Where I come from, it is said that if a man verbally threatens to divorce his wife once, she should pray to her ancestors that it does not happen again because if he says it the third time, it means she has to automatically leave the marriage. However, there’s a clause to this. She is free to marry someone else after the divorce but if her new husband doesn’t treat her well and her ex husband still expresses interest in having her back, she is allowed to go back to him. Awkward right? Well, this has been the practice for ages.
Zitah and I were married for about ten years and she could not bear me children. It was an embarrassment to me, Metuh… an illustrious son of the soil, the renowned palm oil and cocoa merchant. What was all my wealth without children? Not even an heir that will take on my name.
All the herbs from the local midwives did nothing to help Zitah. Even roots from well known healers from the neighboring villages were of no effect. I was a sad man. Zitah lived in my house like a fellow man.
In the course of our marriage, I have told her on two occasions that I want a divorce and she’d fall on her face and ask for my forgiveness. I love the way she begs me. I enjoy how she treats me like a demi god. She hates to see me get upset and I pride myself in having her worship the ground that I walk on. Sometimes, I think she’s just pretending, she’s only being nice because she knows she’s barren. I know that if she had children, her mouth will be running like the village stream.
I have tolerated her enough. I can’t continue living with a man for the rest of my life. Especially now that I have found myself a fair maiden. Oh Abomi!!!. The thought of Abomi warms my heart. Her skin so supple and fair like the morning sun. Her voluptuous hips, ripe and ready to bear many children for me. And her bossom, round and firm like fresh oranges from the king’s farm. I want to make her my wife but she insists that Zitah must leave before she can move into my home. I love Abomi and I will do anything to make her mine.
So one night, I started brewing for a fight. Zitah was her usual self, face down on the ground, begging me to forgive her for no crime committed. I cursed her, I called her a barren tree, I called her unprintable names yet she didn’t say anything. I wanted her to say something back to me but that wasn’t in her character and I knew that I would have wait forever for that to happen. In the heat of throwing harsh words at her, I told her that I wanted a divorce. For the first time in all the years I’ve known Zitah, I heard her heart piercing scream. She screamed so hard that I thought she would exhaust the air in her lungs. All she could do was wail because at this point, begging me was of no use. It broke my heart to see her so vulnerable but I had to do this for Abomi, because whatever Abomi wants, Abomi gets.
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Zitah gathered herself together and began to pickup her things one after the other. I told her to wait till the break of dawn before leaving but she refused. She wanted to leave in the dark of night and not in the morning when everyone will be awake to see her leave. What will be said of her? That she came into the marriage empty-handed and also left empty-handed? Better to leave at night than in the prying eyes of village gossips.
As Zitah walked out of Metuh’s house that night, a thousand confusing thoughts raced through her mind. She felt miserable and clueless about what to do next. All she had to show for the past ten years of her life was the wooden portmanteau on her head and a few belongings that she tied in a wrapper. She had walked for a long time before it dawned on her that she had nowhere to go. Blinded by tears, she continued to walk until the heavens opened over her. She was soaked from head to toe. The lightening was her companion as it showed her the path.
Zitah had just one friend that she was close to. She thought about going to her house but was afraid that her friend’s husband might turn her away. The only person she could think of now was Amedi, the king’s cup bearer. His house was just a stone throw from where she was. She could plead with him to let her stay for the night. He was a kind man and she hoped he would help her.
At about that time, Amedi was tending to his sick child and he was confused about what to do. He had just prayed to the spirit of his late wife to send help to him when he suddenly heard a soft knock on his door. He hurried to the door and was shocked to see Zitah. He dragged her inside and without asking any question. He helped her set her portmanteau at a corner and pushed the sick child into her arms. Zitah could feel the child burning up with a fever so she reached for her portmanteau and brought out a bottle of palm kernel oil with which she worked some magic on the boy and his fever began to go down gradually. Amedi was relieved. He let Zitah change into dry clothes and also get some sleep. In the morning they will talk about what she was doing in his house.
His heart broke after listening to Zitah’s story. It was so sad that such an unfortunate thing was happening to her. He encouraged her to go back to her father’s house and pick up the pieces of her life but she insisted on staying until his son got better. It felt so good to leave his son in capable hands and to also come back home to warm, home cooked meals. After a whole, Amedi knew that his son was much better but continued to pretend because he didn’t want Zitah to leave. The little boy cried so much when Zitah left and it seemed like Amedi was getting endeared to her as well.
A few months later, after realizing that both him and his son were miserable without Zitah, Amedi went to Metuh to inform him about his intention to take his ex-wife as his. Metuh laughed in his face and said, “she’s barren and you’re a widow, you both make a perfect match”. Amedi felt insulted but refused to dignify him with a response.
Zitah became his wife and she was by far the best thing that ever happened to him. They were very happy together and it didn’t matter to him if she could have children or not.
They had been married for almost two years when Metuh began to initiate moves to get Zitah back. He was frustrated with his marriage to Abomi and he complained to anyone that cared to listen that ‘Abomi was an abomination’…she was referred to as the village latrine because almost every man in the village had used her.
Metuh’s boast went far and wide.. he was confident about Zitah’s love for him. He knew that it wouldn’t take him a lot to get her back. But he was wrong.
It was too late because Zitah had found peace with Amedi. She was comfortable, she was happy and most of all, she was with a man that adored her.
She was Metuh’s barren ex but now Amedi’s precious treasure.
Metuh always thought he could take advantage of the age old tradition but little did he know that he was only shooting himself in the leg. Yes, children are a blessing, but better a peaceful home with a good wife than many children with a ‘public latrine’.