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DEATH IN THE POT
How is the gold become dim!
How is the most fine gold changed !
Do you promise to take Doris Salama has your newly wedded wife to love and to cherish, to care for and to hold dear in health and in sickness, in lack and in surplus till death shall do you part?”
“I do!” I said confidently, looking through my spectacles into Doris’ most innocent but fearful face
Just like any intending bride, she was scared!
The fear of the unknown had laid a hold on her whole frame and I knew so convincingly that she was not sure how well this marriage would go.
“Pelumi, what if I fail? What if the virtuous woman you are expecting isn’t really me? Like…” she was trembling as I held her hand, dancing into the reception hall
My heart melted!
Doris had always been a strong lady and saying something like this said a lot to me.
I knew that the only demon she feared really was – failure!
“Yet, I do!” I said into her ears, going so close that everyone oohed and screamed, hailing the confident groom that I was!
I smiled quietly to myself- only Doris and I knew what was going on…
“You cannot marry a Nupe lady o Oluwapelumi! Out of the many beautiful ladies in the whole Yorubaland, it’s from the Boko-Haram community that you went to choose from? God forbid o!” My mum had cried the day I told her about Doris
My mum had such a small frail that when I held her, I had always hoped to hold my wife in such a way. That was one of the reasons I was attracted to Doris at first.
She was of a very small stature. She had a very long, black, silky hair inherent from her mummy’s Fulani gene. Her long nose and all of these features and all of these made me fall over heels in love with her the more
But I loved my mum!
I respected her feelings!
She lost her husband, my father to a road accident when he travelled to Kano for a seminar shortly after giving birth to me yet she ensured tooth and nail that she gave us the best of everything in life.
Whenever I held her small hands and I rubbed them so soothingly, she didn’t know what passed through my mind- those veins on those hands always reminded me of her hard labour in a bid to cater for us and nurture us.
Oh how she labored!
I understood perfectly why she wouldn’t love Doris so easily.
My elder and only brother was in love with a Fulani girl and they had been going out together unknowing to him that she had recently jilted a guy from her tribe. A fight ensued one day and this Fulani guy stabbed my brother, Femi about five times on the chest till life left him!
“Why have you chosen to tread the same path that Olufemi trod? Why? I gave birth to you both in the south here. You schooled here but the NYSC evil ….it took you far from me into the north…for your destruction…why?” she cried so loudly
She was breathing so heavily and I couldn’t look at her.
It was Doris I loved!
How was I going to explain to my loving mother who had been taught lessons from these tribal and ethnic wahala that Doris was different?
“Mummy, she is from Niger state. Niger State isn’t really a northern state like that. It is the middle belt, like Abuja….” I tried to convince her
My mum stood up abruptly to slap the wall behind her, her face in the curtain.
“North is North o! Don’t buy me with lots of English please! North is north! If I can manage the Nupe thing, what about her Fulani blood? North is north!” she cried aloud, her breath seizing slightly
Her asthma attack was near!
But I couldn’t give Doris up!
“Mummy, Doris is different. She is a Christian. She is different. You would love her when you see her” I said again
My mum came back to her seat, buried her face in her palms, her small legs holding her elbows
“Oluwapelumi!” she called out
“Yes mummy” I answered.
I thought there was a ray of light
“Oluwapelumi” she called out again
“Sweet mum” I replied, again, looking into her faceless palms.
“Oluwapelumi” She called out again
I was used to my mum’s Yoruba rendition of calling my name thrice for emphasis so I wasn’t tired
“Yes, my mum” I replied, patiently
“How many times have I called you?” She asked
“Three times, mum” I replied
“Do you wish to see me die?” she asked and my heart jumped into my mouth
What was my mummy talking about?
I would never imagine my mother dying at all
She was the only thing I had and she had not even eaten half of the fruit of her labour that I had in store for her.
“Mummy, you can never die! I cannot see that happen” I said hurriedly as if the word ‘die’ burnt my mouth
“The day you bring ‘Doormat’ into this house, I will die!” she said firmly, took her palms off her face and stared into my face, sternly.
My mum was actually pained!
For her to call Doris, doormat, chai! My mum was so pained!
I went close to her as she wheezed vehemently.
“Mummy, I love you” I said to her calmly
She looked into my eyes, tears in hers
“No, you don’t!” she exclaimed coolly as she put her head on my broad chest
I knew her heart had softened!
She had always had a soft heart anyways!
I held her shoulder close and rubbed it
“You will love her mum.” I said, almost quietly, my heart in my mouth.
What would my mum say with this persistence of mine?
Was she going to pull away?
