Friday, March 13, 2009

Sisterhood of need

picture from here
I ran into Szezan today and I mean that literarily. I stepped out from the cool bank lobby into the blistering hot sun that Lagos has been infinitely blessed with and slammed into an oncoming figure. It was Szezan. Szezan Ajenkuma. Szezan that I had not seen in almost twenty years. More importantly, she had not changed a bit. Where I was sporting a full head of grey hair brought on by the stress of daily living and clad in the extra pounds birthing three children had gifted me with, Szezan was still her petite self, complete with her signature reddish gold hair and huge spectacles. She looked like she had walked out of the eighties.

Recognition is a special thing. If it comes with fond memories, delighted squeals ensue coupled with tight embraces as both parties try to reconnect. If it is the contrary, it could be a disastrous disintergration into exchanged punches, insults and accusations. When it is a bittersweet one like me remembering Szezan and she remembering me, it is a special kind of discomfort. Still, after our initial gasp and hesitation, we moved into a brief hug.

"How are you?" she asked, her accent deepening her voice. Memories of times spent teasing and imitating her, brought tears to my eyes. I was surprised at the reaction and tried to push them back. It was too late. She had already seen them.
"Haimani," she said my name with a sigh, "come this way". She pulled me away from the entrance where the previously bored security gaurd was watching with barely veiled interest.
"Where have you been?" I asked because I did not know. I had tried so hard to find her but she just seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth.
"Here and there...mostly, there" she said with a dismissive chuckle, her tinted curls bouncing over her forehead.
"That is not an answer." I did not mean it but it came out as much more of a retort than I had intended. She blinked and stepped back a bit, putting some distance between us.
"I did not know that you would care." she bit back, the icy cold in her voice bringing on a small shiver even though we were both standing unshaded from the sun.
"That's not true..." I began and stopped because I knew it would sound false to her. What could I say to her? There was nothing to say. Nothing that could change the past.

She had married my brother. There had been no children. Our mother and kinsmen had made her life misreable, subjecting her to varying levels of emotional and physical abuse. Neither myself nor my brother Jahan had done anything. Jahan's solution was to kick out his wife and marry someone from our village who knew that if she too did not produce a child within nine months, that she too would suffer the same fate. Jahan's first son Kabile was born. I had not seen Szezan since the day she had stood by, watching as if she was one of the entertained passersby as her things, accumulated over four years of marriage and three years of courtship were loaded on a rickety pick up truck and driven out of her compound without her.

Jahan and Estelle were blissfully miserable. She had borne him five children. None of them his. We found out when Djiani, the smallest girl needed a bone marrow transplant. The shock nearly gave Jahan a heart attack. He had rounded up his mistresses and their children and just as expected, not one single one of his "offspring" was his. What could we do, everyone knew what had happened with his pretty bride Szezan and what his family had done. It was not to get out, so there Jahan was, father to eight children fathered by other men. At least Estelle, had made sure that all of hers were from one source.

I had tried to find Szezan but even God knew it would be too late to apologise. I always asked myself why I had never defended her. She and I had been friends. Laughing and living lackadaisically, our youth a security blanket of hope, optimism and opportunity. She had married my brother. My family that had watched her grow up, witnessed her life's achievements alongside mine turned on her with such speed and malice that one would have imagined that the resentment had been a long time coming.

"Szezan, I am sorry" I said simply.

She shrugged and smiled and I was surprised to see that it was genuine. "There is nothing to be sorry for."

I shook my head, "I did not say anything because I was scared."

"I know."

We stood in silence. Our history speaking for us instead. She reached into her bag and pulled out what looked like tickets.
"If you are available, here are two tickets. They are my last two spare. Come to the MUSON center"
"You are performing?" My mother had smashed Szezan's grand piano saying that she had sold her womb for the gift of music.
"No," she shook her head, "my son is."
I should not have been surprised that she would be a mother but the news hit me hard.
"You have a son?" I could only whisper.
"Sons and daughters." Chuckling at the look on my face, she continued, "My first two are adopted and my last two are from my husband's first marriage."
I paused. So, she had adopted. So it was true that she could not have kids.
Reading my face, she pushed hair out of her face as she spoke, "I decided not to have children, Haimani. Or I should say, that I did not want to be pregnant. I chose a different kind of motherhood."
That did not make sense.
"Why? After all that you were put through? Could you not have put your enemies and detractors to shame?" I winced because I could easily be on that list.
"I have no enemies or detractors. Anyone that had a problem with me not being pregant, where are they now? I don't know and don't care. I have four healthy children, a happy marriage and blessings beyond what the mouth can mention. Tomorrow night, my second child performs to a sold out crowd...the past is insignificant."
I did not know what to say. So I said nothing. Neither did she.
Without saying goodbye, she walked away and into the building and I turned around to watch her go.
I saw in her stride the things that I myself did not have. Things that I ought to being that I had done every single thing I had been told to. I had married the man I was told to. Given birth to his children and given up my career to raise them. I had closed my eyes to his indiscretions, ceased "antagonising" him when he sometimes hit me. I had been a good wife and a respectable woman. And yet, I had nothing of what Szezan had. Her walk told me that she was happy, confident and proud.
I walked even slower to my car. Suddenly, I was very very very sad.
**************************************************************************************

