These women are every woman: Jasmine, the 30 year old single Pharmacist; Anthonia, the 28 year old unmarried nurse; Moremi, the 31 year old engaged social worker (and occasional tailor); Offiong, the 30 year old wife, mother, and Lawyer; and Ebele, the 31 year old wife, mother, and bank manager.Individually, they’ve got their own issues in their homes, but collectively, they are every woman.
Today, it’s Offiong’s turn to share.
‘Offy, you’re so lucky’, ‘Offy, you’ve got the best husband’, ‘Offy, you’re blessed’, ‘Offy, I wish I had a man like yours’, ‘Offy, Austin makes you so happy’…give me a freaking break! These heifers don’t know what I am going through.I am so sick and tired of hearing everyone telling me how lucky I am to have Austin. Forget them! As far as I am concerned, Austin is luckier than I am for having me, but the only thing my friends see is how great Austin is. Please! They’re not the ones living with him; I’m wearing the shoes, so I know where they pinch me the most.
Before I get all carried away, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m pretty sure you have met my friends, and they have all described me as bubbly. Indeed, I am bubbly, but most times, I only appear to be bubbly. Austin and I have been married for less than two years. He proposed to me after we found out I was pregnant with our daughter, Ekanem. He claims that he would have proposed even if I wasn’t pregnant; I don’t know how true that is, of course, but I know I only accepted his proposal because I was pregnant. Don’t get confused; I’m not saying I don’t love Austin. I love him very much, but at the time I accepted his proposal, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him – not because I did not love him enough, but because I was not sure how much of his not listening I could take, and right now, I feel like I have had my fill of it.
Is Austin a great man? Yes, without a doubt, he is; however, Austin and I have a lot of little issues that make one big issue. I am thirty years old, so I am neither naïve nor a dreamer, but there are certain things that I expect of the man who claims to love me more than his own life. I know that men generally do not know how to listen, but Austin’s inability to listen to me is slowly but surely putting cracks in our relationship. I am not a crazy woman, so I do not want to talk to someone who is evidently not listening to me. I tell Austin one thing, and he hears another thing. I am so frustrated and tired of being angry. My job consumes enough of my time, and I have a two year old girl who does not know when mommy is tired; the last thing I need is a husband who will frustrate me.
I had just put Ekky to bed and walked into our bedroom to change into my nightgown when Austin somehow got behind me and started rubbing on me.
“Austin, please, not tonight.”
“Common, you’ve been saying that for the past few days, Baby. “He said, planting wet kisses on my neck.
The kisses were getting to me, but I was not about to budge, so I pushed him away.
“Austin, please, stop!” I moved away from him.
His face changed. “Offiong, what the hell is wrong with you? I have been putting up with this foolishness for the past few days. You are my wife for crying out loud. Why do I have to beg for affection from my own wife?”
“The same reason I have to beg you to listen to me, Austin.” I spat back at him.
“Oh God! Are we back on this?”
“We never got off it! Why should I have to beg you to listen to me, huh?When there is a problem in our marriage, who am I supposed to tell it to?You don’t want me to talk to you about it, you don’t want me to tell my friends about it, and you don’t want me to bottle it up inside either. So what the hell am I supposed to do, Austin, huh? What?!”
“I see you’re going through one of your moods, so I’m just gonna leave you alone. Let me know when you get out of your funk.” He said and walked out of the room.
Aarrgghhhh! I just wanted to scream! The only thing that stopped me was Ekky. I may have been angry, but I wasn’t crazy enough to wake a two year old from sleep…especially when I had to be up at six AM the following day. I cannot tell you how many times I have had this kind of discussion with Austin, and each time it ends the same way. Every time I try to tell Austin about something he did that pissed me off, he makes it his problem and gets pissed off that I even got pissed off in the first place. Instead of acknowledging his mistake and apologizing for it, he would rather justify his ill-mannered behavior and tell me why I shouldn’t feel the way I feel.
