A few years ago:

Love! Love!! Love!!! It’s the rope that ensnares every soul. This rope led me to the bridge that altered my life, a terrible blow, and a sale that shattered my existence beyond repair. If I ventured in and didn’t take it, it would cast me out like a thief. Love is not to be trifled with, and if you dare utter its name, it will sink its teeth into you. If you grow weary, it will taunt you. If only I had the wheels to escape, or the staff to fend off its relentless advance, perhaps I could find some respite. But no, it’s said to be Zuma, and when I drank from it, it turned into a white poison that consumed my body. The cunning smile on my face, some mistake it for the throes of love, but they don’t want to understand. It’s the night that has me on my knees. I gathered my belongings from the council of love, an assembly I was born into.

My belongings were stowed away in a small plastic container on the floor of my mother’s room. As I packed, a tear welled up, mingling with the white orbs of my eyes. It darkened my face further. My mother, noticing, spoke up.

“Don’t you dare bring shame upon us in this city. Have you forgotten about your in-laws and friends who know nothing of your disappearance? What do you plan to achieve?” she scolded.

“I had no choice, Mother. Shehu’s wedding was unbearable. He’s driving me to madness,” I replied.

But my words didn’t sit well with her. She struck my mouth with the back of her hand, causing it to bleed. It felt as though my unborn child might arrive sooner than expected.

“Be quiet! You mentioned revealing your husband’s secrets. That’s unacceptable. The sanctity of marriage lies behind closed doors. Pack your things, it’s getting dark. Return to your room before your father wakes up. I swear, you won’t be happy if he finds out. You’re not far from giving birth. You should know how to behave in this house. It’s disgraceful how children these days fail to appreciate the value of marriage and their husbands. They bring nothing but shame and ruin upon their families.”

I stood there, wiping my tears with the back of my hand. We heard my father calling my mother.

“Zubeida, have you heard from Laila? We heard her sobbing earlier. Is she out of her mind? Does she want to tarnish our reputation in the city? Her in-laws and friends are unaware of her absence, aren’t they?” my father inquired.

My mother, shocked and unable to answer his call, simply repeated, “Have you heard from Laila?”

He scolded her, saying, “You should’ve listened to her. Laila is determined to ruin herself. Do you want to let her stray from the right path?”

My mother, trying to pacify him, replied, “By God, I didn’t hear anything. She will return to the right path.”

My father frowned upon hearing her response. He held my package in his hand and scrutinized it. We all hung our heads in shame.

“Indeed, you are lost,” he declared. “Since when did you start ignoring your husband’s commands? Your husband is your paradise, obey him. Every woman in the world submits to her husband’s authority, shows patience, and safeguards her children’s future. It has only been nine months, and you’re already showing disobedience. Haven’t you heard that a husband’s paradise is at his wife’s feet? You should learn to obey him. Have you ever visited your husband’s house without hearing such a demand? By God, if you repeat this mistake, it will be the end for you. You’ve never seen me lose my temper, let alone your father.”

I couldn’t bear to listen any longer, and my anger fueled my sprint. My father chased after me relentlessly, treating me as if I were a mere servant he had purchased in the market to serve his every whim. Why do men treat women as if they were slaves, to be bought and sold at their convenience?

I ran as fast as I could, and my father pursued me. I cried out loud, and as we distanced ourselves from the house, I saw my father come to a stop. He pointed at me, his voice trembling with anger.

I halted and tried to catch my breath, a sensation of breathlessness rising within me, similar to the discomfort experienced by women in the late stages of pregnancy. Eventually, the feeling subsided, and I continued my run, my feet pounding the ground beneath me.

I reached the outskirts of the village, and my father suddenly ceased his pursuit. He called out to me, and I stopped, breathing heavily.

“Are you even listening to me? Let’s go home,” he said.

I stood there, gasping for breath, my face flushed with exertion. Then, my father, too, returned, his face red from anger.

He beckoned me closer and said, “Enough of this, it’s time to come home. The Judge’s Village awaits.”

Unguwar Alkali was a village in Bakori local government, Katsina state. It was a modest village neighboring a secular school, lacking amenities like electricity and healthcare. Even religious education was scarce. Life was simple there.

In this village, weddings only took place during the harvest season when crops flourished. The groom’s friends would prepare a feast on the eve of the wedding, and money would be contributed for the bride’s family. The one who contributed the most would lower the flag, and in return, they received agricultural produce, such as sacks of corn, sorghum, or millet.

The man continued, “I doubt it. This is not how we do things here.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *