On Wednesday, I was called to separate a fight between my neighbour and her house girl. Every time I tell the story, people are shocked. “How can house girl be fighting madame?”. I understand their surprise, but they don’t know this madame like I do. If I was her house girl, I would pee in her morning coffee.
We are next door neighbours, our rooms share a wall, so I heard everything. It grew from madame yelling her daily morning yell, to an exchange of words, then raised voices then blows and finally, flying furniture. I heard it, but I stayed in bed, watching Crime and Investigation.
A security man came to my door and knocked frantically. He said, “Aunty abeg come help this small girl abeg. This woman fit kill am!”
“Don’t worry Yesuf, nobody go die,” I told him, but he didn’t look convinced. I suggested that he go in and separate the fight, but he turned his face away shyly and said, “Aunty… hmm. I no fit o. Na woman you you be.”
I thanked him for the kind reminder, then went over to the fighting room. I opened the door and, as he suspected, their clothes were already torn. There were sweaty A-cups everywhere! The A-cup owners paid me no mind as they continued to exchange blows. It should’ve been an unfair fight but the house girl wasn’t backing down. Madame’s five year old son cowered in a corner of the room, watching the fight. His school uniform was laid out neatly on the bed.
The house girl was bleeding down one arm and the side of her face. In my mind, I covered myself with the blood of Jesus (against HIV) before throwing myself between them. It stopped the exchange of blows, but they held on tight to whatever shreds were left of each other’s clothes. We stayed that way for a moment, till they calmed down just a bit without loosening their grip. The room was silent, except for their heavy breathing. Their eyes were wide like crazed animals.
Madame broke the silence with a comment, something about picking the house girl from a gutter and the house help made a wise crack about salary. This infuriated madame. With lightening speed, madame reached behind me and slapped the house girl hard. I felt that slap in my spirit. House girl then threw an aimless punch that was meant for madame, but it hit me just above my right eye.
I stepped away, slightly dazed, with my hand over my eye. At that point, I got so angry! I wanted to give them knives and lock them in the room so that they would kill each other. Honestly, I was more upset with myself for going there in the first place.
You see, it wasn’t the first time I was ‘domestically violated’ in that same room. Last month, late at night, I heard raised voices. A man’s voice and my neighbour madame. Then I heard screaming, scuffling and “You will kill me today!” and I jumped out of bed.
I put on my wig (because I cannot be caught dead without it), tied two corners of my wrapper round my neck to form a make-shift cape and headed out the door. I thought, This is for all domestic violence victims whose neighbours stay silent and pretend to not hear! I started to bang on their door and call out my neighbour’s name. I banged louder till the noise in the room suddenly stopped and I realised then I didn’t even have a plan. What was I going to do do? Fight him? Ask him nicely to not beat her? What if he opened the door and dragged me in and KO-ed the both of us with one fist?!
She opened the door, looking deranged and out of breath, but visibly unhurt. I was taken aback by just how unhurt she was. She said, “Aunty Ngozi good evening.”
“Uhm… are you… is everything ok?”
“DON’T MIND THIS USELESS MAN! IF HE DO ANYHOW HERE EHN… IM WAN SHOW INSEF.”
I looked past her into the room and saw an elderly man pick his hat from the floor and place it over his head. He looked at me with a nasty scowl and asked, “What do you want?” His yellow sleeveless shirt was ripped down the middle to reveal his chest and his large belly. I was so confused, because I’d never seen a Twitter thread on what to do when the domestic violence victim is an old man.
I felt very foolish. “Uhh… nothing. I just wanted to make sure she was fine.”
“She’s fine! Mind your business! Do you know I pay for everything in this house? I bring the money for food, I pay the rent! Do you know?!” He carried on with his rant and I stood there in my nightie and my wasted cape. Thank God I didn’t use my good sheets. She was screaming, “AND SO?! SO?! NA ONLY YOU GET MONEY??”
I turned to her and said, “I’m here if you need me” but God knows I didn’t really mean it, then I went back to my room feeling very embarrassed. At least the fighting had stopped. It was just more shouting for a while, then door-slamming, then quiet. He had gone home to his wife and kids and grandkids.
Fast forward to today where I’m nursing a bump on my head. To me, it’s a huge bump, big enough to have it’s own shadow but my friends say they can’t see it and that I may be exaggerating the punch. Maybe they can’t see it because they are too busy laughing at me.
I saw the house girl later that day. By that time, the pain had spread down to my right jaw. She apologised profusely for her behaviour. She didn’t even know she hit me, and I didn’t bother telling her. As for madame, I ran into her the next day and she told me about her birthday coming up the following week and then described the huge pink cake that “baba” had ordered for her.