leaves you completely at it’s mercy. My fear is greater than my trust in him. I also fear that he is not strong enough to handle this, to make it go away. And so I have to hold it at bay, temporarily, until I find a permanent solution. There isn’t enough money in the world to keep paying for this monetarily.
My bank manager summons me to tell me that my wife has approved transfers of a particular huge sum every single month for the past three months.
“Mr Sowande, if she transfers the same sum for nine more months, she would have more or less cleared the account. We thought it was best to inform you”
Sometimes when certain things happen in your life, when certain people do things that hurt you, what actually hurts the most is not the deed, it’s the thought behind the deed. It wasn’t that Uche was breaking my trust and supposedly trying to bankrupt us without my knowledge, it was why she needed to do so that bothered me. I was also immensely bothered by the fact that I still wanted to pretend that I hadn’t found out about this yet. I did not want to believe that we were falling apart. I, Demilade, wanted to keep my head so far down in the sand until the sand filled the orifices of my head and left no room for thought.
But someone had to talk about this.
I know my husband; its something I pride myself on. So, when I walked into our bedroom that evening. I knew he that he’d found out about the money. I’d wanted him to find out, to confront me, make me speak about it. I cannot believe the bank manager had waited three months to tell him!
“What’s going on? Why do you need all that money?”
“I… I have a problem.”
Somehow, tears always know when to show up. They appear without warning and run down your cheeks without your permission. But I had to tell this story. I had to open up old sores that I’d ignored as though ignoring them guaranteed healing. But it was time.
“My father raped me when I was growing up. He stopped for a while and began to beat my mother instead, so when I confronted him, he tried to force me to go back to sleeping with him. I killed him. It was 11pm and it was dark and I didn’t want to, but it was either that or me. I just couldn’t do it anymore and… and I couldn’t let him keep hurting us… I..”
I didn’t realize Demilade’s arms were around me until his shoulder began to muffle my words.
“My step brother knows and he doesn’t think I do enough for him. He’s going to tell the press. It’s going to hurt you. I just couldn’t let him keep hurting us from his grave”
I was angry. The only thing I’d heard about Uche’s father was what she’d told me, in a very matter-of-fact way at her stall ages ago.
“He wasn’t the best father. He was a drunk. He used to hit my mother, but I stopped him.”
I hadn’t asked how. I had decided to bury my head in the sand, as usual.
I was going to fix this. It was time to get my head out from down under. I needed to be above ground to love this woman. She was brave enough for us both half the time, but I needed to be brave for her too. I wasn’t “oga pepper” for nothing.
My husband is amazing. I’ve always known that and he never lets me forget that. He called Fide and threatened him. All that boy wants is money and Demilade gave him. He also made him sign an undertaking to never contact any member of our family and of course to keep his mouth shut. It all seemed so easy after we’d decided to do it together.
Telling stories of the past reminds you that they happened. You didn’t dream them, you haven’t forgotten them; you lived them and they’re a part of you. Fear and shame are what imprison us and things only have as much control over you as you give them. I wasn’t proud of any of the things that had gone wrong in my life but I wasn’t going to hide myself away or be controlled by them either. I, who am a lawyer was getting blackmailed because I was afraid.
Oh, the irony.