By Tim Nwabilo
ADANMA. My son, go and boil some water so I can cook breakfast. Tell your sister to go and sweep outside the house.
CHINYERE (swish-swash of sweeping broom). Eh-heh, come. Small girl, is that your lazy mother still sweeping? Im sure she is. She sleeps all day like a bat. She had better wake up.
ADANMA (door creaks open). Chinyere, how are you, how was your night? Did you—
CHINYERE (interjects sharply). Just hold it there. Who are you greeting how was your night? Of course you know how my night was. When will you get tired of flying at night? Our blood will purge you.
ADANMA (shocked). Chinyere, what are you talking about?
CHINYERE. Yes! Until you stop flying at night and looking for whom to destroy and whose blood to suck, you will not have rest.
ADANMA. Did you come here to sympathise with me or to accuse me and look for trouble?
CHINYERE. If you were not flying about at night, why are you still sleeping at this time?
ADANMA. I was crying all through the night for my husband.
CHINYERE (sarcastically). Crying? Even the lizard cries for its mother.
ADANMA. If you have come for nothing but to make trouble, please leave me in peace.
CHINYERE. You will not have peace till you tell us what you did to your husband.
ADANMA. I can see you have come for trouble, so I will not answer you.
CHINYERE. So, do you mean you slept on that bed? You are mourning your husband and you are sleeping on a bed? Imagine! Quick, get up, you have no right to sleep on a bed while your husbands mourning days are not over.
ADANMA. What have I done to you? Chinyere, please leave me alone.
CHINYERE. If you dont get up from that bed, Ill go and call the other women, then you will have it the rough way. So just get up from that bed to avoid your children seeing you disgraced.
ADANMA. So if I dont sleep on a bed, where will I sleep? On the ground?
CHINYERE. Yes. You will not only sleep on the ground, but you will always sit on the ground. But I will be merciful to you and give you a mat which you will use on the ground. Ifeoma, bring that mat here. You will use this mat from now till you are done with mourning your husband. Get up so I can take the mattress away. You will not see it until after one year.
ADANMA (begging). Please—
CHINYERE. You are wasting my time. Ill send someone to come and pick the mattress. Ill come back tomorrow morning. Nonsense.
(Knocking on door)
ADANMA. Who is there? Im coming. (Door creaks open.) Oh, Chinyere. Come in.
CHINYERE. You dont need to tell me what to do. I know what to do when the door is open.
ADANMA. What can I do for you? What brings you here this morning? I hope there is no problem.
CHINYERE (shouting). What kind of a stupid question is that, eh?
ADANMA. Chinyere, look here, I dont know what I have done to you in this life. If not for my marriage to my late husband, I would never have met you. So why have you kept torturing me? Even while my husband was alive, you never gave me peace. You were always instigating my husband against me. My children were like dogs to you and you always hated them. Since my husband died, you have capitalized on that to be cruel and wicked to me. You are flesh and blood. More so, you are a woman like me. I thought you were my husbands cousin, but you treat me worse than a stranger will. If I should ever suffer for my husbands death, should you be the one to make me go through all these?
CHINYERE. You should not blame me, you should blame tradition. Moreover, did you not kill your husband? Husband killer!
ADANMA (shocked). What?!
CHINYERE. You not only eventually killed your husband, but you ate up your two previous children.
ADANMA (angrily). How dare you say that? My first two children died after an illness. My husband died after an accident. How can you accuse me of killing my own blood and my husband?
CHINYERE (mockingly). Tell us which juju-man helped you kill him, because it is not possible for Silas to die just like that. You must have gone to use juju on him. Witch!
ADANMA. I am not a witch and I loved my husband from the day I met him, till he died, and even now. I had no hand in his death. Am I the truck driver who hit him? Why would I go to a medicine man to kill my husband? Why would I kill a man I loved, and who was the father of my children?
CHINYERE. You should be asking yourself that question.
ADANMA. I am innocent of my husbands death. And I beg you, in the name of God, please stop doing this to me. I woke up this morning with pains all over my body. You gave me a mat to sleep on. You, can you sleep on a mat on the ground overnight?
CHINYERE (making jest). I did not kill my husband.
ADANMA. Neither did I. Please give me my mattress so my children and I can use it. We also need our chairs back.
CHINYERE. Until your husbands mourning days are over, or until you prove that you did not have a hand in your husbands death, you will continue to sit and sleep on the mat. You should even be grateful for the mat. Other women sleep on the bare ground. Look, dont lock this ground at night. If you lock it, in the morning you will be disgraced in the village square for resisting tradition and custom. Make sure you dont lock it.
ADANMA (puzzled and terrified). Why?
CHINYERE. Ive told you what I have to say. If you lock it, then you will have yourself to blame. Witch! Husband killer!
ADANMA (crying). God, why must I go through all these sufferings? Is it now a crime to love ones husband? Why must I suffer over my husbands death? What kind of tradition punishes women when their husband dies?
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