I shudder and wonder why blood doesn’t have a less revolting color. It would be easier to forget the misery of seeing my face bleeding from the punches. So I move towards the mirror in the bathroom, voices of regret reminding me to leave whilst I’m still alive. Perhaps, that reminder is supposed to make it easy for a woman like me to pack her bags after four years of marriage to a man everyone adores except for me. Tete Mai Kumbi said he would change. She convinced me that four years in a marriage is nothing and so are my feelings. As I clean myself in the shower, I remind myself that I made a decision a long time ago not cry. Why would the tiled bathroom floor enjoy the privilege of tasting my tears? So I let the tap run a bit, dragging myself into deep thoughts.
Moving away from the mirror, I stagger and drop myself in the shower. I let the water runoff as I drown in reflection. I have lost a lot of things and I have nothing anymore. All I have are memories. It’s been a long journey into this marriage. The water is running in the shower with grace absent in my life- which in the moment seems unfair. My mother died before I met my husband. Maipa was there for me right from the moment he found me in deep grief. He came to save me from my broken self. I never loved him at all even on the day of our wedding. Throughout the ceremony I cried. Sinking in premonitions of impending fate, I sensed this marriage thing would be a struggle, though it felt like he came to save me at the same time.
I hated Maipa from the day that I met him. That wide smile of his was something I had never had. Smiling was foreign to me as evidenced even by our wedding photos. I wished him death on the day he asked me out for the first date. I hated him for the having the things which I did not have especially that smile. When he proposed, I wanted to kill him right in front of the proponents of the surprise engagement party but I said yes, choking from the emotional trap that had been placed in front of me in form of an engagement ring.
I said yes with a callous churn of my intestines, dreading the self for lying to him and to his whole world but marriage had come. My hate for this man was transformational, at least to me. It is what saved me when the blows started coming in. The hate would then always be the wall at the centre of it all. For the silly reasons he punched me for, I reminded myself that the justice I had given myself; was not loving this man right up to the altar.
To me, marriage was the trap of the generations. It was the only thing we knew except that, in my case I chose to marry this man and followed the best practice approved by the society. I didn’t have to get impregnated first to marry Maipa. For an orphan, I had done well showing the world that morality was tangible but not for their pleasure. I did things the right way, making sure that I got into the marital bed a virgin with a hymen I kept for myself and not for him. My mother had been in the same trap, a different one though. She had woken up and discovered that she had been married off and was suddenly supposed to pack her bags and go to her husband. A man she never knew.
I knew Maipa. I said yes to his proposal knowing that I could never love him, after all I could never love anyone even myself. The demand for me to marry was not pressed on me by society, it was just because the only hope I had was to attach myself to someone that would remind me to live, somehow. I was not a hero like my mother; she adored my father and held on. I would never adore Maipa, not in a life time. I didn’t have to respect him either and that didn’t kill me. I belonged to the rebellious generation of wives who would die at the hands of the husbands with little courage to leave. These are the women who held on to the courage of fighting within themselves until they could strike. I was going to have my day on which I would fight Maipa and tell him that I never loved him. For now the beatings would come with my hate for him. I could always clean myself up after each beating; after all I have the privilege of running water in my house. This was the resilience beyond that of my mother; losing a bit of it was the only thing that could have killed me. You see, my mother was resilient, never dying from anything that was thrown at her; even the hottest of infidelity waters from my father. My father couldn’t break her soul. He only managed to break her bones. That’s how it was and I think for the rest of the women of her generation.
Jerking myself to consciousness, I take off my clothes, looking into the full size mirror serving as the covering for the shower. I pay attention to my body something that I do a lot these days. I’ve become conscious of its scars choosing to forget what it looked like before they appeared. Perhaps it is just to check if I am still human enough to walk out of this house. As I inspect myself, I feel my skin with my fingers. I close my eyes and question how the world has failed to rescue me from this mess? I hear Maipa’s breathing, and the dreadful sound of his footsteps as he walks around the bedroom. A feeling of authentic hate surges in my body, one that makes me want to vacate it immediately and find that place where I’m not responsible for the things that transform me from being a victim to a villain at the sight of this man.
