David came home – home? – thoroughly exhausted. He had come straight from the airport where he went to see his Chairman and his whole family off. Their last boy was graduating that week, abroad. David needed rest. He would have loved to drive straight to the house in Banana Island where he could tumble into bed and sleep like a baby since there was none there: for at least eight hours, non-stop. But he could not afford to. He had not seen his wife and two children in four days.
Simi was sitting in the mist of rumpled bed sheets and unarranged pillows and an unmade bed when her husband walked in. She was still in her night gown at about..? David’s white face Omega wristwatch told the time – 12:59pm – almost one o’clock in the middle of a working day! Her one month old coiffure was still under a net.
It was the children’s mid-term break, so they were in bed with her. On sighting their dad their eyes became round and shiny with joy. They were restrained from jumping on him by past warnings that they should not to do so to their dad when he came home.
David dropped his briefcase (which he brought home for a show for there was nothing in it that he needed at home) and his jacket on a chair then he stepped out of his shoes. His stockings were pure silk – he wore the best now. For the past one year, he had quickly stepped up on the rungs of the success ladder. Only he would never tell his wife what those rungs were made of.
He unloosened his handmade red tie and pulled it from his neck; his sky blue Pierre Cardin shirt went next. He was so fast that within three minutes he had stripped down to his white Calvin Klein cotton boxes and jumped into bed with his children and their mother. And there was a bit of rough and tumble as the little ones went crazy over him.
When all the rough and tumble subsided, they had the snacks David brought home for them – some cookies and luxury wafers and candies. Sooner the novelty of their father’s return came to an end and they were taken away by the maid. The husband and wife deliberately busied themselves with other things until nightfall when the children had gone to bed and there was nothing else they could pretend to be doing. Then, they faced the quiet moment, the moment of truth.
David thought that he had been healed of that terrible ailment called conscience but when his wife asked the first prying question, he discovered that he was still very much ill with conscience. He avoided eye contact with her and chose to stare unbelievingly at the calendar she pointed at.
The way she went about it was terrible. He never suspected that she suspected. In fact, he thought that they were having a good marriage – life was good, the freezer was filled up, the storeroom stocked as if they were expecting a siege; her wardrobe was tight for space and many of her shoes found accommodation in other rooms in the house
‘Who’s my mate?” she asked, quietly in a non-violent voice.
“Mate as in what?” he asked with a sinking feeling.
“Mate as in your mistress.”
‘And, what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that there’s a third party in this marriage. I’m not angry (he could see that and it was killing him). I want to know her. If she could come and live with us, maybe you will come home every day and I wouldn’t have to spend time explaining to your children why you have to work late and many times, sleep in a hotel near your office.”
She was crazy, he knew. What 21st century woman would want another woman in her home to share her husband? David could see the advice of Simi’s evil sisters: they certainly had a hand in this.
“There’s no mate or mistress,” he said without looking at her. “It’s all work. To be successful in life is hard work – something has to give way for another. It’s all work – hard work.”
There was silence. After a while, he broke it, changing the subject.
“When is supper? “You didn’t ask me what I’d like to eat.”
“I’m sorry,” she said sarcastically, looking at him with unexpressive eyes, “seeing that I’m no longer used to being married.”
“Hey!” he cried laughing and grabbing her right arm to pull her to him. It was a thick right arm for she had grown quite stout now that there were plenty to eat and little or no work to do. “I’ve been gone for only four days,” he said. “And the Bible truth is that it’s been all work and no play. I play here. This is where I play the peek-a-boo and run around in my boxers all day without care or shame!”
It sounded like the truth. But there were other matters.
“There must be someone else. Something is missing – a connection is lost. It’s no longer the same. Do you know the last time you touched me?”
He laughed and said, “Of course. That was…” He could not place it. “That was three months ago.”
She got up and went to the calendar, “See – I marked the days in red. Before that, it was two months. See the red asterisks and before it, it was five weeks…”
David stared at the calendar with horror-filed eyes. How could that treacherous calendar allow itself to be marked against him? He stood transfixed for a long time, staring at it. Then he came to himself. “It’s all work,” he repeated. “I’ll go now and bathe quickly and we will catch up on lost times.”
He hurried into the bathroom. At the dinner table, he gave his steward a paper on which he had scribbled something and a piece of money. When his wife didn’t ask him what it was, he became more afraid. It was a bad sign that meant that she wasn’t completely bought over. He went ahead to explain to her in a confidential tone.