“I won’t love her!” her quiet voice came out. She was struggling seriously with her breathing
I rubbed her face with my hairy face- she had always told me it soothed her
“I am sure you would her my sweet mum” I said again and she wanted to talk but the asthma stopped her
She shook her head anyways as she stayed close to the chest of her only son whose heart she wasn’t sure was still hers
But my heart still belonged to her
…although, Doris had started intruding on the order of things
And she would definitely become the queen of my heart
…and my mum would be my…
Five years had passed after my mother eventually reluctantly gave her ‘yes’ to have Doris as her daughter in law
I was trying to put some document into a file when my phone rang
I picked it up and it was my mother
“Dearest mum” I called out, happily
“I am at the park already” She said curtly
I was shocked!
My mother didn’t tell me that she was coming over
“Mummy, you mean you are in Nyanyan Park here in Abuja?” I asked to be sure
“Come and pick me” she said sternly
She obviously wasn’t in the mood to exchange pleasantries
“Ok mum. Let me send one of the company’s driver to come pick you up. My wife is at home and I will…” I was saying when she cut in
“Come and pick me” My mum emphasized each word and I knew she meant it
“Okay mum” I dropped the call, slammed my laptop shut, picked my car key and I hit the road
What could have happened to my mum?
I knew she was just so lonely anyways since her retirement but she refused to move in with us even after Doris had agreed.
I felt so much for her but my own life must definitely continue right?
The journey home was boring as the car was silence-filled
Mum looked at me occasionally, glancing at my skin especially my hands.
After some minutes, she would look outside the car, sigh deeply , put her elbow on the window side and support her cheek with her palm
I was bothered but I didn’t know what was on her mind
She had only been to our small bungalow twice-
First when we had Jerry,
The other, when we had James
And she had been so gentle!
She would bath the babies, cook for my wife and say some sweet words of care to her when she winced in pain because she bled on the two occasions of childbirth but all in all, she was very quiet!
I missed my original chatty, jovial, cheerful and ever caring mother!
I tried explaining things to Doris when she wasn’t comfortable with her silence and she understood her always calling her to check on her and sending gifts to her
As I drove into the compound, she turned to look into my face
“This is your new compound?” she asked
“It’s the same old one mum. Has it changed that much?” I asked, trying to start a conversation
She looked round as she stepped out of the car.
“Iro o” she exclaimed, a great surprise on her face.
Of course there was a great change!
Doris had proven to be a really virtuous wife!
I was only able to secure and buy a plot of land in Karshi where we lived because if you have anyone in Abuja, you would know the high cost of buying land and landed properties in here.
We built a very cozy bungalow where we had been living in
But barely two years after Mummy’s last visit, had the house become a castle!
Though I wasn’t a churchy person, I knew virtue when I saw it and Doris was my definition of a virtuous lady!
When I got married to her, the trust for her so grew that even if it was published far and near that she had poisoned my meal and that I should be careful, I would gladly take the poisoned meal because I was sure it would be a good poison!- the trust was that bad!
She never allowed food to be wasted. She even taught us rechauffe- remaking left overs into wonderful dishes.
What man wouldn’t love a man that managed his resources well?
Talk about the works of her hands and I would be sure you would be dazed!
Despite being a certified accountant, she let it go for her home!
I was able to get a job for her with First Bank, Karshi, not too far from home but she declined completely saying she had promised to feed our children exclusively with breast milk before any job!
I was completely taken aback!
She divided the remaining space in the compound into three. The one at the back, she made a small yard for rearing goats and poultry.
The space beside the house, she made a small garden with where she planted some vegetable. Her farming even extended to the front of the gate where she planted some yams!
The space in front of the house, she creatively completed three rooms with ply wood partitions. One room was for making clothes, one for her baking business and the last was for her tie and dye, soap and shampoo making business as well.
Yet, there was still a small partitioned space to park the car.
All these on a plot of land!
How much we made from all these, my mouth cannot explain
She was always buying food in bulk, saving for the rainy day!
She was an early riser. She would sleep as late as 11 after we had all slept and would wake up around 4, tending to house chores again!
I wondered and blessed her every day for being my peace!
And she could so give to the poor!
You would see her distributing to the almajiris every Sunday
Even all the landlords and tenants knew my wife was a ready help at any time of their needs!
She would pick some girls, teach them how to make some handiworks and they would be well equipped to start off something too!
Then, I had always wished my mum could see how much everyone appreciated the Nupe-Fulani girl she didn’t like.
That was why I was very happy that she came home to find a changed compound and environment as a whole
“You have a new house help?” she asked, facing me, her eyes lightening up
“No mum. Everything is the handiwork of my wife o” I replied, proudly.
My heart warmed up!
“Ehn ehen!” she said, her hands on her hips as she surveyed the compound
There was a rumble in the garden
“Honey, is that you?” My wife called out
“Sweetie, mama is here” I announced
There was much rumbling as my wife dropped a tool probably
“It’s a lie” she said, she was running towards us.
She smiled broadly.
