Manfe

Manfe is my home town. My whole life revolves around it. We are different from others. Our religions, festivals and our culture is distinct from others. Women in manfe, are taught to speak only when it’s necessary. If you’re speaking, it’s either when you’re serving food, or sending the children errands, or when doing business chores and the most important of all, when your husband or any man who’s above your age grade asks you to speak. Even If you’re beaten by your husband you are to remain silent. Basically, men are never wrong. It takes certain qualities to be called a man in manfe, otherwise you’re referred to as a boy. Someone could be sixty and still be called a boy. You must have achieved something really great. You must possess braveness and leadership to be called a man. You must have large farm produces every season or command an army of workers. No weakling can be called a man in manfe. As a result of that, Boys in manfe don’t get the perfect wife. Their wives have blemishes as far as manfe’s traditions are concerned. They are either short, or regarded as ugly or too fat or less hardworking or too big eyes, the list is endless.The perfect wives are reserved for the men. As a woman,If you talk too much, you’re likely to remain single for a long time, Probably till you die.
I am mabo, 21. As beautiful and hardworking as I am, I’m a victim of talking too much – as manfe would term it. When I was younger, I was very quiet and hardworking. I got mature very fast and I was fair skinned. It was a plus to my beauty. When I was 14, suitors had already started coming for my hand in marriage. Rich suitors. I became my father’s favorite. My mother’s co-wives became jealous because I enjoyed the privileges they and their children didn’t enjoy. I was the only child of my mother so it was easier to get presents from my father, especially the beautiful taffeta wrappers. My ego became inflated but i didn’t make it obvious. My father chose zuba for me and I was content with it. Zuba was the son of akonii. He had the largest number of palm trees in all of manfe. Zuba was a wrestler. I liked his physique, his posture, the aura of self confidence that saturated his presence and the way he smiled. Zuba was indeed a man.
After the marriage rites and just before I moved into zuba’s house, my father gave me the greatest honour any father in manfe could ever give. He let me attend the meeting for the elders who’s children had married. Since I was his d├ębut, he brought me along. The elders welcomed him with warm hearts. It made my father happier. I saw how the men expressed themselves, had a voice. Spoke when they thought it necessary- not when someone thought it was necessary for them to speak. Why was it different for the women? Why were we only permitted a limited expression? I asked myself questions that would remain unanswered. After the meeting which was really good for my father, Something was ignited in me. I began to see my self as equals with the men, with the boys, with everyone. I began to thirst for the implementation of this equality. I wanted to speak up, To have a voice as a woman. That was the beginning of my problems.
Zuba couldn’t handle the fact that I was unsubmissive and contending. He sent me home leaving me with a heavy stigma. My father disowned me. My mother wept and still weeps. I was all that she had. I can tell that she is happy because I didn’t allow my self to be suppressed and absorbed in manfe’s myopic traditions. But she wouldn’t show it, she couldn’t. We barely spoke. I moved away, Close to the forest. Temane loves me because I am bold and not afraid. I met him at the forest. He’s a hunter. The best in manfe but he’s an orphan so he’s unimportant in manfe. With temane, I’ve realized what love is like. Love is something no woman in manfe would ever experience. They’d only be content, like I was with zuba. I don’t regret speaking up. I never will. Temane and I will leave for Ironmei tonight. We’re leaving with my mother. She fled the house for my sake. She wanted to be by my side. We’ll start our lives afresh. I’ll bear children for the man I love and we’ll raise them to express their selves when they think it necessary. Manfe would be a thing of the past in a few moments.

SHACKLES

Ann grabbed the car keys on the table and ran out of the room and through the hallway. Obinna called after her but she didn’t stop. She was as swift as her rage. She hurled herself into the car and sped off. She was driving the car, yet her anger seemed to be driving the car. She was angry, she was bitter,she was desolate. Her strength was weary. Her patience was outworn.

She had endured for twelve years. Life had been Thorny for Ann. She was the first child. She was barely educated with only a primary school training. She spent most of her time in her father’s Farm in their remote village in umunede. they were migrants but she had never spoken of it with her father. He didn’t speak of it either. Her father died when she was nineteen. He died after a hallucination. Her mother said it was the evil spirits that his father worshipped that were responsible for his strange death. She kept rubbing protection potions on her children; Ann, chike obiora and Paula. She grieved her husband’s death for long. She prayed that her husband would reincarnate in the womb of one of her children. Ann felt her mother was being sentimental. She was married off by her father’s brother, uncle Emma to obinna, a rich trader who had a line of stalls at Rumuola in port- Harcourt. Ann didn’t like obinna. He seemed to quiet and had a harsh look on his face. But there was nothing her mother could do. It was Ann’s fate. It seemed poverty had orchestrated her life.

She moved in with obinna. They barely spoke. They couldn’t reason alike because the levels of their knowledge were different. He was nice to her, but only for the first few months, after which he became irritated with everything she did. She couldn’t use the gas properly. She spilled water on the kitchen carpet while doing the dishes, she was finding it difficult to learn how to drive the car and she couldn’t operate the washing machine. On several occasions, he’d beaten her to a pulp for no reason, especially when he got back home drunk. Her mother consoled her. she had to be strong. He was the man. She was the house wife. She had all she needed financially, so she kept mute. He was skeptical about every guy that greeted her or shook her hand. Most times, it ended in series of quarrels, obinna doing most of the talking and she listening because she had no choice. She didn’t blame him.

It took twelve years for her to conceive, to prove she was a woman. Her mother’s concoctions had finally paid off. She hated the smell of it but she drank it nonetheless. She was three months gone. Obinna was happy. At least for a short while. He came back hungry and famished one evening. He’d lost one of his major buyers and it was taking a mental toll on him. He expected his food ready and on the table. But Ann was weak from the series of vomiting and the painful leg cramps. He stormed into the room angrily and asked for his food. “I’m so tired and weak. Can you prepare something?” she said politely yet sounding pissed off. Obinna’s head tumbled and rumbled. He did the first thing that came to his mind. He slapped her. She winced in pain and grimaced at him. Obinna went ballistic with rage. He pounced on Ann. He beat her to a pulp but this time, he beat something out of her; the baby. She groaned in pain at the sight of the miscarriage. Obinna shrieked at what he’d done. He called the nearest hospital and she was admitted.

The tears were running down her cheeks like a gushing tap. She had nothing to show for her marriage of twelve years. Nothing to live for, no one to live for. She wanted to end it. She called upon death, and death answered; she was over speeding , to angry to concentrate or to notice the pothole on the road. She dived straight into it and the car did a summersault. As she tumbled in the car, she thought of her mother, she thought of Paula. And obiora. And chike. The car came to a hault after flipping three times. Pandemodium was on the road. Cars came to a hault. Ann was bleeding profusely. As she lay faced down, too weak to move,Her vision began to blur and death began to feast on her slowly until it had taken the last chunk of her soul.

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