“You know,” he began, “I’ve been thinking about what you said about us – in fact, if not that I trust your judgment, I’d have said it’s a lie – but knowing how good with details you are, I know you must be right – I mean, the how long – we‘ve, you know? It’s appalling to me. I’ve inkling that all is not well with me- perhaps, something is wrong with me. I just sent Joseph to get me a pack of Viagra.”
A cry was heard upstairs and he bounded up to the children’s room, helped his four year old daughter to the bathroom and returned to his wife but not to the Viagra story. And his wife didn’t ask him, not even to reassure him in that area. It dawned on him that she was right – a connection had been broken between them. He felt so uncomfortable. How old were they? Early 30s for her and mid 30s for him and they were already in a rift – a widening gulf!
“Listen!” she said sharply when they were in the bedroom and he was poised to swallow the Viagra with a glass of water. “Don’t come near me after taking that medicine. What do you take me for, a nincompoop?”
Slowly, he put both the water and the drug down and turned to face her.
“Okay,” he said wearily, “Come with me to work tomorrow. Stay until closing time. Stop by my office every day, any day you like. When I have to sleep over at work, you must bring the children and we shall stay there until I’m through. Anything you want, Simi, including castrating me (She didn’t laugh. He tried harder), I’II be willing to oblige you. I came to rest, to enjoy peace and love at home. Are they too much to ask from a loved one?”
He defeated her. Simi began to thaw he could sense it. It was Age of Technology – many things were possible. Having been stopped from taking the Viagra and knowing in him how much he needed aid; David took one of his handsets and programmed a fake call, saving it under the name Lemon Group Chairman, his employer. Then he went into the bathroom, leaving his two handsets by his side of the bed. He flushed the toilet as his manner was before using it.
Two minutes later, a call came through. It rang for a while and just as he knew, it began to move closer to the bathroom.
“Who’s that?” he cried, “Answer it for me.”
He flushed the toilet again.
”Bring it, I’m through!”
He sprayed the air-fresher. His wife opened the door; in there, smelt nice. He took the call and followed her out.
“Hello, Sir! Good evening, sir! Yes, sir! (Pause –long pause) Okay, sir! I”II send it right away, sir!”
He dropped the phone and picked his briefcase saying, “I don’t know why I don’t have a scanner at home. May Chairman needs some documents I have here. I have to go to a cyber café to scan them to him.”
“You’ve not washed your hands,“ she said.
“Oh, yes!“ he said and re-entered the bathroom, washed his hands and came out talking to her. “Let’s go together. It will be done in a jiffy. What’s the time?”
“8:23,” she said in a voice that betrayed her stancfe, she was letting go of the fight.
David went back to the suitcase, took three papers, and went to the wardrobe. Soon, he was stepping into a pair of slacks and shrugging into a tracksuit top.
“Let’s go! Where’s my car key? Or should we use yours? You drive …” “I’m not going,” she said.
He stopped and looked at her. Was she still angry?
“I’II be back in a jiffy.”
In ten minutes he was back, a couple of Viagra diffusing in his blood stream. While outside, he had warned himself; he must time his phone for conjugal bliss – only there was no longer bliss in it for him. But he still needed his wife, he still wanted her – they were so used to each other that if she wasn’t there he would be lost. He guessed he still loved her. She was family and stability – nothing would make him to deliberately hurt her.
However, he had located bliss somewhere else –in another who knew how to eat a little and exercise and keep trim; who took time to wax and exfoliate her skin; who took sauna and spent time at the spa; whose coiffeur never lasted beyond a week. She was his chairman’s daughter: the rungs on which he had climbed the success ladder. And she very understanding also – never spoke evil of David’s family. She insisted that David treat them well. He was the one that insisted on giving her a fairer share of his time.
The situation was unto its second year David’s conscience was severely seared. Many of his friends had such arrangement only his was the best- he received lots of favour from her. But suddenly one of his closest friends died he had engagements here and there – David knew all of them – secrets his wife and children had no clue of. He was only 37- what a tragedy!
At the funeral, his friends made sure that they kept the other women and their children away. But for what purpose? – to hide the facts from his wife and children- mere mortals – when the preacher who preached his funeral sermon said that there is someone in heaven who sees EVERYTHING and TAKES RECORDS and rewards – evil for evil, good for good.
That sermon made David uncomfortable for days. He knew what terrible record his was. And according to the preacher, he knew not when the maker would call him. What if it was now? Where would he go? Whose bus ticket was he carrying?
Deaconess Lechi Eke contributes her short stories from Lagos, Nigeria