Trouble (trŭb′əl) noun A cause or source of distress, disturbance, or difficulty
He didn’t call. He didn’t text.
Complete radio silence. I must have picked up my phone and scrolled through it a hundred times yesterday and another hundred today, checking that I didn’t miss any of the notifications. I even put the phone on vibrate while I was in church today, something I never, ever do. At a point, I’m staring at the damn gadget and willing it to ring. And then the screen lights up. It’s his name in the caller ID. My heart leaps with joy and I almost pick up, then I remember that I’m annoyed with him for not having reached out to me since he left on Friday evening. I bet he’s calling now to firm up plans for dinner tonight. Well, he can do dinner by himself, I decide, miffed. So I watch the phone ring until it stops. And then promptly starts ringing again. I stare at it a second longer and then I answer.
“You finally remembered to call…” I say, putting most of the annoyance I’m feeling into my voice.
“You prostitute!” I hear a shrill female voice on the other end of the line. “Messing about with my husband! Stupid girl! Husband snatcher! Common whore…”
I realize a little too late what’s happening. It takes a while for my stunned brain to put two and two together and figure out that I was on the phone with his wife. Suddenly, my tongue feels like lead. I can almost feel it tying itself up into a huge knot. Shit. I definitely wasn’t expecting this. What do I do? Should I hang up the phone? Or would that only make matters worse? Where is Danladi anyway? And why is she with his phone?
“…when I’m done with you, you’ll never go near a married man again, you hear me?”
An image of a hissing, spitting snake forms in my mind’s eye. For some reason, the picture seems incomplete. I know what’s missing. I conjure up a veil wrapped around the snake’s head and somehow everything is just funny. I must be a really stupid girl, I’m thinking, when I hear what I assume is a struggle and then Danladi’s voice. He’s probably trying to wrestle the phone from her grasp.
“Salama, don’t be silly. Hand me my phone.” Then they switch to Hausa and I’m lost. But my overactive imagination has pictured what’s going on in that house exactly. I’ve decided they’re in the living room and since I can still hear her ranting and raving, I imagine she’s also gesticulating wildly, hands flailing in all directions. Then I hear Danladi’s voice on the phone.
“Asher, I’m really sorry about this. I’ll give you a call later.”
In the background, madam is saying “Is this what you choose to do in Lagos? This is why you haven’t come home for almost 6 months now ehn Danladi? My uncle will hear about this. He must!”
Danladi retorts, “Behave yourself Salama!” and then the line goes off.
In my thoroughly surprised state, I’m still thinking that I would love at this very moment to be a fly on any one of the walls surrounding them. Somewhere in my brain, I imagine her realizing that I’m that fly and then squashing me with all the vengeance she can muster. And I surprise myself. I laugh out loud. A proper belly laugh. The whole situation is hilarious. And then it’s not.
Did Danladi go and tell his wife about me? Because I can’t figure out how she found out. If he did, what does that say about him? Can he be that stupid really? He didn’t sound like someone who was being remorseful though. In fact, he sounded like he was scolding her on top of the whole matter. Weirdness!
I wonder if he’s still coming back to Lagos today. I wonder if we’re still doing dinner. To think that I was making shakara earlier, saying to myself that he would do dinner on his own. At this rate, I can’t even be sure that I’ll see him at all this week. Will she let him come back? Then again, it didn’t sound like she could stop him from doing whatever he wants. The power in that marriage from what I heard, certainly rests in his hands. I ponder the fact that I’ve never heard him sound so stern. And cold. Detached. It is so at odds with the picture I have of him, with the version of him that I have come to know and love. I shudder to think about that coldness or detachment being turned against me.
My mind wanders off to his wife again. Salama. I wonder if she’s as pretty as her name sounds. What’s going through her mind now? What did she mean when she said by the time she’s done with me? What can she do to me? I must admit, it’s a bit worrying. What if she shows up in Lagos and comes after me? Hell hath no fury and all that stuff. I’m not sure I want to find out. I continue to go about my Sunday, getting things ready for lunch. We’re having pounded yam today and I’m sure my mum will come downstairs soon screaming at the top of her lungs, asking me to put yam on fire. I might as well get to it.
“Asher! My soup is burning!” my mother screams at me about an hour later. “Can’t you smell it?”
