‘Ha!’, Nkoli exclaims and scratches her scalp under her newly installed weave covered protectively in a large bonnet. Her thick thighs open and close rapidly to the beat of her racing heart. She’s seated on the edge of her bed facing the closed door. She’s waiting. She’s been waiting for the knob of the door to turn but nothing. The knob is still. Cold. Menacing. It stares at her almost mockingly. lt seems to say to her ‘you’ll wait forever’.
She had spent all day cooking. She was excited to make this pot of stew. It is her sister’s favourite. Nkiru has stew with everything. With bread in the morning. With her eba and soup, slathered on her beans, running over her yams…EVERYTHING. Nkoli had gone to the local market in the morning and gotten a whole chicken, some beef, ponmo, turkey and some crocker fish. Every bit of protein had been washed, marinated, boiled and fried in love for its immersion into the spicy tomatoey goodness.
…then he returned home from work. She had excitedly called him over to the kitchen to see and taste the rich pot of delicious stew she had made in preparation for her sister’s visit the next day. Gabriel had peeked at the stew too briefly for her liking but he’s odd these days and she has learned to ignore his weird moods. As Gabriel busies himself making a bowl of cereal despite all the cooked food she’s made, she walks over to the bathroom to freshen up for bed. She has to wake up early to pick her sister from the bus terminal after a long night journey.
…and then she hears it. Stirring. Pouring. The loud clanking of an iron spoon in her non-stick pot. The audacity!
‘What is he doing?’, Nkoli says out loud and rushes off the toilet bowl to the kitchen. She can’t believe her eyes. Gabriel looks her dead in the eyes. A large jug emptied of water in her pot of stew!
‘What the hell?!’, Nkoli screams. ‘Why?’, she now whispers. Sobs begin forming in her throat and at the back of her eyes as her beautiful stew now looks like a big pot of red water with random pebbles floating around.
‘How can you waste money like this? The stew is too thick. With all this meat, the stew will be finished in less than a week. You don’t know how to manage like a wife. All you do is collect and spend. Bring money home for once and maybe I can overlook this wastefulness’, Gabriel barks. He tosses the plastic jug in the sink and walks out of the kitchen shoving her to the wall with his shoulders.
Nkoli bites her lips as she remembers his words. She gets up from their bed and paces the bedroom never taking her eyes off the door. Her mother had warned her but Gabriel had insisted. ‘I make enough for both of us. I don’t want my wife stressed. I’ll pay you your salary ’, he had argued when she resisted. Now, just 6 months after quitting her job, it’s been one nasty interaction after the other over money.
‘Ha!’, she exclaims again biting her bottom lip and giving way to her tears.
(Painting by: Anathi, Mafalda Vasconcelos)