I decide to get into the shower, my favourite hiding place where I let water flow on my body hoping to feel cleansed from shame. I run my hands all over my body trusting them as the only gentle ones on this earth. I continue to feel my skin hoping for some smoothness to be transferred to my soul. Opening my eyes, I touch my facial scars which I can locate without a mirror. I move my hand down my throat and the familiar fear of gripping hands invades my mind. Maipa has choked me enough times for me to die but I am alive. In that moment I wonder what would have happed if I had loved myself a bit and stopped feeling choked as Carol constantly talks about. She says self-love is the only thing that will save me from these escapes to the bathing room where the coolness of water is my salvation. I am not sure which world she is living in. It probably doesn’t exist. What is self-love? I move my hands to my shoulders, carefully caressing them in the hope that one day they will not carry a burden. Everything will be light and flawless as the water running down my body right now.
This is the water that flows on my breasts and does not bring the soothing feel I’m expecting as the water attempts to caress them. The breasts which Maipa cannot look past without drooling, perhaps the only thing he values on me. They said that it showed that he loved me and every bit of my body. At least he was still touching me. I think it’s a lie. With each licking and smooching, I die a trillion times. His disgusting tongue on my breasts feels like a thorn in my flesh, piercing, the tendons with precision to render my soul non-existent. They are not a sight of pleasure anymore. Cupping them in my hands, I wish I could have another child, yes just to see if I can give life from within me just as my ugly worthless self. Perhaps, asking for another child as I intend to tonight is a bit too much. My body has known enough violence, labour pains may be my final torture.
“Are you still cleaning yourself up?” Maipa shouts
“Yes” I respond in almost a whisper.
“Hurry up, I want to sleep”
It takes time to clean off blood something which I think he doesn’t understand. As I move my hands around my stomach, I massage it slowly with the lubricating water. Drawing to the caesarean scar, I remember the days when Maita was born, carrying buckets of water needed for my baby’s care. They had all congregated in our house. I had to clean up after them; his relatives popularly known as the in laws. Until then, I was a good daughter in law.
However, my body already physically tired from giving birth gave up together with my sanity. I would stand all day and carry water into the house from the makeshift well we had outside before Maipa was finally promoted and he managed to pay for the drilling of the borehole. I could have killed them just that there was not enough water to drown them all in the well. I am sure by the time I got fed up I had enough strength to carry the whole clan congregating in my house throw them into the well. Even the justice system was going to pardon me. I couldn’t believe their luck in the moment. I recalled the stolen memory of bonding with my baby that went with hosting visitors in the absence of water. I couldn’t bond with my baby enough because I was taking care of other people who didn’t give a shit about me. My mother had this unique ability to make everyone fetch water from the local township borehole, something I failed to learn when she was still alive. I woke up and announced that they were no longer welcome in my home. It was time for everyone to go back to where they came from.
So I made Maipa chase them away as well. He had to choose between having bad sex with me or getting his people to go. That was the day I saw the deep hate which he also had for me in his eyes. I don’t think he changed the moment that first punch came in just above my caesarean scar. He had always hated me the way I hated him. He was just able to hide it well. The second punch didn’t come that day, but I got flowers instead, hours later. I put them in a vase full of water. I watched my Mother in law pour the water I had put in the vase in the dog’s plate. She said he was thirsty smirking with the air of a glorified bitch. She got lucky that day Zimbabwe is land locked; I wanted to bundle her in her son’s car and drive to throw her in an ocean and watch her become part of the sea’s food chain. I wasn’t sure how she could tell he was thirsty. Deep within me I knew Kutu, the faithful family dog and my mother in law had some kind of connection that made me hate both of them. My flowers died, my mother in law did not leave and more punches came. Her relatives left though, I made sure they did. I stopped cooking and feeding them. How could I have fetched water to cook for ungrateful people as if it was my fault that I didn’t have relatives who would come in to visit? The day she died I experienced graceful peace to this point in the shower.