My first instinct was to follow him and give him a peace of my mind, but instead I broke down and started crying. All I wanted was for him to hear me out and actually listen to me. If I cannot talk to Austin about our problems, then who the hell am I supposed to talk to then? I’m a very private person, so I don’t even like telling my friends about my problems – no matter the kind, and most especially my marital problems. However, I had tolerated Austin’s nonsense for so long that I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to talk to someone, and I knew just the right person. Besides, the crack in our relationship had already led me to do something I never thought I’d do.
I didn’t have a care in the world about where Austin had stormed his ass off to; I just needed to make two phone calls.
The first one was to Jazz. She picked up after one ring. “Hey girl!”
“Jazz, you got a minute?” I asked her; I was not in the mood to play bubbly Offy.
“Offy, you okay? What’s wrong?” She had genuine concern in her voice.
“Not really. What time do you get off work tomorrow? I need to talk to you in person.”
“Actually, I’m off tomorrow. I switched with a co-worker last week because she couldn’t come in. What’s wrong?”
“I just wanna talk to you. Will you be home at about seven PM?”
“Yeah, I will.”
“You don’t mind if I bring Ekky along, do you?”
“Of course not! I’ll buy her some of those cookies she cannot get enough of.”
“Thanks, Jazz. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
My second call was the one that I’m sure everyone would say I shouldn’t have ever made, but I made it anyway. I was too far gone to reason rationally – not that I was being irrational. Whatever I was doing, I was doing it because I was pushed to the wall. I’m not a bad person, so I did not need that validation.I was and still am a good person. After the call, I turned off my bedside lamp and went to bed with a huge grin on my face. Who says the grass cannot be greener on the other side?
The following day I couldn’t wait to get off work.I had so much on my mind that I needed to get off. I felt like I was about to burst open, and possibly hurt Austin permanently in the process. First, I had to pick Ekky from the daycare, and then after that, I took her to Jazz’s house. She was asleep in her car seat by the time we got to Jazz’s house, so I just laid her in Jazz’s bed. Before I got to Jazz’s house, I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and I had all my lines practiced, but when it was time to talk, I somehow lost my guts, so I stalled. I got some food from her fridge, warmed it up, and took my time eating it. Then I searched for a Nigerian movie to watch. I watched the first part, and was about to start watching the second one when Jazz decided to put me in my place.
“Offy, as much as I would love to accommodate you while you stall, I don’t have all day, sweetie, so spill.”
I tried to play ignorant, so I said, “Huh? What are you talking about?”
“You’re also a very bad actress.”She said, sounding a little too happy to disclose that information.
“Alright fine.”I gave up.” I will tell you, but don’t judge me, Jazz. I just need you to tell me the truth and set me straight. Don’t sugar-coat the truth, please.”
“So why aren’t you talking to Nia? We all know she will cur
se you out with pleasure.”
We both laughed when she said that because she was right. Nia would readily and happily curse me back to my ancestors.
“I really don’t know, Jazz. I just felt more comfortable coming to you.”
“Alright, well shoot!”
Before I spoke, I gave Austin and our marriage an extensive thought.I thought about it again to make sure I was ready to tell Jazz what was going on in my marriage…and out of my marriage.
Jazz sat down patiently with both her ears standing at attention. I guess she was eager to know what I was about to say, but I knew there was no way she was ready to hear what I was about to say.
“I think I’m having an affair.” I said casually as if I was talking about the flavor of my coffee creamer.
“What?!” Jazz sprang up from the couch to give me a you-better-be-joking look.
“Don’t judge me, please.” I reminded her.
“Offy, there has to be a mistake. What exactly is going on?”
I took a deep breathe and decided to tell her. “I have been talking to and having lunch with a supposed-to-be client. He knows I’m married, but we are starting to get a little too comfortable with each other.”
“Did you sleep with him?” Her voice sounded like she was going to have a heart attack if I told her I had.
“No!” I told her the truth.I had not had sex with him.
“But why would you do a thing like this, Offy? What is really going on? This is so unlike you!”
