For some reason, this week, I have domestic violence on my mind. That is why I will share with you the following fictional short story that I wrote in 2011. I hope you will enjoy and learn from it.
I want to sit down but I don’t know if I can. The protest rising and spreading within me is too strong to let me. It is making my joints stiff. It is making my muscles tighten, my nerves harden and my heart beat like a thousand drums. But inside me, there is this forceful voice stirring to attention. It is going to tell me not to do anything stupid, not to spoil two years of sacrifice and obedience, and not to incur the wrath of the society and that of God. I can feel it gathering momentum, opening its mouth as it always does, to command my attention, to inject me with fear and sedate me to this morbid subservience. It always tells me to cower into a corner and let his will be, and then makes me sit down to cry the pains out. It is coming up to do that now again, it is shouting at the figure of my resolve to vanish into thin air before it arrives. It is gaining grounds and quickly too. I cannot let it win again. I have to act now. I have to slap my husband back.
The muscles in my right arm cannot understand the strange instructions reaching them from my brain. However, they have to obey, twitching all the way, as my arm begins its ascent to take offensive position. My eyes are locked on my husband’s. He is facing me squarely as he always does when the demons seize him. His fiery eyes are searching for the next target on my body but the ascent of my hands arrests them. His brows curl as he registers the possibility. But then he smiles. He knows I will not dare. He just launches another blow, aiming for my shoulder, and I duck. He gets the wall behind me instead and recoils in pain and shock. It begins to feel good, God forgive me.
In size, my husband is a small man. And I am a big woman. But he is my husband and the love of my life. Now as I straighten back up to tower above him again, as his contorted face examines the bruised hand, I see what a short, filthy man he really is. I always know I can seize his arms, beat him up and turn him into a bony chair. I think he knows it. But he knows me too. He knows I love him. And I love God. I’m bound by my religion not to raise my voice against my husband, much less an arm. But it is beginning to look like the limits are near.
My mother warned me when she first saw him. ‘This tiny thing?’ she queried into my ears quietly as we peeped from behind the blinds when he and his family came for ‘introduction’. ‘You are bigger than him, he’s older all right, but you are bigger. He’ll always be looking for a way to prove to you that your size doesn’t matter,’ she whispered, ‘I don’t know but his eyes are wicked, to me, he looks mean, why would your father do this? This is wrong. This is wrong. It won’t work.’
But it had to work because I was already in love with that little mutt. And it was not my father’s doing. It must be God’s. When my father called me and told me that he had promised his friend that I’d marry his son, I neither objected nor did I accept, though I was later to learn that my silence connoted acceptance. Anyway, as I said, I fell in love with him on the very first day he came to the house to see me. Ironically, it was his tiny frame that did it. I saw him and I thought this must be a joke. He was barely five feet tall. I was a good six inches taller. He was looking like he had not seen decent food for years, yet his expensive clothes could feed a thousand mouths.
I guess that was why I fell in love with him, pity. And that was the reason my mother’s words ended up like writing on water, disappearing after the slightest wave. I married him and came to his house full of love and faith. I wanted to take care of him like a mother would a child. I wanted to protect him from ridicule and pains that he must have been a victim of all his life. I was going to be the best thing that ever happened to him. And I was, until the night he came back stoned, just two months into our marriage.
‘Where are you?’ he shouted, stumbling into the room. The obnoxious air that followed him in reached me, awaking me rudely from sleep. I was sleeping on the carpet to straighten my back.
‘What is that smell?’ I wondered, sitting up and clearing my eyes. I noticed his small figure hovering over me. ‘I didn’t know you were back. Welcome’, I said, the smell overwhelming my senses.
‘What kind of stupid question is that? I’m asking you, you are asking me?’ he said, raising his voice, ‘I’m standing in this water and you are cooking, and abusing me? Are you stupid?’ he bellowed.
To be continued