“Mummy!” she sang as she ran close to her
She looked like a primary school student and my heart danced as I saw her kneel down before my mummy and my mummy hugged her
“E kaabo ma” she spoke Yoruba!
Chai! My wife could charm a snake!
“E ku ile o…omo daadaa to mo iyi oko” she started praising her.
The door flung open and my healthy boys ran out
“I said it! Its grandma” Jerry said
“Wow!” Little James said as they both ran into Mama’s waiting arms
“Doris, you are…” Mummy was saying when my wife smiled
“Mummy, sorry for interrupting. My new name is Oluwabukunmi” she said and my mummy laughed
“It’s a lie! You picked a Yoruba name?” she asked. We all laughed
“Yes mum. Yoruba men can so take care of their wives!” she said and I blushed
“Well, even if so, I can see care on all of you. See how fresh your husband’s skin is. I couldn’t even look away as we drove down here” she confessed
It was then I realized why she had been glancing at me in the car.
“See your boys too and even you…I am happy o” she said and she meant it.
Her fear literally disappeared as she was convinced that her only eye is in safe hands
I had always loved Doris!
She was God’s Ibukun (Blessing) for me!
That was five years ago!
Everything had changed now!
The new anthem of all Nigerians with the current administration had been Change, change, change!
Doris had changed….for the bad!
As I got down from the car, I picked up my briefcase and looked round my compound!
It felt so dry!
The poultry had gone!
The businesses had become the thing of the past!
Everything had changed!
Even the children had been thrown in a boarding school despite the fact that I had kicked against it.
As I opened the door, the stench that greeted me was awful!
I had to open all the windows to allow for fresh air!
I moved round the house to find the cause and realized that it was from the washing machine
She had left clothes in the washing machine for days!
I had to quickly change into my house wears to start rolling the washing machine again
After I had spread the clothes, I moved to the kitchen to get myself some food and the state of the kitchen was horrible
So horrible that I practically wept!
God, what happened to my wife?
What happened to us?
Why must this happen every day?
Is my wife the only banker in the whole world?
Is she even as busy as I am?
Why? Why? Why?
As my heart had already been broken into shambles, I tried to pick up the pieces and dragged myself to the sink.
I started cleaning.
After the whole process, I picked up my phone to call her
“Hello honey” I called out
“Yes?” she replied, chewing gum so noisily
“How is work going?” I asked
“Great! Thank you” she replied curtly
There was silence
“Any reason for the call?” she asked
I shook my head
“I am just checking on you. I miss you” I said like a kid
She laughed, splashing her chewing gum
“Pelumi, would you stop that! Are you a kid? I am busy you know. I am at work if you have forgotten”
I let that pass too
“So, what should I prepare for dinner?” I asked and she knocked her desk so I could hear
“I had forgotten to tell you. I am not coming home tonight” she said and I was not too shocked because that was the first time
“Why?” I asked
“I am going to be in attendance at a board meeting very early tomorrow morning and I can’t afford to be late. I will sleep in Bola’s house overnight” she said and that was the same reason she had always been giving.
“But honey, do you always have me in mind at all? You should have told me beforehand. Don’t forget that you are a married…” I was saying when she cut in
“Why is it always women that must give account to men? I believe in equality. Just as you could sleep over at Juwon’s place when you travelled to Kwara state, I can decide to do the same”
I was shocked
“That was only once honey. And I told you before even going. I asked for your consent even though I knew that it was an important meeting. I am not asking you to give account to me. No! But I care to know just as I do tell you of my steps too. Why are you doing like this to me honey?… Why?” I was almost crying
“Get yourself some food to eat. Catch yah on Sunday!” she said and dropped the call.
In three days’ time?
Did I hear well?
Tears rushed into my eyes as I pulled at my hair.
The change was just so drastic!
She said she wanted to enlarge her business and want to be a trained entrepreneur.
I enrolled her into a school for that and that was the beginning of the whole wahala!
After about two months,
Training, she didn’t continue!
Business she didn’t enlarge!!
How could I explain the change so you would feel my pain?
It was as if in her quest to gain more knowledge, she had gone to gather some wild gourds from a wild vine and made a soup from it for all of us just as in the case of the sons of prophet and Elisha in the Bible.
Their case was better since they had Elisha in their boat but who did I have?
Elisha was able to give them meal that neutralized the poison in the soup but which meal could I use to neutralize the poison that so burnt my tongue?
Crying and wailing for a remedy, my voice seemed unheard as I felt as if Doris kept forcing down my throat, a bowlful of poison everyday!
My home had become a really big shadow of itself!
It was like a pot of soup!
I tried daily to dip my hands and savour the pleasure I had once savoured
But the more I did that, the more I felt pain!
I felt like…
… Like there is a death in the pot!
Watch out for episode 2