“Austin has been frustrating me, Jazz. I cannot talk to him. I cannot tell him anything without us getting into an argument. I have been bottling up so much inside me, Jazz. I still love Austin to bits, but I need someone to talk to.”
“That’s why we’re here, Offy. Why can’t you talk to us? We’re your friends!” Jazz sounded pissed.
Without thinking, I said, “Jazz, you don’t understand. Wes and I have—”
“Wes? You call him Wes?”
“Offy, seriously, why are you doing this? Do you ever think of what Austin will do or how he will feel when he finds out? What about Ekky? Have you totally lost your mind?!”
I wanted to come up with an excuse, but I realized I couldn’t come up with any plausible reason for confiding in a man other than my husband. I was so consumed with anger than I never stopped to think about the repercussions of my actions. What have I been thinking? I am a married woman for God’s sake! If Austin finds out about whatever I am doing with Wesley, he will tear another hole in my ass. Oh my God, I am so screwed.
With all the thoughts running through my mind, I broke down in tears. For a while, Jazz just sat there looking at me if she wasn’t sure if she wanted to console me or not; as if I was perhaps too dirty for her to touch me. But after a few seconds of watching me, she decided to give me her shoulder to cry on.
“Offy, you know what you have to do, right?”
I nodded my head in between sobs. I had to break it off with Wesley. I had to tell him that whatever we had or whatever we were doing could not go on anymore. I had to give him a call to let him know we could no longer see each other.
“When will you tell him?” Jazz asked while stroking my hair.
“I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow. I gotta get home before Austin starts getting worried about me and Ekky.”
“Okay, but make sure you do so, okay? Don’t waste any more time; this could end your marriage if it ever gets out.” She sounded genuinely afraid.
“Thanks, Jazz.” I said as I got up and wiped my face with my palms. “You know I don’t want the girls to know of this, right?”
“Yeah, I know.Your secret is safe with me.” She said reassuringly.
I went into the bedroom and picked Ekky up. She was still sound asleep although she did open her eyes for a few seconds when I lifted her up. On my way home, I thought about Austin. In spite of our lack of communication, he really has been a wonderful man. Austin supported me while I was in law school, and not once did he ever complain. Law school was tough, and it was not easy working full time and going to school full time, so Austin suggested I move in with him and work part time. After law school, we continued living together; what was the point of moving out at that time? It was while living together that we mistakenly made Ekanem – not that we consider her a mistake. I was not happy about the situation of getting pregnant before marriage; even though I had become a western girl, I still had my reservations about having children out of wedlock.
Even though I would have eventually accepted his proposal, at the time he proposed, I only accepted it because I did not want to have a child out of wedlock. While I drove home to my husband, I reflected on our relationship, and I realized that even though I had always complained about Austin’s lack of interest in my concerns, I never actually sat him down and talked to him passionately, without raising my voice or snapping at him. Or refusing to give him sex.I decided that when I got home, I was going to give it to my husband real good; I was going to rock his world. But first, I had to call Wesley to tell him I needed to talk to him face to face tomorrow. As soon as I pulled my cell phone out, it started ringing.It was Jazz.
“Did I forget something?” I asked her as I picked up the phone.
“No. You home yet?”
“Nope. Almost there though.”
“I just wanted to ask, where is Wes from?”
I hesitated. I thought about lying, but what was the point? I had already told her the worst part of it. “He’s African American.”
She let out a deep breathe of disappointment. “Offy, I hope he does not decide to make it difficult for you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, concerned.
“I don’t know. African Americans are not Africans. Just be careful, okay?And call me when you get home, so I know you’re home.”
“Okay, I will.”
I hung up and thought about what Jazz had said. Indeed, African Americans are not Africans, but what difference does it make? Besides, Wesley did not seem like the kind of man who would give me a tough time.
When I got home, I called Jazz to let her know I was home. Ekky woke up and wanted something to eat, so I gave her some food, went over some documents from work, watched some news on the television – they never have anything exciting to say. Austin was not really talking to me.He was being as brief as possible with all his answers. He answered with one or two words. I knew he was mad at me, so I was not going to press the issue of him not talking to me. I already had a plan. It always worked.
