Blood is supposed to be thicker than water. It’s supposed to be the thing that holds family together, but what happens when blood does not exist? What happens when the man you married doesn’t have warm fluid coursing through his veins? When his heart doesn’t beat for you anymore and your fire has grown cold. What happens when there’s no blood? I’ve always preferred to ask questions than answer them. Most times, I really do not even want to know the answers to these questions, but I ask anyway, because asking unburdens you, makes you feel like you cared enough to know, even when your conscience nibbles at your spirit. My husband is not mine anymore. He is faraway, lost between the thighs of his mistress, drowning in the sea that is her love. And me? My lips are sealed because this mistress is our benefactor. My right to speak is swallowed by the fact that she pays the bills, feeds my child and I and even more, now she keeps my husband happy. Happy enough to not even need to come home. I have quickly begun to feel like the mistress myself.
Tobiloba got a job at this new bank on Aba road two years ago after almost two years of being unemployed. I remember him coming home that evening. It was that perfect time when the sun was struggling with her indecision, doing a last dance on the horizon in all her orange glory. I still remember the taste of tapioka –the meal of boiled cassava we now ate almost all the time with coconuts we bought from the woman down the street. I had been swatting away mosquitoes as I sat waiting until it was dark enough to absolutely have to use the kerosene lantern. He had touched my shoulder as he always did and said the words he said every evening when he came home
“Iyawo, i don tire”
Then he’d smiled his always out-of-nowhere smile that seemed to bare teeth in less than a millisecond and said “As of today, I’m no longer unemployed”. It was one of those moments that stay with you. The second you realize that everything will be alright, the second a drowning girl feels the lifeguard’s hand on her arm; we would be okay.
I may have spoken too soon. Tobi started work the next Monday and came home happier everyday, even as each week, the sun had descended lower upon his return, until it was pitch black whenever he returned. At first, I was very understanding, getting up to reheat his meal every night and sitting up to watch him eat and maybe get to talk about something with him. I missed his presence. I missed looking in his eyes and listening to his voice. I resented him for not seeing our daughter walk until an entire week after she had started walking, resented him for asking me questions like “what do you want me to do? Should I resign and be jobless again?” when I told him Eniola and I needed him around more. Of course people suggested that he had a lover now that he was financially better off, but I couldn’t believe them because it was supposed to be us against the world! Because blood was thicker than water and what we had was supposed to be thicker than blood.
When Eniola fell sick on her first day of school, I thought it was all the crying she’d done that morning, but when her fever wasn’t breaking and she was starting to have seizures, I took her to the hospital and started to call her father frantically. A woman answered saying he was on duty and couldn’t come to the phone. I asked her if she was at the bank now and she laughed at me like I was the biggest joke and said:
“wish bank? ya husband tell you say im dey work for bank? Madam abeg go sleep small”
I asked Tobi where he had been working for the past two years and what all the paperwork he’d been bringing home on the weekends were for and he lied to me again, right to my face. Suddenly the room felt colder and I felt my strength leave me. I told him everything that had happened that day and watched him crumble like a paper doll. I made sure he did not crumble in my arms because I could smell the vileness on him. I felt like the lies would suffocate me and all the betrayal would cause my heart to fall into my stomach. My husband, the most popular male prostitute on Madam Isis’ payroll.
Some moments never leave you. They haunt your dreams, they make or break you, they cause you self-doubt for a million years and leave you searching memories and wondering when and where it all went sour. I met Tobi in NYSC camp and I married him even when my generally liberal parents said they weren’t quite sure of him. I did my best to keep us going for months on end on my teacher’s salary and I honestly never complained because I never wanted him to feel like less of a man than he was and now I refuse to believe my parents could’ve seen the future and yet the level of my naivete confounds me. My conclusion is that we believe what we want, we see only what we allow ourselves see and regardless of how sorry he is, I cannot live married to him.
Blood isn’t all that thick after all.