As I feel the beautiful scar, I feel it is the only beautiful scar on my body. In that moment, I become fully aware of the fact that this scar is not going anywhere. Even this water running down my body will not wash it off. I move my hands to my hips; I bent a little to let in the water to clean the vagina which has been trailed with the controversy on how I must wash it. There’s no scar there just the smell which Maipa would complain about everyday he heaved his big body on me without tactic. My vagina was the most washed vagina on the globe, I did everything I could to stop this smell which became the after sex. His best love note was to remind me to wash the vagina, my vagina. I searched for scars and chose not to see them at the same time. From the days of carrying the small bucket into the bedroom to wash myself of cum, when we were still staying with my in laws to the en suite years later when we had worked hard to build what we had. Newly wedded, I remember carrying a small bucket to clean myself, there was no wiping after sleeping with a man you never loved, one had to clean themselves off the misery with water, the real thing.
My hands on my thighs as I draw to my legs towards the feet that brought me under the frightful wings of this man in marriage, I can’t figure out how I am still in one piece. Silently, in the shower I cry, yearning to soothe myself. I sit, right there in the shower realizing just how tired I am. Now Maipa is snoring, probably fatigued from beating me up earlier today. Where do those who give up get the strength to do so? Sitting down under the cold shower, I reflect on the need to leave with nowhere to go and no one to run to. I grieve for my child. My son doesn’t deserve this.
If I could evaporate like this water I would escape into thin air. I can hear the sound of the cold shower scorning me for failing to wash away from this situation like it does at the slightest chance given. Suddenly, it’s not the sound coming from the shower that I can hear anymore. It’s a noise calling me to consciousness. Maipa is abusing me but not as much as I abuse myself. The words of self-hate invade my mind in the moment. I don’t think I can ever escape beyond this shower. This sound is my hiding place. Maybe my life would have been much better if I had loved my husband’s relatives. If I had not hidden the groceries and fed them well when all they did was lurk around and feed off my sweat. I question if they deserve it at all. After all, their son is on a daily mission to kill me with words, but most often with his fists. This, I reflect on as I watch as the water trickling into the drain and wish to no avail if I were liquid then I’d follow and settle in the sewer. Possibilities of evaporating or sinking into the soil feel far more welcome than what I’m living for in the moment.
I stop the shower and I dry myself up this time not facing the mirror convinced that no being can do this twice. He’d told me that he liked me clean when we first met and I’ve been clean. I have failed to comprehend his love for water. I am certain that this love would never purify the devil.
As I finish showering I dry myself and I am tiptoeing into the bedroom, checking on Matipa for a second. He is already fast asleep in his cot. I reach out to touch my son’s face hesitantly and move away before I can do so. I think I am tired of human beings. Even my own sons. Rushing into bed, naked, I slowly and make it without waking Maipa. Tonight, I deserve some peace which has already been awarded to me by the shower.
Just as I settle to try to get some sleep, Maipa’s hands are on my breasts. The same breasts he pulled me with as he was bashing me against the wall. I cringe and whimper; I’ve never known this pain in my entire life. It’s not physical, just that his hands have the skillful craft of painfully invading my soul. It almost feels as if its physical torture. I remain still, not ready to fight him off even in my lifetime, I wait for him to do what he wants. In the next few seconds I know that I will die again as he inserts his penis into me. No matter how much I condition my brain to take in all this, I die every time this happens. He whispers something and I think I didn’t hear him quite well.
“What did you say?’ I ask him
“I said I love you” he repeats as he continues to molest my breasts
I remain quiet. My silence is a fight. It has always been. Nothing on my body moves except my thoughts which run amok the moment I try to process what he has just said.
“Why?’…Why do you love me?’
‘I love your fighting spirit. I’ve put you through a lot and you have been strong. Never fighting”. He says as he inserts his finger in my vagina. I cringe and stiffen. I desperately want to freeze, and I envy water’s ability to do so. Instead my body is warm. So warm I have betrayed myself again. Now Maipa is going to draw pleasure from that warmth. There is heat also coming from his body.
“I don’t remember you saying I love you ever to me ever since we got married my wife.”
