The silent husband, that is what he calls himself — not to people of course, but to himself. This evening, however, things will change. He is going to talk and perhaps raise his voice. He will not smile and brush issues off as nothing, rather he will flinch and let her have it. Show her who the man in this relationship is. The traffic on the way adds fuel to the flame. He brings down the car window, tired of the a-c, and calls on a young man selling gala and another hawking La-Casera drink.
When he gets home, his three-year-old daughter, Rodiyah, ran into his arms. He hasn’t even put his backpack down. He threw her in the air and they both laugh and giggle. Oh, the joys of life. Children. The house lights up and the grey in his mind becomes a rainbow. They play for a while before his wife, Sofiya, comes out of the kitchen.
“How was work?” She asks as she makes her way to the desktop by a corner in the living room.
“Fine. How was yours?”
He heads to the bedroom where he freshens up and changes to jalabia. He returns to the living room and sitting on the sofa flips on the TV and simultaneously takes out his phone.
On Facebook, he sees his wife’s comment a post: Muslim men will be shouting sunnah when it comes to polygamy, but they don’t remember the sunnah of helping house in the house. Nonsense!
On another post, she writes: shout out to the real Muslim men who love their wives and are not afraid to show it. Those who takes off load from their wives and defend them from the abuses of mother in laws and sisters in laws.” Twenty-three people liked and loved the comment.
When he raises his gaze back toAljazeera’s New Hour, his stomach begins to growl. He goes to the kitchen and asks Safiya what is for dinner. Sofiya who is feeding Rodiya cereal apologizes casually and says she had been too tired to cook, and only had left-over pepper soup from the previous night in the fridge. “Can you please microwave it for now while I rest a bit?”
It is still early in the evening. Only six o clock. Pepper soup cannot be the dinner. If he warms it now, it should keep him going before eight o clock. So, he warms it, devours it, and washes the bowl and then returns to watching TV.
Moments later, Rodiya walks in, and from the change in the atmospheric scent, needs an accelerated diaper changing service. Safiya is behind Rodiya, neck and head slung in the phone.
“Fumm!” Rodiya is exclaiming, hands on her nose. “Daddy!”
He takes her to the bathroom.
When he returns from Isha Prayer, Sofiya tells him she could not cook because she is till tired and feels like eating his food. And this is when he flares up. He is hungry. Famished. During the prayer, he had been thinking about the amala and ewedu awaiting him.
‘No. No Sofiya! Stop this. What exactly do you take me for, ehn? Say it, do you think I am stupid? Can you do this for me? Can you do that? Hey, help me bring that? Your daughter needs to change dress, can you do it for me? Am I your servant? I left for work, you think I wasn’t tired to get up this morning? You think I like my boss? You don’t think I am tired of what I must take in at work? Do I say because I am tired, I don’t pay the house rent and other bills? Simple food for me to eat is a problem. Now at eight o clock, I need to make dinner for us? Is this how your mom treat your father?’
Yes, he flares up, but again, he does all the angry talk silently in his head. To Sofiya, he is simply standing with his face frowned and eyes bloodshot. He uses a self-calming strategy he had learned from his psychologist friend, Dr. Adejumo😊, and then proceed to cook noodles which they both eat together.
Later that night, while Sofiya sleeps peacefully beside him on the bed, his gaze is locked at the ceiling, thinking of the last time he and Sofiya made love. She had been on top of him, gliding gently, both gasping for air. That was about three months ago. Few nights he had tried to steer up something, but she was either fast asleep or exhausted.
Sofiya still asleep changes from being on her side to prone and at this sight sadness envelopes his mind. The major qualities that attracted him to Sofiya – her extroversion, her outspokenness, her strong mind – were now repulsive and making life with her a struggle. Sofiya was a young entrepreneur with zeal and she had Facebook and Instagram pages where she gave inspirational talks. The first time he watched her video, he knew she was the one.
Her qualities had complemented his gentleness and forbearing demeanor at first, but now they had emasculated him. The automatic reaction which came to his mind at first was to opt out of the marriage, and find happiness elsewhere with someone who wouldn’t make him a eunuch, but with his beautiful daughter, Rodiya in the picture, that’s not an option at all.
One time she had tried to discuss the issue of subservience that he feels with her, but she had in reverse made him feel awful and guilty. No, I am disappointed you’re feeling this way. I am insulted even. That was her response. She went further to ask him: what is wrong in me asking you to help me? Aren’t we helpers of each other? Of course, this made him feel bad as he did not want to be like those foolish men who cannot stand their wives doing well or better than them even though he was by far the breadwinner in their marriage. He was a practicing Muslim with knowledge of sunnah and he did take some sociology classes that made him label himself a feminist. He had tried to brush it off as nothing, but the deepness of the cuts and wounds have been surfacing lately. He feels connered either way.
At the office the next day, he catches himself a few times noticing single female colleagues he had never ‘noticed’ before. One time he had to tell Tope, the accountant in high heels and fitted skirt, to please let them continue their private meeting later in the conference room.
During his break, he takes out his phone to find a message on his LinkedIn account. When he opens it, he finds a message from a woman who said he had been suggested based on mutual connections by LinkedIn and that she had gone through his profile and impressed by his resume and all. She adds that he is also handsome and young.
He is on edge currently, smiling and feeling extremely good. This is the first compliment he is receiving in a long time. Lastly, the woman asks him if he is single. He thinks for a while, and then replies, Why do you ask?
The woman replies: Oh, I am sorry. I just don’t want to disrespect your wife in case you are married. I own a Muslim Matchmaking business, and with your age, education and profile, you will make some Muslim women really happy!
And that is just what he wants: to be happy, and to make others happy, especially Muslim women.
Tohib Adejumo is the author of Love in Ramadan and Beneath Her Headscarf.
Bàbá òní Story says salaam alaykum, ṣe dáadáa ní gbogbo ilé wa o?