“It’s Tough Wearing This Smile” a Short Story :
Here is Simbi, a young graduate of Political Science, a dutiful wife, and a mother of two who’s unalloyed allegiance is committed to her beautiful children and her husband. She suffers daily, the whiplash of a dolorous marriage. Frank, her husband, is a renowned lawyer who has never lost a single case, not in this life. He’s loved and admired by all, but not his family. Nobody knows him truly, for who and what he is; at least, he reveals only what he wants you to see and know about him. The other dark aspect is hidden as the scars which are constantly used to paint his wife’s body, scars like the stars spread across the night sky.
Simibi desires to further her education and become a Doctor, and probably become a professor in her field. Yet, Frank has refused, he’s afraid that she might become more successful, probably begin to throw her weight around; bragging about her achievements to his face. But that’s not her intention. She only wants to assist the family in her own little way.
Absolutely no way! He says he’s more than capable of providing for her and the two boys. So she’s relegated to the level of a complete housewife: one whose job is to prepare the meals, bath the kids and keep a close watch on them, keep the house tidy, sit at home keeping watch over his house and fleet of cars, wait, until whenever he decides to return, then lay in bed with both eyes wide open in order to unburden his libido like she was his sex toy.
If she tries to bandy words with him, about his incessant late nights, he lunches a blow, then several blows design her face to a pulp. And it doesn’t end there, she must still satisfy him in bed, else she risks being raped. A couple of close friends advise she reports him to the authorities or better still, elope with the twins. But she refuses, she says: she can’t bear to live him, she’s also being struck with the madness called love. Love in place of your life and happiness? Frank’s a chronic philander; she caught him screwing around with her younger sister on several occasions, yet she overlooks. But the story doesn’t end there.
He keeps messing up and she keeps forgiving him. Then one day, he returns home at an unimaginable hour of the night, and he’s not completely drunk like other nights. The twins are slumbering away in their cribs, her face is so red hot. She can no longer take it, she begins to argue, but it gets violent as usual. He lunches the first punch, it crumbles her face in pieces. As she tries to stagger to her feet, another punch is set in motion. And this time, she is wriggling like an earthworm.
She couldn’t fight back sufficiently, except for the flower vase which she threw against him but it was a miss. He sees that she’s been overwhelmed, he begins to press her neck in a bid to strangle her and he finally succeeds. It’s now dawn on him, he’s killed his wife. It’s crystal clear that he isn’t the nicest guy everyone thought he was and the smile he wore every day was just a mere deception to cover up his dark side. He’s sentenced to life imprisonment and death by hanging. The painful part is she didn’t die alone; an autopsy says she was with child – a growing foetus.
On the other hand, Lady Angela Okoro, married to Prince Udoka Okoro, the Governor’s son. She suffers an estranged marriage. She feels completely neglected by her husband. And truly, she is. Although he doesn’t get violent with her, she’s allowed to reach the zenith of her dreams, access to anything: money, clothing, jewellery. Name it. She has everything at her beck and call. Yet, one thing seems to be missing in this perfect little world – love.
It’s two years into their marriage, and they are worlds apart. Prince Udoka is a politician and vies for a seat in the house of assembly; as such he has no time for his wife. But he doesn’t hesitate to take her out on some of his campaigns to show off a stolen smile; every smile is but an act. They are trying to preserve the facade of a happy marriage and theirs isn’t one made in heaven.
She knows of his numerous side chicks but she can’t possibly do anything. The marriage in the first place is a complete setup. She cannot continue to wear this smile. She files for a divorce and he doesn’t opt out; in fact, he’s glad and more than ready to annul the marriage that never existed in the first place. Moreover, he’s the governor’s son and he’s more than capable of getting any woman. But can he find the one that truly loves him as she did? So, each person goes his or her separate ways.
Meanwhile, you have Uche, a brilliant doctor. He’s married to Joy Uduak, a successful banker. On the contrary, Uche suffers from the iron hands of his wife. Each time she’s upset, that rage comes upon her like an evil spirit and she beats him to a pulp. He continues to scream like one bitten by a snake, but she only halts and let go, the moment he begins to bleed.
It wasn’t always like this. It started a year after their marriage. But she isn’t under a spell, even the so-called marriage counsellors could attest to it. And she isn’t crazy either. Maybe, she probably is.
Uche is embarrassed to relate this to anyone, even his friends; he just smiles and pretends that his marriage is in the best shape. Who would understand him? They would just laugh over it and that’s all, the battery still continues. They would say: ‘he’s a man and no woman has the right to tell him what to and what not to do.’ Despite several counselling sections and appointments with pastors, she only became worse than before. She’s like a dictator; she decides what happens in the house. Sometimes it’s quite difficult wearing this smile called marriage.
Finally, they are together and he wants to fix the marriage. He says something, and she begins to weep. She says she isn’t possessed neither is she demented. Growing up, she watched her father forcefully steal every drop of a smile from her mother’s face and scourged her face with blows and flooded her eyes with tears. He turned her to his punching bag until he finally killed her. Mother was the breadwinner of the family and he was a complete drunk, one who did nothing but eating the fruits of mother’s sweat and toils and what did she get in return? Death!
The whole experience turned her into the beast she is. She vowed that no man would maltreat her the way her mother was, even to the point of death. Although her father was apprehended and sentenced to death by hanging, it didn’t suffice for the many years of torture and sexual harassment mother had to gulp down painfully.
But she is married now and Uche isn’t anything close to her father. He loves her so dearly.
So they settle and she sees the need to relinquish, although not totally, her authority and becomes submissive to him. No more beatings. No more trying to be the head of the family. Yet, it doesn’t make her any less of a woman.
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