This story is inspired by a young Nigerian woman who was murdered by her husband on June 24, 2011. No one knows exactly what transpired between them that day but when she didnt show up for work, family and friends got concerned and called the police. When they got to the couple's home, they found her dismembered body.
They say when death approaches, you know.
I often wonder if I’d notice death, on my way to cross the street, in a plane, on a boat cruise, saying ‘this would be the day’.
I wondered as her insides turned out on the cold kitchen floor, if that morning as she brushed her hair, if she knew that death was following her…
The Mad Hearter.
“Did you see it again today?”Jumai whispered to Ben in the break room.
Ben raised a brow and stirred his coffee, not saying anything.
“I think we should tell the police.” Jumai asserted.
“Jumai, I think we should mind our business.” Ben replied firmly.
“What good would come of it?”
“We tell the police, they’ll ask him if he did, he’ll deny it and she’ll be in big trouble.”
“Boarding house should have taught you that much! You don’t snitch!” He finished, taking a bite of his donut.
Jumai was unsatisfied, “I still think we should do something.”
“I agree with you. I recommend we shut up and mind our own business.”
Jumai hissed, “Men! Talking to you guys is like talking to the bark of a tree, useless!”
Ben looked up at her from the rim of his mug and shrugged.
She’d already submitted two anonymous letters to the manager, citing the need for urgent investigation and assistance.
Her co-worker, Linda, had been showing up with all manner of bruises for months and although she tried her hardest to disguise the marks, it was painfully visible.
Everyone in the office knew but they didn’t want to interfere, worse no one knew how to ask the question “Is your husband hitting you?”
I recall from my childhood, a neighbour of mine.
Her name was Edet. A light skinned lady with big bulgy eyes. I recall that Edet regularly had huge red blotches on her face, made worse with foundation that was two shades darker than her skin tone.
But no one said anything.
We smiled politely at the grocery store and made our hair at the same place.
I recall her eyes screaming out to me, I remember her eyes had a message for me. I just didn’t know what it was then, but what I recall is that, no one said anything…
Linda’s husband was said to be a man disappointed too many times by life.
He graduated the top of his class but never found a job.
He’d ironed shirts, polished shoes and knotted ties. Climbed stairs and smiled as he handed out copies of his resume, but he was never called back.
In the end, he tucked away his pretty shirts and humbly accepted the government issued jumpsuits.
His dream had been to repair the roads as an engineer. His reality became repairing the streets, one scrap of paper at a time as a cleaner.
Linda, his wife, didn’t go to a University like him; she went to college, night school actually.
With the money he had made cleaning the streets.
Now, she worked in a bank.
She wore the suits and polished shoes and made a pretty knot with a scarf round her neck.
She paid the bills and made the meals.
She became him and he resented her for it.
He had nothing left of ‘man-ness’ but his fists, and he sure showed her who the man was.
I knew Linda, not dearly, but enough.
She respected everyone and adored him.
Yet he hit her.
I truly wonder, if as she brushed her hair and slipped in her heels, if she knew death followed her.
“Linda!”Jumai waved and quickly caught up with her.
“Linda, would you like to stay over at my house for the week?”
Linda stared back, confused, “A week? What’s going on?”
“Well, I need your help with some reports.”She quickly added.
“Jumai, I’m married. I can’t leave my house for a week!”
“Perhaps during the break and after work, we could work on the reports.” She smiled and turned away.
“Linda, please don’t go home. I know your husband beats you and I’m scared for you” The words hung in her throat but never came out.
“Sure, thanks!”Jumai called after her.
“Tomorrow, I’ll talk to her. Yes tomorrow.” Jumai grabbed her keys and headed home.
He kicked off his boots at the door.
It had been a long and tiring day.
He’d been assigned a street that had had a party the previous day and the garbage was ridiculous.
Hungry, he stormed into the kitchen, but there was no food.
He frowned, “this is the kind of nonsense that I don’t like.”
He looked into the bedroom, his wife wasn’t home.
He glanced at the clock on the wall, it was 7pm. She got off work at 6pm.
The bank was at best thirty minutes away from the house. What was taking so long?
Hungry he paced about the house, gradually becoming more and more vexed.
It wasn’t as though he could just storm out and buy food from a canteen. He had no money!
The supervisor wasn’t in town, so he wasn’t going to be paid for another week.
He needed her to give him money.
The thought provoked him even more.
8pm, and she still wasn’t home.
“That’s what it has to be! Why else wouldn’t she come home?”
He trembled in fear.
Even he knew he hadn’t been the best spouse, but he loved her in his own special way.
After all, he did pay for her lessons; the lessons that got her the job.
He heard the footsteps approach the door.
She isn’t running away!
“Sorry, a tanker fell over so I’ve been stuck in traffic.”
“I’m sure you’re hungry!” she took her shoes off and rubbed her feet.
“Oh so you have come back from work to insult me ehn?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re insinuating that if you don’t provide food for me, I wouldn’t eat.”
He grabbed her neck and dragged her up.
“You’re choking me!” she croaked.
“Every day, you flash your money in front of me. Every day you go to your office and make jokes about me. How I can’t provide for you and how you give me allowances.”
“I don’t I swear.”She cried.
“But you do!” He grabbed her tighter.
Suddenly she wasn’t just Linda, she was ‘the system’.
She was the system he hated; the system that wouldn’t give him a job; the system that took his manhood from him. He hated the system.
If he could hold the system by the neck, he’d take a knife and plunge it deep into its sides and watch it bleed.
Yes, bleed, the way they had made him bleed.
He’d watch the blood ooze out and life slowly ebb from it.
All he’d ever wanted to be was an engineer, he never realised that he’d struggle to even recall how to be a man.
If he could hold the system by the throat, he’d slice it open and remove the good fortune from within it and smear it over himself so he’ll never lack.
It wouldn’t matter if the system choked on its blood and gargled for help. He wouldn’t mind, in fact he wanted the system to weep and scream for help.
If he could…
Something fell from his hands. Distracted by the sounds he snapped out of his reverie.
“What have I done?”
“Somebody please help me!!”
The neighbours rushed in, but it was too late.
They clasped their hands on their heads and lamented.
They’d all heard the screams but didn’t want to interfere, and now it was too late
“It was supposed to be the system!”He clasped his bloody hands on his head.
“It was the system” he explained to on lookers.
Outside Jumai locked her car door and quickly strode towards the house.
Linda had forgotten her watch in the ladies room.
She made her way through the mass of people at the bottom of the steps and into the living room.
“Linda!” she gasped.
On the kitchen floor laid the lifeless form of her co-worker.
Her body chopped up and mangled. Her insides all out on the kitchen floor for all to see.
“I shouldn’t have waited!”
“I shouldn’t have waited till tomorrow.” She sat on the blood stained floor and sobbed uncontrollably.