I was born for great things, walahi!
I knew this several, several years ago as a young girl helping my mother in the kitchen as we made tuwo and as I bent beneath the hearth, blowing the fires till my eyes would threaten to jump off their sockets. Mother, whom we fondly called Uwa was telling me one cool afternoon about a certain General. Tall and handsome, lanky in frame. “Who knows,” she said, ” he could be Head of state for a long time, in another political era.” Uwa spoke like this too often, foretelling the future with such precision. I was not like the other girls who wept bitterly whenever news came to them, of much older suitors. The General was no ordinary man though; his interest in me spelt good omen. What more, he had offered to let me continue schooling. He was not like the other Alhajis that nursed a chronic fear for educated women. I am lucky. Praise be to Allah, I am lucky.
Uwa interrupted my reverie.
“Aisha, do not ever serve your husband with one piece of meat. Never. Even if it means you denying the children theirs. Genuflect when you bring him every meal. You know how strongly opinionated you are and your fancy ideas about love and a pressing need to ask questions and pry the mind of people. But with the General, you must be solemn. Only speak when you are asked. Do not hold a different opinion from him. It is wrong to think that with him is the moment to test the vastness of your intellect. There must be an eagerness to your ways, a very quiet punctuliciousness in your manners. But you must, above all obey with unflinching devotion.”
I nodded to her candid words of wisdom and kept on winnowing the millet. May Allah be praised. For I am indeed lucky.
The Living Room:
27 years and several living rooms. I have mastered the art of perching on the arm of the settee. But today, the visitors are very much ill at ease and I have a strong insidious feeling about their presence. They were the new men appointed in top positions and they had come to pledge allegiance to the General.
But I look at them from under the bridge of my glasses. Look at their hawk-like eyes. Look at these men, grinning from ear to ear. Do they even have voters’ card? Did they participate in the last election? These men are oblivious of all our struggles to unseat an incumbent president. Look at them sitting like vultures, waiting for the spoil to arrive. I will not be surprised to know that many of them now sitting on my couch, salaaming like they mean well, are from the enemies’ camps.
I siddled up to the General and whispered to him, “Who are these men? What have they come for?”
“This is not a woman’s concern.” He replied me without deigning to look at me. “I hope my bathwater is ready. Go and wait for me in the other room.”
The other room
I come from a line of extremely strong and healthy women. My skin is supple and minty, and I must stay virginal like freshly squeezed milk, straight from the cow’s teat. The General arrives but he seems angry and confused. I take off his shoes and rub his feet. I drill him about the men hoping the privacy of our environs would ease him off and make him open up to me.
But a glint of impatience shone in his eyes. “Haba Aisha! when did these things begin to worry you? Don’t you have coffee table books to write on beauty, on the hidden secrets of heena and sundry beauty topics? Do not strain my patience , woman. Do not.”
Moments like this, I am wistful for those dreamy days beside the hearth long ago when I dreamt of wielding power as a General’s wife. When I believed my opinion counted and my wisdom would be sought by my husband, when I am needed beyond my domestic functions in these three rooms. I must do something quick. For I am not a weak wife of a powerful General.