Mama’s visits are usually nerve breaking especially for Jane, my wife. Those visits had become increasingly frequent and disturbingly so. I could decipher the anxiety written all over her face like that of an employee waiting for a sack letter, as she went to open the door.
Despite being anxious when she learned that Mama was coming, she had started to prepare for her arrival. She had been as busy as a beaver building a dam, making sure that at least asides the topic on ground, mama wouldn’t find another reason to attack her.
“Welcome Mama,” she said as she opened the door for my mother to come in.
”mmm…” Mama coldly replied while partially ignoring her.
”Welcome Mama,” I said.
”Dubem my son, thank you. How are you doing?” Mama asked.
”We are doing just fine. But mama, you just love visiting us out of the blues only informing us when you would have already left home,” I replied.
”Ehen! So I need to write a letter asking for permission before I come to visit my son, is that so?” Mama retorted.
”No nah, at least informing us earlier would help us prepare well’ I teased. ‘Ehen Mama, I hope you brought something from the village for us?” I asked.
”Yes, I did. I brought all the village goodness for you,” she said.
”Thank you so much Mama,” Jane who had returned after carrying Mama’s bags into the visitors’ room added.
“Yes, I even planned on buying chocolates too but then I remembered that there are no children in house,” Mama replied with a scorn.
That was a sly dig at my wife because she had not been able to conceive since we got married seven years ago, this often makes her weep profusely at night due to the emotional pain it caused her.
Jane had been the most beautiful person I had ever known. We met in our first years in the university during an English class, the lecturer had asked us to volunteer right there in class to talk about the advantages of offline learning over online learning. It was actually a debate. As an outspoken soul, I quickly sprang up and walked to the front of the class. With poise, charisma and eloquence, I spoke in favour of offline learning and was applauded. The lecturer commended me and then asked for someone else to speak in favour of online education but no one was ready.
Just then, a lady signified to speak. I was actually seeing her for the first time, her light skin illuminated the room like the golden rays of the morning sun upon hibiscus flowers as she made her way to the front. Her slim figure perfectly complemented her ravishing beauty. I was awed into silence while she spoke and the class became silent that you could hear a pin drop.
Her beauty and intelligence were inextricably intertwined and for the first time ever, I could honestly admit that I had been bested in a public speech. There was a standing ovation at the end of her delivery and after the class I quickly rushed to commend her. We became friends, then lovers and finally marriage mates.
There was silence in the room after Mama’s comment. It hurt me to see her being attacked by my mother over child bearing issues, I was getting fed up too of not having kids but there was nothing I could do.
“Don’t worry Mama, very soon you’ll be the one telling us to stop having kids that the one we have us enough,” I said while trying to calm the already tensed atmosphere.
“Kindly go and have your bath, you’ve had such a stressful journey, ” I added.
It was dinner time as Jane came to the sitting room to invite us to the dinning table. She had made Yellow Garri and Oha soup garnished with enough mushroom and beef.
“Honey, please come over to the table. Mama, dinner is ready, please come over to the dinning table,” she said.
As I rose to my feet, I noticed that Mama’s countenance had changed , like a ferocious lion about to pounce on a helpless prey.
“Food! Food! Food! That is all you know how to make, make babies and not food!” Mama thundered.
An ocean of tears was already gushing down Jane’s face.
“Mama please stop it, you’re hurting my wife, ” I shouted. It was the first time I’d ever raise my voice towards my mother.
“Oh ho! Dubem, now she has finally turned you against me, isn’t it? I give her just one year” Mama replied.
Now turning to her, Mama continued, “If after one year nothing positive happens, you will leave this house and a real woman who can have babies will come in, who knows whether you had already damaged your womb in the course of numerous abortions due to your promiscuous life. Just one year and you will see.”
The heart wrenching barrage of insults from Mama were too hard to bear as Jane bolted to the room to cry. I immediately went after her to pacify her with soothing words, yet deep down I was bleeding too. We were not getting any younger and Mama doesn’t support adopting a child. Although the doctors had told us that we had no problems, yet the kids were not forthcoming. It seemed there was no hope in the offing.
Three years passed by rather swiftly without any positive news. As I laid awake in bed, with eyes wide open like a hungry owl, heart beating loud and fast that it seemed it was going to pop out of my chest, I gently tapped on Jane to wake up for an important conversation.
“For the sake of our love Jane, I want to apologize,” I started shamefully.
“Apologize over what?” She cut in.
“You had been and will always be the best thing that ever happened to me,” I continued. “Your pain is mine and mine is yours, however I want you to please forgive me.”
“Forgive you for what Dubem? You’re making me scared, ” she replied.
It was had for me to utter a word a word but I just had to say it.
“I… I… I have a one year old son Jane, ” I managed to say while stuttering.
“You what?” She asked. Her eyes revealed her utter disappointment in me.
“I am so sorry Jane, words can’t describe how sorry I am, it was a mistake,” I pleaded.
She started to cry uncontrollably.
“Why are you telling me this now?” She asked.
“It was because I was mortified and didn’t know how to face you. The boy and his mother Nneka would be moving in with us next week. Mama wants them to be here since the house is big in order for me to take care of them well, ” I answered embarrassingly.
“I can’t take this any longer,” she replied. “This is just too much to bear. ”
She left the bedroom and locked herself in the visitors’ room crying herself to sleep. The next morning she packed her belongings and moved, ignoring all my pleadings. She had endured a lot especially from my mother and couldn’t cope anymore.
Two months later my world began to crumble. I was diagnosed with prostrate cancer and had spent all my savings on it, yet the future looked bleak. I had been laid off work as a result of the illness and sadly Nneka had absconded with my son at the turn of events saying that she and her son can’t suffer with me, even Mama was in despair.
As I laid on my hospital bed helpless, hapless and hopeless, suicidal thoughts flooded my mind. I thought it would be better to end my life of misery. As I closed my eyes thinking of the best way to end it all, I felt a gentle touch on my hands and soft reassuring voice say to me, “Dubem, be strong, you will survive this phase. We will scale through it together. I am here for you now and forever.”
It was a familiar voice, it was Jane! I started to cry uncontrollably like a baby. She gave me the warmest hugs I had ever received in months. I had missed her dearly and seeing her reinvigorated my spirit. Despite what I had done, she still came back for me.
Amidst tears I could only say “I don’t deserve you Jane, I really don’t.”
Humble Ogbonna, a Diction and Phonetics Instructor with a passion for writing sent in this entry from firstname.lastname@example.org