The car is moving in slow motion, the driver seated behind the wheel is making an enormous effort to keep his eyes wide open. He can hardly see or coordinate well; it was a hell of a night, partying with his friends until he almost dropped. They said he was too drunk to go home on his own, that he did not look like he could make it, but all of them were in the same state, so none could really help. Laughing and tripping all over himself he got into the car and then started to head back home.
He can’t think very clearly, but a small voice in his head keeps repeating the same, over and over: “You promised… you swore in the name of God that you would not drink again! What have you done? Your money is gone, the money you needed to pay the rent, school fees and the debts! Patricia is going to kill you; she said that if you do it again she will kick you out of the house, that she is sick and tired of a drunk like you”. Marc makes excuses for himself by saying: “How was I supposed to refuse my friends invitation? What will they say of me? I cannot allow them to laugh and mock me!” But then the voice comes back stronger: “Stop fooling yourself; those are pretexts to justify yourself, you know you should have said NO!”
The daylight is breaking when Marc arrives home; as soon as he parks the car he notices his wife looking at him with a concerned face from their bedroom window. He hates confrontations and the sad looks he will be subjected to as soon as he gets into the house. His children will be having breakfast and getting ready for school, they will all witness his miserable appearance. With resignation he squeezes his shoulders and with his shaking hand tries to insert the door key; after what seems like ages of trying and missing the door is open from inside by his youngest son. Little Tommy looks up at his daddy and without a word he slowly walks back.
Marc goes straight to his bedroom looking down and without undressing he throws himself onto the bed. After what seems like five minutes the alarm clock wakes him, it is time to go to work. He does not have time to change or shower and in a hurry leaves the house. He will deal with Patricia in the evening; he will sort her out and teach her how a real African woman should behave. His mother was right, he should have married a traditional woman instead of an educated one, after all women are only good for cleaning and cooking. Education fills their head with wrong ideas, they want to be independent, earn their money and not only that, they also want a husband who is answerable to them!
Marc goes through the day hugging everybody in the office and making jokes. He notices that people are not very comfortable around him and that they talk behind his back. They mock him because he had been partying until late, his unchanged clothes and odor testifies to it. Desperation takes over him as he is aware that his partying and drinking habits have affected his career and that nobody respects him any longer. He has also been borrowing money from his colleagues and he usually has problems paying back hence very few are willing to still lend him any.
Back at the house no one is talking to him, they are all busy with their own things and keep ignoring his presence. This attitude is getting onto his nerves, and he knows that all is of Patricia’s doing; she is the one putting the children against him. Fed up of having to tolerate being mistreated in his own house he suddenly begins shouting and kicking things out of his way. He is ready to show all of them “who is the man of the house”. The children run out of the kitchen, but his wife faces him, she is not afraid and that annoys him even more. He starts beating her up, taking on her all his bitterness and resentments. At this very moment he hates her with all his heart, she represents all he wants to be and cannot. She is his constant reminder that he is a failure.
The noise of his children crying and imploring to let her go brings him back to reality, and then he looks at what he has done… Patricia is lying on the floor bleeding, unconscious…
With resolution he looks at the children and says: “This is the way to teach a woman to respect the man of the house” and without another word he walks away.
The following day his wife, children and father in law are waiting for him at the breakfast table. Patricia rises up and with an unexpected willpower she says: “I have given you many chances over the last 16 years we have been together, but despite all my efforts you have not shown any intention to change.
I’m leaving with the children, but not before telling you in your face what you need to hear. I want the children to be present, for them to see how things are supposed to be handled and therefore understand that what you did to me yesterday and many other times before is wrong.
Today they are boys and tomorrow they will be men, they need to know how to treat a woman, that there is not such a thing as “the African way”. They should know that you can’t force respect out of others because respect has to be earned. They must understand that they can’t abuse others or let others abuse them as that is not the way of love.
Today I want them to learn that no matter what, there is always a way out. That when one is subject to humiliation and abuse it is both parties responsibility: the one that abuses and the one that allows to be abused.
Today I’m accepting my responsibility and I’m doing something about it. I will face our society, I will not care what the gossips will be and what the tradition will try to impose on me. I have had enough I’m ready to start fresh and fight back anyone that tries to stop me.
Do not try to stop us, do not contact us for a while, we need you out of our lives for some time. The day you are ready to treat us with respect you will be welcome to get in touch, as you are their father and we shall honor that. But remember…. You must be ready to honor that too!”
With tears on their faces one by one slowly start walking towards the main door…
© 2009 Gabriela Abalo – Author
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