[ Disclaimer: This piece may contain sensitive topics that may make some people feel uncomfortable. Content might be triggering to GBV survivors.Names used and incidents are the products of the author's imagination ]
The thunder rumbled through our sparsely furnished house which made it feel like my soul. Empty. My head was deep in the toilet bowl, I was puking my guts out. The vodka I used to wash down my beer was not sitting well with the rest of alcohol in my system. Everything spun, my throat gave in each time and I would curl up after each heave. The lightness of my head alternated with a rhythmic throbbing on my forehead which made my veins pop. I swore that was the last time I drank. I was even prepared to repent and make a sobriety pledge with myself. An hour spent in agony finally ended, I emerged sweaty and cold. I was somewhat used to the fever that preceded my excruciating hangovers. My fragile body was becoming a rock as I sank all the way to my rock bottom. But I wasn’t going to stop drinking. I couldn’t. How could I? After everything that had happened. The bottle was my only ally and certified therapist.
“Get out!” He yelled.
John Maseko, my lawfully wedded husband raised his voice at me. Me? His wife, the woman he vowed to love through thick and thin. The woman he vowed to protect from this world’s atrocities and monsters. I knew I was going to get another beating. I married a monster. I had vowed to let death be our undoing, till death do us part, those words rang in my head each time he laid his hands on me. Mother told me real women remained submissive and worked through the pain. I remember how she would tell me about the strength us Ndiweni women had. The lessons she gave me all evolved around keeping my husband satisfied even if it meant denying myself happiness. Such bullshit wasn’t my portion. I had had enough. I had to do something. Death would surely lead us apart. The spirits of my fore fathers had abandoned me and the God of my father seemed to care more about keeping my marriage eternal. Maybe my voice as a woman fell on deaf ears even in the spiritual realm. I wished that the toilet swallowed me whole and spit me out with the other unwanted or damaged things of this world. My existence had become as worthless as my laments for help.
“Ngithe Phuma wee wule!”
He roared again. Angrier than the first time. I braced myself for torture. My body had become numb to the pain. The alcohol and mbanje helped a lot. I had never thought I would do drugs in my life. A whole policeman’s wife with a degree doing drugs. I stepped out of the bathroom to receive my punishment. He reeked of alcohol too. I could also smell a faint floral scent from his clothes, a lady’s fragrance I gathered. The dose of my punishment was different then. He forced himself on me. My husband raped me. Again. I had grown tired of fighting him. Keeping up appearances and giving my son both parents had kept me enslaved. That had to end. His habits were becoming worse, he would go drinking and fuck prostitutes then beat me to his satisfaction or force his community penis on me. I was fed up and society could kiss my ass if they judged me for being a divorcee as 26. When it started I assumed it was biastophlia so I welcomed the idea because I consented at the time. The frequency of that intensified and I was too ashamed to tell a soul. It sounded absurd in my head, “woman raped by husband”. That part of my shame died, this monster had to be put down.
John, the devil incarnate, stripped me of my dignity and humanity that last time. He pulled my skirt up and tore the base of my underwear like a condom wrapper. I was too tired to fight him off and too drunk to defend myself. His impatience was as sickening as his toxic masculinity. He believed giving him sex was his Lobola and God given right. My consent in the matter was given to him when I said “I do” in front of his relatives and mine. With his mouth plugged on mine, licking and kissing me to arouse himself. I was disgusted at where his mouth had been and he seemed unbothered by where mine was, the toilet .He choked me occasionally as he pushed his unprotected penis inside me. I was as dry as Zimbabwe’s economy but he kept pushing, rupturing my walls, slapping me whenever I recoiled from the pain. He slithered his tongue on my neck and spit on me for lubrication. With each stroke, my soul eroded, I kept reminiscing about all the times he had lacerated me. The sores from the last time he violated me were still fresh. Sex used to be sex at some point in our relationship. The alcohol in me was not strong enough to block that pain out. I hoped to reunite with my late unborn child who was a casualty of the beatings and constant trauma. He didn’t know I was pregnant when it happened. I made a silent vow to end it all as my tears drowned me in our matrimonial bed. It had to end. To the world, I was a strong woman, I had to stand up and own who I was. Staying for my son and keeping my father’s dignity in his congregation was no longer a strong conviction to stay in this marriage.
The next morning he woke up late for his work shift. He was in a good mood like nothing had happened. I needed that type of chemistry to make my plan work. On his way out, he locked me in. Like that ever worked on people like me, I had my ways to get out but he was too drunk in masculinity to see I was the still the same girl who snuck out of my parent’s fortress to meet him. John usually did this when he felt my bruises were too loud to deny. He knew my voice was silenced by the respect he commanded from the society. This man was a worshipped public figure, blameless to the world. The perfect husband. At some point he was actually that man in my eyes too. It’s sad “rapist” doesn’t come labelled on these people we choose to give our trust to. His whoredom, predatory behavior and monstrosity was concealed by his charm, influence and wits. That is how I fell for him in the first place. I remember the first time we met. It was community reach out program which he happened to be a dignitary of. His strong jawline and chocolate skin made him look like a black Greek god. He was this mountain of a man, I dreamt of climbing him for eternity then. John was the most handsome person I had met considering I never went out much. The way he smiled cleared the air of its toxicity then, his voice melted hearts and who was I to fight hypnosis when he asked me out. We dated briefly before he popped the question. It was the most magical moment of my life followed by the wedding that gained dinner topic popularity at home. John was an angel at first. He was adored by everyone myself included. Everything changed when I became Mrs Maseko and lived in his house. The house he bought with his money, the same hard work he put in raising my lobola money. I became property. Years went by, possession became obsession which turned him to the monster I soon lived with. I was too scared to get out early. What were my peers and my mother’s church mates going to think? Not that I cared much for church, but I cared about what my mother thought then.
