Meet Olo, Alice’s husband, again. He is still lying on an armchair in his living room, snoring away his Saturday. He will wake up soon enough with a splitting headache and a mouthful of sputum and a spell of nausea. He drank too much last night. He drinks too much every night.
He is a medical doctor, by the way. Dr Jacob Abidemi Ologunlade. Ibadan-trained. Illegitimate son of a retired railway worker. Mothered by Ayoola, now an aging woman who used to be a heap of smiles, fawn of breasts and a spread of buttocks. Her smile is notched in its centre by a gap, a gap that comes alive when she smiles and her cheek dimples also show. That smile stirred the loins of a certain railway worker four decades ago; that smile erupted effortlessly when she held a clear bowl of water for him after he had consumed goat-meat dripping with stew that evening at her mother’s palmwine shed.
He smiled his thanks and she grew pitifully shy. She walked away quickly and her buttocks quivered, stirring the railway worker’s loins even harder. The railway worker decided, in the whim of the moment, that he must keep the night in that small village along his train route, damning all consequences: his waiting wife stirring hot Amala in an earthen pot in her kitchen, his colleagues at the railway station in the next town, everything.
Nine months later, while his illegitimate son was being born, he was pounding a train towards Jebba. It would take about another month for him to meet his circumcised son. He had come harmlessly to eat stewed goat-meat and drink a sweaty bottle of beer. He sat down and wiped sweat from his face while his order was being taken. Instead of an order being placed in front of him, a slightly plump Ayoola came in with a crying baby, her mother hovering behind her, their faces ominous and accusing.
The railway worker prostrated for the grandmother of his son and took the baby in his hands, welcoming him to his life with such joy, even though this would be his second son. He promised to be responsible for the child and respectfully rejected her mother, telling Olo’s grandmother that their transaction was nothing short of a moonlight play that had not dragged into daybreak.
Olo had the typical childhood of the son of a kept woman. He had several ‘uncles’ who frequented their house, offering him crisp notes and falling into the embrace of Ayoola behind closed doors. He remembers the repressed sounds he heard while straining his ear to the door. His mother usually begging for mercy; for a long time, he did not understand why she did not call on him for help. More confounding was that she returned from behind the door smiling, at peace with ‘uncle’.
Olo rode through western education on both the back of his uncles and on his own resilience. His first headmaster was an uncle. So was his principal who introduced him and his mother to the then Registrar of University of Ibadan. He still remembers how his mother had asked him to give himself a tour of the campus while she addressed some pressing matters with the Registrar.
His first bottle of beer was an uneventful experience. It was at a house party in medical school; a small can of Becks beer that tasted like piss. He had fought the urge to spit it out.
His second bottle was more interesting; he had gone to visit a buxom postgraduate student who lived at Agbowo. She had been very free with him, wearing flimsy house clothes and touching him lingeringly. She offered him a hot bottle of small stout. After their post-coital pants, she had told him she needed him to last long.
His third bottle was different. He strayed into a bar, lost in thought about his dwindling grades at school. The fourth bottle quickly followed. Olo, the illegitimate only son, had a conversation with himself over a bottle of beer and something, everything in him, changed.
Olo stirs in the chair and throws out his left leg, a meaty stick cue, which hits the stool laden with his dinner and sends everything crashing down.
Alice does not go home to her husband. She stands outside her father-in-law’s house as if it were a crossroad, her thoughts hazarding directions, her options a hodgepodge of impulses, snipped conversations, recurring actions.
A bleating pregnant goat waddles by. Alice looks up, but quickly looks down again, for the sun scorches her face. She begins to walk towards the junction, the corners of her mouth drawn out in deep, deep thoughts.
She wants her husband to become more responsible. She wants him to herself. Okay, well she can’t have him to herself all the time by the nature of his job, but how about most of the time? Can’t he come home on time smelling of pharmaceutical drugs and a whiff of soap, can’t he? Can’t he come home with a rouse in his loins? Can’t he look at me with eyes pregnant with desire once again?
Though she is pregnant, she is culpable of sexual desires, which she is entitled to by virtue of marriage. She remembers how long it took her to conceive. Her husband would return late at night with barely enough energy to eat dinner. Afterwards, he would start to snore and, by morning, he was off to work again.
Alice does not want to be a single mother in the guise of a married
woman. Her complaints have risen above the purview of her father-in-law.
She decides quickly who she should consult next.
She boards another taxi heading to her mother’s town.
Alice’s ingenious scheme for her husband’s sobriety detours into a visit to her mother.
Let’s keep up with Alice and her husband. Part 3 is next week Saturday.
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