With a shrewd laugh mixed with shock I want to strangle him. Does he honestly think I will ever let those words out of my mouth for him? Instead I remain still, like a log lying there. I totally shut myself out of this whole sex thing. Just then he starts kissing my body something he has never done before. Perhaps today is a different day. So I let him kiss me taking my mind elsewhere in this moment. This sex has to happen in a brief portion of time for the sentence of marriage which I am serving.
‘Why do you want me to tell you that I love you?’ I give a tired reply.
Just then he gets off me and looks at me deep in the eye. For a second I think it’s because he is angry and I am getting more blows before I sleep. I begin to get my mind ready for that. I wait for him to shove me off the bed. Then he will rise and kick me first; from there he will go after my neck and choke me. Punches will follow to his satisfaction. I will not scream as always. Maita and Matipa are asleep, so I will allow him to beat me in my stillness and pray silently that my sons will not wake up to this madness. I anticipate that after that he will rape me at the end and tell me to go wash myself. But that does not happen. As he continues to look at me, I remain still determined not to go anywhere, waiting to hit the floor after he pushes me. That mess doesn’t come. Tears start flowing from my face. The time had come; my mum had always said the truth must be told when one is still alive.
“I never loved you even at the altar’ I reply with fierce calmness. Finally, I break the silence without tactic. Perhaps the bravery I have in the shower had come to rescue me. My husband didn’t move.
‘I know and I have hated you for that ‘he responds almost whispering
“Why did you marry me then?” I ask him
“You were ideal for me I guess. At least for who I was becoming. I needed you so that I could thrive”.
‘Well. Have you thrived then?’ I ask him knowing the answer to this question. Maipa was the happy executive who could hide his vulnerabilities from the world but not from me. The punches I got in the past four years showed me just how vulnerable he was. This was the reason why I had stayed. His vulnerability was a disability and he wasn’t going to make it without anyone assisting him even if they became a punching bag.
‘Yes; when I am with you like this everything makes sense. Do you love me? He asked again
‘No’ I answer certain of every feeling of hate I’ve had for him.
‘Are you going to leave me?”
“No. I want another baby” I answer in a whisper.
I wanted another baby. And this was the truth. I knew there was a life out there in me that I could create again which was not my own. He was there to give me that child. So in this moment by asking for a third child I was looking for a life which I couldn’t envision without Maipa. How could I live without him and my sons? This is the man I hated not to have.
‘Maybe you should leave.’’ he suggested
‘To where, you and the boys have been my life in the past four years. I don’t think there’s anything for me out there.’ I responded certain of the fact that I was dependent on him contrary to what everyone said about me being a victim of abuse. I was just loyal, the way women hold on to men who hurt them when they cheat. Maipa had never cheated on me.
‘So you will stay?’’ Maipa asked
‘Yes, I need that baby’’ I said almost snorting. Why would I leave and plan for a baby at the same time with this man? Perhaps he was not listening.
“If you make decision to stay, what makes you sure that I can stand your unresponsiveness to me?’’ he asked. At this point in this conversation I got lost I don’t remember Maipa touching me after the birth of our child. I shrugged instead not sure how I could let him know that a mere brush from him was terror to my body. At this point I wished we had had sex instead of talking then we would have both slept and woken up to a new day. The experience of violence was better than having this conversation. Maipa slid his hands on my body again and stopped.
‘Go and take a shower I’ll wait for you.’ He said.
I’m not sure why I was dirty to my husband but every time after the beating I’d be ordered to bath, after an argument I be summoned to a shower. If only he knew that I was having an affair with water. Whenever he punched me and cracked my skin the water was there to sooth me. When he locked me in the bedroom without food when I had threatened to leave him, I survived with water from the bathing room. I opened the tap this time putting a stopper for the last time getting ready to drown myself in the tub. I’d live and not die in the companionship of the water. He was giving me that that child tonight in this shower. Certain, I got out of tub and went to call him.
“Maipa, can you help me shower?”
*Featured Photo Source Link : Rain on me/karen cox.rain girl at night (black and white photography) @ https://www.pinterest.com/adithat/shower/?autologin=true