I had had enough. Death was the option. With me locked in. My methods were unlimited. That day I never intended to leave the house as usual, his death was pertinent. It was going to be quick. His funeral would be my redemption. My afterlife. He had to go.
I sat in silence for hours contemplating suicide. It was an easier option considering putting him down seemed like a harder task. Suicide was not an option I figured, who Junior was going to stay with. He would probably grow up with a stepmother, who probably uses him as a maid. Suicide was out. I had a lot to accomplish after my independence. My vows had to be honored. Someone had to die, divorce was not an option either. My father, the reverend would disown me for even thinking about divorce, maybe that is why I had endured the pain I had till now. The man prayed for me when I told him about my abuse. Prayers had become obsolete to me. My only salvation lay in something greater than prayer. Blood. Besides, the custody fight would leave me broken, this monster had everyone in his pocket. Not me. At least not anymore. Till death do us part.
The day went by faster than I anticipated. I cooked his favorite meal. Isitshwala , beef and veggies, the typical way to a man’s heart. Food. This was it. The last supper. I wore my black qhiye to mourn my temple. It was much of a coincidence really, the universe chose the colors for me. My soul had died too many times in that house. The carcass that held my spirit and heart was tired. He came back earlier than usual. Flowers in his hands and a small box wrapped with a red lace. He was sweet. At times. His fate was sealed however. No amount of flowers and expensive luxury designer perfume could buy him life that night. I knew what was in the box because of how predictable he had become. His way of apologizing involved flowers, wine, perfume or chocolate and lingerie was always included, perversion he couldn’t notice. His lingerie served as a curtain to the tomb he had created between my legs. That was his last gift to me. His last view of me. To him, I was a well of unlimited automatic unconsented pleasures. The sheer audacity he had fueled my wrath but I kept my smile and my head down like the good wife I was supposed to be. He had to learn just who had been messing with, my patience had run out. I was tired.
We ate our dinner in silence. Junior was at his grandmother’s for the night since it was a school night. Mother was the typical grandparent who believed her children’s children were hers to keep. She would brag to her church mates about how smart Junior was which attracted unwanted attention to us when we went to church, whenever we got the chance to. The praise team at church rolled their eyes and screwed their faces each time they saw me. I never quite figured whether that was because of my mother’s mouth or the lust they had for John. If it was the latter, I hoped they knew the truth. The light in dining room brushed John’s face casting a small shadow on his left side which gave him a villain silhouette. He ate his food with so much ease. I watched him devour the beef I prepared like he ravaged my temple. This was his last supper, I felt no guilt at acknowledging that to myself. He was no savior so being a Judas to him would not be the perfect ending. He choked. The veins on his face ran wildly and his eyes popped like a goat awaiting its slaughter. Karma was on my side, this was not part of my plan but it was still perfect so I watched him as the life seemed to drain out his face. Everything was going well until a knock interrupted us. I was going to be caught.
uMaseko dashed to the door. Coughing, with a glass in his hand, the meat he was choking on finally went down. He hated visitors because he couldn’t control what they saw at home. Locking me in was easier. Having a private audience scared him because at home I had no makeup. His mistakes were as clear as sin is to a Christian looking at another Christian. Moments later, he emerged still a bit shaky. My father followed. We sat together, I offered him juice but he wanted what we were having. My plan was botched. I had to switch out the wine that was going to make him sleep forever. The meal was clean, he only choked because he kept eating more than he could chew, as usual. With father there, I had to improvise fast. The collateral wasn’t easy to bear, maybe if the visitor was from his family I would not have been worried. They defended him every time they saw my scars, I was wrong by default. Labelled the opinionated modern wife who needed to be taught a lesson. They never asked what had happened, I was fed lectures on how to be a good wife to him. So poisoning the wine was out of question since daddy dearest decided to interrupt fate. Death had given him a day to rectify his errors with the living I assumed. Like all my assumptions, I was wrong. Fate was on my side and I was getting my pound of flesh that night. My salvation was scripted for that day.
The dinner table was as cold as my heart tehn. My father had never really liked policemen, he thought they were the instruments of the devil himself. I found it rather amusing because he had served in the army in his youth, an organ probably worse than the police force. He studied theology after the war and since became a preacher. Conversations at the table ran flat. The silence and tension in the room was as deafening as listening to my recent thoughts. I stood to clear a few things off the table. The scars on my neck and arms caught my father’s eye and he summoned me for a closer look. His rage was as dark as death itself. I had never seen him that infuriated. He lost his temper and the man of cloth I knew left. Words were exchanged but my father was a man of little words when anger possessed him. He stammered when he was angry. I saw the monster I married in my father’s eyes. In his rage, he sprung towards my husband. His large built gave his punch a comic effect. My husband flew off the chair and hit his head on the platform that separate the dining room from the living room. His blood gushed out. He was unconscious. In my panic I screamed. I loved him. The sickness of my heart failed me. What had my father done?
The mother in me forced me to check his pulse. He was still alive. I was rather relieved, this was not how I had pictured his death. He was supposed to die an agonizingly slow death. My face was supposed to be the only image he would take to hell. My father signaled me to leave. I feared the man and so I did. This man had raised me to be strong and my love for Maseko made weak. Maybe it was the fear of what my father would do if I left my marriage. None of that mattered that day. I still don’t know what he did after I left. To this day I have no idea how he pulled off what he did. Death was my savior in any case. I was free. The next day the newspaper headline read.
” Local hero dies in a car accident “.