I waited for him to go to bed before I took a shower and lavished myself with some buttermilk lotion – the one he loved so much. He was lying in bed and pretending to be asleep, but I knew my man was watching me as I strutted my stuff in my see-through lingerie. Once I got into bed and ran my hands on his body, the rest was history. Before I knew it, he was speaking to me again – in a language that I did not even understand.We spooned for the rest of the night, with my back to his front.Now, all I had to do was break things off with Wesley tomorrow.
As soon as I got to work the following day, I called Wesley on his cell phone to tell him I had to talk to him, but he did not pick up, so I called his house phone and a woman picked up and told me she was his sister. She gave him the phone, and I spoke to him; he told me he was down with a cold. He wanted us to talk over the phone, but I told him I wanted us to meet in person as soon as possible. Of course, that was not an option since he was not feeling fine. He suggested I come over to his house, which I immediately declined, but then he convinced me that he was no harm; besides, his sister was there.
Long story short, I decided to meet him at home after work. His sister seemed nice; she made small talk with me while I waited for Wesley to get out of the bathroom. When he got out, his sister suddenly had to run an errand. I did not need supernatural powers to know that Wesley sent her out of the house. He sat next to me on the couch, and my God, the man smelt absolutely scrumptious! It was hard focusing and organizing my thoughts. I had it all figured out before I got to his house, but somehow it was too hard speaking.
“Uhm, Wes, I really need to talk to you.”
“I’m listening, baby. What’s wrong? You don’t sound so good.” He said tenderly.
I was a little lost for words when he said this. This was the reaction I always hoped to get from Austin, but I never got it. With Austin, by this time, it has already become a full blown argument…before I even get the chance to state the actual problem. But here I was with a man who was giving me the opportunity to state my concerns. Wow!
“It’s about us.” I managed to say.
“What about us?” He asked, with his eyebrows arched high on his forehead. His smooth, glowing forehead. Focus Offiong!
Stammering, I said, “Wesley, I don’t think we should see each other anymore. I’m a married woman and mother, and if my husband hears of this, he will skin me alive.” I had tears running down my eyes; I don’t know why.
He looked stunned; more like confused. Finally, he said, “Baby, I don’t know what you mean. I am not a child. I know you need someone to listen to you the way your husband ought to; I’m just trying to be that listening ear. We are not a couple, so how are we supposed to stop seeing each other?” He asked, sincerely.
I guess he was right. In retrospect, we never talked about being a couple. Why did I feel the need to break up a relationship that was not there in the first place? It was not like he had actually made a move on me or anything like that. However, I was attracted to him, so keeping him as a listening ear would be a dangerous game to play.
“I know, Wesley, but the thing is that I’m attracted to you, and that’s not right. I feel like I am emotionally cheating on my husband. I should not have these feelings for you.”
He took my right hand in both his hands, and said, “I like you too, Offiong, but I am not a child. Like I said, I know you’re a married woman, so I expect absolutely nothing from you. You are a good company to have, and I enjoy being around you, but I know that’s as far as it will ever go.”
I took a deep breathe. I was glad the confusion had been straightened out. I looked at him and smiled, happy that he was not misunderstanding our situation – if at all we had a situation. In the twinkle of an eye, Wesley moved closer to me. Before I had a chance to react, his lips were on mine. It was not just a peck. His lips were so soft.He parted my lips and slipped his warm tongue inside my mouth. At first I froze, but then I reciprocated.I returned the kiss. His breath was so fresh. His right hand was on my left breast, feeling me up.
I was not supposed to, but I liked it. The hardness of my nipples testified to this. He started unbuttoning my shirt; I should have stopped him, but I didn’t.I couldn’t. He kissed my neck. A moan accidentally escaped my mouth. He kissed my neck and made a wet trail with his tongue down my chest.
Shiiit! This was not part of the plan.