Written by Faith Oneya
Note: This story also appears in ‘Fresh Paint’ an Anthology of poetry and short stories by Kenyan women writers.
My husband is not at home today. He has gone for a very important function. He has worn his best suit and shiny leather shoes-the ones reserved for special occasions-like funerals and weddings. It is very hot and my husband is sweating profusely, but suits have to be worn with ties and coats-that is the meaning of a suit.
He is a very important man, my husband. He drives a muzungu. An American. He is our muzungu, Mr. Forrester.
Sometimes Mr. Forrester gives my husband food-like just the other day, he gave my husband the bottle of juice which expired only last month! He’s a generous one, this man. The juice we drank it all, but the bottle we have displayed it. All our visitors say our muzungu is very generous. Even our jealous neighbors.
Mr. Forrester is not like other muzungus-he sits next to my husband when he-my husband is driving, and tells him about his two divorces-how my husband loves to hear the stories of divorce! That a woman would take his property and his children! My husband tells me Mr. Forrester never beat his wives, which is why they became hot-headed. We cannot understand why our muzungu marries only one woman at a time. Why not marry two so that when one goes you remain with one?
My husband beats me every once in a while whenever he feels like it. It is important to me, and I know he loves me. I would never think of leaving him because he is good to me. Besides, what would people say if they found out I left my husband? Scandalous, I tell you. Even my poor mother would turn in her grave.
This day that he beat me properly, I had stayed out until darkness fell -it was my fault, he had warned me never to stay out late-wasn’t I satisfied with my husband? Why would I stay out late? To look for men to please me? Did he pay (unfinished payment in fact) dowry for a prostitute?
I tried to tell him that I was waiting for Mama Sofia-she is the only one that gives us food on credit without announcing to everyone that we have her money, and that day she had gone to the market and left her daughter in charge-the daughter would not dare sell anything on credit. This is because Mama Sofia was famous for both her generosity and quick hand.
My husband said I defied him. I had answered him back so I would be punished. Usually he slaps me once or twice then pushes me against the wall-but that day he had passed by Mama Pima’s -and he had the strength and courage that men get from partaking of the brew. His eyes were bloodshot and he had pissed his trousers.
The first blow landed on the side of my face-I was not sure whether to stand up when I fell-my husband then shook me and slapped my face, and I welcomed the familiar pain. I can taste blood in my mouth. I want to tell my husband about the baby, I just found out today-but I feel dizzy, and I want to throw up, he throws me against the wall-I am unconscious, and my head hits the floor hard.
I do not wake up. My husband has gone for a very important function-our muzungu bought me a fine coffin when I died. My husband told him I died of childbirth-if the muzungu suspects anything (Like if I had plans to give birth to a hardly formed fetus), then he does not say. Better divorce than death. This coffin is very comfortable-more than our bed, in fact.
My husband looks very handsome in his suit-and the local pastor has also come to our funeral-he leads everyone in prayer, and they beg God to accept me in heaven-I wonder if they have nice comfortable beds in heaven?