We’re both in the kitchen, and I’m thinking defiantly to myself, how is it possible that the soup is burning when we’re both in the kitchen? If I was distracted (which was certainly the case), couldn’t she have just turned it off? But I dare not say that. Chances are I won’t get to eat from the pounded yam I have just slaved away to make this afternoon. I turn the fire off and take a look at my mother’s Egusi soup, trying to survey the damage. Thankfully, it’s just a little dried out, not burnt. I consider adding some water and setting it to boil again. But there’s no guarantee that I won’t drift off again and get into worse trouble with my mum. Daddy is just going to have to make do with extra-dry soup.
I go about setting my father’s tray and then sneak a quick peek at my phone. Maybe he’s tried to call or he may have sent a text. But there’s nothing. It’s just after 1pm. If I don’t hear from him before 3pm at the latest, I know I won’t be able to see him today. It’ll be really tough to explain to my parents how I’m going to a “friend’s” house any later than 3pm. I serve my dad and then collect my own lunch. I barely notice the taste of the food as I eat it. All I can think of is what my fate will become after the incident of this morning.
Husband snatcher. Those words ring in my head over and over again. Is that what I’ve become? Something akin to a common thief? Worse even. What else did she call me? A prostitute. A whore. She also called me a stupid girl. At least, she was spot on with that one. It doesn’t get stupider than this. Or does it? Yes it would, if you still continued seeing him after this, the annoying voice in my head admonishes. Aaaarrrgh! I wish he’d just call and satisfy my curiosity. I look at the time. 3.45pm. I’m going to my room. Before my father notices my anxiety. I figure I’ll try to read a book, put my mind on something else. And I’m fine for the next 2 hours until he calls again.
I snatch up the phone quickly this time, cutting off the first ring.
“Hello” I say a little too loudly, and then I remember I’m at home. “Hi” I say again, dropping my voice to a whisper, my silly brain thinking somehow that Hi is a quieter version of hello.
“Hi” he says, and pauses.
For what seems like hours, neither of us says anything. It’s like we’re both trying to gauge each others disposition, waiting for the other person to speak first. I’m assuming that he’s calling to break things off so I steel myself for the inevitable disappointment. Apart from the soft sound of his breathing, I hear nothing else. At least I know he’s there, though the silence is quite unnerving.
“I’m at the airport, heading back to Lagos.” He says quietly.
“Ok.” I respond, not sure what else to say. I can’t get ahead of myself here. Just because he’s coming back to Lagos today doesn’t mean that he’s coming back for me. He has his job and his French classes, both genuine reasons for making the trip today.
“I’m sorry about the things my wife said to you.”
“Did you tell her about us?” I’m almost afraid to ask because I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that.
“No, I didn’t. I couldn’t have. And I know that makes me sound like even more of a bastard, but I’m just being real.”
“So how…?” My mind is running around in circles, trying to figure out where she got the news from.
“Aisha.” He says on a sigh. “Aisha told her.”
There was that name again. The one I wanted so much to hear about that I didn’t get a chance to. Aisha did see us that afternoon. And even if she pointedly ignored me, she obviously took note and went squealing.
“Who is Aisha?” I ask Danladi, hating the fact that I have to drag this story out of him. Can’t he tell that I’m keen on getting all the details? Out with it already, I think.
“Aisha is Salama’s younger sister.”
“Oh. I see.” Of all the thoughts to pop into my head after that revelation, it’s that Salama must be very pretty if her sister’s appearance is anything to go by.
“That day she saw us, I knew she would mention it to her sister when she got back. In fact, I’m surprised it took this long for my wife to react.”
“So, your wife has known since then?”
“I’m not sure exactly how long. Aisha is the crazy one. She’s the type who would keep that information and use it against you at a later date. But I guess the pleasure of telling her sister far outweighed any gains she might have gotten from me by withholding it.”
“Sounds like you know her very well.” I say, hoping he picks up on the fact that I’m asking a question, not making a statement.
“I met her before I met her sister. And we dated briefly. She has never forgiven me for marrying her sister. To be frank, I haven’t forgiven myself either. I should have just steered clear of that family. They’ve always been trouble.”
I don’t know how to respond or if it’s even in my place to respond. I’m not his priest or imam so I’m certainly not in the mood for hearing his confessions. I just want to know how all of this affects me, affects us.
“So, what does this mean?” I ask hesitantly
“Can we talk about it when I see you tomorrow? I don’t want to have this conversation on the phone. Besides, they’ll be calling us to board soon.”
So that’s one of my questions answered. I will see him tomorrow. But I have a million other questions, which from the sound of things, will have to wait, at least until tomorrow.
“Sure. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Asher…” he sounds worried. “Be careful.”
I’m a bit confused as to why he would say that and I’m about to ask why when I realize that he has ended the call. I stare at the phone in contemplation. What is he not telling me?