I watched Haimani's retreat and could not help but feel regret. She had been so beautiful and lively. Now she looked worn out and exhausted. I was not surprised though. I could have been her. That was why when Jahan's mother started the last leg of her climatic attacks, I did not put up a fight.

I had known about Estelle. The moment I found out, I knew one thing infinitely and totally. Jahan was a weak man. And he would always have his mother as his excuse for doing so. That was why I was not surprised that he would not meet my gaze each time his mother accused me of witchcraft. That was why he was away when I was moved out forcefully from my own home and Estelle moved in.

And that was why I stood by and did nothing. Then I took a taxi to the clinic and had Dr. Abayomi remove my four week pregnancy.

22 comments:

scribble,me.free said...

firrrrsssttt!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow.

Ide

geisha said...

*scream!!!!!!!!*
LOVE it.

Miss Definitely Maybe said...

Always love your stories with thier twists,
Good thing though that she went away and made something of her self instead of wallowing in self pity

Sexkitten said...

Life is an amazing thing!! Oftentimes what we see as curse is really a blessing.

RocNaija said...

Agree with MDM.. moving story..

ShonaVixen said...

wow...loved it..really i did

Funms-the rebirth said...

wow wow wow......... how did u come up with this? very brilliant.....

Shubby Doo said...

*claps*

scribble,me.free said...

sorry..was literally on the way out when i saw u updated. just read now. it's a beautiful, moving story with a spectacular twist. I wait in hope for the Catwalq book

StandTall-The Activist said...

I wonder why the success of one's marriage always have to depend on whether you can have children or not... And I wonder why family members shoudl have a say in this among other stuff.

And if you happen to have kids and they are all female, they still make your life miserable.

Wake up People!

Iwalewa said...

I just love strong women who are able to walk away from bad situations.

did you write a book yet? cos I think you should.

SHE said...

So! Jahan lost all.

Nice.

bumight said...

no she did not!

I'm sorry, but i dont see how removing the pregnancy helps her...even in the long or short run.

I always love your stories! the blogger with the feline strut is back, meow! LOL

Ms. Catwalq said...

bumight: keeping the baby would have kept Jahan & his family tied to her. That was a connection that she did not want or need.
So she let it go and moved on and chose a different life.
It's not that she cannot have children as they all assumed, it's that she chose not to. And instead had the children a different way. Now, she is a mother of four healthy and successful children and happily married.
The abortion was her ticket to that....

LusciousRon said...

A fantastic story.
I like the protagonist she is very strong. I think most women need to recognise their husbands weaknesses and stop playing slave.

bArOquE said...

Dear Cattie,

you have just finished me...i have been in a terrible mood for over 48hours, & now this story was so good that it has gotten me into a darker place

...Bee

Enkay said...

Really nice story.
Strong, strong woman Szezan is!

She could have chosen any number of downhill paths, but no, she rose above it all.

Shame on Jahan is all I can say!

~Sirius~ said...

Wow!
This is a killer story....
Life as we know it.

Woman in Transition said...

Awesome...

You could really give Buche Emecheta a run for the money.

L-VII said...

This story saddened me,though it did not surprise me. Women are often the ones who perpetuate these practices against other women. If ever there is an occasion that a couple is having a hard time conceiving, God help the woman! I think in due time, education will take care of a lot of it but we need, in the mean time, men who are willing to stand up to the matriachs in their family.

Daydah said...

sad....wish she had kept the baby to prove them all wrong tho...you are a great writer...pls publish soon so i can order my first naija novel online with 180% certainty that i will enjoy every single word in it!